Birth of the Living Night

Elyse Russell

Ula had only twelve summers when she watched the birth of the night. She hid behind a tree and watched from beneath her prominent brow as the tendrils reached up, semitransparent and dripping, from the burial grounds.

There was no word in her language for the creature that pulled itself from the earth. She could not help but think of it as the night itself, given form. When the bulbous body had emerged entirely, it swayed on its many limbs like a newborn aurochs. Ula could see straight through its middle. It seemed to be made of dark blackish-purple ooze. When it began to move, she crouched lower. It wrapped its long tendrils around boulders and trees, pulling itself along in fits and though Ula was wary, she did not fear it. Rather, she was curious.

And so, the young girl followed the thing as it progressed over the land of the dead. She flinched with every step, knowing that it was wrong to trespass on her ancestors’ resting place, but she could not let this new thing out of her sight. Her curiosity propelled her forward. When the darkness came to a halt, she ducked down again and watched. It had found a wounded animal. A great deer lay on its side, heaving breaths through quivering nostrils, a spear jutting out from its flesh. The hunter, unlike Ula, had not trespassed on the burial grounds, even to chase dying prey.

When the new night came upon this animal, it hovered over it and seemed to quiver. A tendril reached out and stroked over the deer’s soft fur. Then the tendril pushed its way down the deer’s throat. Ula watched as the poor stag choked and convulsed, its hooves striking the air in futile desperation. Wet gagging sounds reached her ears, and then halted abruptly. The blood-soaked limbs lay still on the dewy grass.

Ula waited, wanting to see this new creature feed. She couldn’t even tell which end was supposed to be its head. Her confusion deepened as she watched the tendril withdraw from the deer’s throat amidst flecks of blood and spittle, for the limb seemed now to be glowing. The light travelled up to the main body of the living night, and then seemed to float freely through the transparent being as it moved away from the fresh corpse. It left the sacred meat untouched.

Angered, Ula moved to follow the new thing. Her foot landed on a dry leaf, which crinkled beneath her weight. It was a small sound that could have been made by any animal. But the living night paused. And then it turned, and Ula could sense it looking at her. In a split second, all sound cut out. An awful ringing filled her head, and she clutched at her temples, teeth gritted. She could not move for the pain as the living night edged closer.

And then a tendril pushed down Ula’s throat, and her soul was taken.

Elyse Russell is a writer of short stories and graphic novels. She has works accepted with: Mermaids Monthly, Crone Girl’s Press, Last Girls Club, HyphenPunk, Water Dragon Publishing, and more (including one drabble last year with Frost Zone Zine!). When not writing, she enjoys long naps with her cats and cheese. Visit her website: Follow her on Twitter: @ElyseRussell13 (BraveLittleTeapot)

Read Elyse’s drabble, Low Country Carcass, in issue 4.