Among the Cursed | Teen Ink

Among the Cursed

July 12, 2010
By MaCall Manor PLATINUM, Laguna Hills, California
MaCall Manor PLATINUM, Laguna Hills, California
26 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Scarlet gazed out at the calm blue ocean and the rising fog. The day was dreary, and the clouds hung low in the forbidding sky. Even the sun seemed almost as if it had been washed in darkness. She felt the cold, thick water washing around her ankles.

Scarlet’s mother had groggily told her that it was fine for her to go down to the ocean so early in the morning. Scarlet had been hoping to see the sunrise, but as far as she could see, today there would be nothing of the sort. She was chilly and wanted to go home, but it was almost as if the cold was clutching her so tightly that she could not move.

Finally, she tore her gaze from the rippling blue water and quietly walked away. Goosebumps prickled on her skin as she trudged to the village. The wind blew harshly, stinging her cold. Once she made it to the village, she stopped and looked at the tall dark hill ahead of her. She scarcely believed that she would be able to climb it without stopping for a rest.

She looked around the village. The library seemed to be the most promising resting place. There was a welcoming fireplace, as well as an armchair and hot cocoa. Maybe even Bernard would be there, the librarian’s dog.

Scarlet dried her wet feet off on the doormat, which was already soggy from the previous night’s rain.

Hurriedly, Scarlet walked in and ran to the microwave to heat some cocoa. As she waited, a dead silence screeched and screamed in her ears.

Please beep microwave, and break the silence, she thought. But the microwave didn’t beep. It just continued to do its job, then burned the cocoa in the small mug.

Suddenly something did break the silence, something Scarlet thought was rather disturbing to be heard in a sleeping library. It was the mournful howl of a dog.

It seemed to be almost three seconds before the howl came to a dead halt, leaving Scarlet alone in the silence once again.

“Bernard…? Is that you?” Scarlet’s voice echoed.

Suddenly, a large fluffy spotted dog came bounding from one of the many corridors lined with bookshelves. He licked Scarlet’s face, but then took hold of her shirt with its teeth as if to pull her somewhere.

“Hold on! Hold on! Let me just get my cocoa,” she told the excited dog.

She opened the door to the microwave and removed her steaming mug. Then, she followed the eager dog down an especially dark corridor.

As Scarlet followed the dog, she noticed that one shelf held dark dusty books with titles in a mournful script.

When the dog stopped, Scarlet stared in horror at the lifeless body of Mr. Nicholas, the librarian. She screamed and dropped her cocoa, which splashed over her legs. She was immune to the burning sensation as she stared at her lifelong friend.

His usually cheerful face was pale with death. A small streak of blood trickled down the corner of his lip. In his hand, he clutched an old book, and Scarlet could see that its yellowed pages were ripped and torn.

With numb fingers, Scarlet pulled the book from his hands and wiped the dust from the old cover. The silvery title read:

“Amongst the Cursed…hmmm.”
Her eyes poured over the illustrations. In one, a little girl stood alone under a silver moon. Scarlet looked more closely at the girl, and thought she looked familiar.

Still musing, Scarlet tucked the book in her jacket pocket and ran home.

Her mother had bought the Wilkshire Mansion after the success of her first book. Scarlet loved that the house was filled with trap doors and secret rooms, and one of her favorite rainy day activities was to go exploring.
Her mother was standing in the long driveway under the gnarled oak trees that bowed to whoever passed, smiling to see her only child.

Suddenly, the numbness of Mr. Nicholas’s death wore off, and the tears came. They poured down her cheeks and onto her jacket. Scarlet ran and hugged her mother.

“What’s wrong, darling? What took you so long?”

Quickly, Scarlet recounted what had happened at the library. Scarlet’s mother gasped.

“Oh, my Lord! We must go back to the library immediately and report this to the police. Let me see that book, dear. Perhaps it will tell us something about Mr. Nicholas’s death.”

Scarlet nodded in agreement, and they both jumped into the car and drove to the police station.

The next day, Scarlet was too sad to go to school. Her mom had asked for the book and was now reading it. Horror seemed to be plastered across her face as she read.

The next day, when Scarlet came home from school, she saw her mother staring in horror at the book’s pages, but she wouldn’t stop reading. One day, when Scarlet came home, she saw the book lying face down on the sofa. She slowly walked toward it and carefully placed her hand on its cover. What am I afraid of? she thought as she quickly picked up the book. As she leafed through its pages, a sudden thought struck her. Maybe if she hid the book, her mother would start acting normal again.

The next day, Scarlet’s mother searched wildly for the book.

“Scarlet, have you seen my book anywhere? I’ve been looking for almost an hour now; it must be around here somewhere,” she said, desperately throwing pillows in every direction. Scarlet couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Mother, here—I have it,” she said, but the second she had uttered the last word, regret thrashed wildly inside her like an untamed animal.

Nevertheless, she held out the book to her mother. Her mother seemed a little surprised that Scarlet had hidden the book from her, but her anxiousness to read it seemed to almost weigh down her anger.

Once again, Scarlet’s mother began to read the book everyday, nonstop it seemed. Finally, she finished it. Her mother’s face had become pale, and she walked slowly, without her usual joy. Her voice was dry as crackling leaves, for she had fallen from the Tree of Life.

Three months passed. It was Scarlet’s eleventh birthday when she decided to read the book. She sat down on the sofa, a warm mug of hot cocoa next to her, her two cats snuggling by her feet. But in spite of all the pleasant coziness of her position, the book haunted her. Terrible tales of monsters filled its pages, yet there was nothing Scarlet could do to stop herself from reading.

It was also on Scarlet’s eleventh birthday that something very strange and terrible happened. It was the day after Scarlet’s mother had finished the book, and Scarlet was walking up to her room with the book in her hand. She lay down, but she couldn’t go to sleep, for her head was spinning in a whirlpool of thoughts. As she heard the sounds of the night just outside her window, she decided that she would sleep with her mother— perhaps it would be less frightening.
She picked up the candle and walked to her mother’s room. To Scarlet’s surprise, the drapes were closed. Scarlet’s mother had always kept the drapes up, for unlike Scarlet, her mother loved to look at the moon and stars, and let their rays pour into her room. Scarlet walked closer to her mother’s bed and put her hand on the blankets. Just as she was about to crawl onto the bed, she realized with horror that there was no one there. Then, she looked down at the floor and screamed.

Scarlet’s shrill cry of horror echoed throughout the empty house. If you have ever lost a love one, then you will surely know that there is a small period of time where you are numb, beyond tears, beyond tantrum. Depending on how close you felt to that person, you sometimes feel that you cannot go on with your life. Then you psychologically search for a loophole, a way that you could bring that person back to life, or change what happened. But you can never avoid your subconscious. And behind your crying eyes, in the back of your mind you know that they are dead. This is just the way Scarlet felt during the five longest minutes of her life while she was waiting for the police and paramedics to arrive at her house. And as the paramedics took Scarlet’s mother away from her, Scarlet sat and watched, bewildered but calm. Only one thought wandered through her empty mind: I must find the killer.

Scarlet went to live with her Aunt Maggie Day. She loved her aunt for her calm cheer. Her aunt lived in a little cottage at the bottom of a green hill, and Scarlet always loved gazing out at the winding road that flowed towards the sunrise.
Her aunt had made the decision that she would not need to go to school as long as she could read, write, and do a little algebra.

“You don’t need any education here in our little valley,” she said, laughing.
It was true. The valley was in the middle of nowhere, and there wasn’t another city for miles and miles. But Scarlet liked it here in her small little home, almost alone in the world. She was glad that her kind aunt had taken her in, for now she would have the leisure time to focus on finding my mother’s killer, and maybe even Mr. Nicholas’s.

One day, Scarlet decided to go to the park and read. Though she completely trusted Aunt Maggie Day, she decided to keep the book a secret, and didn’t want her to see it. It seemed as if the deaths of both her mother and Mr. Nicholas had somehow sprung from the pages of the book, and she didn’t want to endanger anyone else. Scarlet sat down at the park bench, and her fingers leafed through the pages of the book to the chapter she was at, and stopped there, for her eyes took over the job.

And from it sprang a darkness so wild and fierce that no one could stop it. No one, that is except for the Great Eagle. And when the people’s sins became so great that monsters began to form under their skin, one day, in the dead of night, the monsters sprang unleashed. The men and women’s skin peeled, and from under the skin leapt terrible things. And they spread their evil bite by bite, giving those whom they bit an unbearable curse that rested on their shoulders for the rest of their lives.
Suddenly, Scarlet’s reading was interrupted by a hoarse whisper in her ear.

“Where did you get the book?” asked a scratchy, dry voice.

Scarlet jumped up. A tall man loomed over her, and in her soul she felt mysteriousness dabbled with fear. She couldn’t think what to tell the man, for she certainly didn’t want to tell him where she had really gotten it, so she quickly came up with a half-truth.

“I just checked it out from the library,” she said hopefully.

The man nodded.

“Which library?” he asked.

“None of your business,” Scarlet said nervously. “I can’t talk to strangers anyway.”

“Ah, of course, then you shall not talk to me. I will talk to you.” he said with a small smile. “Listen, for what I have to say is very important. That book you hold in your hand is a death trap, so if you value your life, then do not read the last page. But child, heed this riddle if you wish to live:

Perhaps by twilight you will learn,

What fears and dangers still a’ churn

But read the book any other hour

Silent are your lips, and unto Death you shall surely cower
Scarlet quickly tore a sheet of paper from her notebook and began to scribble down the riddle. When she looked up, the man was gone.
From that day on, Scarlet began to study the riddle in her mind, looking up words left and right; doing everything she could to solve it. She read four books about twilight, and looked up the definitions of all the other words. All her studying eventually paid off. One day she stumbled upon the meaning of the riddle. It told her that she could only read the book at the exact hour of twilight, but not any other time, or else she would lose her voice, and soon her life. She thought about her mother. It was true; her mother had been absolutely quiet on the three days that lead up to her death. She hadn’t said a word, and now Scarlet realized with horror that this riddle might be completely true. Her theory was that the writers of the book were possibly “among the cursed” themselves. Did that mean that the monsters of her childhood dreams were real? Did they live in hiding? Or could they be regular people, transformed by night?

Scarlet encountered the man one more time at the park. He did not talk to her at first, but merely smiled and winked. Later, however, he approached her.

“You see, my dear girl? We are among the cursed.” Then he threw his head back and laughed, showing his sharp yellowed teeth.

“He’s one of them…” Scarlet muttered with a sharp intake of breath.

Scarlet planned her twilight reading session perfectly. She decided that she would save the last chapter of the book for the following morning, and during the first hour of twilight, she would read to the end. She would read one—just one minute after the first hour of twilight. But she would be ready for attack.

Scarlet woke up in the dead of night. Pale moonlight poured into her room as she began to pack her things. She took a pistol with a silver bullet and a crucifix. She knew that these things were probably just childhood superstitions, but she felt no need to chance it.

The door creaked loudly when she opened it, and she immediately felt the cold reaching out for her as she stepped outside. But she knew that there was no turning back now. With each step she took, leaves crackled under her feet. She had already chosen the perfect place to read—the park bench.

It felt odd to Scarlet, not feeling the warm sunshine on her face as she sat down on the cold wood. She struck a match and lit a candle. As the fire appeared on the end of the short stick, Scarlet almost felt a spiritual presence there with her, almost as if her mother were sitting there, in the small flame, the only light in the cold darkness of night. She had a sudden knowledge that somewhere behind all the darkness, there had to be a small glimmer of hope, a flickering light.

She picked up the book and began to read.

The people who are among the cursed are victims. When the night takes hold of them, they have no choice but to destroy all who read this book. If they do not, they will die.
Scarlet closed the book. It was one minute past the first hour of twilight, and no monster had come. What a fool I am! This is probably fiction anyway, thought Scarlet disgustedly. Frustrated, she slammed the book shut and hurled it to the ground. She thought about her mother and Mr. Nicholas. I guess it was just a coincidence that they both died after reading the book. Scarlet hurriedly lit her lamp and began her journey home.

A cold silence screamed in her ears, and the leaves crackled under her feet, just as they had done before. But for some reason, Scarlet thought that it seemed much more still than it had on her way there. Perhaps it was because on her way there, she had been excited about something, but now all her hopes were dashed, and she was to live with her Aunt Maggie Day forever with no more exciting adventures.

And then, Scarlet felt cold fingers sink into her shoulders. A horrifying empty feeling filled her stomach as she turned around to see sad eyes and white teeth slashing against the night. As Scarlet turned, she felt warm blood splash on her shoulders. No! Scarlet screamed in her mind as she looked at the creature looming above her.

It was her mother.

Scarlet froze. Her mother’s eyes burned into hers, and somehow, she understood what she had to do. Her mother nodded, turned her back on her daughter, and began to slowly hop away.

Later, Scarlet stood there, alone in the middle of the night, the full moon covered by dark clouds. Beside her lay her mother. She knelt beside her, tears streaming down her eyes, her hand over her mother’s still heart and the silver bullet that was lodged in it. Scarlet cried for her mother, and then for Mr. Nicholas. The monsters hadn’t meant to do what they had done. Once the monster took hold of it, it was forced to do horrible deeds. At least, that’s what the book had said. She lifted her numb hand to touch the side of her neck where she had been bitten and felt the warm blood trickle down her chest. She opened her mouth and howled into the night. It was the howl of a wolf—the howl of sorrowful mournful wolf. Then Scarlet ran away. She ran deep into the forest. There she would live the rest of her life . . . . . among the cursed.

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