James walked along the grass, his girlfriend Emily beside him. A toy elephant he’d won at a darts game earlier dangled from his fist. James slipped his hand into Emily's, smiling.
They were in a fairground that had moved into the town only a few days ago, for bonfire night. Caravans littered the field, along with tacky stalls. The whole area was lit up by a multicoloured glow from the rides.
James was wearing jeans, red converse trainers and a purple t-shirt. He’d recently had his left ear pierced, and kept fiddling with it self-consciously.
Emily stopped, turning her head. “You wanna go on that one?” she asked as they passed a woman selling glowsticks, gesturing to a rollercoaster with plenty of dips named The Plunge.
“Sure,” he smiled, weaving through lines of tape and joining the end of a growing queue.
“How’s your coursework going?” Emily asked, stuffing her hands into her pockets. James groaned, letting his head flop back.
“Awful,” he sighed. “I’ve got a bloody massive Geography book to plough through, and tons of Maths homework.”
“Not fun,” Emily agreed as they stepped forward.
As they reached the front of the queue, a middle aged man glanced at them.
“Wristbands,” he said, frowning. James pulled up his sleeve, revealing a red band. Emily lifted up her wrist. The man nodded, unclipping the cord that blocked the entrance.
They walked through, and climbed into the cart at the front. Another guy shoved the metal bar down, and slumped against the side.
“Please clip your seatbelt into the red slot and keep it on at all times. Do not lean over the edge, and keep all possessions safely inside the cart. In the event of an emergency, follow the instructions given,” he droned, clearly having said the speech dozens of times. “Enjoy your ride.”
James jerked forward as the ride came to an abrupt start, Emily’s head hitting his back.
“Sorry,” she grinned as they began the steep climb upwards. Emily grasped James’ hand, smiling nervously. “Agh!” she giggled as they reached twenty feet. James returned the smile, but his heart was racing as the cart leant over the edge of the tracks, revealing a steep drop downwards. He gripped the handrail, screaming as they sped down.
They both laughed, their eyes meeting as they reached the bottom of the drop. James whooped as the cart turned a sharp corner, waving his arms in the air. Without warning, there was a violent trembling. At first James thought it was just the ride, but then he saw people stumbling as they walked, merchandise tipping over and littering the ground.
The cart came to an abrupt halt, leaving the scene below horribly clear. People were panicking now; they were struggling to stay on their feet, and tents and buildings were starting to collapse. There was a low rumble as the ground began to crack. James had first suspected an earthquake, but there was something strange in the distance. A pitch blackness, moving towards the fairground with increasing speed. It looked almost like a dark fire, flickering as it engulfed a caravan. James gasped as it moved on, revealing the caravan and several people near it to be gone.
People were screaming, a look of desperation on their faces as they tried to escape their fate, a fate that was climbing down the hill with clear intention. Until then James had felt like an onlooker; he hadn’t considered that this was not just coming for the others, but for him too.
Emily had clearly had the same thought- she was unbuckling her seatbelt, and beginning to lift up the bar. She looked scared, but not panicked. James admired her for keeping her cool in the situation.
He unclipped his seatbelt, and turned to Emily.
“What do we do?” he asked, staring in terror as several running people were engulfed by the black cloud.
“Jump,” she said.
“What? It’s way too far- well die,” he protested.
“If you haven’t noticed, James, it seems like whatever we do we’re gonna die, so we might as well give it a shot.”
James knew with a sinking feeling she was right- he didn’t care what that thing was, he just wanted to get away from it.
“Look- climb down the rails,” Emily said, pointing to the tracks of the rollercoaster. “Then the jump’s only a few metres.”
James nodded. Emily gripped the side of the cart and swung herself over onto the rails, dangerously close to losing her balance as she landed. James copied, wincing as his ankle twisted from the fall.
The blackness was progressing with increasing speed, horribly close to them. They scrambled across the rails, placing their feet as carefully as they could. Only a few others remained, being swallowed by the cloud one by one. It was moving twice as fast as James- not having to worry about stamina or footing- and he whimpered as it sucked in a person close behind him. Seemingly, other riders of The Plunge had had the same idea, and were also running along the tracks.
“We’re near enough to the ground,” Emily panted. “We can’t keep this up on these rails. Jump- and roll when you hit the ground.”
James nodded, perching himself on the edge. Emily dropped first, rolling onto her side as she landed.
“Go James- it’s fine, nothing hurts!” she yelled, breaking into a sprint as she got up. James shifted his weight, and dropped. As he was falling, the darkness coiled around Emily. She looked up at him, smiled sadly as if to say “what’s the point in screaming?” and vanished. James felt tears spring to his eyes as the darkness gathered beneath him. He let out a scream as he plunged down, far below where ground level should’ve been.
James couldn’t see anything; all there was was utter darkness. He thudded onto something hard. James moaned, sitting up. His back throbbed where he had fallen on it- not knowing when he would hit the ground, he hadn’t been able to take Emily’s advice and roll. Although it hurt a lot, James was sure the plummet should’ve killed him, considering the amount of time he spent falling.
He couldn’t see anything- like everything else, the surface on which he stood was jet black, making it impossible to tell if it was solid ground, or if there was more space beneath him.
James stood up, groaning at the pain, and listened carefully. He was apparently alone, but didn’t want to take any chances.
“Hello!” he shouted, his voice ringing through the air. There was no response other than the sound of silence.
James was scared, but he tried to keep it together as he walked forward. If he was still alive after being consumed by that cloud, then maybe Emily was too- and everyone else at the fair. He called out again, walking on through the dark silence.
As James took another step forward, he heard music. It wasn’t clear: he could only make out the tiniest of sounds, but it was unquestionably music.
He let his ears guide him, breaking into a grin as he thought of a chance of safety.
The music was clearer now- the softest of sounds ringing through the air, high and low parts fitting together perfectly. It was the most beautiful sound James had ever heard- the different tunes blended, creating an amazing harmony. The piece kept changing, but that failed to ruin its delicacy.
As James walked, it became louder with each step, more parts adding to the melody. His thoughts wandered from finding Emily and getting home, and to getting closer to the music. He felt happier than he’d ever been listening to it, completely carefree.
He tried to tell himself that he should be looking for Emily, but he didn’t want to go back to the loneliness of the silence. After all, if she had ended up in this place too, then she would also be drawn to the music, James argued to himself.
As he paced on, he saw a faded glimpse of light, right where, he presumed, the music was coming from. James broke into a jog, then a run, desperate to get closer. Light seemed such a luxury after wandering around blind to the world. He could see his hands again, and his shadow moving along with him.
Although, as he got closer, the music became slightly flat. James frowned. It was still breath taking, but slightly... off. The melodies began to wander, crashing into each other, creating an unpleasant mixture of notes. James started to worry. What was this, anyway? Why was there music, where was it coming from?
He started to walk away, but the music now followed him. James gasped as it grew louder. What had earlier been notes turned into moans and screams, crying out in pain.
James ran, desperate to get away. The light was closing in on him, moving at an inescapable speed. He tripped over himself trying to run, and covered his eyes as he was consumed by light.
Then, there was silence once more. James looked around. A young boy with a tear stricken face was standing in the distance. The boy turned to James, and started to walk.
Suddenly, James’ whole body seared with pain. He spluttered, trying to clutch his stomach but finding that he had no arms. He realised with a sinking feeling what had happened- he had become a part of the light, not a being by himself. He tried to scream out, both in pain and to try to warn the boy who was coming towards him, but the only sound that escaped his lips was a melody, fusing with the attempted screams of many other victims, creating the beautiful sound of music.