Where Silence Fears To Tread by Jennifer Lott. Illustrations by Doriano Strologo.
Jennifer Lott has appeared in print in Neo-Opsis Magazine (“A Day in the Life”; Issue 18; December 17, 2009) and the Opus 5 Okal Rel anthology (“Pet Peeves”, Absolute XPress, 2011). Her first public foray into writing is her popular fan fiction Alternative Ending to the Animorphs. An early childhood educator, Jennifer writes mostly for children and young adults. She is currently working on the third novel in her young adult fantasy series.
The stairs ended at a dimly-lit, unfurnished floor. The instant Kelsey stepped onto it, her trumpet was yanked from her hand. A shadow passed behind her and she couldn’t see the stairs. She couldn’t see where her trumpet had gone.
The others had lost their instruments as well. They were huddled together—all but one.
“It took Vincent!” Sunshine was screaming.
What took Vincent? Kelsey considered asking. But she was even less inclined than usual to speak.
There was something horrible pressing on her ears, making even Sunshine’s shrill voice sound faint. Kelsey raised her hands to the sides of her head and found it was nothing she could touch.
“What’s that?” Zale’s voice was barely audible, because he wasn’t screaming. He was scared, though.
Kelly saw the shadows that scared him. Both faceless, featureless humanoids drifted towards the remaining students.
They ran so hard from the shadow-music that the nothingness caught them.
One shadow marched to the faint pitter-pat, rat-a-tat, bang-bang-bang of a drum. The rhythms tapped tiny holes in the hurtful nothingness. Every few beats, a dancing shadow tooted like a distant saxophone.
Listening intently, Kelsey felt the pressure easing off her ears.
“Zale!” Dug shouted as loud as he could to warn the tuba player. “Behind you!”
The shadow making drum sounds threw great cloaks of darkness over Zale and Sunshine. Deep tuba sounds came out slowly with the swaying movements of a Zale-shaped shadow. The piccolo trilled over top – its shadow flitting madly.
The drummer-shadow marched nearer.
“It’s going to make us ghosts too!” Gladys cried.
Kelsey wanted to say how much better her ears were feeling. She didn’t fear the three transformed students drifting along with the drummer-shadow. The drummer, she felt sure, was the good ghost.
Dug’s voice punched through the muffled air. “Upstairs!”
Kelsey didn’t run.
Dug and Gladys did. They ran so hard from the shadow-music that the nothingness caught them. It stopped their mouths and stuffed their ears. The students’ tortured faces proved it present, but it was invisible, intangible as a ghost.
Instinctively, Kelsey breathed the bad ghost’s name: “Silence.”