The King of All Things
Abigail always hated walking home after her night class. Her dorm was only a ten-minute walk away from the brickstone conservatory, but that did little to help in the first strains of colder weather when every sound crackled or hissed in a special kind of way to make her feel as if she were ready to jump out of her skin.
“You worry too much,” her boyfriend Josh told her just the other day. He had brushed off her every attempt to get him to meet her after class just to walk her back to her dorm. “What can happen? It’s not like you don’t have a cell phone.”
Any other time, she might have argued, but the thought of upsetting him — especially if he threatened to break up with her — kept her quiet. Besides, what if she were asking for too much? What kind of girl needed her boyfriend to act as a bodyguard twice a week for a few months just because she was a little afraid of the dark?
But even the trees — their branches casting shadows that curled like a predator’s claws — creeped her out. Tonight, she found herself drawing her sweater around her tightly before she ducked her head and walked into the autumn breeze. Leaves skittered around her boots. Abigail had to endure this walk only six weeks more. Yet each footstep she took seemed like it echoed across the pavement, the staccato sounds underlying the whisper of the wind.
She turned her head just once, her dark hair flyaway as the breeze tangled in its strands, to see how the shadows danced behind her. Her teeth clamped together with a clatter — another unwelcome noise — before she looked back ahead and quickened her pace.
It didn’t matter. The dark already had its sights set on her. It had been written in some patchwork of the universe, a tome as old and undeniable as bones buried beneath the earth centuries ago.
Girls like Abigail had no chance when eldritch beings took an interest in them.
She continued walking, her legs nearly set into a slight jog by that point, but it was too late.
The shadows swallowed her up without a second thought.
Abigail didn’t notice until she looked up — startled — to find the campus gone from her…