Chapter 24: The Depths

I fell asleep a good deal of the trip…when I wake, it's from an intense heat. Most of the ash desert land is behind us and Perrault told me I had gone into an exhausted sleep for two days. I feel tired and hungry, but I suppose I can't afford to be too hungry. Our supplies are running low, even with Aladdin's added food and water. The distance in front of us is a thick, looming wall of trees. They're so big, they must reach the sky; they look like dark bark covered titans guarding the end of the world. Of course they are miles away, but even so, they looked disturbingly menacing. I really wish the dragon had dropped us off somewhere else…but I doubt there are many nice places to go in these wretched lands.

Around us the ground is no longer a sea of ash but miles of dirt as dry and hard as stone, with many gash like cracks exuding blackness like a void. Brittle dead trees stand like graceless anemic beggars, outstretched toward the sky pleading to heaven for food. A particularly ugly tree captivates most of my attention though; it is a large three with a trunk much thicker than the pathetic trees around it. It is as thick and seven men and as tall as a large house. It arches over like some ugly gnarled beast where its trunk splits into three separate shafts. They twist and rear at wild angles with their adorning branches growing madly about, making the tree especially horrible to behold. It is as if the tree were once a moving thing that was trapped in a moment of rampage.

"Kerberos. The three head dog that guards the entrance to hell." Sandman says from behind me as I jump at the mere mention of hell.

Sicily looks more tense than usual as she clings to Perrault.

"Good name for it! That tree certainly looks like a demented demon dog!" I say with a nervous laugh. Idiot. He's always trying to get under my skin…

"No. That is him. I doubt he would appreciate you calling him names." Sandman grins as we walk along.

"Stop it!" I scream walking faster to get away from him.

"I'm just telling you that you have to be on guard. Hell is directly under our feet. Many demons will enter your mind and try to convince you to invite them into this world . You must be on your guard in order to reject them. You might see things, hear voices, or even feel pain; don't worry. It's not real." Sandman says to all of us. Aladdin pales but nods, looking at the Kerberos tree in fear.

I begin to realize that the reason the dragon would take us no further, is because we had reached the fabled Devil's Maw, the cursed land that held the gate to Hell; the only way in or out.

"Shit!" I feel my chest start to tighten. I try breathing slowly to calm my nerves but I can't. "How do I know you're even real then? How do I know I'm headed in the right direction?"

"Quiet down and breathe. I have a thin rope. We'll connect ourselves with me at the front, since I'm strong enough to resist the illusion. Just make sure you're not disconnected. It will get worse the further we get away until we reach the Dark Woods. Try to stay calm." Sandman says casually as he takes the rope and starts with Sicily's wrist. Perrault just jumps into the travel sack. No demon would bother him; they don't expect cats to talk. Aladdin begins to look about himself with dread.

"Oh God, what have I gotten myself into!?"

Once we're all connect to the rope, we begin to walk forward once again toward the Dark Woods.

Close to an hour goes by without incident, but soon after, I hear Sicily begin to cry.

"It's okay Sicily! I'm right here!" I can't even imagine what could make a girl who carries an ax and kills her own for a living cry. I can tell she is trying to be strong, but her sobs become painful and wrenching to hear. Aladdin starts to walk faster as if something's chasing him, causing me to have to walk faster in order to avoid collision.

"I see you've met my dear brother." Suddenly, I'm in a lovely peach orchard that smells absolutely divine. I can't see the owner of the voice, but I feel as if I'm being watched.

"I thought about trying to use an image of a family member to talk, but I think we both know you're hurting too much for an ordeal like that…" The voice sounds like it belongs to a man. It was smooth, lyrical and very sophisticated, like it was made specifically for coaxing. I tread carefully, still allowing myself to be led by the rope held tightly in my grasp.

"Oh, don't be like that…let's talk, Jill. Don't you want to know about your brother? I actually heard from him the other day. He almost got himself killed, but luck was on his side." The voice baited, drifting near and far.

I feel my heart melt with relief. If what the voice said was true, Jack was alright.

"My, my, what a mess you're in. You need to be in a safe, warm home with your brother." smooth hands rest on my shoulders as the owner of the voice whispers and tickles my ear. When I turn to see the owner's identity, there is no one in sight.

"You…you know where he is?" I ask feeling hope rise in my chest like a large forceful bubble.

"I do. But I'm really very powerless to do much from where I am. I really do hate to see people walking these lands hopelessly, especially children. Won't you let me help you? Sandman really is in need of assistance at this point. Can't you see how weary he is?" Really…if it wasn't for helping me, Sandman wouldn't be in this mess. But he's always…so cruel, I don't….

"He's so stubborn though. He won't want help."

"You certainly know him well. I hear you two are very close…but he's been taking his frustrations out on you..." The voice sighs, sounding remorseful.

"It's nothing." I lie.

"You say that, but you are hurting. Let me help you. The sooner you get out of this horrible world, the better." the voice says slowly. I feel tears well up in my eyes…I really would like to just be done with this whole ordeal.

Just when I'm about to reply 'yes', I feel a harsh grip on my shoulders.

"Who are you talking to?" It was Sandman! And we're standing still! I don't even remember when we stopped.

"Uh…" I feel dumb. No, beyond dumb. I feel like the epitome of all things brainless. "…No one."

Sandman shakes me in irritation. "Just don't say another thing until we get to the black forest. Do you understand?"

I nod silently, feeling numb.

I don't hear the voice again…and I don't seem to be getting bothered by anything else…

Am I being protected? Is it Sandman's brother? A little touch to my elbow suggests that I'm right….

I nod my thanks, feeling relieved. Life was so unfair…Sandman's brother was so considerate, and yet he was in hell while his cold hearted, brute of a sibling was roaming free.

Taking advantage of my own fortune, I walk closer to Sicily and pet her sweat soaked hair quietly, singing the lullaby I learned from my mother.

Sicily wraps her skinny arms around my waist and buries her head in my side. God! She's shaking so much.

Looking at the distance of the trees, we should be there in a few hours…but Sicily and Aladdin are getting worse and worse.

"Isn't there anything we can do?" I call to Sandman.

Sand man stops and sighs. "I can put them to sleep. I can carry that boy and you can carry the child."

I feel myself brighten as his fantastic idea. "That's a great idea!"

Sandman loosens the rope and removes it from Aladdin and Sicily, then slings Aladdin over his soldier like a sack. Silicy feels light and frail in my arms…and her sleep is fitful, but we'll get to the forest faster this way. I try to walk as fast as I am able.

"You seem to be doing well. If you annoy all demons the way you annoy me, I guess it's only natural." Sandman says flatly after we walk a ways.

"Or maybe they're sympathetic, since I have to deal with you even after I get out of this damn wasteland." I snap, glaring at the ground.

"Ah well." Sandman says giving me a sarcastic grin. Ass.

After what feels like several hours, we are close enough that the trees cast a very dark shadow in front of us. There wasn't a much sunlight to begin with…once we step into the collective shadow, it becomes as dark as night.

"We should be safe now…You should rest too. This small place is the only place we can rest somewhat comfortably before we enter the forest." Sandman says as he starts a small fire with a few scattered branches from the enormous trees. The wood smells thick, sweet and cloying, but I'm really just glad to have any light at all. The temperature has dropped from cool, to chilly with the mere addition of the shadow, so I huddle near the fire to warm myself. In the fire light, I realize just how worn out Sandman really is. He looks awful, like he hasn't slept in days.

"You need to take care of yourself! You look awful!" I state simply, folding my arms over my knees.

"That is true. And I feel ten times worse." Sandman moans wearily, not even bothering with the effort to argue. I know I shouldn't, and I could just kick myself, but I feel concerned about him. Did he forget to eat?

"Did you eat anything recently? Mitkl was always scolding you for that." I say looking over at him as he sits there staring vacantly into the fire.

"I don't particularly need to eat so I didn't. You three need it on the other had so don't worry about it." Sandman grunts, as if his ability to speak is becoming more labored by the second. A few moments later he closes his eyes.

Why does he have to be so stubborn? I crawl over to him quietly and let my hand hover over his forehead. I feel the angry tears gather around my eyes as my body registers that it has time to feel grief, regret and sadness.

I…feel like I want to be close. It's infuriating! I want to be cherished by him. Sometimes, when he helps me or saves me, I feel like maybe he does…like maybe I really am special to him. God knows I'm physically attracted to him, as much as I hate to admit it. But when I realize that I'm just like any other person on his under his management; you know, someone he feels obligated to take care of, I get utterly crushed. All that I have that he could want from me…

Is my body. Even that I would give to him if he asked!

Nicely.

I can't let go for some aggravating reason. I can't stop pinning after him. I try to be strong…there really no use crying anymore…

I never thought about any of this until he…took my…It's like he stole a piece of me. I want it back! I want my ignorance back!

I cringe at the pathetic broken sobs that force their way out of my chest as I look at Sandman's relaxed face. I let out a long, quiet, sorrowful whine and hang my head.

I remember asking my father when I was young, about six years of age, what he would want as a gift. He told me he wanted to see my always look at the sky in wonder; always have a sparkle of excitement in my eyes—and to fall in love at least once. He described it as a good love, a kind of wholesome love that soaks the heart and leaves a person breathless. I feel my shoulders shaking with laughter. I though love would be so much better than this!

And like the pathetic girl that I am, I cry myself to sleep.

After I wake, I stretch, trying get used the continuous darkness. I haven't been able to tell night from day since we got here; it's so depressing. Sicily is up, rubbing her eyes blearily but Aladdin is still sleeping. I turn to Perrault, who vacated the travel sack to be near the fire.

"How long have we been asleep for?" I ask rubbing my shoulders.

"I know not. Do you suppose I have some superior sense of time?" Perrault grumbles, curling up even tighter. Blasted, useless cat.

There is enough food in our packs for one more day, if we really stretch it, so I drink a little water and have a few bites of dried fruit, saving the meat for Sicily and Aladdin.

"I'm glad we made it." Sicily says quietly, gathering a few more twigs to throw on the fire.

'We're going to have to find some large branches for torches." I rip a few strips from my skirt so that we can soak them in what little oil we have left and wrap them around the branches.

I hear the sound of strange animals that I didn't hear before…I look around for Sandman, and it appears as if he's not here.

"I'm over here." He calls from within the darkness.

"Oh. What are you doing?" I say trying to extract the sadness from my voice as I walk over to where I heard his voice.

"Wait! Stop Girl!" Perrault cries as I walk, but before I can even respond, I'm being violently pulled upwards.

"HELP!" Oh GOD! Not in the dark!

A low guttural laugh echoes slowly around me.

"Jill!" It's Aladdin's voice calling franticly after me from very far away. Where am I?

"I'm here!" I call, my voice fading into the far distance. I feel a large gush of wind and hold very still. Something's here with me. But it's so dark…I can't see anything. If only I could see!

The wind starts again, and I realize that the sound I'm hearing is the flapping of large wings, then a gruff hushing sound.

"A horse?" it couldn't be…Well, I guess it could; If I could be snatched like a fly, I suppose a horse could too.

I hear another scream and see a light race through the darkness then come to a halt.

It's Aladdin, with a torch! But damn, he's stuck too! He several feet away, but the light reveals exactly what happened to us.

We are in the trees! The way down is so far that the light does not even touch the depths. And I was right. A few feet about me is a horse…with enormous wings. Its eyes are wide enough that I can see the whites glinting in the firelight. It's trembling and panicking within the confines of the tree's cord like branches. The old wounds tell me that it has been struggling for a while.

"Shh…shhh….that's a good boy. Calm down before you hurt yourself." I say gently petting its belly. The horse turns nervously at me and snarls and balks. I could get hurt trying to help this dumb horse, but I can't do much else so I continue and it eventually calms.

"Jill! Oh God…it was the trees! The trees are alive! And they're laughing! I think they imitate voices! I heard you call out to me, saying 'I'm right here' and then when I went to look for you I got captured!"

"Oh no…that's what I heard too, accept that it was Sandman!" I call back, still petting the horse. "Did he come back?

"No, not yet. This is crazy!" He says looking about hysterically.

Suddenly, the branches around us start to slacken and move, and the trees begin to wail like dock horns.

"What's happening!" I scream, barely able to her myself above the noise. The horse is becoming agitated again and I try to move out of the way so I won't be hit. Many of the trees, suddenly agitated, throw us screaming down into the blackness below.

"A Horse?" I hear Sandman's loud voice as we fall and he somehow manages to catch me and the horse—what the hell is he made of!? I gawk as he stands on a tree branch with me and a torch in one hand and the horse's leg in another.

"NO! A pegasus! Get out of here and fly you stupid animal!" He yells, throwing the poor struggling horse back into the air. Grabbing the torch out of his hand, I see that Aladdin is stranded at the back of a large branch on another tree that is still. Sandman, sets me down and starts climbing and jumping over to where Aladdin is. I looked nervously over to the horse to find that it has found its balance and is soaring towards the ground. I wish I had wings…

After a few minutes Sandman comes back for me and I hold my breath as he nimbly makes his way towards the darkness where I can only assume the ground is. In this insane forest, it could very well be an abyss with no end.

"Damnable Unseelie brats!" Sandman growls into the darkness beyond our torchlight as he sets me down. His words are returned with distant evil laughter. Sicily stands there looking frustrated. Once again, the rescue mission is beyond her capabilities.

"I should have just stayed home and been content to be alive…" Aladdin says out of breath as he stands precariously to his feet.

"What is truly insulting is that you threw yourself into this mess of your own free will." Perrault mouths off from his perch in Sicily's arms.

"From here on, try to stay close." Sandman says looking annoyed. We are officially in the forest now and even if we wanted to turn back, from here the view behind us looks the same as the view in front; eerie and dark. The trees are like massive dark towers sprawled all around us.

The horse from before lands in front of us suddenly and refuses to move.

"You again?" I say throwing my hands in the air. It snorts.

"You're free now! Go on! Get moving!" I say as Sandman sighs and tries to move around it. It blocks him and butts its head into Sandman's back in some other direction.

"You bloody dumb thing! Go!" Sandman remarks harshly turning back to the horse, but again, it just stares at him belligerently.

"He's trying to tell you where to go." Sicily says quietly and we all look at her in surprise.

Sicily just looks at us blankly and continues. "The slayers of The Order ride pegasus' so I know; Most may know them as violent, willful creatures but they are intelligent. If you manage to win their favor, they will try to protect you, even though it's a very rare case. His willingness to interact with us means that he's trying to help."

The horse blinks at us like we should have known that already and then starts to walk.

"Just my goddamned luck." Sandman mumbles as he follows suit.

"Great, now we're taking directions from a horse in the middle of the most dangerous place known to man." Aladdin gripes, slumping his shoulders.

"I daresay that we animals have more on the ball than you humans…" Perrault says with a yawn. Well, I'm glad he's not worried. I swear this stupid furball pisses me off.

I hear more evil laughing sounds echoing in the distant shadows.

Are we ever going to get a break?


Paisley lives in a hole in the ground at the base of one of the tower-sized tree's here. Actually, it's kind of a nifty underground house, with a bed and table and little things she uses. After her brothers left we stayed there with her to rest up and regain our strength. But it's so creepy in this forest…always dark, always buzzing with strange spooky noises. Sometimes I even hear blood curdling screams and laments…

So here we are in the forests treading lightly, not knowing exactly where to go. I pull out the map and look at it. According to it, we are…

I can't make head or tails of this. Everything in the vicinity of the dark woods on this map is classified by symbols that I don't understand.

As we walk, I shiver at the sight of grimy bones and rotten animal carcasses that are uncovered from the shadows by our lamps. None of us can bring ourselves to say anything. Paisley looks more and more nervous as we walk.

"Ah. The familiar stench of wolf." Greg says morosely. What?

As if on cue, a howl sounds off in the distance.

I can hear weapons clashing, like a battle is going on! Venny gasps slaps his hand over Paisley's eyes as Greg starts to strip again, throwing his garments into my arms.

"Warning! At least give us that!" he hollers as Greg stands there naked.

"Keep my clothes safe." Greg says as he starts to change. Where do I-!? Oh nevermind, I'll just stuff them in my shirt.

Paisley stares at his griffin body with wide eyes as Greg flexes his wings. I would have thought she was used to shape shifting humans by now. Her brothers are also birds…

Anyway, aren't the woods creepy enough without fighting? I try and swallow my fear, taking my ax out and holding it tensely between my sweaty palms. I won't be use useless. I won't be useless!

Venny stays close by Paisley's side and I do my best to guard the rear as Greg glides above us. A knife whizzes past us, but luckily doesn't hit anyone.

"Shit! We should have left Paisley at her house! She's in danger now!" Venny says with frustration as he tries to shield her with his body and move quickly.

"She knows what she signed up for." Greg says testily as the fighting gets louder and louder.

"GRIFFIN! They got a griffin! Take cover!" a random voice says we stumble into a large depression in the forest where the concentration of the battle rages. Our lamps are like a spotlight, even with the small balls of glowing light that light up the battlefield. Are they…

As I focus on one of the lights, my suspicions are confirmed; the lights are small pixies held captive in glass balls.

"Alright," Greg declares, flapping his wings with excitement. "Get ready! Stay directly behind me or you will be killed." Don't tell me we're going to…

Greg swoops down towards the fields, which I know realize are crawling with…

Snarling monsters! Holy…I've never even…they look like wolves with human-like bodies….a terrifying mix….And we're going to fight them!? Why? We don't have anything to do with this mess!

I don't have much time to think about it as we scramble in efforts to stay close together as we slide down into the leagues of monsters. Greg attacks at random, looking to be in his own personal world. Is he hungry or something? Could we not have just pick one up and ran?

"AGHH!" Venny screams in pain as we fight our way through, Paisley winces, holding her arms close to her chest and running fast to avoid being hit.

Venny!

Venny falls to the ground as one of the angry wolf beast lifts its arm to slash at him. No! I can't let that happen! What would Jerold say to us if we came back and told him we got his dear younger brother killed! Venny…our friend. My friend. I lose track of both Greg and Paisley as I run back for Venny hollering. I must be brave! I've got to!

I swing my ax down towards the monsters and pray that it hits.

It hits. The beast shrieks and stumbles back, pulling me with him as I am still holding on desperately to the ax. The ax is stuck in its chest, thick curls of smoke rising from its bubbling wound. Oh wow! It's really hurt! I really wounded him! Crap!

The ax is stuck!

I try pulling it out anxiously, but it's jammed. Other wolf beasts come running at me, teeth bared and I pull and pull trying to get the ax out. Come on! COME ON!

The ax finally comes out and flies above my head with the force of release, luckily landing in the face of one of the attacking wolves. It reels back, clutching it's cleaved, burning face. What the heck kind of ax is this anyway? Oh, I don't care, as long as it works…

"There's more where that came from!" I yell frantically, swinging the ax wildly. "So get back!" the wolves howl at me like I'm nothing more than a blade of grass and barrel towards me, not even bothering to avoid the ax. I swing over and around, just trying to hit something. My body pitches with the force of each collision and my mind races as fight surrounds me.

Venny turns out to be okay! I see him with a spear shifting it fiercely in attempts to ward the wolves away. I feel I gust of wind from above and look up to see Greg tearing some poor beast to pieces as Paisley holds on to his fur tightly. I almost can't believe it still…

Greg seems like such a normal guy…but when you see him fight-

It's terrifying.

He eats anything! He's eating many of the fallen wolf beasts! They become more and more reluctant to fight him and many even run away. In the end, Venny and I manage to survive because many of the wolves either ran away or are dead.

"What kind of crazy pack employs a beast that kills both friend and foe!?" one of the wolf beasts scream, throwing down his fist in fury amidst all the chaos. Greg stops, throwing a particularly mauled carcass at the beast and watches the wolves run around him. Venny and I make our way over to Greg as the wolves focus on him.

There are many calls for the warriors to stop, but many of them still continue, not knowing what to do, until there is a strange silence.

"We won!" one of the wolves cry and many of the wolves roar with victory cries. One of the wolves waves his hands to silence the other wolves and approach Greg who sits patiently behind me and Venny.

"Who are you? You did kill some of my men, but it appears that you favored us in the fight." The wolf looks at us with confusion.

"Uh…we…" I don't know what to say! We just barreled in their fight and threw everyone off! They probably want to kill us!

"I was hungry and your guys smelled bad." Greg says flatly, without blinking. How could he even tell? They all look the same to me!

"You stupid animal!" Venny yells, looking pale.

"We probably should be angry, but if you hadn't barged in when you did, they would have killed us all! Come with us and replenish. We don't have much, but you saved our pack! My name is Raphir and I am the Alpha of this pack." The wolfman says waving for us to follow.

Another tragedy averted by the grace of the gods of luck. What is Greg thinking! He can't just eat anything!

The forest resounds with the chatter and laughter of the wolfmen as we walk through the forest and I almost stop when I hear strange sounds coming from our groups.

The wolfmen…are changing…their bodies are stretching and shrinking into-

Humans!

"Woa, what the-!" I scream as the wolf beasts turn into men. A man with dirty brown hair and grey eyes laughs at me.

"You've never seen a werewolf change before?" It's Raphir! He slaps me on the back and barks with more laughter.

A werewolf? Is that…I forgot about those legends! Is the moon even out? I thought they only turned with a full moon!?

"Don't werewolves only turn with the full moon?" I ask, looking at all the men.

"It's not really true…we're forced to turn on the full moon, but at night, we can turn at will…the length of which depends on the stages of the moon. We can't turn on the new moon. Since there is no sunlight here, we can pretty turn any time for varying periods of time accept on the new moon." Raphir says heartily as we walk. The other men chatter, keeping their distance from Greg as he walks along with Paisley.

When we reach the wolf camp it looks empty at first; but as the glass ball faeries float in front of us, we see women and children begin to emerge from the shadows.

"You won?" a women says with a watery voice. "I thought you we were…all dead. Oh, thank the gods…"

"Thanks to these fellows!" Raphir says, smacking me on the back again. If my back breaks…

"Enough tears! We live to see another day, so let's celebrate!" one of the men besides me says, grabbing Venny around the neck and whooping. The rest of the men holler in agreement and run to their family and friends. The women clap and start dancing…it's crazy.

Greg sits a moment, letting Paisley down, and then begins to change form…

All becomes quiet again. Oh no…

"Greg!" Venny and I say looking horrified. Not only is he standing there, naked as a fish, but he's grinning like a fool!

"Well that's neat! He's a were-griffin!" one of the men shouts carelessly, slapping Greg on the butt. Greg returns the favor and they both start laughing. Then everybody laughs like a drunken mob and the partying continues just as rowdy as it began.

What the heck? Doesn't anybody see that he's naked? Are they drunk already?

"It's the Wolf's Bane. Someone must have started burning it. Makes them a bunch of crazy dupes." One of the women says from behind me. "These men. Be a dear and help me with these children so they don't get too close."

Paisley smiles behind her hands and nods, and I take a look behind me.

Sure enough, everyone is dancing around, and many of them have stripped down to their own birthday suits, singing off key.

The children seem like normal children, running around and playing in the dirt. I'm glad to have something that is not dangerous to do. We pass around flagons filled with what appears to be goat's milk and talk like one big family. It feels kind of like a festival…

"So what brings you into our neck of the woods?" one of the women asks me as we sit there, on a stump, watching the men and younger women shout, holler and sing raunchy songs despite the children.

"I'm looking for…something." I say, taking a swing of milk. It's not goat's milk either…what is this?

"Are you an underworld dealer? Looking for exotic buys? I have to say you're kind of young and scrawny to be a black boot dealer…" the woman says, rocking a small child to sleep.

"No, nothing like that. Um…I guess it's kind of crazy, but I'm looking for…gods. This gypsy woman asked me to do it. I don't know if I can, but I'm going to try." I say, ringing my fingers.

"Well, I'd be looking for gods too, if I was a small brat like you stuck in these woods. you're on a wild goose chase boy…I suggest you get out of this forest while the gettin's good, young one. You have a strong companion but trust me, we are nothing compared to the evil's in these woods; we are one of the nicest werewolf packs you will ever meet. In fact, we are kind of weak compared to the other tribes… so much so, once found, I didn't think our boys were going to come back-" the woman is interrupted by a girl who looks to be about twelve.

"Hey, what's up with your griffin? I've never heard of a griffin changing into a human before." The girl says, pointing at Greg. I look in the direction of her finger and find Greg swinging Venny over his head around in circles while Venny screams profanities and threats at him…

"He's special I guess." What a hopeless dope.

After the Wolf's Bane wears out, the whole lot dances themselves into exhaustion and end up sleeping in sprawled heaps all over the ground. The children are nestled in a circle of women and are practically glued to Paisley, all sleeping soundly.

I wish I could see the sky. I miss the stars. I guess the little glass balls are sort of like stars.

I look at the few men acting as lookout, like stony observers.

My stomach turns with anxiousness as I look into the forest. Where do I even start? I'm too afraid to sleep—even though there are watchers I feel so restless.

I blink and suddenly there is a bright light and whispers. Jill is standing over me with a scowl on her face.

"One of these days, I'm going to walk over to this bed and find that you've grown roots. Get up before mother feels that her breakfasts aren't worth eating."

Mother?

I leap out from under the covers and race to the kitchen. There is a woman there, but her face is blurred. It appears that I must be very small, because I have to look up at her. The smell of butter and bread float in and out of my nose and I struggle to climb into the chair by the table. When I finally manage to settle in the chair—

The kitchen is gone.

It is dark with bones, blood and flesh. The walls are blackened with mold and I can't move from the chair, even though I want to. The skull twist and merge with the blood to form faces then melt back into rot. I want to throw up. There's ringing in my ears. Wait, it's not ringing, but screaming. The screaming is loud; not of fear, but of rage. More blood begins to seep from the walls, but I can't move from the table. I begin to cry. The blood, bones and flesh begin to form once again onto the table into the shape of a grotesque pregnant rotten woman with blackened rotting skin and tendrils of rotten blood caked hair. Her legs are spread before me and I reel in shock as she continues to scream with rage like a beast, her putrid jaws unhinged. The offspring that she pushes out of her monstrous body is drenched in a black tar like fluid. The baby, which is for the most part normal, falls like an armful of wet clothes unto the table before me.

"Oh God…" I can see it twitch with some semblance of life, like a flies after its been stunned.

The room is quiet with the exception of the gargled breath of the monster mother on the table.

"Now eat my husband." The monstrous woman tells me with her rotting mouth.

I scream and scream until I realize that no sound is coming out.

It's dark again, but I'm outside, chilled to the bone with my own sweat. The glass balls have dimmed. In my stomach, I feel a heavy, awkward feeling weighting it down; something is very wrong.

Something is wrong!

I scramble to my feet and make my way over to one of the look outs.

"Something is wrong!" I whisper, looking around the shadows of the forest for something dangerous. The men look at each other and then at me.

"This forest is certainly no bed of roses." One of them laughs looking back into the dark depths of the woods. "Best get used to it."

Maybe it was just the dream—but I can't shake this feeling; something is definitely wrong!

Rather than risk having more terrible night mares, I sit on the ground next to the look outs and sigh. If something was really wrong, they would sense it, right? I suppose I'm just too shaken by what happened before. That must be it.

But as I sit there, as I stare into the darkness, I feel the heaviness in my stomach get worse and worse with every passing moment. My breath becomes heavy and labored; something is wrong with me.

Something is very wrong.


Oh god, my brain is dead. another chapter up.