. P H A N T O M S .

Aaron and Matthew must journey across the Violet Isle together, surviving against the odds, but can they survive each other as their motives clash in a race against time.

prologue

We were poised in the penumbra of petrified trees; tucked away behind a collection of charred skeletal trunks and branches which clawed the lilac sky. Makeshift weapons and armour were our only resource here, here in this ten mile hunting ground.

I heard the sky bubble; I watched it spit bursts of sphere lightening out in spirals from a crack in the dark, purple clouds. I assumed this was how it begun. Some shifted uneasily, they disturbed the sulphurous floor; a stench filled the air. I knew it would attract the hunters.

A foghorn of thunder erupted from above. We watched as they emerged, floated down to the ground. Large feathery parasols of purple and gold carried them; it was like an ethereal echelon of Mary Poppins. Coils of plant-like roots bound around one arm, their silhouette forming the exact pose of the old Disney legend. This had been me just months before hand. Half-consciously swirled into this world, dropping from the sky, unable to process the vast world sprawling out before me. The very same blackened claws of trees that I hid beneath now stretched out to the shore where lilac waves lapped at a beach made of bones. What kind of person must you be to take that in?

In the distance we heard that unearthly screech that had become so familiar to our ears. We flinched, curled ourselves even tighter against the trees.

The first of the dazed, Mary Poppins batch touched down. Their new legs, unused, collapsed beneath them. Their eyes trying hard to adjust to the vibrant hues and dark shadows. They mumbled nonsense words with their new tongues; spoke in languages that had long since been forgotten to our ears.

One of my fellow observers stepped out and into the clearing. Brave of them, I thought. They assisted the newcomer, took an arm around their neck and carried them carefully back into the tree line. We all watched on beneath the peaks of our hoods as the almost translucent skin of the newcomer slowly hardened and became solid. His eyes cracked with veins and brimmed with fear, confusion and an uncertain sense of melancholy.

I cringed, recalling the same feeling. It was hard to tell how much time had passed precisely since we had all been in the same position. When I had descended, degraded into this form, there had been so many of us, probably in the hundreds. Now I could only count twenty. Some faces, I recognized. Others I did not. A few covered their faces with scarves or makeshift masks – ironically in an attempt not to scare the newcomers.

As more of them landed, the feathery umbrellas wilted and dissipated in a wisp of golden embers. I crouched motionless in the shadows of trees, watching as some of my descendancy stepped forward to help the new descendants.

Some opted to help more than one of them – there were thrice as many of them as there were of us. Two or three of my group found a newcomer and left. Others came together to form a team to take on the hardships ahead.

I continued to watch.

There were far too many newcomers for us to take.

Cacophonous in the glittering sky, was a crushing scream. A quivering, translucent shadow swooped hard and fast, sang its discordant song. That unearthly scream was close now.

Through the small swarm of descending human forms, the sky shadow swept, clasping at them with snapping teeth of a vibrant ultra violet. A clot of diaphanous dead hung loosely in its clamped teeth. I hid in the shadows. There was nothing we could do for them now.

Remnants of the newcomers fell hard to the floor, either a hard landing, or the beast had snapped away their ghostly parachutes. With the hood on my cloak pulled up over my head I darted between the withering trees towards the drop zone. Several women and men lay, collapsed on the floor, their skin stiffening into that pale white solidity.

Now I knew why someone had stepped up to collect the first landing. How could I choose between the confused, remaining victims? How could I pick someone for the journey ahead?

I paused, hesitating in the treeline as the soul hunter swooped once more, a set of teeth at the end of its tail snapping and snatching the survivors of the floor.

One man glanced up and reached out a hand, he clawed into the ground and tugged his ill working legs along, scoring his trail into the black and golden ashes.

He was the one.

I burst into the opening just as the monster above coiled mid-air and dropped down again. I rolled to avoid the teethtail but slammed awkwardly onto my stomach, my fingers just out of reach of the man, solidifying in front of me.

I spun sideways and rolled backwards so I lay next to him. I clambered ungracefully to my knees and wrapped an arm around him. He glanced at me in terror. His eyes questioned this barrage of blurry information, this new world, these new faces, new predators; it was a far cry from having to dodge rudeboy racers as you crossed the road near Hackney marshes.

I tugged him to his feet, but he tripped, ungainly. I tumbled with him as his weight pulled down on me. We rose time after time, each time clattering back to the sulphurous ash. Above us the shadow flapped and sang its banshee sounds, teeth cracked at the ground as the two of us wrestled to our feet.

Eventually we reached the treeline; others hung back in the shadows watching as the last of the newcomers were consumed by the shadow creature. Tears stained the cheeks of some, others wandered away into the golden glow of fireflies, hanging in the forest depths. I watched on with pity.

My survivor begun to support himself slightly – he would need to in the coming days. Glances were exchanged amidst my fellowship. We dispersed into the undergrowth.

Hiding in shadows; hiding from shadows.

The hunters came. 

The End

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