The hills was actually a bit further than they looked from the town. Took me near on two hours til I started feelin their slow incline in my ankles. I had kept my eyes on the town, wonderin when truth would show itself and they’d come runnin up to try and hack at my limbs and such, but it didn’t never come. In fact they kept a happy watch off ta me for the first fifteen minutes or so of my walk, still waving like the crazies they must be to be so kind to a soulless type like myself. Soon enough though they broke up their group and just seemed to go back to their normal dailying.
After the long walk, I finally stopped at the base of the hills, sun shining without a cloud to muck it up, and the air without a wind to blow away my own stink. I quickly came to noticing that there weren’t a sound around, save for my own breathin, and that slow ring in my ears that I only heard when everything was all quiet like right now. Nothin, not a wild dog, lizard, snake, or even the flies that seemed so smitten with my soulless husk. There weren’t a bit of life out here, and I didn’a like that much.
The second bit of strange hit me the moment I was fully in the hills, the tops rolling over above me, and bits of loose rock tumblin down as if something was knockin em loose. Somethin that was stalkin me, eyein’ me with it’s dark eyes. Cept when I’d look, that same nothing greeted me again and again.
I kept at eyein’ the ground for prints or some such sign, but none was ever there. And I still weren’t feelin any spooks. I had a sort-of sense for such things, and I’m fair for certain there weren’t none around. But the pebbles above kept fallin, following me through the hills just as they continued to grow above me further, and I sunk down into the deeper valleys as the sun finally became hidden from me.
It got moist around me, quick, and in a place that didn’a rightly seem it should be. Black grass, devil weed, was growing at my feet, and reaching out far ahead of me. Oft times, this stuff grew up on blood, you’d find it in or around secluded areas in the world, which weren’t many, mind you, as most a the killin I seen’s done out in the streets, or in some structure or nother. Scribbits is a dark feeder. Rip their prey to bit pieces, but as I ain’t seen any thing livin round here, don’t figure I’d get off so easy with just a few Scribbits to deal with. No, I reckon this is them missin youngsters, or at least the emptied fillins of em.
I kept on, the soft ground dippin further inward, and the devil grass getting thicker. The hills above rose high now, and when the still-falling pebbles came tumbling down they made a racket, and gave me a sec or two to get out of their way. But the little ones would shake loose some of the larger ones, and I found I couldn’t avoid em all, and I got one that knocked my hat off and everything.
It had kicked me down, the devil grass rising above my head now. Then I heard it, faint, little whispers really, echoing in my head, out there around me, but close enough to be inside. It was wicked speak, not alive, but not dead yet either. And them little bits, they knew my name.
“He has come!”
“Rejoice! In his name we should sing.”
They was beginning to come in waves now. Each of em layered all on top or under the other. They was getting louder, like they was gatherin around me.
“He’s the one, the dark-eyed stranger.”
“The one who was summoned.”
“Ill speaking worm!”
“What condition affects you summit-seeker?”
“The demon is among us, we should send it home.”
“The dark eyes, they will free us.”
“No, they will suffer us deeper.”
I was startin to get dizzy, I felt my mind floatin around with the voices in my own head, like I was just another of em swimmin around up there. I knew better an to listen to the devil weed, never bow your head to it, but the rock brought me down, down to the enchanted specklin of the living grass and their trance talkin.
“Don’t listen, speak not to the way warder.”
“some more, give it more…”
“help, please help us dark rider.”
“he does not help. The dark rider, the Abacus, he is the reason for our deaths.”
“Yes, the reader, the sight of the soulless.”
“So you all’s the missin youngsters right?” I called out in the pool of em.
“See, he sees, already he has begun.”
“Okay, enough already. I’ll need my head to get the one that done poured your excesses out here.”
“It tells us, it commands.”
“No, not his purpose.”
“But he speaks truth? We are dead?”
“Yes, dead. Souls lost to the separated Earth. Just vile weeds. Now let me go!”
“He preaches, the soulless preaching’s.”
“Enough damned trance talk. I need outta here, or…no, you need out. Get outta my skull!”
“And you will avenge this?”
“The death of us all?”
“Yes, he will. That is why he was summoned.”
“Summoned? No one summoned me. I found a flyer. Reward poster.”
“We will free him then, but must do so as a whole.”
“Wait a sec, answer me. What do you mean summoned?”
“Yes, free him. His soul hole stinks.”
“Then go Dark rider. We release you.”
The voices shot out, and I felt my body again. But I had a question burning in my skull now, a leftover from the weed. The sun was nearly gone from the sky now, I would be in the pitch dark soon. My path would take me further down, deeper still into the valleys, until all light had gone from the place. All light save for a single glimmer coming from an opening just ahead.
I gripped the splintering wood handle of my gun, it was cold, but I reckoned it’d be getting warm real soon. I took one last look toward the empty sky, and two glowing red eyes stared back. But one blink later and they was vanished, like they was never really there at all. Probably just some tracer from the weed I figured. I shook it off, and put my focus back on the entrance in front of me. I figgered that my little job was about to be over, and that bag of gold sittin in my satchel was itchin to get to bein spent.
Yeah, I know, this was all workin out a bit too well so far, and of course it wasn’t going to stay that way.