“All truths are easy to understand once they have been discovered; the point is to discover them.”
6:45am, 9th April
The window exploded outwards, showering the pavement with shards of glass. The girl tumbled out, quickly rolling to her feet. She took off at a run, not daring to look back. Not trusting to slow down. Her breath soon became ragged, curling in white wisps before her as the dawn air clung to its chill. Her footsteps echoed off the concrete walls on either side of her as she hurtled down the narrow street. Then she heard it. Her name.
“Megan.” The voice drifted to her like a breath on the breeze. It sent a shiver down her spine. She quickened her pace, her lungs burning with the effort. But she wouldn’t stop. She would not be taken.
The ground sloped down sharply as the road made its way towards the seafront. Megan let the extra momentum add to her speed. The blast of sea air invigorated her as she turned to run parallel with the shoreline. She caught a glimpse behind her, back up the street she had come down. A shadow was following her. And gaining ground.
Suppressing the urge to scream, Megan pressed on. Just get to the mirror, she thought wildly. Get to the mirror.
The shoreline rounded into a bay and up ahead she could make out the domed building of the old arcade, its broken windows and patched roof catching the hazy dawn light that was gradually creeping inland.
Get to the mirror, get to the mirror, get to the mirror.
As she neared the arcade, she risked one last glance behind. The shadow was closer. Much closer. It looked more like a man now; tall and lean, and fast.
Megan pulled her focus back to the old arcade ahead of her. To the fairground in front of it. To the mirror. Her lifeline. As fast and as hard as she ran, she could feel fatigue pulling at her, weighing down her legs. Her head was pounding, her heart beat throbbing in her ears. Her lungs burned as exhaustion spread into every muscle in her body. It was all she could do to push past it and just keep running. Panic and adrenaline became fuel in her veins.
At last, the chain-link fence that surrounded the fairground came into view. She wasn’t far. She ran straight for the hole in the fence she had found before and squeezed herself through.
The fairground was silent. From the looks of things, it hadn’t been open to the public in years. Decades, even. The rides were all closed down and dark. The paint on the carousel horses was chipped and faded. The rickety rollercoaster looked ready to topple over at the mere hint of a breeze. Old flyers and torn up posters and tickets were strewn over the ground like confetti, mingled with dead leaves and mulched by the rain. The smell of candy floss and fresh fish and chips had long since disappeared and the tang of rust was carried in the air instead.
Getting her bearings, Megan headed towards the old waltzer. She had seen it when she had arrived. It wasn’t far from the mirror. She was still far enough ahead of the shadow that it wouldn’t catch up to her before she got there.
As she approached the waltzer, she caught a glimpse of the mirror glinting in the early morning light. The sight would have cheered her, but she stopped dead in her tracks instead. In front of the mirror, a second shadow was waiting for her.
Cursing under her breath, Megan edged slowly towards the cover of the waltzer. She was careful not to move too quickly and draw the shadow’s attention.
One of the waltzer cars had broken away from the main ride and lay on its side on the ground. She ducked down behind it and positioned herself so she could see the Hall of Mirrors. Her mirror stood at the Hall’s entrance, a mere thirty yards from her. She could make it. She would get home.
As she watched from the waltzer car, the shadows came into view. She tensed as they looked around in all directions. They paused in front of the mirror. Her mirror. Megan held her breath, willing them to either move on or go through. She felt her muscles tense in the effort to keep still as the shadows hunted for any movement around them. She wondered if they would be able to sense her heart thudding in her chest, or the shaking of her hands as fear pulsed through her with every passing second.
Finally, mercifully, the shadows moved on. They set off in opposite directions and drifted further into the fairground, still searching for her.
Megan let out a silent sigh of relief. She felt slightly lightheaded as the panic calmed through her body. But this was not the time to sit still. She took in two deep breaths to steady herself and then, checking the shadows really had passed by, she bolted out of her hiding place and sprinted for the mirror.
She was half way there when something solid knocked her sideways. She fell hard and her head smacked against the ground making her teeth shudder and her vision spin. She came to a halt flat on her back.
A man’s face came into view above her.
“Oh my goodness!” he said. “Are you alright?”