Pages fluttered like leaves, splashing into the murky water. “Quite the romantic you are, yearning for the one that slipped away,” Delilah snickered, tearing another page from the black book, and tossing it down. “Spare are your sentiments. Why did you not invest a single word in me?” She closed the book, and held it over the edge.
“Like all romances, I quickly tire of the endless banter.” Her eyes wandered, making sure Darrien was not near. “Imagine your life if you had accepted Endolyn for what she was. Hypnotized by her love song, savoring the conquest of her flesh, as well as others, every day dreaming on your feet. All for the pittance of a little blood.” She rested her head on her arms.
“Enslaved are you by your morals. ‘Tis your cage, not mine. Your cry is nothing more than a whimper in the wind, tears that will soon run dry. I have read scores of these, whimper after whimper, all the same. A shame you did not know me first; perhaps your heart would ache for me?” Delilah rose. “So I leave you with this gift. Close your eyes, and make a wish.” She tossed the diary down.
The book splashed in the water next to me. “No!” I moaned, but could not move.
Delilah giggled, and then disappeared from view.
Gray hollows loomed over me as the creature drank. A dozen forelegs sprouted from its prickly core, holding me into place. Its outer shell consisted of a series of thick plates, cobbled one over the other, the pink underside shielded by a thin membrane. Multi-jointed forelegs ended in sharp points. Once the pill bug had its fill, it retracted its fangs, dumping me on the ground.
Yellow puss oozed from my chest, sealing my wounds, and quelling any further hemorrhaging. I wiped the corner of my mouth, again coming away with the flaxen surplus. Though I took in air with a tortured rasp, the creature had done an admirable job patching me up.
I scoured the crimson water for my journal as the smaller isopod continued drawing from my leg. As I retracted my hand, I came away with something of equal value—my spectacles. I slipped them back on; surprised I could see a whit without my sharper pair of eyes. Abruptly my head throbbed. I stripped them off, realizing that my vision had improved little with their use. I tucked my bifocals in my coat pocket, reluctant to admit that the creatures had somehow healed me.
With more my heart than hands, I combed the murky waters, desperate to reclaim the lost part of me. She did not escape me long before I stumbled upon her. I scooped her up and held her high, like a hunter ripping the heart from his fallen prey.
I cracked the book open, black ink bleeding over cloth pulp. Words collapsed and streaked, as if the book were beginning to tear. Disgusted, I snapped it shut, acknowledging that my private thoughts had been obscured further.
As the second creature released my leg, it made the gravest of errors. The tool I had no sooner forgotten glimmered in the dim light. With a newfound vigor, I grabbed the knife, and stabbed the abomination’s bulbous eye. It shrieked as I withdrew the blade and punctured the other. Unable to see, the burrower panicked, and slipped back into the mud.
Risking everything, I charged forward and swung, shearing off the other’s antennae. Weighed down with the surplus of blood, the creature could not react fast enough. It curled into a ball, continuing to taste my blade as I stabbed between its plates. Helpless to shield itself from my attack, the isopod scattered under the wall, preferring to protect its prize than stay and fight.
Footsteps above retraced themselves. I dove into the hole, sloshing after the pill bug in complete darkness.
“Lawson?” Delilah called down. She waited a few moments, and then exhaled. “Such temperamental creatures they are.”
I waited for a while, holding the diary over my head, careful not to sodden it further. Water dripped down, splashing into the shallow well. When I was certain she had gone, I took a breath and pressed deeper into the abyss.