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By: Emily Wan

The girl muttered a quick goodbye to the head librarian as she hurried out the front door with a heavy bag full of books hanging by her side. She had been doing some last-minute studying for her upcoming exam the next day. Night was falling fast, and her mom requested she be home by ten o’clock. She would be in so much trouble if she arrived later than that.

By the time she exited the library, it was already dark outside. The tall trees nearby rustled in the chilly night breeze. The sudden gusts of cold air nearly extinguished the flame inside her lantern. Thick clouds covered the moon as an owl hooted from the darkness. She shivered, knowing she was not dressed for the cold. Still, she continued her journey home.

Holding up her dim and flickering lantern, the girl started speeding up. The unreliable light caused her to trip and stumble on fallen branches and pieces of trash, but she ignored them as she rushed down the street. It was 9:50. Breathing heavily, she felt her heart thumping in her chest as she picked up the pace. She ran so fast her vision went blurry.

Suddenly, pain shot through her legs as she tripped on a rogue piece of concrete and fell with a thud. Her heavy books tumbled out of her bag and her lantern shattered. The only light was now just a dim glow of the surrounding streetlamps.

Struggling, the girl crawled over to her books and started to place them in the bag one by one. The books were incredibly heavy, and she dropped them several times. As soon as the last book was in the bag, she heard a twig snap behind her.

Terrified, she did not dare look over her shoulder as she abandoned her belongings and took off, bolting down the street. A mysterious person followed her as she weaved around buildings and dashed through alleys, trying to shake the person off. Without her lantern, she could barely see ahead of her as she ran into a narrow alley. With horror, she realized that she was at a dead end. As she backed up, she stumbled on a brick and fell to the ground. At that point, she knew it was over. She was backed into a dead end with nowhere to go.

As she closed her eyes, the last thing she remembered was a pair of hands reaching out to grab her as the world faded to black.

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