Death’s Apprentice – Part 39

It took a few seconds for Joe to move. He didn’t know whether Hel irritated him more than amazed him. She couldn’t be, what, more than ten years old and here she was skipping off into the dark forest with a pack of hounds. Not wanting to look foolish, Joe hurried after her.

Branches crunched under his foot as he walked deeper into the…dark forest…except it wasn’t dark anymore. A shiver ran down his back. It was as though the trees had pulled up their roots and had moved further apart in order for them to pass through.

The forest was full of what looked to Joe like giant oak trees, their crooked branches like crooked hands reaching out towards the damp earth. Their trunks were disfigured faces watching their every move.

All around him hounds raced through the undergrowth, their noses constantly twitching as they ran.

Joe tried to keep up with Hel and her hounds but they ran like the wind and he was only a mere human, and a clumsy one at that. Brambles grasped at his legs, broken branches tugged at his arms.

He was trying desperately to keep up, to keep at their pace, but that meant not looking at what his feet were doing. He knew what was going to happen before it even happened. His right heel bent at an awkward angle as his foot got caught in bramble and he crashed to the floor.

‘Shit!’ A jolt of pain ran through his crumpled body. His knees screamed in pain, and his wrists throbbed from where he had tried in vain to stop himself falling. Why? Why would he do that when he knew he couldn’t save himself? Why did anyone throw their wrists out to stop themselves falling when they were inevitably going to fall anyway?

Joe smacked the ground with his forehead and gave a long, hard growl. He was so over it! What the hell did he think he was doing running around in the Underworld? He was only one stupid human, for God’s sake!

He rolled over onto his back. There was a sky above him which surprised him because he assumed he was underground. It wasn’t the normal sky he was used to, more of a twilight coloured sky, that strange and gloomy kind of light.