[I.II.] Effigy

echoing's picture




When you'll find a place to hide
Don't forget to wipe the floor
It's your blood that they will find



















And they'll remember to be called
At the ghoul beneath the walls
It's your heart that they will find








If you find a place to hide
Don't forget to seal the door
It's your mind that they will find






















And they'll remember to be called
Like a ghoul behind the walls
It's your soul that they will find




















When they tear the ceiling down
And they torch the beams and rafters
It's your bones that they will find





















They'll write your name onto the plaque
And replace the house of man
With a deathly streak that glows






















When you find a place to hide
Don't forget to wipe the floor
It's your blood that they will find



And remember to be called
Like a ghoul behind the walls
It's your mark that they will find








When they tear the ceiling down
And they torch the beams and rafters
It's your bones that they will find



They'll write your name onto the plaque
And replace the house of man
With a deathly streak that glows




I come here to discover the truth of these rumors for myself. We were promised an Endless life and an Endless forest. Yet there are so many whose faces swim before my eyes who I cannot account for among the forest’s numbers. Like them, these rumors of another place hidden from us arise indefinitely. My memory may be foggy, but I have a hunch. The missing and this place connect. I intend to find out how.

More and more lately do I doubt Their words. Perhaps this makes me a blasphemer and this my last act as an apostate.



She must have imagined it, she assumes. Trees do not have a heartbeat. There’s no pulse in sap, no magic that could make a tree live. Rationales are easy when you’re desperate. They come swiftly to her mind and tongue, settling in layers like so much sediment until she’s poured herself a perfect foundation to stand upon once more. It is her nature to rationalize what she cannot lose and to cauterize what she can. It is easy to risk danger when loss is so much heavier.

So Hlin goes back.



I choose to believe that this is an act of utmost faith. I wish to know what was concealed from me and in so doing, renew my dwindling faith. The Gods are good; they act in our best interests. I cling to this hope and know that its rationale has worn thin. Yet I fear that what I discover will finally cut that last remaining thread. There is no reason for a God to lie. And yet, they have.



This time, the forest is darker. She finds this strange. It’s noon, she thinks. The sun is high in the sky. She does her best not to think about these facts. She has learned to avoid fear by glancing out of the corners of her eyes—just enough to keep it in view, but not to see it entirely. She focuses on what’s in front of her.

It is a shack. Perhaps this is too generous a name for the broken-down bones of the structure in front of her, but it does still have walls and the barest outline of having been a home, once. An overgrown flowerbed has gone wild out front. A broken-down pile of wood nearby could have been a wheelbarrow. There is a path to the front door, which hangs open and drooping to the side of its entrance.
She has seen other pieces of construction in the Reaches before, so it doesn’t surprise her now. But it does unnerve her. The greying remnants of wood look like broken fingers—ah, but shacks don’t have fingers.

These sorts of places do often hold secrets, though. She’s curious what this one is cradling.



It has been three days. That was all it took to know I have made a mistake. Not my theory that this place is a prison—it certainly is. My mistake lay in believing that I would not become one of its prisoners. That I would find the truth and it would not corrupt me. That something outside myself would deign to protect me from something it hoped I would not see.



She goes in through the door, as if this will make her intrusion more polite. She is rabbit-scared, ducking her head at small noises and flinching at shadows. She is not brave, but she does not need to be. It’s only a shack. A decaying husk of nothing.

The interior is dark and cool. It takes her eyes a long moment to adjust. The roof is still mostly holding, thanks to the infinite summer days and mild weather. The floor is speckled with light where its construction has failed. She steps carefully to avoid these patches as if staying to the shadows will protect her.



Even the most desired truths can do great harm. I believed that I would not flinch from anything. Now I wish I had been more of a coward. I would have lived longer and better without the knowledge what I found here.



This shack, she finds, has many secrets, but none that mean anything to her. Her eyes pass over glass jars full of strange specimens, bound books with titles she can’t read, shards of broken porcelain that could have belonged to a plate. She hovers for a long moment over a doll, its burlap body stained with mud. It seems out of place here, but that is all. All that’s left of the former inhabitants is useless to her.

She is about to be disappointed when she spots the final room, its door half open and inviting.



To my brothers. I am sorry. I am not strong enough to undo what has been done to you. If that is you at all.



Not all secrets are kind. She has known this since she was a child, but she has forgotten to be careful at the worst time.

When she enters the room, he is what sticks out. His pelt is ruby red in the darkness like a flare of fire. She hesitates. He might be asleep,



save for stillness of his ribcage.

Hlin throws up.

I do not expect forgiveness. I lived faithful and now I die an unbeliever. I go to whatever awaits me with open eyes.



When she gains control of herself again a few minutes later, she forces herself to inspect the corpse. He’s been here a while and yet he has not decayed. She does not think about this either. Beside him are scattered pages and a single amulet; all that’s left of whoever he was.

She turns the pages daintily, as if his spirit might leap from them to devour her. When it doesn’t, she grabs the pages and settles down outside the door. Hungry eyes seek words, starving for some hint that coming back here was not a mistake.

To the one who finds this, you know now that I fell here. Failure was always a likely outcome of my duty, even though I refused to see it. I pass these notes on to you, unlucky traveler. May you find a way to do what I could not.






And most of all: be careful. Whatever found me will surely find you as well.



Reassurance is not what she finds.
















































































































































































Instead,

something finds her.


Priest art by Ammy.
Amulet art by TrueGryffon.
Song is "It's Your Bones" by Bibio.
Some of you might remember The Priest from way back when. This is where he ended up.

Poor Priest. Again, the

Poor Priest.
Again, the music really suits.
Not out of the woods yet, Hlín.

Signature by Terabetha
Kaoori's picture

Ah, the Priest.. old friend.

Ah, the Priest.. old friend.

This was giving me goosebumps! You're a wonderful writer.