We sat huddled together in the tent, each of us clutching either a flashlight, pocket knife, or a fork -anything that was available to us and could qualify as a weapon. It wasn't going to be of any help. We knew that. It was merely a trick to fool our mind and prevent it from going insane -or even worse-going out of the tent. Outside, the wind howled unnaturally echoing through the snow-buried remains of what once had been a prosperous village. It blew chunks of snow that had collected near the base of the tent. I was shivering, not due to the cold, but because of the mere thought of it. Because of the ever-increasing dread of spotting it. It. The Lantern.
What if it came? What if we saw it? I was jolted out of my thoughts by Mandy. 'The flashlight's battery gonna go soon,' she whispered. We only had two flashlights among the four of us who were still living. A chill crept down my back at the thought. The night was in its prime youth, the weather more fierce, enveloping any of the faint light which the crescent moon might have cast.
Dan swept the light from face to face creating a haphazard show of moving shadows on the thick tent fabric. ''We can't stay here.' His eyes were wide in a sort of a lunatic way. Fog smoked out from his mouth. 'It'll come for us. Like it did for them.' He pointed his flashlight towards the zipped door of the tent. I didn't dare turn my gaze towards the outside.
'I don't want to die.' Manny had started sobbing. Even in the dim light, I could see her go pale. Her lips were turning blue. It was too cold.
'We're going to die anyhow ', said Bob flatly. His eyes were calm yet unfocused clearly showing his acceptance of the impending doom.
'At least not without a source of heat in here.' He pulled his bag close to himself. The numerous cans of soda which he had devoured during the hike jingled against each other. He thought of the idea of dumping anything in the divinely beautiful valley, as completely evil and worthy of hell. Such irony to think that hell walked on foot in this very valley. I suppressed an oncoming burst of psychotic laughter.
'What's so funny heh', Dan asked curtly. 'I ain't gonna freeze here, I'm out.' He started to get up pretending oblivious to the very unimaginable but true fact. It was out there.
'Anyone coming.' He looked at Manny. 'I'm -I'm not sure. What if we actually SEE it? If it's all true!?'
'Bullshit! You fellas gonna be a popsicle!' His voice was unfaltering, ghosts of madness dancing in his eyes.
I looked at Bob questioningly. He shrugged. 'I'm staying.' I decided to stay too.
I had heard. I had seen it. I had believed. The tale of the lantern.
You only see it floating like a hopeful orb of light in the depressing cold. For that instant, the worries of life evaporate to be replaced by a longing, comforting warmth. It's enticing. But beware for it's a mirage- a devilish, cunning mirage. For you only see the lantern and its warmth, not the IT that holds it. IT'S the dark behind the light that walks the dried snow of the land. Like a spider waiting for the fly to get caught in its web... IT'LL wait. IT'LL lure you to your death.
I don't remember the exact words. My mind's all muddled up as I write this. The distinction between dream and reality has blurred and so has the difference between hell and heaven. Anyway, that's the story told to us by the owner of the inn where we had lodged up. The last time I'd seen him was with a very grim face, his hands cupped around his mouth shouting for us to turn back. We didn't. We continued towards the devil's village to pay for our sins.
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