Updated: Nov 3
[cw: death, war, loss of a loved one] I have always known that the detritus at the bottom deteriorates the fastest. The suffocating pressure from the top creates the perfect conditions for decay. But even with that knowledge, I have no idea how long I have been down here; how long ago the flesh gave way and left only my bones to scrape imperceptibly against one another in the dark. The Pit may have been cradling me here for two weeks, two years… two decades.
I was camped with my scouting party. We were all sitting around the fire for our evening meal, laughing, reminiscing, and sharing dreams of all that we would do upon returning to a home that we would never again reach. A sudden silence and a stillness crept into each of us. The food or maybe the drink was souring in our bellies. Time slowed down as one by one each of us lost our balance and fell on our sides, our backs, our fronts. I felt a warm, acrid substance leak from the corner of my mouth and drip to the dirt grinding into the soft flesh of my cheek.
The life leeched from my body quickly, but my spirit hovered near, trailing my lifeless form like a loyal dog. After leaving our empty carapaces to cool our makers revealed themselves, dragging shovels in their wake like spaded tails. The digging continued until the sun was high in the sky, and I couldn’t help but wonder at the commitment; at the nonstop rhythm of duty.
And when their obligatory dirge ceased, that is when I met The Pit, and The Pit met me. My body was tossed in first, unceremoniously followed by those of my comrades. My spirit cringed but felt nothing as each fresh corpse was added to the trough, piling atop my familiar yet wholly foreign form. An earthed collection of gaping voids and sightless eyes.
I waited for another spirit to join me in the dark, but none came. I suppose that is to be expected but a small part of me was holding out hope that someone had made a promise like mine. A pact that bound them to the mortal plane, and kept them from abandoning their untenanted frame. But I seemed to be wholly alone in my commitment.
Before I left for the field I held my love in my arms so tightly, as if she may turn to dust at any moment and float away on the wicked breeze. She held me back just as tight, perhaps even more so… I can still remember the tips of her fingers digging into my skin through the linen of my shirt, desperate in their clawing and cloying. Her tears dampened my shoulder as she demanded “You will return to me.” Even in its quavering nature, I recognized it as an unbreakable pact. An oath I swiftly carved into my heart and branded onto my bones.
But here I am, or, was. Reduced to less than carrion. Bones amongst stones, as if the Earth were gathering its tools for some impending divination. I do not know how long it has been but I know my hope winked out some time ago. I often fantasized about The Pit being discovered, the other skeletal figures being untangled from mine, and glimpsing the long-forgotten sun as the rot fell away. Some identifying factors on my person would tie me back to my home, to my love, and I would be born back there. Every shift from the composting of our remains sent a bolt of such anticipation through me, but that longing was never sated.
In my darker moments, I wonder if my love would even be there to receive me if such things did come to pass. Perhaps our home was overrun, or time had overtaken her, or she simply had mourned me and moved on. I clung to the latter as I prepared to release my ties. I made a promise and soaked it into my very soul, but the pressure of The Pit grew stronger every second, transforming my despair into a hard and sharp-edged thing.
As I set fire to our besotted contract I sent an apology into the world and prayed that it would reach her heart or that perhaps I would see my love’s sweet disgruntled face on the other side, cross with me for taking so long to join her.