Darkness Watching (The Darkworld Series Book 1)

By: Emma L. Adams
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,

As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames

No light; but rather darkness visible

Served only to discover sights of woe…

Milton, Paradise Lost, The First Book, 61-64

he demons first appeared on the day everyone said the world would end. Maybe someone meant that to be ironic. Perhaps.

I never found out.

“Hey, Ash, you know there’s supposed to be a zombie apocalypse today?” My best friend Cara gestured towards a clove of garlic she’d pinned to her jacket, hoping it would fend off potential supernatural threats. I decided not to mention it would only help with vampires, not zombies. Besides, I doubted a single clove of garlic would be much help in surviving the End of Days.

I had my own demons to contend with.

As people sloped into the assembly hall for the annual Careers Talk, I skimmed through my notes yet again, hoping in vain something would stick. For me, Doomsday was a more fitting title for the following day, the day of my interview at my top-choice university. Hell would be a better fate.

“Come on, Cara,” I said. “How many times is the world supposed to have ended now?”

“I’m not taking any chances,” said Cara, pointing at her headband that was threaded with garlic and perched on top of her purple-highlighted hair.

“You’ll have a nightmare getting the smell out,” I told her. “Aren’t you supposed to be going out tonight?”

“Some guys like the smell of garlic,” said Cara, although she looked doubtful. “Hmm. Maybe it’s a bit much.”

“Well, it better not be Armageddon, seeing as it’s my interview tomorrow,” I said. “Not to mention we’re in a careers assembly.”

Cara laughed. “I don’t know why I bothered coming, anyway. I’ve heard all this before.” She leaned back in her seat, hands clasped behind her head.

“Yeah,” I said. “Besides, if we’re going to die, I’d rather not be in this hellhole when it happens.”

“You know, Ash,” said Cara, squinting at me—the fluorescent lights in the hall gleamed far too bright for a Monday morning—“you look like a walking zombie. When did you last get a decent night’s sleep?”

“Define ‘decent?’” I said, a touch too flippantly.

“More than an hour. And not in the middle of school.”


Her dark eyes—outlined in purple, in blatant defiance of the school’s no-makeup rule—saw past my carefully constructed mask.

I blinked at her concerned face. “Um… a couple of days ago? I can’t sleep, or I forget everything I know about Milton.”

“Jesus, girl.” Cara shook her head. “Who gives a crap about Milton, really? You’re going way over the top about this.”

“Hello?” I said, indicating the garlic-headband.

Cara swatted at me with a rolled-up brochure for Edinburgh University, her top university of choice – which had offered her a place that very morning.

“Very funny,” she said. “Seriously, though. Sleep is more important. You don’t want to be passing out in the interview.”

Naturally, now she’d suggested it, I imagined doing exactly that. Groaning, I buried my head in my notes. “Not listening,” I muttered.

Definitely mature enough to get a place at Oxford. Yep.

“Ash, you’ll be fine. You’re a genius.”

I shook my head. “No, I’m not.”

I felt more like an imposter. I might be able to memorise past papers, but that didn’t make me an intellectual. I’d rather play Mario Kart than read Wordsworth. Not exactly something I wanted to bring up at the interview – but if scores of disastrous interviews for part-time jobs had proven anything, it was that I’d be lucky to remember my own name. But this time, I couldn’t afford to screw up. This has to be worth it. Somehow.

Most of the time, I felt helpless, as if I teetered on the edge of a cliff and couldn’t do a damn thing to stop myself from falling.

Mr. Darton, our ever-clueless head of sixth form, began his customary mutter into the microphone. Always the same speech: We had only one chance. This would affect the rest of our lives. Like any of us needed to hear that right now.

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