The Dark and Shadowy Places

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There are Things In the Well

Leza’s nose itched with drying mud. She looked up at the small bright circle of blue sky high above. There were no faces. She turned away angrily, swiping tears from her eyes. Why was everyone always so mean to her? She spun in a circle and spotted what made it brighter than what it seemed from above – there was a tunnel from which a breeze blew. Leza shrugged. What other choice did she have?

There was light at the end. Eventually she came out the other side. She couldn’t suppress her shock and gasped. She was standing in a clearing, almost like the one she had come from, with the crumbling well, but everything was opposite. The sky, Leza briefly wondered how there was sky in the first place, was a strange burnt orange. The grass, which should be green like she was used to, instead was a disturbing dark red. There was a small stand of trees that edged the blood red field, their trunks a bright blue, as if someone had played a prank and painted them all.

Leza’s pulse rose. She heard the hissing again. It was growing louder. She heard them before she saw them, and she had to stifle a scream. She was grateful for the mud that the boy had painted onto her face, hiding her emotions.

The hissing, she realized, was the rustling, whispering sound of dried leaves. The creatures, what was it the boy had called them? Gibbering something? They crawled down from the trees, and Leza realized they were almost like the trees themselves – tall, and thin, their arms and legs far too long and spindly. Leza shuddered in disgust. They had branch like spines growing out of their backs, topped with what looked like dead leaves. Their skin was greyish-blue; camouflage.

They walked in an odd, loping gait, on all fours, but when they got close to Leza they rose up on their hind legs, towering above her.

“New blood?” one Whispleaf said to another with the rasping sound of leaves.

Leza raised her chin defiantly and stared at the grotesque creatures in their world of opposites. “I was tricked.”

The Gibbering Whispleafs looked at each other, shaking their spines noisily in confusion. The one at the front cocked his head, its long face pulled into a look of perpetual screaming. “Tricked?”

Leza nodded, relieved her heart had slowed and proud that she hadn’t shown any fear.

“Yes, these boys, above, tricked me and sent me down here.” She had an idea. “Have you ever been above? There is a lot of fear,” she said. As soon as people see them, she thought.

The Gibbering Whispleafs looked at each other, their spines clattering. They spoke over each other, gibbering. She caught the words “new blood” again.

“No.” They said as one, trembling with excitement.

“We can’t,” said the leader.

“Why not?”

“We need to be invited,” the leader explained.

Leza smiled widely. She had always wanted to get revenge.

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