LRF | Lost and Found

The alley wasn't one of the town's better-lit, illuminated mostly by the furious reds and oranges of distant fireworks. In it, her surroundings lost their familiarity. Even so, her steering was shaped mostly by memory. This was her usual route home after all, albeit more… derelict, or at least that's how it felt to her, with everyone off enjoying the festivities. She dug into the warmth of her pockets, feeling around for the umpteenth time for a red envelope that wasn't there. Its loss was upsetting, and the reason she decided to cut her fun short. She didn't miss its contents or anything, rather, its value was worth more in sentiment. It was a gift from her dear mother. As she lamented her misfortune, she glimpsed a shadow melt into the darker corners of the alley. A peculiar, unwieldy shuffling of what she presumed were feet. She willed her own to resume their pace, even as her hair stood on end, as she started to sweat, as the shivers ran. 'Probably those gymnast pigs again.' Knowing that it was some harmless animal settled her nerves some. This particular New Year was symbolic of the pig after all, and there were a lot of them around lately. But deep down she knew… … _knew that pigs didn't walk on two legs_. She felt its presence. Something was watching her through the dark, waiting for her to look back. Stories - the ones her friends would tell her in the dark- all came back to her, vividly teasing out images of Lunar Wraiths, the otherworldly 'demons' that came to haunt the Lunar New Year. She thought about the rumours, those of a chain-wielding Wraith and the trio that fought him off. Oh yes, her mind knew exactly when to conjure up all that terrified her. The girl took a deep breath… and broke into a run. And still she could hear them, the clack of heavy footfalls. It didn't ease her wild imagination, nor the chill that gripped her spine. She risked a glance behind her, and in the flickering of the night's fireworks, saw it; jagged ivory, lining a maw almost too big for its head. Four keen eyes stared back, betraying something of its less than altruistic intent. The firecrackers once again roared aloud, an explosion of noise that drowned out the girl's scream. Her head swivelled back to the path ahead of her, heart sinking as her gaze met wooden walls, realizing too late that she'd inadvertently led herself into a blind alley. She tried in vain to clamber up whatever she could cling to. Tears began to well when her fingers couldn't find purchase. Through her sobbing, she almost didn't hear 'it' shamble towards her. Frightened and all too weary to attempt anything more, she resigned, dropping to her knees in a sobbing mess. It stopped in its tracks, but its breathing, hot and heavy, reminded her that it was still there— that this was real. She waited for the pain, counting by second after eternal second. It never came. Instead it nudged her, an action meant more to draw her attention than maim. She took a careful look up, angling her head so that her front fringe kept her teary eyes from full exposure. It was her first proper look at what appeared to be a living lion dance costume, adorned in the celebratory colours of the new year; as if someone came across the monster and decided to paint it for the festival. Yet the predatory gaze that regarded her- with all its morbid curiosity- was far too real to be part of just another outfit. "Drop. This." It spoke, voice warbled as if by mucus. In her terror, the creature's words lost their meaning. That was, until it lowered its jaw and made a gurgling noise. 'It's gonna eat me after all…' It spat out crumpled crimson (paper, if she had to guess), parts corroded from sickly-green digestive juices. The parchment was nigh unrecognizable in its current state, but the clinking of coins form inside the wrinkled heap was enough indication. It was hers. "Human. Dropped this." Whether the voidling was genuinely sympathetic or merely curious as to what the item meant to her was anyone's guess…

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