At the bottom of the pit was a skeleton covered with large spiders. There were so many spiders that the skeleton itself looked to Edwelde like it was moving. He peered into the shadows, convinced that there were probably pieces of gold down there or at least jewelry that the man had died with before his flesh rotted and was consumed by insects.

Edwelde lowered himself down the rocky pit wall, stray spiders crawling over his hands. He managed to wedge himself in a fissure and wriggle down slowly, ripping his clothing and scratching his arms but all the while staying focused on the loot he envisioned below.

When he was still about fifteen feet above the skeleton, the rock he pressed against crumbled and he fell outward, scraping his fingernails against the sides. He landed in the skeleton’s arms.

When he came to he was covered with a blanket of spiders. He struggled to get up but the skeleton’s arms held him tight. He panicked and flailed around but the skeleton’s grasp only tightened. He shook his head this way and that to keep the spiders from crawling in his mouth and eyes.

He was able to move his right arm just enough to get a flask from his coat pocket to his lips. He downed all the brandy he had and fell back asleep.

In his dream he was chasing white horses across a meadow but when he awoke he was still in the skeleton’s vice grip and crawling with spiders. He could feel them making inroads under his clothes now. He squirmed around.

It wasn’t long before the sun lowered in the sky and the pit became very dark. He thought to light a match. He discovered the spiders hated the fire and scrambled away from the flame. He turned to the skull, which was inches from his face, and dropped a lit match into one of the eye sockets, hoping to break the spell. The skull burst into flames and the skeleton released its grasp. But Edwelde himself had caught on fire as the dry leaves in the pit burned. He scrambled to his feet, struggling to get out of his burning jacket.

Before long he had wedged himself into the fissure again, creeping upwards, beard and hair black and singed. The pit was soon full of smoke and he was forced to breathe through his sleeve. For hours he inched up the rocky crevice, delirious from the smoke.

When he finally crawled out of the pit the sun was just rising, lighting the trees and rocks a soft orange. He lay there, face blackened with soot, and beheld what looked to him like the most beautiful sunrise he’d ever seen. In his exhaustion, he drifted off to sleep. He dreamt of white horses again only this time he was riding one. His body twitched slightly as he imagined galloping, and a big smile spread across his sleeping face.

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