Siobhán O’Ruairc ran down the castle corridor with the monster’s footsteps trailing close behind, increasing as they hit the cold stone floor, and echoing down the rock hall until only the hiss of air flowing over his clothing could be heard. When that dissipated, the shadows crept across the walls, taunting her, changing in shape and size as each candle flame flickered from the passing gust. Outside, the wind howled, the monster’s growls blending with the tempest, but every time she had a chance to look back, all she could see were lurking shadows. She scurried down the dim hall, her long auburn hair streaming behind her along with her robes. Frail hands clutched at stone walls as she flung herself around tight corners.
He closed in on her effortlessly, following the scent of her fear…and her blood; she’d scratched her hand on one of the sharp stones as she grasped the wall. A crash in the short distance behind her had her running faster, but no matter how fast she ran, she couldn’t get away from it. Just your imagination was what Cianán had told her, but she knew that not to be true. She cursed him as she ran around yet another corner. She knew her dreams were real. At least, this particular one enjoyed torturing her.
She fled deeper into the labyrinthine castle, unable to escape the horror behind her, and entered a familiar hall. It was the Ulster corridor. Her love had named the wings after the five provinces of Eiré. She came upon a door in the long hallway and slammed it shut behind her, locking the solid oak into place, and she fumbled to pull out the key. It fell to the floor and her breath caught in her throat; the key clanged against the stone before bouncing and landing on the rug. Siobhán stood frozen, staring at the key, before snapping out of her trance and remembering why she had run into this room.
If memory served, there was another door in the room that would take her to the lower part of the castle, which was filled with secret tunnels. She could sneak out to the stables and find help, or perhaps outrun the beast on horseback.
A quiet sigh of relief passed her lips when she turned to spy the door, and she sprinted toward it. After thumbing the latch, she opened the door and stared inside at the wall. She ran her fingers all around the back wall of the closet, but could find no trigger. Tears streamed down her face when she realized that she was in the wrong room. If she had only gone down to the next room; it was the one she needed. The latch jiggled on the door behind her. She stopped breathing, hoping that the monster would move on as she stared at the door through the darkness. The full moon hanging low in the velvet sky was the only light casting into the room.
The latch stopped jiggling and she heard the footsteps retreat down the hall. Standing still for a moment longer to gather her thoughts and let the creature move farther away, she looked around the room. There was no way out without running into it again, and she certainly couldn’t wait in the room. Verily, it would eventually figure out where she hid.
A thunderous crash echoed from elsewhere in the castle, and she sobbed quietly as she knelt beside the bed, not knowing what she could do. When she opened her tear-filled eyes, moonlight glinted off the key on the floor. Perhaps she had enough time to make it to the other room. If only her valiant love had still been alive, he would have saved her by…
The oak door exploded, sending wooden shards throughout the room. A large splinter pierced her arm and she screamed. She stared at the shadow in the doorway while cupping her hand over the wound and crying silently. He stepped forward. The moonlight briefly revealed his identity, and her mouth quickly closed. She swallowed before opening it again, as if to say his name before the light touched his face once more, unveiling something new this time. His face bore the kind of smile that twisted, allowing every wrinkle, each line to show through, revealing the evil within. As she slowly stood, trembling with fear and clutching the bedspread, he advanced toward her.
He stopped in the center of the room, slowly shaking his head back and forth, causing his long black hair to move gently from the motion.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk.” He smiled, and then lunged forward.
She lurched away from the bed, pulling the heavy bedspread with her, as though it was her cloak of protection. He crashed into the bedside table, shattering it, and fought to untangle himself from the cover as she fled the room and ran down the corridor again.
She reached the top of the stairs, finally out of the labyrinth, and ran down three stories. The toe of her slipper caught a loop belonging to the large rug covering the stone floor at the base of the gigantic stairwell, and she fell forward. Instinctually, her arms shot out in front of her in an attempt to absorb the shock of the fall; her face impacted the hard stone floor. The locket she wore fell from around her neck, unlatching from the mishap. The hall then filled with the reverberated sounds of his growls as he drew near once more. She crawled to her hands and knees, ignoring the pain, then looked behind her and up the enormous stairwell to see where he was. All she could see were those damned shadows as they jumped from one side of the stairwell to the other.
Always those shadows…whispering from the darkness. She’d never seen anything else until just a few moments ago when he revealed himself to her. Her lip bled and began its swelling; the coppery taste hitting her tongue as she inspected it in a swift lick. She quickly untangled her foot and stood, pulling up the front of her long gown so she could run toward the massive oak door. Seizing the large cold iron handle with one hand, she pulled on it, but the door refused to open. Her other hand wrapped around the iron and she tugged franticly. When it wouldn’t open, she pounded relentlessly against the hard wood, wanting more than anything to scream. Instead, she sobbed, face pressed against the door, staring at the latch as though in a trance. She blinked and focused her eyes on the latch. She took the handle again and forced the bolt back with her other hand, but it was too late. His breath hit her cheek as fingers pushed the hair away from the nape of her neck.
“Go on, run some more, pretty. I am rather enjoying this,” he whispered in a voice as cold as the winds of winter. He slammed his hand beside her head and ran it down the door, scratching the hard wood with his nails, causing it to splinter into needle-like fragments.
She started and turned her head until her eyes met his pale face. His wicked grin, the evil in his face, taunted her as she trembled with fear. She couldn’t help but stare into his white eyes as the strange light danced beyond the iris, mesmerizing her with its lightening show.
He moved his hand slowly toward her face, his nails lightly touching her cheek. His touch was as frigid as his voice and his glacial skin made her shudder. It was as though she’d been touched by Death itself.