The thoughts of survival, now a hope scattered like dandelion seeds in the wind. The panic returned as I saw the Man in Black step forward. In the belt of his robe rested a goat horn- a rather large goat horn. It looked two feet long and the shape of a funnel cloud; hollow, and the end brought to a point. The Man in Black placed his right hand on the horn and drew it from its resting place like a knight entering to battle. As he did, the old lady starting chanting, and the figures in red removed their hoods. Their heads were covered in mask- at least that’s what it looked like- of serpents and cats. The Man in Black stepped forward and threw back his hood. A black goat head rested on his shoulders. No mask, just an honest to goodness goat head, and a big one at that.

I could hear my heart beating in my ears. I thought for certain I teetered on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Tunnel vision clouded my eyes again and my bladder let go. I could hear the piss as it trickled off the stone slab and onto the floor. Unlike last time, I knew this was the end, so I closed my eyes and prayed.

I could hear the footsteps of the Man in Black as he walked around to my side. As he stood over me, I listened as he breathed and grunted. I opened my eyes to see him raise the goat horn above his head, gripping it with both hands. With one fluent motion, he brought the horn down with so much force, I could hear the air whistle through its center. The whistling sound then followed by a loud gurgling crunch, as it broke through my breast bone and entered my heart. The pressure, so immense. It felt like someone dropped a sky scraper on my chest. My heart exploded like a water balloon. A fountain of blood rose in the horn and poured out the top. I inhaled like I tried to suck all the air out of the room. The dullness of the pain made it feel is if someone had reached in and scooped my heart out with a trowel. The last thing I remembered was staring into the dark eyes of the goat head, then I faded to black.

*     *     *     *     *

When I awoke, I still had no clothes. The old bitch and her robed dipshits, gone. I stood waist deep in a marsh. I studied my body, and it was caked with drying mud. Leaves of marsh plants sat draped over my left shoulder and down my left breast. I reached up and felt my hair. It was matted with mud as well. I ran my fingers through it and pulled out a few strings of leaves coated with a film of slime. I flung them off my fingers and into the water.

I turned my attention back to the marsh. I stared out into it the gray haze. A thick fog settled just inches above the water. The heat of the water felt nice against my skin. The humidity sat in the air with visible thickness, and a dingy smell filled my nostrils. A dim light lit the gray atmosphere, but I still couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead. With the caution of a bomb squad, I began wading through the water. I could feel the mud at the bottom of the marsh leak between my toes with each step. As I trekked through the swamp, I cried out into the hollow fog. “Hello? Hello? Anyone? Help me! Please…" I paused for a moment to listen for a response, but no one answered. In fact, all remained quiet…too quiet. No bugs buzzed, no frogs croaked, and no crickets chirped.

I turned to my left, then my right. All I could hear was the breaking of the water as I moved. To my right some sort of marsh plant waved at me. Through the fog, it reflected a pale, green color. Its leaves, thin and wispy, but rough to the touch. “What the hell?" I mumbled to myself. I glanced around for a few more moments, then decided to keep moving.

After several minutes of wandering through the fog, I came to a spot in the marsh where the fog began to dissipate. Up ahead in the distance I could see a large, dark silhouette. I paused again in caution, held my hand over my brow, and tried to peer through the fog. I stood there motionless as the fog cleared. The silhouette took shape- land. I waded as fast as I could through the marsh. I didn’t know what hid under the water, but I didn’t want to stay in it a second longer. When I got within two hundred feet of the land, the fog vanished. Staring back at me sat an island no bigger than my living room. But it wasn’t the island that caught my attention. It was what it contained.

There before me stood a tree like none I had ever seen. Its trunk was as thick as an oak, but only half as tall. It’s branches, which were innumerable, seemed to reach outward more than upward, like a weeping willow, except thicker. The tree was a blackish-gray color, and not one leaf adorned its branches. I climbed out of the marsh and onto the island. A cold chill came over me, and I began to shiver. The feel of mud on my feet now replaced with the rough roots of the tree, which protruded through the dirt. I approached the tree and reached out a hand. I placed it with gentleness on one of the branches and began rubbing my fingers over it. Though it looked rough, it felt like hair; animal hair.

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