Sodden Images

Hell to Pay: Chapter 11

The heat of the day was agonizing beneath his many layers and heavy pack.  The tall grass grated against his hands and set them ablaze with tiny cuts up his wrists.

He could see a large horse chestnut tree in the distance.  Many of the five-leaved fronds adorned the ground, faded into a delicate brown color.  He studied the plant’s structure, much like the five points of his pentagrams.  Many more were still attached to the tree, providing shade. Spiked pods were scattered about, stuck among the tufts of grass.

Those who had split open revealed the dark flesh inside, the tree’s offering of itself.  They immediately caught Teivel’s eye, who went to gather them up, carefully prying apart the sharp pods that encased them.

Hands full of the chestnuts, he placed himself down beside the trunk of the tree and removed some of his layers, along with the sack that held still not much more than his study material.  If nothing else, his papers would stay with him forever.

Biting into the tough maroon skin, his teeth sunk into the pale flesh.  It was still moist and rigid, and the skin was bitter.  He still had his knife, tucked into his belt.  When he originally picked it up, it felt heavy and rigid against his thigh, but now it felt like it belonged there.  He slipped the knife out of its leather sheath, and proceeded to slice at the tough nut.

His fingertips ached as he attempted to peel at the skin that still held tight to the flesh, but his stomach ached more.  Despite their texture and bitterness he managed to put a handful of them down.  Feeling satisfied and refreshed, he picked himself back up and slung the pack back over his shoulder.

The sun started to set in the opposite direction of the sky and Teivel began marching in file with his shadow.  His stomach rumbled, and twisted itself just a bit.  He chose to ignore it, but before long it became impossible to do so.  It felt as if someone had punched him in the gut, which was not a feeling he missed from his days in school.  His knees crumpled and he set himself down on the ground, shoving the pack off.

Curled over, he began to convulse, wishing he could simply get the affair over with.  Tears pooled in his eyes, and his thoughts went to his mother.  He though of her, comforting him in times like this.  He though of her, wrapping her hands around his neck, choking him.  He vomited.

Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, tears still in his eyes, he pushed himself up with his waning strength.  The sun was still bright, and Teivel wanted his journey to be over.  He had lost track of how many hours he had been travelling.  His feet laid heavily into the ground as he stomped on ahead. The trickle of water came to his ears.  He licked his dry lips and he realized how thirsty he was.

The earth sloped downwards to reveal the source of the sound, a small stream, clear and ice cold.  Teivel slid down the slope and up to the bank of the water.  The cold water flowed over his hands.  He brought it to his face, rubbing the dirt and tears away.  His cupped hands brought some to his mouth, it flowed smoothly down his throat.

As he tried to pick himself up and continue, the mud beneath his feet gave way.  He felt himself slip, in danger of going into the water.  The pack slipped off his shoulder, throwing him off balance.  He fell flat in the shallow water with a dull thud and a splash.  He felt like crying, screaming.

Crawling across the slippery stones, he made his way to the other side.  The pack had been dragged though the water.  Teivel was freezing, but he couldn’t care less.  The fished out the roll of papers from his pack.  The edges dripped water.  Many were soaked through.  A lump formed in his throat.

Unfurling them revealed the ink, starting to run into an illegible mess.  The sheet with the bloody pentagram had started to run as well, turning the browned blood into a sanguine mess.  He could not let these images disappear.  He had to double check, the knife was still firmly in the sheath.

Kneeling down in the mud, he rolled up his soaked sleeved.  His wrists were pale white, with dark blue lines running just underneath the skin.  He flipped his wrist over, revealing the Star of David, ever present, faded into a dark red.  He looked back at the knife, reflecting back at him a dull sliver of a reflection.  The point was sharp.

As the colors of the ink and blood sunk into the textures of the soggy paper, so he sunk the point of the knife against his flesh.  He winced at it pierced into his skin, causing blood to pool at the surface.  The blade was too big for his small hands, especially in this situation, clumsy.  He held it up by the tip of the blade and guided it like a shoddy quill pen.  With each symbol it became easier, as if he had given up feeling the pain.  Slowly, his arms became a canvas for the artistry he still knew very of.

With all of the symbols properly etched, he placed the knife down in the dirt.  He noticed his hands were shaking.  He turned back to the water.  Dunking his arms in, the water stung and burned.  The cold sent numbness up into them.  Tiny strands of blood floated from his fresh wounds, moving downstream.  When he could no longer feel anymore, he swung himself backwards onto the bank, collapsing in the mud.  Blood still pooled at the incisions.  He was exhausted and cold.


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