At midnight on Christmas Eve, Bluebird Lane is dark.
The street is quiet, empty. Snow gently flutters down from the pitch-black sky, settling in fluffy piles and frosting windowpanes.
Christmas lights have been switched off the preserve energy. The children have been run to bed, with promises of toys and candy chasing them under the covers and singing them to sleep.
All is still.
No light penetrates. No house is lit.
Inside the last house on the block, six people are huddled over an object in the middle of a room.
Lanterns hang from the walls, the candlelight casting dancing shadows. Incense trays send smoke curling through the air.
The thing in the middle of the room is a large cauldron, filled halfway with a black, shimmering substance. Soft, whispery voices seem to emanate from it, each voice sounding different to each of the people crowded around it.
It whispers danger.
It whispers secrets.
It whispers evil.
A wiry, dark-haired girl with startlingly violet eyes glances at her watch.
The other people— a heavyset Chinese boy, a wispy-looking blonde that couldn’t have been more than ten, two identical twin girls, each with dark skin and a shock of red hair, and a tall, skinny boy with glasses and pimples—all shift simultaneously.
The blond stares across the cauldron at the tall boy. The light from the cauldron reflecting off his glasses hides his eyes, but she thinks he is watching her. She tries to smile reassuringly, but her muscles seem frozen, as if the cold from the outside is seeping inside of her.
Outside, a single mourning dove flies across the darkened sky, unseen to anyone. She opens her beak, and a single, wavering cry rings through the night. All over Bluebird Lane, sleeping residents shiver in their sleep, unknowingly fearing the unknown.
The tall boy inside the last house on the block feels the blond girl’s gaze. Unable to meet her eyes, he watches the candlelight shining off her hair.
Spirits crawl out of the shadows and retreat to the corners to watch.
The Chinese boy can hear the voices coming from the cauldron more clearly than the others. It is in a language he cannot understand, but images of the supernatural, the deadly powerful, the strange evil, fill his mind. He takes a deep breath, sucking in the sweet stink of the incense and candle smoke, and lets it out slowly.
A pair of wide violet eyes catches his attention. The wiry girl is standing across from the Chinese boy, her expression unreadable, but her intention clear.
Above the evil whispers clouding his mind, a louder voice, matched with the purple eyes looking at him, sounds suddenly, not only in the Chinese boy’s head, but in the others too.
The two identical twins clasp hands. They lock eyes, gazing at each others faces but seeing their own reflected back at them. Reading the emotion there, the raw thoughts flickering in the dark eyes and mirroring in the other’s eyes.
The thing in the cauldron glittered brighter now, spattering droplets of liquid light on the ceiling and then disappearing…
The violet-eyed girl closes her eyes, but even the darkness of her eyelids cannot block out the sharp bursts of light coming from the cauldron.
She knows the others are depending on her. She is the ringleader, the instigator, the parental figure. She can’t let them down.
Slowly, she opens her eyes, and looks at her digital watch, feeling a strange trepidation that this is the last time she will ever need to know the time.
The cauldron is vibrating now, the thing within it growing brighter and brighter. As though they had planned it, the group surrounding it all join hands, feeling the sweat and fear exchanged between them.
The violet eyed girl bows her head, and prays.
A million miles away, with a thousand rays of light bursting through empty space and exploding into unidentifiable colors, a star dies.
This is the end.