Something brushed past Lilly from behind. “What was that?”
“What was what?”
“I felt something. Zymura, I think someone’s here with us,” she whispered.
“Lilly, that’s crazy. What the…? Ouch!”
Panic twisted Lilly’s stomach. “What’s happening? Are you all right?”
A sharp click was followed by a short, thin squeak.
“I’m good. Finally. Okay, we’re in.” Zymura’s voice held a tone of satisfaction with a hint of impatience. She pushed the door inward with a sigh of what sounded like relief.
A shaft of gloomy light poured out through the opening.
“What do you mean, finally? Was there a problem?” Lilly felt her doubts about the shortcut returning.
“I couldn’t get the latch to open.”
Lilly entered the classroom behind Zymura and closed the door behind her with a quiet click. She gave the knob a slight tug to make certain the latch caught.
The wafting aroma of tangy chemicals singed her nose. She heard a thick, wet, bubbling hiss, like stew boiling.
Slowly, she turned, facing the classroom’s interior and the source of the sound.
Lined up on slate countertops, cauldrons hovered above floating green flames. The glowing blue contents bubbling inside the cauldrons cast a cadaverous pallor into the dimly-lit room.
“I thought you said everything would be put away.”
“It was the last time I came through here.”
“Maybe that was because school hadn’t started yet,” Lilly reasoned as she scanned the classroom, looking for another door. “Which way is out?”
Zymura waved with a signal for Lilly to follow. “C’mon. Over here.”
As Lilly made her way past the rows of countertops, she noticed vaporous tendrils reach out from the seething cauldrons, like curious fingers, daring to touch her, but dissipating before they could. Nervous, she edged away from the smoldering cauldrons, closer to Zymura and the center of the room.
From behind her, she heard the soft scuffs of leather soles treading quietly across the stone floor. Glancing back, she saw only the simmering cauldrons. She grabbed Zymura’s shoulder and whispered in her friend’s ear. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Zymura asked.
“Sorry,” her roommate lowered her voice to a whisper and stopped. “Hear what?”
Lilly held Zymura in place.
Leather soles stopped moving, too.
“Do you hear footsteps?”
“I swear, Zymura, it sounded like someone was right behind me.”
“Lilly, I don’t hear anything.”
“That’s because when we stopped walking, they did too.”
“Maybe you’re just imaging things. If you are, it’s okay, you know. It’s creepy in here. I’m imagining things, too.”
“Zymura,” Lilly whispered sharply. “I’m not imagining this.”
“Okay, okay,” Zymura held her hands up, gesturing surrender. “You’re not imagining anything. But it’s okay if you are.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Get us out of here, but walk as quietly as you can, and listen. You should be able to hear the footsteps, too.”
Zymura glanced around the room, and then returned her attention to Lilly with a look of concern. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine!” she whispered. “Just get us out of here!”
Zymura gave her a quick thumbs up.
They walked a distance of ten steps.
Lilly heard the scuff and quiet tap of leather soles closing in behind her.
Zymura stopped and turned suddenly. The wide-eyed expression on her face betrayed her barely contained fear. Her eyes scanned the room behind Lilly.
“Did you hear the footsteps, too?”
Zymura nodded, almost imperceptibly.
“Do you see anything?” Lilly dared to ask.
“Nope.” Zymura’s hand shot out from her side, grabbing Lilly’s arm in a vise-like grip.
“Run!” Zymura whispered.
Posted by Deborah McTiernan
Author of Lilly Noble & Actual Magic
Dares readers to believe in themselves and discover the magic within!
Read more: <ASIN: 0989180700> or <ASIN: B00D0DD97U> (Kindle).