The village floated in the borrowed moonlight, flooded blue and lost as if on the bottom of the ocean. Peter stood on the path at the top of the hill braced against a cypress tree, one hand clutched the gnarled and dry trunk, the other pressed against the hot bloody wound in his gut. He tried to be still, to be silent, but the pain from the knife wound turned his stomach and he wanted water, but the thought of water made him even more nauseous.
Finally, Peter leaned over and retched onto the ground, splattering his leather shoes and his Sunday slacks. Hunched over, the world danced about him. His head swirled with the wind, as the treetops rocked back and forth. A rope of vomit and spit dribbled from his chin.
Peter forced himself upright and felt a little better. He wiped his chin on his shoulder and allowed himself to let go of the tree as he turned around to face the village that was almost his grave. Moments ago, there had been warm custard yellow lights flickering in every window. Now, they were black nothings. Smoke from cypress logs that burned in every fireplace, twirling from every chimney, had filled the town with a spicy aroma that made one think of dark chocolate. Now the fireplaces were cold, the chimneys adorned with spider webs, and the spicy air replaced with a damp rot like a stagnating pond.
But the people were still there. A line of dead, three-deep, stood before Peter, their skeletal hands holding clubs, knives, and various other improvised weapons. Unable or unwilling to pass the cypress tree, they regarded Peter with what he could only describe as the regret a hunter feels when their wounded prey escapes. Then, they began to fade from view and soon Peter stood alone at the top of the hill. The cursed town and their murderous denizens were quiet now. Asleep again, till the next unfortunate traveler wandered into their midst.
Peter turned, and clutching his still bleeding side, willed himself forward. With an unsteady gait he moved off down the forest path, and the dark swallowed him.