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The little girl stood below a large, dark blue tree and stared upwards along the length of its base, curious eyes examining the blue growth that was running up its spine. “Esper!” She turned her head towards the voice. “Esper! Get over here!” Boomed the man from across the clearing. She ran towards him out of the trees where she stood. The dewy grass bending beneath her feet. He stood by the last corpse of the day, the sun still shining high and tall. “There you are!” He grabbed the child who was still in the midst of running and swept her up into the air, holding her entire weight in one of his large, hard worked arms, laughing at her helplessness as he held her above his head.
“You know. You know! The trees! There's blue on them again!” she said.


The man smiled and nodded in response. “Hmm, is there? That’s probably a fungus, a mushroom,” he guessed. She looked at him, perplexed and asked with a potent “Haaah?”


The man laughed and put her down onto the ground next to the old body. Running his hand across the grass he spoke. “The grass grows on dirt right?”


The girl nodded enthusiastically “Yes!”


“Well! Just like the grass grows on dirt. Mushrooms can grow on trees too!” explained the man.


Her eyes became wide and curious “Can mushrooms grow in dirt too?”


The man nodded and rubbed her hair. “They sure can!” He took on a serious tone looking into her eyes “But never-ever touch any mushrooms, unless either your mother or I say they are safe. Okay?”


She tilted her head, not sure she understood. “Okay.”


The large man smiled satisfied with the answer. “Okay! So -” he pointed to the corpse next to him. “What’s this one?”
The child looked at the corpse laying before her. “He’s a man! And old! Just like you!”


The man laughed. “You’re as cruel to me as your mother is. Yes, this man is old. What else?”


She looked again, moving closer to look at him clearly, her eyes weren’t great.


His skin was of the color of a warm amber tone, his matte hair was raven black and short with straight strands that were neatly cut at the ends. He had no markings on his face, but many on his arms, which were outside of his burial cloth. Looking to her father, she pointed up to the sky. “Southeast,” she proudly proclaimed and the man once again ran his massive fingers through her wild head of hair.


“You got it!”


She smiled a toothy grin, satisfied with the praise.


“Okay, step back a little okay?”


“Okay,” she said. The man squatted down and with both hands beneath the body, heaved the dead man into the air. Esper stood there mouth agape as always, at the man's herculean strength. With a grunt, he flung the body into the pit.
The wheels in Esper’s head were spinning as a devious plan began to formulate. He dusted his hands and turned back to the girl. “Papa! You didn’t use the rope! Mom says you have to use the rope or you’ll hurt your back again!” The man grimaced. Success, thought Esper, doing her best not to smile; so as to not let him on to her scheme.


“Tell you what,” he said kneeling down. “- lets keep this our little secret. Okay?”


The girl looked at him with the best suspicious gaze she could muster, unaware of the effort the man was putting in to not letting his own repressed smile break out. “If you don’t tell mom, I’ll bring you back something special next time I go up to Achtel. Okay?”


“Okay! Promise?”


“Promise,” said the large man. Esper’s pride in her brilliant blackmail scheme shone over her face now.


“Come on, let’s go home. Mom's making porridge tonight.” He bent down and took the still coiled rope lying on the ground in his hand.


“But mom alwaaays makes porridge. I want something eeelse” she griped.


“Now now, your mother works very hard to put food on the table.”


Esper nodded “Okay…”


The man took the girl by the hand and led her through, to where the towering blue trees stood. A loud, dull thump rang out from behind them and the man turned. Another body lay there just behind them, freshly dropped up from some higher level.


“Ah, come on…” he groaned, rubbing the back of his head. He exchanged a glance with his daughter, whose inquisitive eyes met his. “Ahh… It’s fine. Let’s just pretend that we didn’t see that. It’s going to be dark soon.”
“Aw, but I don’t want to go back yet.”


“Me either, but if we don’t your mother is going to curse us both,” answered the man with a loud laugh.


Esper wasn’t sure what was funny about that, but she heeded her father's words nonetheless. The man took a moment to look at the odd blue fungus growing up the side of the tree, he really had never seen anything like it before. Oh well, his wife would know more about these kinds of things than he did.

 


 

As Esper fell down into the pit, time stood still for a moment. The droplets seemed to stay steady in mid-air as her mind raced at what was possibly to come. At the thoughts of the end. Esper was sure she had been looking at the branch which she was sliding off of for several seconds now, or at least she would have been if it wasn’t so oppressively dark. As if water was rushing out of a floodgate, her sense of time rushed back and she fell down into the murk below in an instant.
Violently she lurched forward, her scream stopping only during the moment the rope went taut. She felt herself dangling just above the void now and quickly turned and clung onto the rope suspending her body in mid-air above the chasm. The thought that the branch hadn’t broken yet came to her mind for only a single thankful second before her eyes seemingly pointlessly shot up into the ink above her, rain drops falling with violent force into them.


The rope was fairly long, but she had tied it several times around both the thick branch and herself. She wasn’t sure how great the distance between her and the branch was now, but she dared not to run her hands any higher up the rope than she needed to hold on. Through the howling of the wind and the smashing of the rain she heard it’s sharp wail, droning out towards her. The creature just above her.


Even though she couldn’t see it, them, she knew their eyes were still locked onto her in the darkness. They could see her. Her fingers gripped the rope tighter, she ignored the pain in her bleeding arm, hand, legs and now her waist where the rope was cutting into her wet skin. If the rope held until daybreak, they would leave. If the branch held until daybreak, she would survive the night.


Several times she felt the rope vibrate as the dead thing above her nudged it, while reaching for her. Esper clamped her body as tightly around the rope as she had to the branch before. Swaying back and forth above the abyss, pelted by rain and wind. Her body now far gone from her control, would listen to nothing other than the signals to hold on to the rope. No matter how it burnt or stung, no matter how afraid she was, she knew she couldn’t let go of the rope.


It was bound at her waist, yet that fact alone she didn’t trust, despite her knowing the rope had held bodies far larger than her own before. Every time the thing above her reached down anew towards her, its arm swaying the rope, she gripped on tighter and tighter than before. So tightly that she wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to let go again.


All the while the smell of the creatures permeated around her. It was vile and neither rain nor wind sufficed to keep it at bay. Its acidic presence was almost enough to cause her nostrils to burn at this distance. Lightning struck once more, together with thunder, though this time Esper saw nothing. Her eyes were clamped as tightly shut as her fingers were.
A new weight added itself to the branch now, she could feel herself being lowered ever so slightly as it dipped a bit more.

 

Would they all come on to the branch to try and get her? “I’m gonna fall,” thought the girl. More weight. Again she sank lower, a gentle crack came from above. Thoughts of the dark pit below raced through her mind. Would she fall forever?
No. She knew she wouldn’t. After all, that’s where all the dead rested, so it had to stop somewhere. Her mind raced, running from every face that she could ever remember having thrown down there, until it stopped on that of the young girl who she had spoken to the other day. The one with the markings on her face.


Esper wasn’t sure why she thought of the girl. But at least she would be able to see her friend if she fell down… She shook her head, mama forbade her from going too close to the pit, let alone fall down it. Punishment. This was punishment. Fearfully, she pinched open one eye and in vain, looked out up above her, but there was nothing to see.
Suddenly the weight from the branch snapped, this time upwards. For a brief second Esper felt something, fingers run across the skin on her leg and she kicked wildly as several deathly wails vanished, as they sunk into darkness below. She closed her eyes again and held on for a time much longer than she could recount.


There, she hung above the gaping maw of the void, her thoughts now as black as the world around her. The thunder struck its final blow, as the rain now slowly began to subside. A cold bite pierced the skin on her chest, as she became aware of her necklace again. But she dared not reach for it given the circumstances, yet it was comforting for her to feel it there and to know that she wasn’t hanging on alone.


In fact, the necklace hung around her neck all the time, just like she was hanging off this rope. So it couldn’t be that bad, right? She was just like a necklace thought the girl. A necklace for what? For the tree? “Hmm.” The image of the great chasm came to her, a small her-shaped necklace hanging off to the side. She laughed, the spot above her stomach hurting as she did so.


“Huh, but wait,” she thought. Necklaces were worn on the outside of the neck and in that mental picture she was on the inside. So… She was like a swallowed necklace? She shook her head, not keen on the thought. Did the great chasm have an outside? Was it like a neck? No. Papa said it was flat on top. She wondered where the bird was.


Esper was mad at it. She bet it was somewhere nice, probably fast asleep on a tree. “Oh!” Now she knew. “I’m a bird!”. The realization shocked her, as she thought more and more about it. She was on a branch, in a manner of speaking, and she was flying, in a manner of speaking. The thought delighted her as she laughed again, the mental distraction her mind had built keeping her awake for a time.


The rain had all but died out now, the last droplets of water trickling down from treetop to dirt. She wasn’t sure when it came, but she felt the exhaustion come over her. Her mind and body getting ready to let itself fade into blackness for a while as well, but she shook her head and refused to let it. She wouldn’t let go of the rope and stop being a bird.


Her eyes shot open again in the night, as the inside of her nose began to itch with a familiar burn. Not all of them had fallen from the branch into the chasm. Or were these others? From the Burrow? Did they smell her too? She didn’t think they could find her all the way out here. But the burning scent was undeniable, more were coming. It would take some time still if they came from the Burrow.


If they crawled out onto the branch, she wasn’t sure if she would be so lucky a second time with all those bodies. She knew she had to do something and her mind raced to come up with a solution. The rain had stopped so she could use the spell, but she was short of mud or any other surface to scribe on. A cold pang on her chest came. No, there was one she realized.


With brute force, she wrenched open her tiny left hand from the rope, sliding it to the right so that the rope was touching the inside of her elbow. Her left hand found its way to her upper arm, where the crude bandage was. It was as wet as the rest of her clothes, though with what exactly, it was difficult to differentiate anymore. It stung as she touched the cover of the still fresh wound from the night before.


Esper took only a second to breath and then slipped her fingers under the bandage. Tears shot to her eyes in an instant and she once more utilized her well practiced methods of suppressing her scream. A thick, warm wetness touched her finger and ran down her palm, where she felt it trickle down off of her wrist into the abyss below.


Tracing the circle around one way, then the other. Following the motions she had been taught, she ran her finger through the bleeding wound on her arm. Each motion sent white hot pain to her core. Her arms both shaking, her right fist clenching the rope, pulsing tighter with every line she drew. The sigil was almost complete, once more she followed the pattern, the pain piercing through her head as if lightning from the passing storm had struck her directly.


A final scratch down with her index finger and she tore her hand out from beneath the bandage and gripped the rope tightly once more with wet fingers. She whispered the word ‘Anheischig,’ and she immediately knew it had worked. The night surrounding her was light-less and dull, but it parted ways and let in a darker black. Something that coated her and the space around her like ink poured into a bowl.


The air became thick, almost nauseatingly so. Breathing was more difficult than just a moment before and now required active physical effort to draw in air through her nose. Straining herself to get enough to breathe, she tried her best to keep quiet as a mouse. She felt them now, the others, they were close.


Gentle, warm winds rose from below, the breeze running through her toes and gently wafting her sopping hair. “Now you come back,” she thought angrily at it. The dead groaned and wailed as they drew closer to the tree, and Esper knew she had to hold her breath now as she had under the bed. They could hear breaths. Drawing in as much as she could through her nose, she clamped her eyes and fingers down and waited.


Their movement was, despite their swaying fluid motions, clumsy and loud. Wet and bony feet dragging through the overgrown road, crunching dead leaves and tearing through bushes as they meandered towards wherever their hunger led them. The wet rotting aroma found its way into her nose, even if she wasn’t using it, causing her shut eyes to water intensely again.


A gentle wooden knock came out from the base of the tree, as if it had been struck by something wooden itself. She could picture them, all the ones from the Burrow, they would be older. Like the one from before with dried, taut skin and the typical bony sunken features of the long dead. She could picture them clearly as they once were, though she knew that if she could see them now she wouldn’t be able to hold in her next scream.


Once more her lungs burnt, the ache traveling to her throat. Quickly and with purpose however, their steps went onward down the road, toward the broken path and she knew she was safe for the moment and quietly nodded to the darkness. It nodded back. Once more, breathing out as gently as she could to stay quiet, she wondered how long this night was still going to last, her head feeling light and weak.


The thought hit her, even if the daylight hours came. What then? She pondered swaying in the wind like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. She absolutely had to leave tomorrow. She had to find a way over, because she didn’t want to do this every night for the rest of her life. The thought of the mud soaked cloth and her old plan rose to the forefront of her mind.
It wouldn’t work. The cloth wouldn’t get dry by the daylight hours tomorrow. She supposed she could just get a new one from a new corpse. She would have to get up from down here first before anything else though. The strength in her body was fading fast however, her legs long since numb from the rope binding around them for hours. Her arms and hands were torn and sliced and shaking.


Now that she thought about it, she was really hungry. Really, really hungry. Thinking about it made her aware of this new pain she had been competently ignoring until now. It wasn’t so bad though, once it merged in with all the rest and she almost laughed to herself, but managed to suppress it. Would she even have the energy to climb up from here, let alone go through all that tomorrow?


The only sounds she heard now was the creaking of the rope and the gentle hum of the wind flying around the shapeless shell of darkness that surrounded her. Esper wasn’t sure how long she hung there, her hands never leaving their post on the rope. The pain in her body and limbs grew dull and she wiggled her toes from time to time, fighting against the now almost painful numbness in her legs.


Silently she wished it would move upwards to her arms and hands. But it persisted and so she and it had to coincide, both stuck where they were for the rest of the night. Several times she closed her eyes to lean her head against the taut rope and several times she opened them hoping to see more, but nothing came.


Another hour passed. Then another and then the moment she had been waiting for came. A loud, irritant buzzing came from the bushes nearby and she knew that the last summer insects had come out to begin a new day.

 

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About the author

Razzmatazz

  • Floor 69 of the metaphorical-dungeon
  • Novice Writer
  • https://dmrhodes.com/

Bio: Socially awkward witches, sad hugs, dramatic adventures, spooky stuff, and comfy dungeons: My name is D.M. Rhodes, but I love to write about those things under the moniker 'Razzmatazz'. (Hopefully full-time, one day soon!) I’m a hobby occultist and, more boringly, I’m an XR expert, as well as a government-trained media and information specialist.

The main genres that I write in are litRPG-fantasy, action, adventure, romance, tragedy, horror, and slice-of-life. I seriously vibe with religious and occult overtones mixed in with super obscure story concepts. °( ~ )°

Thanks for taking an interest! Because of supportive readers like yourself, I can keep following my socially unacceptable dream! (I'm going to become the wizard-king.)

– Always open for feedback!

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