The Fire and The Drum by Flora C., 15-17 category, from the Lake Forest Park Library.
July 8th: Although I have been unsure, this time, I’m certain: we are being watched. I first noticed it when I stood on the rise overlooking the crevasse field, a prickling sensation covering my skin, almost unnoticeable. I dismissed it as the chill of the wind, but I have felt it again and again over the past few days, never for long but always accompanied by a slight feeling of presence, waiting and watching. I cannot say whether that presence is evil or not, but it’s unsettling to know there are eyes on you when you do not know to whom the eyes belong.
July 11th: The others are beginning to notice it, too, and are uneasy. As the days progress, it becomes more dif icult to ignore. Curiously, no matter how far we travel, the feeling never grows stronger. We have left the crevasse field behind and are now tramping steadily downwards between boulders more than twice my height. The Wastes look abandoned, but the watchers prove otherwise. Will they show themselves, or are they content to watch us from afar? I do not know which I am hoping for.
July 13th: The past few nights we have seen a light among the rocks. Tonight we are finally close enough to see it clearly. It was a fire burning a great tree with thick branches; the largest living thing we have seen in weeks. Then, as we stared out from our camp in the rocks, a drum began to beat. Slow, steady as a heart, the noise billowed across the night and sank through our bones like soft thunder. Figures crept from the rocks around the tree; some tall, some shorter than my waist, all contorted and deformed with grotesquely long fingers and mismatched limbs. I knew at once that we had found our watchers. Slowly, silently, the creatures began to dance; twirling,leaping and twisting in a great many circles around the burning tree, their disfigured shadows gliding across the ground to the deep, throbbing beat of the drum. An hour later, the tree burned to ash, the Watchers disappeared and the drum stopped. The silence left behind was thin as gossamer, yet held a lifetime of dreadful anticipation. It was not something we should have seen.
July 15th: Last night we saw the fire burning. To our surprise, the tree stood tall among the flames, as if risen from the ashes. Before we could wonder at it, Caspian screamed in terror as a long-fingered hand seized him about the neck and dragged him into the night. Suddenly, we were surrounded by deformed figures; pale skin stretched tight over leering faces; hollow eyes boring into my own. I must have fainted from fright, for when I awoke, I was alone in the darkness with the pulsing of the drum. I could see the fire in the distance and the Watchers dancing in their circles, but tonight, they were not alone. My seven companions were being dragged across the rocks, their terrified screams cleaving the air. I watched in growing horror as each was silently torn limb from limb and thrown into the inferno with vengeance. The drum throbbed, the figures whirled, my friends burned and I gathered my things and ran. Because, somehow, the Watchers had known where we were...but they didn’t take me. ~July 18th I can feel them watching me, creeping ever closer. I have been running almost non-stop since that night. I don’t dare sleep for fear that they will come for me. They know what I saw and their hatred is almost tangible. I have never felt more terrified not only for my life, but also my sanity. Why didn’t they take me?
July 23rd: I cannot seem to escape this place. I have passed the same twisted rock three times. I almost believe the Wastes intend to keep me here and drive me mad. The Watchers are laughing as I desperately wander in circles. Their cackles are soft, almost at the edge of consciousness. Or perhaps my paranoia is causing hallucinations. But I think not. There is no way I could imagine the eyes that are, at this very moment, boring through my soul and crawling across my skin like a thousand spiders. Supplies will be gone soon, unless the Watchers come for me first.
July 25th: Someone has been writing in my journal. The last entry is written in a script eerily similar to my own, and yet, I do not remember writing it. My mind is playing tricks on me. I must get out of here I dozed of while writing that last bit. Why would I want to leave this place? Am I delusional? When was the last time I have felt so carefree? I can hear the rocks singing, laughing. They must be so happy.
July?: How long have I been here? I feel I have spent a lifetime in this wasteland. The rocks are laughing at me. They know I am going to die here and they are waiting. I found footprints surrounding my camp in great black rings when I awoke, as if shadows had been circling my camp while I slept. It won’t be long now.
August?: Today or tomorrow or yesterday. Do I no longer care? Nothing living, nothing dead. Just shadows and figures and dancing and drums. A drum of heartbeats and thunder. I can still hear the drum. I must get out.
Today?: Mind over body, shadows over blood, tree over ash, drum over fire. That is all I see in my nightmares.
Tomorrow?: Staying, leaving, all the same. They see everything. The Watchers are coming.
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