A walk in the woods helps me relax and release tension. The fact that I’m dragging a body behind me should be irrelevant.
It’s been a week since I found something this good. The moment I saw the poorly dressed, disheveled beggar lift his large, coin-like eyes towards a man on the street, in an attempt to get his pity, I knew I had found gold. It was perfect. The ring was glistening on his finger, drawing me in.
Murdering him had been easy. All I had to do was give him a little sweet taped to the usual charity. As is the case with beggars, he had been starving enough to not bother to question the generosity. The sweet was slow to effect. It was only by midnight that he finally passed into a dreamless sleep from which he would never wake. The street was, predictably, empty when I went to retrieve the body.
Now I drag him behind me, panting a little from the effort but still humming under my breath as the light breeze ruffles my hair. His hands are cuffed as I pull him along. Now and then the sound of his clothes ripping against the uneven ground reaches my ears. Zar would be pleased. I expect to be rewarded after such tremendous success. Maybe a change of clothes? Or is that too much to hope for?
No sooner do I think this than I hear a swooshing noise from behind me. I halt, swallowing.
Dread seeps into my body, rooting me to the ground. I turn around and come face to face with Zar.
His whole body is covered in a black shroud of mist, unwavering. As always, nothing of his body or features is visible due to the black mist enveloping him. The wind stills. His presence is so chilling it seems the forest’s temperature has dropped by a few degrees.
“What?” I squeak.
“He doesn’t have the ring on him,” Zar says. His voice is all honey. Magical and wonderful, so enchanting you might as well drown in it if you don’t know the sweet poison that’s hidden underneath the layers. “Or the knife.”
My eyes widen. I take a step back. Zar never speaks false. But I was sure there was a ring! I glance down at the cuffed hands I’m clenching and almost trip at the horror that clamps my veins at what I see.
This can’t be happening. No no no no no! I frantically release the body and turn it over. I grab at the filth-stained clothes, groping for the ring that I was sure he had on his finger. But there’s nothing there. Terror grits by bones and my hands scramble to find hold of something else, anything to prove that today hasn’t been an utter failure.
A scream rips through me as I realize there’s nothing on it. I release the body and crumble on the ground, shaking. No! What did I do!?
“You have failed,” Zar hisses.
“N—no,” I whisper. “Please.”
“This is the second time.” The still mist around him starts to swirl slowly, the way it does when he’s mad. Without making any sound, his form comes forward, till he’s only a few inches away from me. My breath catches in my throat. I attempt to stand up but his hand, cold and hard as iron grabs my shoulder and shoves me back to the ground. I struggle, attempting to break free of his grip but I might as well be fighting a stone wall.
All around me I hear eerie, whistling noises, like the wind rustling against the trees, except the sound is so deadly I’m sure it’s not the wind. I look up to see the whole forest swirling around me, the trees all seem to be drawing closer, their long, slender branches waving madly. Zar’s one hand is outstretched towards the heavens, and I know he’s the one controlling the woods. When he speaks again, his voice is deadly.
“You know what happens to those who don’t do what I say?”
Without warning, searing pain shoots through my chest. I gasp as I feel biting cold air seep into my body through my mouth, all the way into my lungs, freezing every atom. My chest constricts, my whole body convulsing. Zar releases his grip on me, and I fall face-first to the ground at his feet. There’s no air inside of my body. Any second now I’ll be gone, just like every other fool like me whom Zar has snuffed the life out of when they dared to make a mistake. The noises from the trees grow louder and louder till I feel like they’re upon me, swallowing me whole. I feel like I’m choking. I thrash wildly, clawing madly at the ground, trying to break free of Zar’s spell…
“I think that’s enough.”
Almost as soon as it began, it stops. The wind dies out and the hustle of the trees ceases. The biting chill leaves my bones. My breathing, though still restricted, evens out slowly. The forest is once again quiet. The only sound left now is that of my rattling breaths.
And then I start to sob. I taste mud as I cry hysterically into the ground, my fingernails gripping the soil as if I’ll fall if I let go.
“Why?” I manage to croak. It’s a pain to speak. “Why would you d—do this to me? I’m the only servant you have.”
I don’t dare look up. I hear his voice as if from far, far away.
“Be careful. Or your incompetence might one day be the death of you.”
I don’t hear him walking away. I just hear the rustle of the branches as they make way for him until I know he’s gone. I’m still lying listlessly on the dark ground after he’s walked away, gasping, shaken from my near-death encounter, my entire body hurting, my unanswered question still swirling in my head, hanging in the chill night air.
Inspired by a prompt I found on Pinterest- write a story that begins with, “A walk in the woods helps me relax and release tension. The fact that I’m dragging a body behind me should be irrelevant.”
If any of you are writers, go ahead and give this a shot. I found it interesting. Also let me know how you liked my story, in the comments!