A merchant, no different from any other, wandered home one night. He had a successful day, making a fair sum of money for all his wares, and only returning to his home with a small inventory to pack away for the next day’s trip into the proper. His wife would surely be proud of his work today, for it could feed their family for at least two months! This was his break from the poverty that had stricken his family for some time after the destruction wrought by the Null.

He walked him in the cool, still air of the encroaching fall weather, happily meandering home on his usual route. Crime had dropped recently, so he wasn’t so worried about any bandits coming for him or his money. The nocturnal creatures scurried about along the treeline, avoiding any civilized life that would cross by their domain, so the noise of scuttling creatures didn’t bother the merchant all too much. It was usual on his walk home.

It was not the creatures, nor the calm air, nor the empty road alongside the treeline that unnerved the merchant, but rather the sudden silence of the night that wrapped itself around him. The creaking of leaves from rodents in the woodline vanished; the calm air felt as if a creeping breath on the back of his neck, and the empty road no longer felt as if it were a place of content solitude.

The creeping dread clawed its way into his heart as the night around him seemed to grow darker and darker, until the night swallowed his screams for help.

*      *      *      *      * 

Morning came and with the call of the rooster came screams for help. Peasantry surrounded a scene alongside the road that paralleled the treeline, some gawking in fear, others surveying the area angered.

In front of them lay the corpse of a man, clothes shredded, black blood oozing from the gashes across his chest and ribs cracked and mangled. The body was a gruesome, vile sight, but no one could claim to identify who the body belonged to. A young woman joined the crowd, shaking from the potential fear she of what she was about to witness. She hesitantly pushed her way through the mob of nervous pedestrians until she could see the body; a husband who never made it home the night before.


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