This week’s Chuck Wendig challenge is to write the final 500 words of a story that 2 other people have already written the beginning and middle to.
There are Things in the Well
“Here she comes, Elvy.”
Elvert crunched on a handful of candy and shaded his eyes against the sun. “New girl?”
Trom kicked at a snail and nodded toward the twig of a girl walking down the dirt road about fifty yards distant. “Leza, I think.”
The stones of the well were cool against his back, and in the sweltering humidity he was reluctant to leave them behind. Still, she’d only be new in town for so long. He stood and stretched and spit his lime candy into the well, and jogged off to intercept her, with Trom following like a hungry cat in his wake.
“Leez!” Elvert called when he was close enough to make out the pattern on her backpack. The new girl said nothing, just quickened her pace.
“Hey, Leez!” Trom shouted.
She folded her arms and bowed her head, stringy blond hair falling in a curtain across her face. The boys fell into step beside her while she did her best to ignore them. They dogged her steps, staring at her, until she felt uncomfortable enough to speak. “It’s Leza.”
“You’re new here, ain’t ya?” Elvert spit a pink gob on the grass next to the road.
Leza gave the tiniest of nods. Trom stepped in front of her and she had to pull up short, hugging her notebook to her chest. He folded his arms and laughed. “You don’t know about the initiation, do you?”
She rolled her eyes and tried to step around Trom, but Elvert cut her off. “Of course she don’t know, Trom. We gotta show her.”
“I’m gonna be late for dinner,” Leza protested uselessly.
“Won’t take long. It’s right over there,” Elvert said, pointing over her shoulder.
“The well,” Trom said, drawing his lips into a silent “ooh” after he said it.
Leza turned to look. There was nothing in the field but the squat, dingy-looking well sticking up like a tombstone in the tall grass. Her stomach felt heavy looking at it. She thought to run, but Elvert’s sweaty arm wrapped around her shoulder and she felt herself being pulled toward the well.
“I can’t,” she wailed, but in a few seconds the boys pressed her belly against the grimy stones and she felt them leaning with her over the lip to peer down into the depths. Strands of hair wafted into her eyes and mouth in the sudden breeze that issued from the dark. The bottom of the well was eclipsed in blackness, but silvery reflections twisted and writhed far below. The faraway hissing she’d thought was the sound of water now seemed alive and excited at the three heads peeking over the edge.
But her head was the only one peeking over. The boys had disappeared behind her back. She lifted herself to find them, but just as she moved she felt strong hands on her back and then she was tumbling through space, the cold stones racing past her, the hissing growing louder.
Leza fell quickly, like in the dream she had the night before. She reached with futility toward the wall, trying to grab hold. She scraped some skin off her knuckles and forearm and whined a little. She was afraid and expected to fall into a bed of snakes. But she fell longer and faster than she expected to, not reaching the bottom but still moving in that fashion, feeling as if she had taken a turn at some point and started going west instead of southward, downward, into the hell of whatever snakes were waiting for her. Please God, let them be garden snakes. Gross but tolerable.
She landed with a sort of plop on what felt like soft dirt or clay. She scrambled to get up, thinking she was in the midst of snakes. Though she still heard the hissing, and much louder than before, like it was all around her, there were no snakes and there was no water. She got her bearings and found her view brighter than before, seeing a great deal of dirt and a hill off in the distance. Suddenly she is accosted from behind, a hand over her mouth. She struggled behind the hand, a voice at her ear with warm breath.
“Don’t be afraid, and don’t make noise. They are mean when they perceive fear,” said the calm voice of a boy, hand still gripping her mouth. He let his grip go a little so she could speak.
The hand closed down in caution.
“Gibbering Whispleafs. They will feed you and help you but you must not show fear. They can feel it. Promise not to scream?”
She shook her head to the affirmative.
He removed his hand and came around front of Leza. He reached into a puddle and then the dirt, making mud. He started to paint her face in muddy streaks. She flinched but she stood firm.
“To cover emotion,” he explained.” I have been here three weeks.”
He painted her nose.
“I don’t know.” The boy’s brown eyes looked into hers.
“I think they are studying me. As long as I am happy, they feed me. If I get upset, the hissing gets louder.”
“What is your name?”
He opened his mouth to answer and suddenly he was pulled away, so quickly that she did not see him go. He was there- then he was not.
Elvert and Trom heard a noise. Suddenly someone came flying out of the well, landing on the ground near their feet.
“Drogo! It worked!”
The boys hugged their best buddy. He looked around in wonder.
“They demanded a trade,” Elvert said. “We threw in the new girl.”
Drogo started pacing. “She looked nice. I was trying to help her.”
He looked at his friends.
“We have to get her out.”
They looked at one another silently, then looked toward the road. There was only one way. They watched for someone to pass.
Leza’s nose itched with drying mud. She looked up at the small bright circle of blue sky high above. There were no faces. She turned away angrily, swiping tears from her eyes. Why was everyone always so mean to her? She spun in a circle and spotted what made it brighter than what it seemed from above – there was a tunnel from which a breeze blew. Leza shrugged. What other choice did she have?
There was light at the end. Eventually she came out the other side. She couldn’t suppress her shock and gasped. She was standing in a clearing, almost like the one she had come from, with the crumbling well, but everything was opposite. The sky, Leza briefly wondered how there was sky in the first place, was a strange burnt orange. The grass, which should be green like she was used to, instead was a disturbing dark red. There was a small stand of trees that edged the blood red field, their trunks a bright blue, as if someone had played a prank and painted them all.
Leza’s pulse rose and her heart thundered. She heard the hissing again. It was growing louder. She heard them before she saw them, and she had to stifle a scream. She was grateful for the mud that the boy had painted onto her face, hiding her emotions.
The hissing, she realized, was the rustling, whispering sound of dried leaves. The creatures, what was it the boy had called them? Gibbering something? They crawled down from the trees, and Leza realized they were almost like the trees themselves – tall, and thin, their arms and legs far too long and spindly. Leza shuddered in disgust. They had branch like spines growing out of their backs, topped with what looked like dead leaves. Their skin was greyish-blue; camouflage.
They walked in an odd, loping gait, on all fours, but when they got close to Leza they rose up on their hind legs, towering above her.
“New blood?” one Whispleaf said to another with the rasping sound of leaves.
Leza raised her chin defiantly and stared at the grotesque creatures in their world of opposites. “I was tricked.”
The Gibbering Whispleafs looked at each other, shaking their spines noisily in confusion. The one at the front cocked his head, its long face pulled into a look of perpetual screaming. “Tricked?”
Leza nodded, relieved her heart had slowed and proud she hadn’t shown any fear.
“Yes, these boys, above, tricked me and sent me down here.” She had an idea. “Have you ever been above? There is a lot of fear,” she said. As soon as people see them, she thought.
The Gibbering Whispleafs, their spines clattering spoke over each other, gibbering, like their name sakes. She caught the words “new blood” again.
“No.” They said as one, trembling with excitement.
“We can’t,” said the leader.
“We need to be invited,” the leader explained.
Leza smiled widely. She had always wanted to get revenge.