Miranda strolled down the trail that cut through the shadowed woods, whistling along with “The Music of the Night” blaring from her iPod. She’d earned the part of Christine in the student-directed production of The Phantom of the Opera. Her boyfriend, Tony, got the part of Erik. Everything was going perfect, if only she could get her grades up.
This meeting would take care of that.
She came to a fork in the trail and took the left-hand path. Moonlight dappled the ground as she crunched down the leaf-covered route. She stared at the skeletal fingers dangling from the branches above her. It looked like they pointed at her, accusing her of sins unknown. She hugged herself as her body involuntarily shuddered.
She loved this time of year. A good scare made her feel alive.
The woods opened up into a small clearing. In the middle stood a slight bespectacled sophomore. Acne patches adorned his cheeks and his hair shone dull brown in the moonlight. She grimaced when she saw him waiting. What I have to do to get what I need, she thought.
She schooled her features into a happy smile and bounced out into the clearing. “Sammy!” she squealed. She ran over to him and crushed him in a hug. A quick peck brushed his lips. “How are you, baby?”
Sammy murmured something as his hands traveled down her back. She broke the hug and backed up a step when his hands brushed her rear. “Now, now, sweetie,” she cooed. “I told you, after I get my grade back.”
Sammy handed her the paper he’d written for her.
She leaned in and whispered in his crusted ear, “I get an A and you get everything.” She backed away and smiled coquettishly to hide the nausea she felt. The things she had to do. Fortunately, this reject would never get this close to her again.
She clicked on a small key-chain flashlight and skimmed the paper. She unbuttoned her top three buttons, giving Sammy a peek at her bra, folded the paper, and tucked it into her shirt. She strode forward and gave him another brush on the lips with hers. “Thanks, stud,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what I get on this. Ta.”
She turned her back on Sammy and hurried away. She allowed her mask to fall now that he couldn’t see her. Her face took on a disgusted countenance. Maybe I should get Tony to pound this little punk. That ought to keep him away.
A branch snapped just as she reached the edge of the woods. Something moved in the shadows. Fear gripped her and she stumbled back toward the middle of the clearing. “Sammy? Did you see that?”
Sammy didn’t answer. He had disappeared. In his place a robed figure stood, the cowl of his hood covering his face. She moaned in terror and turn to run. Another robed figure stepped out of the woods. Then another.
Miranda screamed until the tallest of the robed figures flicked back his hood. She choked mid-scream and doubled over coughing. “T-T-Tony?” she choked out. “You bastard! You scared me!”
The other two pulled back their hoods to show Sammy and the student-director, Andrew. Each face looked like carved granite, their eyes hard and cold. Miranda became acutely aware they surrounded her. She gave a nervous laugh. “Ha ha, guys. You scared me. You got me.”
The three of them closed in. “Tony,” she cried. “Why are you doing this?”
Tony didn’t answer. Instead, the three of them pointed at her and started speaking in some strange language. “Hanc Dianae in arborem mutavit, quaesumus,” they chanted over and over.
Miranda’s face deepened with anger as the trio chanted. She decided to lash out. “You stupid moron, Tony! What are you doing? You don’t have the balls to do anything. Believe me, I know.” She rounded on Andrew and Sammy. “And you pathetic little nerds, what made you believe that someone like me would ever be interested in two losers like you.”
She tried to run, but her feet rooted to the ground. Her arms felt stiff and she had trouble breathing. She watched her skin harden and turn brown.
The boys left the clearing, a single tree left in the middle. For years after, teenagers would visit the clearing. The skeletal fingers on the branches of the solitary tree seemed to point at them.
As if accusing them of some unknown sin.
Word count: 739
This is my contribution for The Speakeasy challenge for the second week of October. The prompt is “Something moved in the shadows,” which may be used anywhere in the story. There is also a music prompt that must be referenced. That prompt is “The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera. If this seems like something that might interest you, feel free to follow the link below to see the challenge rules.
My thanks go out to the folks running The Speakeasy challenges at www.yeahright.me/speakeasy/. These are a fun way to stretch those writing muscles and get feedback from other participants.