The Clearing

I stood completely still in the moonlight behind silver foliage, staring at the clearing. There was a rustling and a scraping and hisses and whispers and the nymphs dragged another human body to the crack in the ground and then gently nudged him into the abyss. Just like the first time, they laughed and teased each other before disappearing again into the forest. This time though, one of them stopped to inspect a leaf full of nectar that I had left there. When the others were gone she sat on a log and sniffed the nectar, sampling some with her greenish tongue. She appeared to look directly at me before taking the leaf and spinning off into the shadows.

I went to where the crevice had been and the ground was solid under my feet. Packed dirt. I took a long dagger from my boot and dug in the earth but found only more dirt. What are you digging for? The tall silhouette of my mother loomed above me. Get back on the wagon, she said. I clawed at the dirt with my fingers but there was nothing. Then I stood and brushed past my mother, pulling myself up into the covered wagon where my siblings were all fast asleep. I heard my mother’s hoarse whisper through the canvas, We leave in the morning –so get some sleep!

But in ten minutes I was out there again, staring at the clearing from my usual vantage point. The wind got cold and I heard howling. Then I saw them slowly emerge again from the trees all around. This time their flowing nymph silks were replaced by blood-stained, tattered rags and their eyes were black and sunken. Two moved quickly towards me, mouths gaping open with nine-inch fangs dripping blood. When I felt thin fingers with rough skin encircle my throat I couldn’t move. Before long I’d fallen and the grass and dirt and twigs scraped across my face as I was pulled into the clearing like all the others. I could see the crevice again, a widening blackness, and just as I slid into the void I looked back toward the wagon, seeing my brother swaying there in his nightshirt. In a second he was gone and I disappeared into the earth forever.




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