The unicorn reared, and the girl clung desperately to his neck, eyes wide with fear as the dark creature snarled. She got only a glimpse of its ink-colored fur and lipless muzzle, fangs yellow and jagged, before the unicorn pivoted sharply and galloped off, the ringing of bells turned to rolling thunder. The monster followed with a bone-chilling howl.

eye-451071_1280Fingers buried in the unicorn’s mane, she could do nothing but hold on, eyes watering as the wind whipped past. She almost lost her precarious hold when they leapt over a stream, and she flinched at the roar that came from behind. A glance showed that the creature had caught up with them, keeping pace, moving as smoothly through the brush as water over stone. Time seemed to slow as it grinned before snapping at the unicorn’s haunch, causing him to stumble. She flew through the air, landing with a cry.

Dark spots flooded her vision, the treetops spinning in a dizzying spiral above her head, earth cool against her back. A squeal startled her from her daze. She pushed herself upright on scraped and bloodied hands. The unicorn whinnied again, wheeling desperately back and forth in front of her, blocking the nightmare from reaching her. Only now did she realize that the monstrosity wasn’t colored black, as she’d thought. It simply was darkness, with four legs, black slashes of ink on a page and an earless head like the dead space between stars. Only two colors stood out in the roiling mass of shadow: the yellowed teeth in the lipless, slavering mouth and the eyes, red and flashing pieces of flame, that rolled to focus on her as she moved. A chill raced down her spine, a fear she’d never felt before, and tears blurred her vision briefly in her terror.

“Are you afraid?” it growled. The sound made her think of the rattle of old bones, the snap-crackle of a fire, the creaking of a door opening by itself in the middle of the night.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Good,” it said. “You should be.” The unicorn stomped one silver hoof, threatening and massive, but the blood coloring his pale flank showed his weakness. The creature dodged the unicorn, and this time, his defensive strike came too slow. The shadow beast leapt towards her, lightless paws extending into jagged claws.

There was a flash of light, burning and brilliant, the crash of steel, and a voice like a trumpet. Her vision went white and she lost all sight.

 

Continue reading: Part 3