The Forest

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Drums reverberated behind his eyes, driving a dull knife of pain deep within his mind.

His body shift side to side as if dangling over an open abyss.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

“What’s going on?” Was what he wanted to say but his tongue, it seemed, had swelled inside his mouth. He opened his eyes, fear electrifying his body. Colors swirled around his head. Below him  stones and grass passed, oblivious to his plight. Piles of pine needles and leaves stared back at him as his mind registered where his body was in space.

“Mmph!” Gagging on a taught rag, he drew in a deep breath. Cool, sweet air filled his nostrils. I am upside down.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The drums sounded louder and clearer now. He looked up and felt every hair on his body rise. Above him his hands and feet ached as tight leather bands bound his limbs to a thick wooden pole.

What is going on? Why am I here? Who’s doing this to me?

Boom. Boom. Boom.

A spiraling trail of smoke passed over him, filled his nose. Tears welled in his eyes, blurring his vision as movement and light caught his eyes.

Two figures strode in front and behind him. Their breath came in heavy grunts and gasps. Twisted muscles bulged beneath naked skin as they carried his body onward. In the dimness of passing trees he saw vast silhouettes. Huge arms and heaving backs slick with sweat held the pole secure.

Following up the curve of his captor’s backs he noticed something wholly out-of-place. Chills raced over his scalp as he realized what he saw. Pairs of thick twisting horns curled back over their heads.

“Mmmrrphng!” His shout did little, but elicit a sharp grunt from the form at his feet. Their pace quickened.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Above the now struggling form, light grew on passing foliage. At first he thought it was the dawn, but a red-orange glow danced over a passing tree. His eyes stung as a wave of smoke passed over the three figures.

It’s a fire.

The man wrenched his shoulders around, straining to look past his horned captors. Beyond  flames danced in an open pit, great branches piled on one another, blackened by heat.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

Figures danced in the light, writhing and shimmering around the open flames. Swinging from side to side the man yanked and scrabbled at his bonds. Desperate to sink his teeth into the solid rope knots he only succeeded in biting his own forearm.

He could see two large iron poles, with forked tops, on either side of the fire now.

“Hhhrrrghng!” He screamed, but only strangled fear leaked through. I’m going to die. He though, as the light became unbearable to his eyes. I’m going to die.

The men holding him lifted the pole even higher. Flames reached for him.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

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