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Written by Ashly Damon

Edited by Bradley Bell

Hidden away by a world of forests and hills was a village. It was a simple and happy place to live in. They were self-sufficient, with large farming stock and fruits and vegetables readily available. All of this hidden from the outside world.

However, this village was strange.

They held a celebration once a year. The whole celebration was to mock the darkness, something which was to be feared, and in which light was revered. The villagers would dress in strange clothes and masks and painted faces and dance and chant.

Brightly coloured strings of light were strung from home to home, and a young villager walked around taking in all the sweet smells and sights. She did so with an upturned smile, as that night was the night of splendour, which was her favourite time of year.

The orange sun began to dip into the tips of the trees, and the celebration was soon to begin. Children ran past the young girl, excitedly dancing with their toys, their mothers not far behind them.

The young girl thought of her own mother, and tried to shake the thoughts from her mind. She went to her father, who was hanging some bright coloured cloth from the roof of their house.

“Ah, Lilia, there you are. Guess what I have for you.” Lilia’s father dusted off his hands and picked up a small wooden box off the railing.

“What is it?”

“It belonged to your mother, I’m sure she’d want you to have it, especially for this special occasion.”

It was a bright red bow.

She shut the box and tried to hand it back to him.

“I can’t take this father, it belonged to-” He cut her short. “She would have wanted you to have it. Please do.” She accepted and thanked him.

The Night of Splendour had begun.

Fireworks spiralled high into the sky, making brilliant cracking sounds as they went. The young children were in awe of it, as for some it was the first night of splendour they actually remembered. Villagers were dancing about with painted masks on, laughing and making a mockery of the dark night.

Lilia had always thought that the night of splendour was just for fun and for the children. Music started playing and more fireworks went up. Nonetheless, she still loved the vibrant energy of it all, even though some of the adults took it a little too seriously.
She took joy in watching everyone have a good time. Towards midnight the leader of the village took stand at the front of the surrounding crowd.

“What a Night of Splendour! You’ve all outdone yourselves tonight, and a special thanks to my wife Barbara for cooking the winning item in the pie competition.” The portly man chuckled, “Now, for all of you young ones, this celebration is about making fun of the things which lurk outside at night. Things which some consider to be not real, things-”

A colossal crash struck came from across the village, dropping a heavy silence over the crowd with its echo.

The women shrieked.

“What was that?” “Was that the gate?”

Lilia looked to her father, who had no explanation.

The sky turned blood red and the air grew tight. The sound of wolves’ howling echoed throughout the village. The flustered red faced leader went to investigate, taking three other men with him.

More howling.

There was a distinct high pitched scream that could have come from a man in terror. That scream was cut short mid-vowel. Panic broke out, people began spreading out and disregarding all they had been taught about sticking together at night.

As they tried to bar themselves into their homes, their lights went out. More screeching and darkness began to sweep over the village. Lilia’s father took hold of her shoulders. “Make for the forest Lilia, don’t look back.” He rushed off to join the group of men trying to force back the monsters.

Lilia broke into an adrenaline fuelled sprint, passing the once sweetly smelling and colourful houses and exiting out the back entrance to the village. Fear propelled every step with electric alacrity. She made sure to stay in the moonlight as she manoeuvred through the forest. The deeper she ran into the forest the more silence fell upon the village.

Lilia found herself sobbing, hopefully alone with the night and the trees. “It wasn’t supposed to be real.” She undid her bow and held it, looking at it and thinking of her Father.

“That’s a very pretty bow.” A voice murmured.

The voice came from the darkness.

Lilia jumped.

A pale woman’s hand emerged from the darkness, edging on the light. Long black fingernails greeted her.

“My father gave it to me.” Lilia got to her feet and started walking up the moonlit path.

“I used to have one just like it.” The voice replied. “What is your name?”

Lilia began trembling.

“My name is Lilia.” “What a lovely name, I used to have a daughter called just that.” The hand swayed from side to side carelessly.

“I’m sure you did. You’re one of those things I’d been warned about, aren’t you?”

“Of course, you cannot have forgotten my voice, could you? What kind of daughter would you be if you had?” The voice cut through the air, defying its openness of her hand. The hand waved and moved from side to side, wriggling each finger.

“You’re trying to throw me off. Well it isn’t working, thing of darkness.”

“Oh what nonsense Lilia! Don’t say me you haven’t missed me? Why don’t you take my hand?”

It was at this moment Lilia realised that the hand couldn’t pass beyond the darkness and reach past the light.

“I will find a village soon, and take refuge.”

“Ah yes, but will they take you? The world has never heard of your village or its Night of Splendour! You’ve not a friend in the world…but me.”

“It was never meant to be real. Just child’s play.” Lilia muttered.

“I can protect you from it all. Just take my hand, darling daughter. Take my hand, hold me, touch my skin that has for so long missed your warmth and tell me that you love me.”

Lilia sprinted away from the hand to little success, the hand caught up to her gliding along in the darkness.

“Now you won’t even take my hand. What manner of child are you to bear such a thing onto your own mother?” The hand became enraged, forming a fist with a screech. “Take it!” The voice of Lilia’s mother growled.

Lilia didn’t stop running, even when her lungs felt like they were going to burst and heart was to stop beating. She continued up the moonlit path until morning.

Lilia found her way to Marionette after a day’s trek. Her stomach growled and she was dying of thirst, but she had found refuge. Or so she thought.

It all felt so strange to her, the sights and sounds, the feel and the people too. She tried anyone she could for help. Lilia did not sleep during the first few days, too afraid of the dark and that pale hand following her. It hadn’t crept up on her since she had made it to Marionette, however. Maybe it was her mind playing games. Maybe it was all in her head.

She tried talking to the people passing by; in turn they looked at her in confusion. She was speaking an entirely different language, which sounded like gibberish to them.

Eventually she found herself pacing the docks, staying close to the water. She was told that she was safe if she was near a body of water.

Eventually a man smiled at her and gestured with his hands to follow her. She had found refuge! The moment she stepped inside the man locked her in his basement to be fed to his cherub.

What a night of splendour for Lilia indeed.