Pain. Agony. His torment was sealed in the torn musculature pulled by the cement-like mud through which he waded. The rains had been plentiful. The wetland was a merciless force of torture… dragging his dreary movements two steps back for every one he planted forward. He was swallowed again and again by the sloshy footholds of the bog, sinking and rising irregularly with a land made unsteady by the torrential season.
He stumbled on, falling. Rising. Forward. Unperturbed and unyielding motions. Relentless, yet mind… relenting. His skeletal frame swayed haphazardly as he sought purchase on the peat. This body was no longer his… This vessel was void of the limits of his conscious mind that screamed at the bend of winter-kissed limbs. He knew not from whence the pain pulsed worse; the cold had long since stolen what feeling he had left to distinguish the source. He propelled forward, compelled by the running figure that scrambled desperately to escape him.
Erratically the creature scurried, slowed by the waterlogged maws of the marshy land that was tainted by the heavy fog of foreboding. He could almost feel sorry for it. But his pity was assassinated by the sting of frayed nerve endings, teared and trifled by the icy clench of the flooded land bathed in moonlight. He needed to catch it. This chase had to end… perhaps then, he could release himself FROM THIS… …
No sooner had he thawed the thought than his hapless hopes froze amid the last foothold of the hungry land.
There was no release. The shackle had shut.
Finally, his foot found solid ground. The soil was slick with the thin sheet of newly formed ice, opaque with the frozen impurities of this corrupted land. But the firm placement of his worn soles renewed the vigour of the chase. Strange, that he could feel this. Such a conflicting pleasure in his tainted purpose… The purpose to which he was prisoner. His disfigured frame drove hard in the direction of the fleeing prey. He pursued. Hungered, eager, agonising strides brought faster the concealment of this hellish hunt: a curtain drawn by the looming trees that welcomed him – the predator pursuing his prey…
But this was not his chase… He knew, as he shuffled underneath the black willow arches that steadily shrouded the ground, that the menace lay in wait – the grand orchestrator of this ominous eve.
He tried once again. With remaining strength, he willed the unfamiliar body backward, pulling at the last vestige of the vessel that once was his…to no avail.
Blundering paws thundered forward into the darkness. There was no release. He could hear the not-so-distant rustle of the creature; running deeper and deeper into his damnation. The pain propelled him; a lancing sensation that echoed the prodding will of the evil hidden in the enclosing shadows. It shot through him in languishing jolts that conjured a scream falling silent on unmoving lips. But he heard it. In the sanity that remained to him, he heard the suffering of his wretched soul. It did not blind his seeing eyes; it did not halt the weathered husk of his body. It did not make him stop.
…but the sight of terror-struck eyes did.
Awareness returned as his physical woe momentarily subsided. His sights were set on the doomed little soul that stared at him in terror. The rapid beat of its heart was palatable for any predator on the verge of the kill. The fear was a burning beacon threatening to melt the chill that clung to them. Only then, did he realise… he was edging closer. The soul whimpered in a crumpled heap against the rockface that had halted its escape. He could almost hear the poor thing chilling it’s own spine as it dug deeper into the cold smooth surface it was backed against… almost as if he could sink into it, away from this nightmare. This nightmare that was him, and not him.
This, was not his body. He knew as his own shadow bathed the helpless whelp in his menacing form. This was not his will. He knew as his mangled fingers closed around the supple neck to muffle a final tragic wail… He wanted to stop. He knew as his grip tightened around the soft flesh that gave way to unholy strength. Tear-filled eyes stared up at him. And in those deathless innocent pools that were being drained of life, he saw the ghoulish stranger that had overtaken his visage…poised to kill without a glint of remorse.
This was not his body. He knew this as he saw the tainted yellow gleam of another pair of eyes over his shoulder… The eyes of the puppeteer glinting from the reflected depth of the sad, luminous orbs of their victim.
But he was not there. His mind was a mere passenger to the hell of his body’s atrocities. This body, that was not his. The beastly fiend that hulked over its kill, was no longer him. It… was mindless.
…the unwilling pawn of the twisted puppetmaster, with its twisted grin from the shadow… the baleful baron of the black willow bog…