THE FINAL CHAPTER…
The tent continued to break down on top of them as it, along with Elizabeth and Kenny, was pulled with the urgent hunger of Murmer Men that hadn’t eaten for years. Keeping their head above the water that had earlier accumulated in the tent was nearly impossible. They were like pieces of meat being shrink-wrapped into a marinade of muddy rain water. They were pulled over bumps, and banged into trees while hearing Connor’s cries outside the tent until the tent stopped and the cries continued to move forward.
They stood to their feet, tent stuck to their backs, coughing the water from their lungs.
Elizabeth found her way out of the suctioned fabric to see Connor being pulled by his legs. “Connor!” she yelled.
Kenny found his way out. “They…” he coughed and then fell into the mud on his knees. “They’re real?”
They watched as the Murmer Men continued on with their friend. The sounds of “mmmmmmrrrrr” were all around them now. There were three of them with Connor. Their bodies appeared tall and muscular, like lumberjack men, although Elizabeth and Kenny could only see half of them. Their legs, if they had any, were underground. Apparently waste up was all they needed to come out of the ground and snatch Connor. As they moved forward through the mud and water, their torsos began to descend deeper into the earth, almost as though they were the earth. And as they descended, so did Connor’s screaming, flailing body. After he was waste deep, his head dropped down, his arms stopped swinging, and his screams stopped. His limp body continued into the mud until his hand was the last Elizabeth and Kenny would ever see of him.
Elizabeth immediately turned and picked up the tent. “Kenny.”
Kenny went from his knees to sitting on his feet.
“Kenny, help me.” She tried lifting the tent, but it was still filled with water. She began rolling it, trying to get the open side to the ground so it could empty. “Kenny!”
“They just. They took Connor. I think he’s dead. Are they going to…eat him?”
“YES Kenny! And they’re going to eat us too if you don’t help me with this tent!” She was able to empty most of the water. She got it back to a standing position. Good enough to hide in anyway, and pulled Kenny in. It filled with water again, but at least it was upright. The only flashlight they had left was damaged when the Murmer Men took Connor. They sat in darkness, but their eyes had already adjusted long ago.
“We’re not safe in here,” said Kenny.
“I know, but it’s safer in here than out there.”
Kenny’s body moved. Not because he wanted to, but because something under him…bumped. “I don’t want to die, Liz. My mom’s going to be so mad at me.”
“I know.” Then she felt a bump. She reached over and put her arms around him. It was a hug because they were terrified…and they were going to be eaten alive…soon.
“What about your mom?” he asked.
“She’s going to kill me too.”
“No! How did she survive?” He pulled free from the hug.
“A tree!” She got to her feet. “She was hiding in a tree when she saw her mom killed! Maybe they can’t leave the mud!” She unzipped the tent and climbed out.
“You’re going out there?”
“We have to get to a tree, Kenny, come on!”
He climbed out as slow as someone being forced to jump from a plane.
“Come on!” she moved him along and started to run towards a tree. She looked back to make sure he was following, which he was. Ahead of her was a tree that didn’t appear as old as the rest and had a good starting limb to get up it. “Over here!” she yelled as she ran, splashing water and mud with every lunge. She grabbed the tree, steadied herself and lifted her leg to the lowest divide. As she pulled her body up she heard Kenny scream and turned. “Nooo!!!” she yelled for him. He was already being pulled under. “Kenny!!” she yelled. They stopped. There were five of them with him, all of them stopped, even the one holding Kenny.
“Liz! Help me!” His legs were already in the mud, and he was letting out screams of pain.
“Leave him alone!” she yelled.
They turned to her, their eyes yellow with flashes of red. They looked back at each other and “mmmmmmrrrrr”ed to each other. The one holding Kenny and another one moved forward again, Kenny continued screaming and trying to push himself away. The rest turned toward Elizabeth, opened their mouths until their jaws hit where their Adam’s apple should be. There were rows of teeth to the back of their throats, similar to a shark’s two rows, but all the way back. Then they let out a high pitched scream as their bodies pushed through the muddy water, rushing toward Elizabeth. She turned back to the tree and started climbing. She heard more “mmmmmmrrrrr”’s, like she was in the middle of a swarm of bees. She looked out and saw them rising from the muck in all directions. The scream from the Murmer Men must have been a siren, to let the others know there was food. To let them know that she was food. She climbed higher and listened to Kenny behind her until he made no other sound.
There must have been at least thirty of them down there. She was as high as she could get without climbing onto the branches that she knew would break from her weight. She straddled her branch with her legs and held on with her arms, praying that the rain would stop. Mom said they went away when the rain stopped. Three of the Murmer Men continued to protrude from the earth until she saw their legs and feet. Close up she could see that as the rain hit them, they would dissolve only to regrow that spot as quickly as the rain washed it away. She was no longer certain they couldn’t leave the mud. Her body was vibrating electric fear in a bubble all around her. Don’t let go. “Go away!” she screamed with tears falling down her face. “Go away!” The Men with legs glided across the mud to the tree. They put their hands on the tree and then leaned like they were trying to push it. They “mmmmmmrrrrr”ed to each other, then dropped their mouths and screamed again. Elizabeth started sobbing. She looked out and saw more of them swarming to her tree. The three stayed out, pushing on the tree while the others in the mud began going forward and backward, zig-zagging through the mud around the tree and under the tree until she felt a slight jerk in the tree. And then another. “Stop it!” she cried. The tree began moving back and forth. They were tearing the roots from underneath, chopping it down from its strongest point.
She came to, coughing water from her lungs while on the back of one of the Murmer Men who was fully out of the ground. She was gliding with him, growing lower to the ground as they moved. He was mushy and slimy underneath her body. She wriggled and pushed his body away until she broke free of his shoulder and was then being pulled by her feet, her face in the water and mud. She used her arms to hold herself up, which was difficult at first, but as the Man lowered into the ground, the angle was less drastic. She screamed between coughs and found a rock to grab onto which slowed the ride enough for her to notice that the rain was finally stopping. There were still a few drips, but they were slowing. The Murmer Men began picking up speed, but she grabbed another rock to slow her down. If she could only delay going under the ground until the rain stopped, she might survive. They were moving again. She felt her feet being pushed into the mud. There was tightness around them. She let out a scream that grew larger as the tightness grew stronger. She felt her feet being twisted, like they were in a grinder. The tearing and ripping continued up her legs the further she went in. It felt like the mud beneath her was nothing but a giant grinder filled with teeth, ripping and grinding at her flesh. As hard as she tried to pull out of the mud, they kept pulling her in. Eating her like a pack of piranhas. Somehow, in her terror, she was able to notice the rain stop and the pulling into the mud slowing to a stop. She ended in a raised area, with no accumulation of rain. She tried pulling herself away, but the tops of her legs were too deep into the mud for her to pull out. She didn’t have any strength. Her body felt cold and light. Then everything fizzled to black.
Karen watched from the distance as the police went to Elizabeth’s fallen body, the EMT’s rushed in behind them, and Tom rushed in behind the EMT’s. Two EMT’s hunched over her, one feeling her neck, the other her wrist. Everything moved in slow motion. She watched the slow movement of the EMT’s gaze from Elizabeth’s wrist up to Tom’s urgent eyes, the EMT shook her head “no”. She saw Tom fall to his knees, grabbing Elizabeth’s lifeless body, and the police pulling him off so he didn’t disrupt any evidence.
Karen’s body fell. The people around her caught her and held her up, but she couldn’t feel them. She felt nothing but the complete emptiness inside her as though she were literally a balloon made of one thin layer with nothing on the inside. She felt nothing. She was set down on the ground. Different people were yelling around her and to her, but she could only feel the emptiness trying to push its way out, trying to shatter the thin layer of her body holding it in. “Get her some water!” “Is she okay?” “Karen, I’m so sorry.” “Someone get an EMT over here!”
Karen was moved to an ambulance truck and spared the visual of her daughter being pulled from the mud. The bottoms of her legs were gone and replaced with dangling shreds of flesh.
Karen barely survived on her doctor’s depressant-drug-of-choice for the next eight years, waiting for the seventh day to come again.
It had not only been raining for seven days, it had been storming. She drove to the forest, stepped out of her car, and did not shut the door behind her. She wasn’t equipped with a tent, or food, or a flashlight. Her purse and phone were on the kitchen counter at home. She walked through the cold, whipping rain, into the forest where she sat, and waited to die. She could no longer stand to be alive, and she desperately wanted to take away the pain her daughter felt eight years ago. Although she couldn’t go back in time and be in her daughter’s place, this was the closest thing she could do…feel the same pain. So, she waited. And they came.
…end… (for now)