As bad luck would have it, Dafyd was the first to sense the danger. With his tongue recently severed, however, his effectiveness as a communicator had been diminished.
Dali was mid-sermon; he’d assumed the role as the spiritual leader of their Three. He orated the words — drilled into them by the Father — to the other two. That Bidar was now deaf and could not hear him did not seem to deter the flow of his recital.
“Have mercy on me, O God!” he said as he tottered along the uneven forest trail with his walking stick, which thumped into the dry earth with hypnotic regularity. Overhead, the trees from either side had intertwined, the branches forming an archway above the path. The beams of light that poked at odd angles through the canopy did little to illuminate the dusty route, and — if anything — seemed to emphasize the darkness that encroached upon them.
Dafyd’s eyes darted to the blur of ink-black shadows, which writhed and boiled, concealed in the treeline just ahead. He tried to use his voice, but all that came out was an unintelligible mumble. The words tumbled out of his mouth like the drunk who stumbles through a doorway. The sound that he made deep in his throat was lost in the ferocity of Dali’s utterances.
“According to your unfailing love!” said Dali, oblivious. His stick pounded on upon the compacted soil. “According to your great compassion!” Thump. Thump.
Dafyd tapped Bidar on the shoulder, but the deaf boy slapped him away. “Gerrof!” he said. “I’ve got a headache!” His eyes were trained on the ground. Dafyd tried to grab him and shake him as a panicked whine began to emanate from his throat, but Bidar barely glanced at him. “I said gerrof!” The boy pouted and began to massage his temples. “I’m not in the mood, Dafyd.” His lower lip protruded, like a toddler’s.
“Blot out my transgressions!” said Dali, his empty hand clenched before his chest in religious fervour. Dafyd patted his arm, but he too shooed him away. “And wash—” his voice faltered “—and wash away… Not now, Dafyd! I’m communicating with Our Lord!” Dali shrugged Dafyd off and tried to continue. “And wash away all my—”
Dafyd clutched him and held him still and pointed — desperately — at the swirling shadow that lingered ahead of them. He had, in his horror, forgotten that Dali no longer had any eyes.
“Oh, what? What is it, Dafyd? What’s so important that you’d interrupt my sermon?”
The boy gestured at the amorphous blur, which had begun to move in their direction.
It had sensed them.
“I can’t see!” said Dali, voice full of frustration. “Oh, Bidar, can you tell me what he’s prattling on about? Bidar? Bidar!” Dali reached out in the direction of Bidar and swiped at the air. “Dafyd, get Bidar!” It was not a question.
Dafyd grabbed Bidar’s arm and refused to let go when the boy tried to wriggle out of his grip. “I said let go of me! What about gerrof don’t you—” His voice caught in his throat as he looked up.
The blob of nothingness — like an ink stain on the fabric of reality — had exited the cover of the treeline and broken out onto the road. The way ahead was blocked by the splotch, which began to take form.
And it was coming for them.
Bidar frowned and paused for a split-second. A confused gasp escaped his lips. And then he screamed. His cracked voice tore the air. “CEISIWR!”
Dali froze, his address forgotten. Bidar had already rushed to the trees to their right, crashing through the undergrowth. “Don’t move!” said Dali. “Don’t move!” And still, Bidar ran.
Dali grabbed Dafyd’s hands, ruined eyeballs locked with his own. The jelly of the orbs was tattered and torn, any semblance of colour or recognition long-since excised. “Dafyd. Get him.”
Dafyd hesitated and glanced at the chaotic swirl that approached. Dali sensed his reluctance and squeezed his hands. “Dafyd, look at me.” Dali’s voice was calm, even. “I’ll handle it. Go get Bidar. Save him.”
Dafyd nodded and mumbled a sound of agreement. He turned and started to follow the direction in which he thought Bidar had ran. He stopped and cast one last glance at his blind friend. Somehow, the boy watched him with his unseeing eyes. He smiled. “Don’t you worry, Dafyd. I’ll be fine.” His voice then took on the commanding tone he’d later be known for. “Now go save one of our Three.” With that, Dali began to walk towards the ceisiwr. With his one free hand he reached out, the other clutched his stick in a white-knuckle grip. Thump. Thump.
Dafyd turned and ran. He swatted at the branches that reached for him and tore at his skin. He cried out to Bidar, as he followed the trampled underbrush that marked the way the boy had fled, even though he lacked the ability to speak and Bidar lacked the capacity to listen.
Behind him, back on the road, Dali had resumed his prayer as he faced the danger alone.
“Wash away all my iniquity,” he said, in a voice that shook only slightly. His words rang out, clear and true, and Dafyd wondered if even Bidar could hear him, too. “And cleanse me from my sin.”
2nd September 2020
Written for the September 2020 #BlogBattle