Each breath of cold black air cleared my mind. I held onto Frank’s arm, supporting his weight, marching him forward. Frank’s white hair gleamed like ash falling into the rich darkness. One step -or drag- at the time, we made our way up the trail towards the boulder field. He was heavier than anticipated. I had to thank myself for that, cause I had been the one to knock him out. It was for a good cause though: safety.
Blue, violet, grey, brown swirled with the darkness of the threshold to form this no-man’s-land of realities. Between the layers of the fabric of the universe, this mock-night sucked all the fringe up. It didn’t matter if it was people, feelings, objects, dreams, moments, or places. They went down the vortex of the Big-Bad-In-Between.
The guardians, Ennoia and Meme, had their own wisdom to pierce this black in their own natural way. They were shaped and born in this place, they came home. I, on the other hand, I was a visitor, a guest by all means. And Frank, he was a juicy snack.
The fog stretched for him. It was the miasma of so many centuries that clogged this side of reality, hiding the landscape that I remembered walking on. It kept billowing and moving, hurriedly shying away from my steps.
Of all inconvenient moments, Frank picked this one to wake up, panic, scream, and thrash around. I wasn’t proud of it, but I dropped him unceremoniously. He scrambled away from me, pointing and baring his teeth. I growled with a flash of anger and frustration. I might have snarled to, which did the trick. Frank froze. His bone-colored face shone bright with terror, his eyes trying to escape their sockets. Great. My original mind-boggling appearance has been a show stopper. Eons ago, it had been enough to drive other humans mad with fear. “It’s me. Calm down.” My voice found a way through his fright, sparked recognition.”You might want to get up. The fog is toxic.”
“Am I hallucinating?” I stretched out my black clawed hand. He flinched.
“You need to stand up.” I tried again. Hand hovering in a hopefully peaceful expression. I couldn’t be quite sure. A mixture of claws, scales, and spikes had always been bad news for mortal beings. Finally, Frank took my hand, and I lifted him up easily. Still, he made a little sidestep, to avoid standing too close to me.
“Mark, is that you?” I nodded. He looked at his hands, then at me.
I shook my head, I understood what he meant. “Just the hair.” Frank stared at me, then nodded. “Nevermind that. We’re close.” I caught a scent. Positively human, warm, milky, and sweet. It was the child. I could smell others too, young and adults, blood and sex. The sin-eater had been here for a while. It must be the caves. That was going to be complicated.
As long as the child was alive, it wasn’t going to hibernate. It was hungry, but it didn’t expect me or the guardians to come to its lair. And I had Frank for bait, so I could ambush it easier. That sounded like a plan. “Listen. The boy is still alive, which is good. You won’t like what’s coming next. The sin-eater hides in the caves ahead, which makes it hard to pin down.”
“So, we need something to coax it out.” I beamed at Frank.
featured image: Kenopsia, by the author