Well's End

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Details were missing from the edges of his sight; the far side of the shaft could no longer be seen. Darkness was coming, dragging his vision away. Thickening mists drew closer about him, drifting over details, deleting distant objects. Birds and other winged things thumped through the heavy air, heading to their lairs. No other living creature could be seen.

Eald held his breath, pressing his back against the rock wall. The darkness enthralled him, pulling at him, tightening his grip, quickening his pulse. His eyes were wide, drinking in details that were swiftly slipping away. Sounds seemed slowed, thicker, richer with meaning and menace. Night creatures cricked and scuttled in their holes, a tiny chorus that tuned and grew, growing large. Minute eyes glimpsed light from the shadows. He released his breath and watched it condense in the chill air.

Eald reached into a fold of his robe and brought out a small stone, fitting easily in his fist. He hefted it, feeling its form and balance, and set it on the ground. He pulled a piece of wire from another fold and carefully scratched a message on the rock. Admiring it in the failing light, he read the words, "Day 44. Lost." He smiled, then added another scrawl, "...Again." He stood up, scraping his back against the wall, keeping his balance on the narrow ledge. Carefully leaning to one side, he drew his arm back and held his breath. He stiffened, then whipped his arm forward. The rock sailed well into the center of the shaft, quickly disappearing into the mist. He listened, hunched forward, hands on his knees, looking into the dark. No sound came to him, of the rock hitting stone or anything else. No sound came at all except for the creatures stirring. He listened a few minutes more then settled back against the wall. Time to go.

Carefully he edged onto his belly and lifted aside a heavy piece of burlap. He paused at the entrance of a large hole for a minute, listening, then slowly moved inside. He carefully replace the cover.