CHASING THE NIGHT
An Emberlight Universe Story
By Frederick Lacroix
Vera is a peculiar being. Undead, she doesn’t know how or why she became like that.
Her best chance is to reach the country of Taverail, north of Carode, her country. But she has to travel by night if she wants to survive.
Can Vera reach the border without incident?
Vera opened the door leading outside of the shack she’d managed to find in the middle of nowhere. She’d been lucky to find this one before the sun came up that morning. She had miscalculated the distance between her point of departure and the next town over by a couple of kilometers. It was only a small town, but that didn’t matter. There, she’d be able to find shelter for a day or two before moving on to the next village.
With the sun behind the trees, Vera adjusted her backpack and left her small, shaky shack, before entering the woods again. She loved the forest, even though she knew the odds of encountering a bear or a coyote were much higher, she couldn’t bear the thought of using the paved road, or even a dirt one. If someone saw her, they might stop and offer their help. Something she’d rather not have to decline in a place like this. People were unpredictable, more so when they felt insulted. And people didn’t take kindly to undead beings like her.
Her condition came with certain advantages, of course. Vera didn’t need food, water or sleep, which had allowed her to travel straight through, night after night. She found out the hard way that the sun damaged her and, a few minutes of exposure would be enough to completely destroy her. She didn’t consider herself evil, she didn’t wish anybody harm, but most people had preconceived notions about undeath. The most frustrating parts of all this to Vera was, she didn’t remember becoming like that. She’d just woken up one day, in her bed, and wasn’t breathing anymore. The doctor, and the priestess, she’d consulted had both told them the same thing; she was dead, reanimated by magic. Neither of them could confirm what kind of undead she was.
Vera quit her job and moved the next day.
It took Vera just over an hour to reach the small town. She emerged from the forest onto a perfectly manicured lawn, strewn with the trappings of kids playing outside often. She navigated the trucks and balls and buckets and exited the garden without seeing anyone.
The street was quiet, most houses were dark. She checked her watch, which indicated it was just past eleven PM. She followed the sidewalk toward what looked like the center of town, which, in this case, wasn’t saying much. One or two cars later, and fifteen minutes, saw her on the main street. A gas station, two small diners and a couple of other businesses found in all small towns were all that stood among the houses and two or three story apartment blocks. With any luck there would be a hotel, or a motel, around and she’d be able to take the next day off to plan her itinerary better. She turned to the closest diner and started walking again.
She pulled on the door. Locked. She looked for the sign with opening hours or any other indication that they might be back in a few, but found none. She sighed. Onto the next one.
She arrived at the other, smaller diner, and saw someone behind the counter. She pulled the door and it opened with the ringing of a small bell. She made her way to the counter and sat down. She didn’t have a lot of money to waste, and she didn’t need to, but she thought that getting a coffee would look less suspicious.
The woman behind the counter managed to tear herself away from the news channel playing on the antique TV bolted to the ceiling and approached Vera.
“Coffee, please,” the girl said.
The woman, who’s name tag said ‘Doris,’ nodded and went to fetch the coffee pot and a small, white ceramic mug. She filled the cup, bent over to get a handful of plastic milk cups and dumped everything in front of Vera.
“Thanks,” Vera said. “Is there an hotel or a motel around here?”
Doris nodded again. “Down th’road. Ole’ Gemma’s place. Can’t miss it.”
Vera thanked her again. Took a sip of the coffee and extracted two dollars from her pocket. She left the money on the counter and exited the diner. Doris wasn’t exactly the friendliest waitress around, that much was certain.
She walked down the street, where Ole’ Gemma’s place was supposed to be located. Main street was well lit, but soon the businesses had disappeared and the residences were getting further and further away from each other. The night was just cool enough for the living to require a jacket. There was a soft breeze, ebbing and flowing with sometimes a squall to break the monotony of it. With the wind came the smells of pine and fir, but Vera thought it might just be her since she’d spent so much time in the woods these past two weeks. Eventually, she started doubting what Doris had said and thought about turning back. Maybe someone else would be more useful. She spotted a large sign, half-buried behind an overgrown tree. She approached and moved some branches away.