My dog dug up the devil today, regardless of the fact that I asked her not to. I’m not talking about that one with the capital D, Mr. Meet me at the crossroads because I love me some rock and roll. No, this was the type you’d expect to be buried under a strange rock formation in a forest grove, overgrown with brambles and horsetail.
Enveloped in the lively stillness of the rainforest, the only overt energy being spent was hers as she ferreted out the scents that make her balmy with excitement. Digging at the foundations of places where tree meets earth, rock meets dirt, burrow meets barrow with no expectation of consequence beyond her instinctive need to know.
I didn’t need to know and told her so, though she rarely considers my feelings in moments such as this.
I felt him before he appeared, all wild eyed and attired in brier. My skin started to prickle and my eyes to water, as though someone had just opened the lid of a soup pot filled with rich spices my nose could not discern beyond a cacophony of memories tied to scent. Underneath it all, the familiar stench of rot, of something left alone for too long, or perhaps not quite long enough.
A sense of self preservation settled into the base of my skull and I cast about quickly for a stick large enough to do some damage, if it should come to that. Well aware of the potential futility of this plan, because really, who can tell what kind of powers someone who has been entombed alive in the earth for an unknown amount of time might have, but still needing to make the effort. I laid my hands on a branch the length of my own body and then some, light enough to wield as a staff, heavy enough to smash some otherworldly kneecaps if given the chance.
I watched him climb from the ground, spitting soil from between dark red lips, his long hair and beard a tangle of moss and loam, not yet registering how and why and who had released him from his prison. His clothing was in remarkable condition, considering he had been living under a cairn of sorts, though it was impossible to tell what colour his long shirt and pants had originally been. His bare feet and hands were the same muddy hue as his face, not surprisingly.
My dog had stopped barking and come to stand beside me. We both watched warily from a distance, as he wiped the dirt from his eyes and blinked rapidly, squinting in an attempt to adjust to the sudden brightness of the world outside. The dark of his skin made the green of his eyes unusually bright, now that they were open and mostly free of muck. He coughed, more delicately than I expected and cleared his throat. He still hadn’t noticed us. I was just wondering what the chances of convincing a dog to tiptoe away from this very curious scene would be, when he spoke, surprisingly in perfectly enunciated English, his voice cracking just a touch from disuse.
“And what exactly are you planning to do with that enormous branch you are holding so awkwardly? You might feel more confident if you had something slightly smaller.”
I don’t know what was worse. That he had seen us, or that he was right.