Chapter 1 : Fear of the Unknown
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Fear of the Unknown
What you can’t see can still hurt you
“It is absolutely frigid outside,” Mother said as she looked outside the windows. The bottoms were covered with condensation, despite the fact that it was early July. The temperature had dropped significantly the previous evening so it was now unseasonably cold. It was quite the shock in comparison to the pleasant, warm weather we had been having.
“Perhaps it will warm up this afternoon,” I replied, staring out at the vast sky. It looked like a blanket of grey, so I was not willing to place any bets that the sun would start to shine anytime soon.
Mother sighed. “Perhaps,” she agreed, though her tone made me doubt that she truly meant it. Stepping away from the window, she turned her focus to more important things. “Please collect the eggs from the chickens and send your sister to milk the cow. Come back when you’re finished, so we can do the wash.”
“Yes Mother,” I said obediently. Doing as I was told, I went to fetch my sister from her spot by the roaring fire. “Evelyn, Mother wants you to milk the cow.”
My sister was four years older than me and I thought that, at the age of fourteen, she was very grown up. Her hair was the colour of honey and fell in thick ringlets, while my own hair was a boring dark brown. We had the same blue eyes, which were not shared by our three brothers. Evelyn was older and wiser than me, so I looked up to her a great deal.
Wrapping ourselves in warm sweaters, we made our way from the house to the small barn near the edge of our property. My legs were shorter than my sisters, so I quickly fell a couple of paces behind her. I looked around for the figures of my father and brothers out in the field, but when I found them they were not looking in my direction, so my wave went unnoticed.
“They must be cold,” Evelyn said. I followed her gaze and realized that she had been looking at Father and our brothers as well.
I was only half listening to what she said. Instead, I was gazing towards the woods behind the barn. I had seen a figure moving out of the corner of my eye, which had caught my attention. It was quite tall, perhaps even taller than Father, but I could not make out any features. He was only visible for a moment before his figure disappeared again. This perplexed me. Why would a man be hiding behind one of the pine trees on our property?
The voice made my head snap around. I hadn’t realized it, but I had taken a couple of steps past my sister towards the trees. “Did you see that man standing behind the trees over there?” I asked, pointing.
I had barely gotten the words out when I felt a tight grasp on my wrist and was pulled backwards. Looking up at my big sister, I was surprised to see that Evelyn looked quite worried as she peered over the top of my head. After a couple of seconds, she sighed. “I don’t see anybody there,” she said, before heading back towards the barn.
I did not want to be left out in the cold by myself, particularly if there was a strange man nearby, so I followed her diligently. However, I couldn’t resist the urge to look over my shoulder as I tried to catch up to her. Despite what Evelyn had said, I still thought that there was a figure in the woods. A chill completely unrelated to the temperature came over me as I thought I saw something peek out from behind a tree. I couldn’t decide if the feeling that I was being watched was contributing more to my shivering than the icy wind that had picked up in the short amount of time since we had left the house.
Thankfully, my chill diminished as I entered the barn. Evelyn and I quickly got to doing our respective chores in silence. I was very careful with the chicken eggs that I was collecting, because Mother had gotten angry at the mess I had made by dropping them in the past. Father told her that it was because I was a little girl, which would naturally mean that I would be prone to clumsiness and getting distracted at times. I wanted desperately to prove to them that I was just as capable of getting things done quickly and properly as my big sister.
I finished up before Evelyn, so I sat on a barrel near her and the cow to watch her work. I had been sitting on the barrel for no more than ten seconds when my sister began to speak. “Am I mistaken, or is it getting even colder in here?” Evelyn asked, looking over her shoulder at me.
“It definitely is colder,” I confirmed, nodding enthusiastically. “It’s very strange, isn’t it? It usually gets warmer as the day goes on.”
“Today is different,” she said, as though that settled it. She quickly finished her chore and, wiping her hands, she picked up the bucket of milk. “Come. We should bring these back to Mother.”
I agreed. I picked up my basket of eggs and followed my older sister to the doors of the barn. When we opened them, we were greeted by a foggy landscape that made it difficult to see. I could hear Evelyn sigh dramatically. “Well, we best be off before this weather gets any stranger,” she said.
I followed her towards the house, but we did not get far before the fog rolled in more, making it very difficult to see what we were headed towards. “Stay close behind me Cora,” my sister instructed. “I don’t want you to fall behind.”
I didn’t want to fall behind either. I was starting to feel a bit peculiar. My head was starting to hurt and I felt groggy, as though I had just woken up and had suddenly fallen ill all at the same time. I was thinking over the strangeness of this when, without warning, I heard a swoosh, as though a gigantic bird was flying directly overhead. However, when I looked up, the fog made it impossible to anything that might have been there.
My eyebrows furrowed together. Surely I wasn’t starting to hear things… was I? My heart was starting to beat faster as I regained focus on the present and my current surroundings. The thick, white fog made it difficult to see what was around me. I hadn’t thought to keep walking when I heard the noise above me, so I was no longer right behind Evelyn. I had just taken in a deep breath to call out for my sister when her shrill shriek filled the air.
“Evie!” I called out as loudly as I could as I stumbled my way through the fog. “Evie, what’s wrong?”
I took a step towards where her voice was coming from and I felt as though I had just resurfaced from being underwater for a long period of time. My breathing was laboured and I started to feel panic. I had visions bouncing around in my head that made me want to cry.
First came the night my youngest brother was born three years ago, after he had already passed away. My mother was sobbing uncontrollably for days and seemed depressed for weeks, while Father rarely spoke for the first week after it had happened. I spent nights awake, picturing Abraham’s angelic, perfect face. He looked as though he had been sleeping peacefully. My heart broke when I realized we needed to bury him.
My sister shrieked again and I forced myself to focus on her. “Evie! I’m coming. Don’t worry, I’ll help you.”
I inched my way through the fog, heading towards the figure I could see the silhouette of. It was too tall to be my sister. And what was that heap on the ground? I was very close to her before I could clearly see that my sister was the person collapsed on the grass. It only took a fraction of a second longer before I realized what was standing over top of her.
As though it could sense my presence, it turned to face me. Panicked, I screamed as loudly as I could while my eyes darted around, looking for some magical escape route to make itself known. I was certain I could not outrun the thing standing overtop of my sister. Whatever this creature was, it was tall, much taller than I was, and covered in a black cloak of some sort. It was sucking in the air deeply, as though it was gasping for air. Gasping for air, or trying to find something.
It was obvious that this thing knew I was there already, so I might as well make the most of my presence. “Stay away from my sister,” I told it boldly. I was never so brave or upfront, but it was clear that this thing was going to do something to my sister if I did not stop it. There was no doubt in my mind that once it got her, it would turn and do the same thing to me.
I made a mad dash towards my sister, who was still on the ground, whimpering softly. “Come on Evie,” I whispered to her, attempting to pull her by her arm. “Help me.”
She didn’t respond. I couldn’t be sure that she could hear me properly or that she was capable of moving on her own, so I tried to use all of my force to drag her much bigger body after mine.
In the midst of my struggles, my sister opened her eyes and looked at me. In a weak voice, she asked, “Who are you talking to?”
Needless to say, the question came as a shock to me. “The huge cloaked thing that was hovering above you. Now come on, we have to get out of here.”
“There’s nothing there, Cora,” she said softly, before struggling to get up. She was only on her feet for a moment before she fell again, screaming. “Go away! I didn’t do anything to deserve this!”
“Please get up,” I said, near tears.
It was no use. My sister had started to cry, he shoulders shaking as she sobbed. “I can’t,” she whispered.
The thing, which had been standing back since I arrived, floated higher into the air. I knew that I should run, but I couldn’t stop watching it. It seemed somehow dangerous to do that, even though I had no idea how to fight this thing off. Before I had time to think of a plan, it swooped down until it was nearly on top of my sister.
“Go away!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.
Maybe it realized that I had more fight left in me than my sister, because the thing turned its attention to me then. I could hear its breath rattling near my face, as though it was hollow on the inside. My heart started to pound and my palms started to sweat as I turned to run away.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far before I slipped and fell. There was still dew on the grass and in my panic I didn’t stop to look where I was going very carefully. My palms stung as I pushed myself up, but I had to push that thought from my mind. Shaking from fear, I pushed myself off the ground and turned to look behind me.
The thing was right beside me and I screamed. “Help!” I called out at the top of my lungs. I prayed that somebody would hear me and come. “Help!”
I had no idea of anybody could hear my shouts and I had no idea what this thing could be. Yet, I somehow knew that if I didn’t try to fight it off, I would end up facing a horrible fate. It could be drawn by its cloaked black body or the rattling breaths it was drawing, but my instincts told me that its horrid appearance was not the worst aspect of it.
I was just starting to panic when, without warning, an incredibly strange feeling came over me. My head was suddenly much clearer and entire body tingled. The feeling quickly faded from my extremities, until it was only in my abdomen. The tingling peaked and a huge, silvery-white shape started charging towards the creature. I watched it, awed and puzzled. The animal that I had somehow produced was an elephant, stampeding after the creature that was attacking Evelyn and I. Before I really had time to figure out what it was doing, the creature was gone and so was the elephant.
I closed my eyes tightly, still shaking. When I opened them, the fog had started to lift and the sun was rapidly becoming visible. I couldn’t comprehend what had just happened. I couldn’t fight off the nagging suspicion that I was seeing things. After all, Evelyn hadn’t been able to see the thing despite the fact that it was right beside her. And there certainly wasn’t a way that an elephant could burst out of my chest. I felt silly for even thinking that had happened. But at the same time, the fog did start to lift when the creature disappeared and I did feel peculiar while it was around.
My head jerked up at the sound of my father’s voice. He was running towards my sister and I quickly, with my three brothers trailing behind him. “Father!” I called out, pushing myself up from the ground as quickly as I could.
His lightly lined face looked concerned and his hazel eyes looked into mine inquisitively. “What were you two screaming on about?” he asked, brow furrowed. Turning to my older brother, he whispered to him that he should help up Evelyn, who was still shaking on the ground.
I bit my lip. If I told Father what had happened, surely he would think that I was mentally unstable. “Um…” I began. “We --”
Before I could continue, a young man came towards my family from the direction of our neighbour’s farm. He was winded and gasping for breath, clearly from having run towards us. His dark, strawberry-blond hair was slightly longer than was fashionable, but his light blue eyes were quite attractive. I guessed he was about sixteen years of age. “I heard… shouts coming from here…” he panted.
“It was very kind of you to look into the matter, Mister…?” My father poised it as a question.
“Dumbledore,” the young man said, extending his right hand to my father. “Percival Dumbledore.”
I forced back a smile at the unusual name. That certainly wasn’t polite, especially since this man was nice enough to come check on what was happening. “My sister and I saw this figure in the fog.”
A loud sigh came from my sister’s direction. “Don’t tell fibs, Cora,” she scolded. “There was no figure.” She stressed the last word and rolled her eyes at me.
“There was,” I insisted. “It was quite tall, even taller than you Father.”
“Was it a man?” Father asked, paling slightly.
I hesitated. “I don’t think so,” I said, speaking slowly. “But I could not get a good look at it, since its face was obstructed by --”
“A black cloak,” Percival Dumbledore said.
I couldn’t help but smile. This man must have seen the creature as well! “Yes!” I said eagerly. “It was peculiar, the fog disappeared when it did and it started to get warmer. And I stopped feeling ill and upset.”
A strange look came over the young man’s face, but Father spoke before Mr. Dumbledore could. “How did you get it to disappear?” he asked, looking at me. “Did you say something that made him flee?”
I shifted uncomfortably. “No,” I said, fiddling with my skirt. I couldn’t tell my father what I thought had happened. He wouldn’t believe me.
The young man cleared his throat, when it became clear that I was not going to speak. “I know the question was directed at your daughter,” he began, “but I believe there was another creature that made the cloaked figure leave.”
My eyes widened. The animal that he had seen meant that whatever it truly had existed. “You saw it too?” I asked, excited.
“Yes,” he said.
“Well, I didn’t see anything,” Evelyn grumbled. She was still being supported by our brother and shaking slightly.
Percival took a few steps forward, so he was standing near me. “May I ask you a question?” he asked. I nodded. “How old are you?”
“She will be eleven in August,” my father said, answering for me.
The corners of Percival’s mouth lifted in a small smile, as though this information meant something to him. But if I expected him to explain his reasons for smiling to us, I was disappointed. Instead, he gave me a very unusual message that I didn’t think made any sense. “Keep your eyes open for an owl,” he stated.
My eyebrows furrowed. That was not the type of reply I was hoping for. “I don’t understand.”
“I think you will soon,” he said simply, before excusing himself.
My father seemed pleased when Percival had left. I didn’t think that he liked him very much. “Owls,” he muttered as he guided Evie and I back to our house. “How preposterous.”
I didn’t tell him that I disagreed with him, not wanting to need to explain how I was feeling. However, unlike the rest of my family, I was not surprised to see an owl sitting on our windowsill two weeks later.
Author's Note: So, what did you think? Please leave a comment and let me know!