Chapter 1: (v.2) chapter 1

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 34

Part 1: the mire


“Here. If you want to conduct an interview, I know a nice place, under a maple tree.”

  • ‘Interviews with Winston Din’

“I already told you your lesson for today,” spoke Zep, “something is….Strange. It’s been strange for some hours now. Once you discover what this strangeness is, your lesson is complete.” Zep could feel his student grimace. Her teeth were tight in that jaw.

“Well, how do I know you're not tricking me, Zep, I mean, what if there’s nothing at all, and you just want me to shut up for a while.” Her eyes glared at the back of Zep’s neck.

Zep’s sweet, saccharine voice assertively replied, “Well Lemon, why don’t you talk aloud while you think. Relay your thoughts to us. I’d be glad to hear your process.”

Emma tickled the air with her spry laughter, adding “we don’t mind your voice, Lemon, so please, talk away.” Lemon, to confirm this, looked at Gregor, the final member of their party, who merely nodded in congruence. The day was warm.

‘As they trekked this muddy trail, her eyes scanned delicately. She squinted, commenting “something’s different, huh,” her annoyed tone hardly a bother. The others thought it rather cute. This mire’s scenery never altered, the same coraking puddles placed all around. Slimy trees and rotting bark, drippy lakes of viscous mush, saggin branches with thriving moss, nothing different from their damp days prior.

“I think you're just being a bit paranoid, Zep. There ain’t a thing wrong with this place,” Lemon said, relaxing her neck, taking one last scan of drole scenery. There was a dearth of breath, simply silence, and then Emma, in her little way began a petite laugh, prompting Lemon to nearly growl, retorting “You sick or something.”

“Want me to give you a hint.”

Lemon merely clenched her embarrassed hands, cracked those knuckles, answering “Only if I can give you something too.” Emma couldn’t help herself, thrusting forward, almost falling to the dense mush, flooding laughter into her smooth palm. Lemon’s upper eye twitched.

She could feel each boney toe tighten, a teething annoyance built beneath her ribs. She glazed the scenery, exclaiming “wet, mushy, damp, same dead flora, air’s still disgustingly humid, smells like someone was squashing brains here.”

Zep replied, “You know what that smells like?” Even Gregor couldn’t completely contain his chortles, everyone struck with hilarity. Their tickling tummies tearing Lemons patience, peeling it back into pure anger, her embarrassment murderous. She yelled, “What do you want me to say!”

Zep finished his snickers, turning around to enchant Lemons gaze, “How many of us are there?” Then, those red eyes effortlessly serene, Zep turned away, walking forward, clarifying “that's a hint.”

“Well now there’s no point in answering the question!” Lemon was staunch, her face reddening in rage, her fingers twitching, her mouth exclaimed “I didn’t need help!”

“And you wouldn’t have asked for it, no matter what the scenario, correct, so me, as someone who wanted to help you, had one option,” Zep explained. “Simply tell you the hint.”

“I didn’t need help,” Lemon repeated. Zep just smiled, his red hair shaggy in murky weather, posing “so, are there only four of us.” Lemon gripped her emotions, restraining the rage, asking with rigid lips “what do you mean by that, Zep? That's not a good question!”

Her eyes darted, capturing slim glances of her three companions, Zep just continuing his stroll at an average pace. Lemon smacked herself, mildly grunting, Zep listening, finally speaking “I want you to try confirming how many of us there are, Lemon.”

“But, ho-” she began, immediately halting her foolish tongue. She shuddered, feeling her comrades’s crude laughter almost burst, knowing a simple answer. Lemon knew, in these scenarios, as Zep consistently told her, a diaphanous surveillance of detail prevailed. She needed to sense everything. Firstly, her eyes iced the world with their stare, meticulously piecing apart her company, thinking of each detail. They all wore cloaks which wettened with the mud, and Gregor carried a large sack of food strapped to his back, Emma holding multiple water flasks. And then there was the wagon.

A grayish, dirty wagon, one cracking its thin wheels through a deep swamp, a tarp thrown over it. Lemon watched as it sloshed around, whatever weight within it oddly being oddly unbalanced, the tarp stained in multiple patches. They never told her what was inside.

Yesterday, as they’d loaded it full, Emma took her soft hands, and covered Lemons eyes, kindly telling her she wasn’t allowed to look. Emma could feel Lemon’s eyes clench beneath her sight-blocking palms, but still, under not one limber circumstance could someone so fresh to their adventures look.

“What’s in that wagon Zep?”

Zep's genuine smile was kicked with joy when she spoke this, turning around, replying “what a wonderful question.” He placed those fingers upon the tarp, each delicate tuft of hair hanging down his face, a mesmeric lock with his and Lemons eyes. The other member stirred, unsure, an lucid look of anxiety strapped on Lemons complexion, Zep tightening his fingers upo n the tarp. He threw it off. 

“I always wondered whether you’d notice the smell,” Zep began, laying his hand upon one of them, “do you really think there’s only four of us?” Lemon felt her hands go limp, her eyes sag in their sockets, an immense, strange, cold sensation gripping her as she stared upon four festering, bloody, pale corpses. She turned to Zep.

“What are you doing with them?” Zep walked towards her, placing a warm hand on Lemons shoulder, leaning, whispering “talk quieter, just to me, okay.” Sher looked again at the grotesque lump of klour bodies, listening closely, knowing well what her first question had to be.

“Zombies,” she asked, feeling foolish. Zep didn’t laugh, merely whispering back, “no,” before slipping away with the final slight words, “you're doing good!

She gazed at those galactic abdomens, many plush organs ripped, the intestinal tract stretched and severed, eyeballs squirting gooey fluid. There were four cadavers in total.

She collaborated from her memory Zep’s teachings, to taste, smell, hear the vibrations of life, to sense it entirely. She rang his words in her head, that once she could smell, sight, taste sound, hear flavor, once she merely knew another's presence existed, she had sensed their soul. She shut her eyes.

She ran her hand across its scrambled belly, sniffed her nose over its defoprmed head, sucking all the senses possible. She licked its multicolored fingers, feeling her tongue tingle in bitter flavor, before sitting back down, listening to the damp wind rustle. Everything was silent. She heard nothing but shimmying branches and dim heartbeats, tasted nothing but a rancid corpse. And after a few minutes she arose, opening those eyes, whispering to Zep, “what are we going to do?”

Zep asked, “Did you sense them?”

“I heard them breathe,” Lemon admitted, “I didn’t sense their essence.” 

“But,” Zep replied, “you are now aware that there are two more creatures amongst us, burrowed in our wagon, with plans of their open, I’m sure. So, let us wait for them to jump out, shall we, and see what they plan. I’m sure it’ll happen sometime before tomorrow.” Zep put his hand upon the largest corpse, kneading it, whispering to his entire company, “one of them is mortally wounded.”

Zep smiled, throwing the tarp back upon those mangled bodies, turning to them all, nodding, and continuing upon his walk. They all followed. They were entering evening. Lemon looked at the faint Moon, the yellow sky blocking its silver sheen.

“Did they find us,” Lucius asked. He could feel his friend pressing a cold, scrawny hand into his bulging stomach wound, pressuring the blood back from the dilapidated depths it was hacked from. Lucius gripped his fist, touching its red knuckles to his friends soft cheeks, nothing to say. He couldn’t waste strength by opening his eyes. He felt soft tears tickle his chest.

“Stop it,” he said, “they’ll hear you crying!”

Philius wiped his eyes, clenched his mouth, felt putrid snot squirt out his nose, the polluting darkness stripping away his friend's hollow face. As night time enclosed the, Philius knew, he understood against his will, that they weren’t allowed to talk. If they spoke, undoubtedly they’d be found, and most likely murdered as stowaways. But they needed to live. Philius wanted to talk. He could feel Lucius’s blood smooth, a less rambunctious flow of fluid constantly pushing against his palm, the abdominal muscles relaxing. Philius dumped his face onto Lucius’s chest, each muscle convulsing in crude pain. From here, he had an excellent, oddly comforting feel of his best friend's heartbeat. He breathed steadily. Lucius’s body kept softening.

Philius felt the pulse dim, and he knew that his only friend was fully falling from him, slowly slipping into what could be the final dream to grace those gallant eyes. Philius could feel his muscles tighten, eyes bulge, each cell hit in horrible tragedy. He had to be quiet, be silent, act as though he was dead. Buried beneath the weight of four corpses, burrowed in a rotting man's belly, Philius prayed that a corpse wouldn’t be added. And, without noticing, he shut his eyes, head relaxed on Lucius’s chest.

When he opened them, all was black. His head popped up, neck trembling, mouth sapped of noise for fear he’d be realized, the only sensation afforded was a callused, rough, staunch hand hugging his cheek. Of course, Philius touched it, feeling the sharp, muscular knuckles, knowing it was Lucius’s hand. I didn’t move, statically gripping Philius’s cheek, the resuming tears tickling its fingertips. Suddenly the hand tightened.

It’s blunt fingers digging into Philius’s cheek, tight veins pulsing vigorous blood, the palm swiping, wiping the tears away, the calluses tuat. Lucius was attempting to communicate using his sinewy hand, touching Philius, hurting him, maneuvering the head. He grabbed Philius’s chin, deciding where we wanted his friend to stare. Philius was afraid.

Night had cast itself over them, severely unsettling his blood, horrifiying him with the vicious, intriguing, vivid sensation of morbid torture. There wasn’t a single sliver of light that escaped from the dark, a drain of color already having closed. And as Lucius forceable conjured his neck, controlling it’s movements, Philius let himself go limp, eyelids simply sagging down, his mind drowned in futility.

Lucius pried those pathetic eyes open, pricking the face with gnarly, grainy fingers, forcing Phiulius to look, gaze. What he saw was odd. A grayish, more so silver and slick imager, one drowned in humidity, a swampy ambience, a fresher air, something absent of that metallic, acidic stench. He looked, and saw, with terror, four walking, cloaked figures. He dove his head back down, refusing to see any more. The corpse was suddenly comfy.

He dumped his piteous head into Lucius’s chest, ensuring silence, body completely frozen except that uncontrollably trembling skull. Philius wanted to forget that image Lucius had showed him by forcing his eyes from the corpse. There were four of them, each tall, with a mendacious presence. They needed to stay alive.

Lucius put his hand upon Philius’s scalp, holding him tight, feeling the face convulse on his chest, waiting for him to slowly calm down. Philus felt his blood expanding, tissue seeming to liquify at the mere thought of leaving Lucius’s wound unattended. He was trapped, barred here to hold his friend’s wound as they were taken on. Lucius’s fingers were staunch.

Philius felt them grip his scalp, the scrawny hand digging its ligaments into his head, five sharp pains, a clear, understood message from Lucius. As the fingers tightened, it was as though Lucius was saying ‘leave me or we’ll die.’ Philius hardened his push on Lucius’s wound, as if to say ‘I can’t.’ Lucius grabbed at the neck.

He once again thrust Philius’s head from the corpse, forcing him to see if even for a moment the marauding figures dense in the darkness, walking along, lugging them in their wagon. Though there was a tarp obstructing his view, Philius, against his will, got a lucid glance. He felt the murderous menace form before, and fought back into the belly of the cadaver. Sadly, Lucius was correct.

Philius knew, as he dug himself back onto Lucius’s chest, that, if he just kept still, Lucius would inevitably die from a slow, painful loss of blood. He could feel blood slowly seep from the wound he pressured with his left hand. An inevitable, continuous gush of it.

Lucius touched Philius’s wrist. It was pale and cold, a frigid set of flesh that slowly slid down to touch Philius’s hand, its rigid tissue layered beneath tough skin.

It grasped his own hand, and slowly, with hardly any strength at all, forced it off the wound it had been pressuring. Lucius was pushing him away, off to save them.

Philius’s hand tingled for a moment. An odd sensation to not be pressing his friend's wound, the absence of vigorous blood running against it, a fresher, calmer, more limber feeling on the blood-slathered palm. He almost hiccuped in his sorrow, banging his head against Lucius, a sickening spear of nausea infiltrating his stomach. No matter the circumstances, Philius felt it impossible to leave his friend. But his friend was correct.

Lucius pushed Philius off of him. Philius breathed steadily, slowly putting his hand upon the hilt, knowing well two things needed to be done, the securing of food/water, and medical treatment. The coarse, craggy texctrure of his blade’s handle melted his mood further. He needed to be cautious, spry, quick, agile, all while thinking of Lucius. He gripped the hilt.

He was confused, uncertain, astray in the mind, to leave his friend and fight peeling apart his punctured morality, although Lucius's decisiveness pushed him forward. Philius jumped out of the wagon.

The thing jumped out of the wagon, Lemon turning her head, staring at this darkness shrouded creature. So it showed itself. She’d heard it rustling slightly in the wagon, and now, it evinced itself to their night-covered eyes. It sat there, completely still, the eyes glowing green in the empty night, no one except for Lemon herself staring at it, everyone else better trained. And the creature darted, his little limbs like a razor from the side, hastily leaping and snagging art the back of Gregor, ripping his satchel full of food, and, in the moonlight, drawing a sword.

“So it speaks english,” said Zep, stretching his body towards the deep-caliginous sky, “how wonderful.” The creature's blade jittered slightly at the tip, it’s green eyes soft.

“I need a medic,” it declared. The eyes were raspy. A beam of moonlight peaked through the swaying leaves, revealing for a vapid moment this lithe, scrawny boy, maybe thirteen years of age, his body doused in savage blood.

“Were all medics” Zep spoke, serenading this boy, steadying his blade with nothing but simple, kind words, “Why do you ask.” The boy darted his eyes. Without a beat, those legs burst, sword sliding onto the neck of the cloaked figure closest to him, being Gregor. Gregor didn’t move, a honed blade resting on his aorta, the boy prattling from over his shoulder “If you don’t do that Is say, I’ll cut his neck out,” his breath heavy on that clearly scared voice. 

You clearly didn;t have time to plan this, did you,” spoke a smile beneath shaggy red hair. ‘I;m sorry if that was blunt.” Philius, an intensifying terror in his presence, carefully and slowly pressed the blade on Gregor's neck.

“My friend is dying in your wagon, and if he’s dead, there’s no point in leaving any of you alive anymore,” Philius admitted, forcing his trembling blade to steady, feeling his pocket’s for the food he’d stolen. Lemon laughed into her hand, turning away, unable to look at this cute boy attempting to pretend he was potent. Zep looked straight into those green eyes.

“I’m afraid we’re all rather good at telling truth from lies, so apologies, but whenever you talk, It's quite funny.” Gregor felt the boy gulp a fearful ball of saliva down his throat.

Emma dug her hands into the messy wagon of cadavers, tearing intestines, prying with moist hands another boy from it. She grinned, watching this little boy petrify at the sight of her clutching his hardly conscious friend, Emma licking her own teeth, wondering what foolish thing this boy would say next. Emma saw how this black haired boy was rigorously putting pressure upon his wound himself, keeping those mushy guts from spilling.

“Don’t wanna kill him,” Emma remarked. She put down the raspy body kindly, then stood straight, turning to face the main action.

“Hey kid,” Zep spoke, “I have an idea.” He took from his bag a brown, thick, shiny loaf of wrapped bread, the smell wafting like sweet-honey wafers. The boy’s stomach convulsed on its presence. Zep glowed, exclaiming “To prove it isn’t poisoned, I’ll eat some of it myself, on the condition that you tell us your name, release my friend, and let my friend Emma tend to that boy’s life.” He took this bread from its wrapper, the scent softly exploding into this calm, suddenly mellifluous air. The boy was attempting to control himself.

“Here, I’ll let you keep Gregor under arrest too, alright,” Zep soothed, crumpling the wrapper, putting it back into his coat. “Here, I’ll give it to you.” Zep walked forward in an oddly perfect motion, his body limber on its light toes, everyone watching him move.

“Here, take it,” He allowed, reaching out his hand from the cloak, a face of desire frigid on the face of that boy, as he leaned forward, tightening the blade on Gregor's neck, taking the fluffy bread into his mouth.  He felt the flavor fluctuate in his mouth, a sudden calm creeping into him, as Zep smiled on this noise serene scene. “What’s your name?”

Philius took his left hand, putting it over Gregor’s houlder and taking it out of his mouth, munching, finishing it.

“My name is Philius.” Zep leaned into them, his throat nearly nicked by the backside of the blade, that red hair clean and sturdy in its tufts. “Tell me, what’s your friend’s name?”

Philius darted his eyes over to Emma and his friend, gulping again, his face flushed in fear. “Phiolius, look at me, okay, he’s gonna be completely fine,” he pressed a meek finger to the blades sideways side, “as long as you’ve got my friend hostage, we’re in a stalemate.” Gregor used his deep training not to burst in laughter, pretending to believe what Zep was telling this child. What a pitiful boy.

“So, tell me, what’s your friend's name,” Zep repeated, staring at the side of Philius’s face. Emma just tenderly touched Lucius. Philius couldn’t hear a single odd or quirky noise, simply the unsettling and ominous body bending over him. 

“So, tell me, what’s your friend’s name” Philius slowly pulled his sought back towards their craggy conversation, answering with a single, somewhat paused word “Lucius.”

“I must say, you boys have beautiful names,” spoke Zep, as he slowly arose to his typical, rather petite height, his cloak saggin down upon every limb, his voice lucid in its next question, “are you scared, Philius. Oh, and you can continue eating your bread, believe me, if it was poison, you'd be dead by now.” Philius munched at the tip of this tasty food.

“Now Philius, it seems to me, that you are afraid, and I want to know if my observation is accurate.” Philius gulped down his throat, replying shakily, “I don’t like that question,” narrowing his glare onto Zep, who, without hesitation, immediately replied, “but I know you want to answer it. You want to answer it, because you don;t fear me, you fear your friend dying and think you’re a terrible person by not being able to save him yourself. In fact, you enjoy me questioning you. Don’t you?”

Philius felt his veins loosen, his breath steady, a strange comfort entering him as this red haired man so plainly worded everything he was feeling or thinking, as though those eyes could view him transparently.

“And so,” Zep began to ask once again, “was what I said accurate, or was it completely incorrect.” Philius’s brain tickled in confusion, his emotions vulnerable, already branched and salvaged with so little effort. “No,” Philius replied, “you were completely wrong.”

Zep through his head back, sighing, face damp in disappointment. Philius gulped, his face slightly paling, an uneasy disgust grating his gut after lying to such a kindly man.

“Philius, I told you before, you’re an absolutely awful liar. And I can tell you don;t want to be talking like that, too, similar to how you don;t want to be lying right now, correct. Similar to how I know you’re scared for your friend. And similar to how I know, if he dies, there isn’t a chance in the world that you’ll move another muscle until the day you too inevitably meet your demise. Your an odd child, Philius. You aren’t kind, or sweet, or nice, but merely value life. ITs an odd dynamic. If you didn’t value life, I’m sure you’d be nothing but a manicale murderer. Isn’t this correct, Philius.” Everything Zep said was with that sweet, soft voice.

Philius was amazed, baffled, his face unknowingly like a frozen slate of steel. Zep just smiled mildly, continuing “However, there’s a simple, obvious solution that I’ve only had to give a few times to those I find. I see a dying boy, and one such as yourself, with your pretty white hair, green eyes, strange personality, and I want to take you along with me. But I can’t allow you to see what I do. I’m going to make you unconscious, you and your friend. When you wake up, well, It’ll be quite fast. I’ll ensure you won’t dream.


Submitted: July 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 joey hunt. All rights reserved.


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