3. Mumphred


It is night now, and we sit around the fire at their camp on the kitchen table. There is a palpable tension, with a plushie on dedicated watch. The other plushies are reluctant to fully turn their backs to the night. They all constantly look out into the darkness, as if expecting something to jump out and tear them to pieces.

The chatter from earlier has died down to an uncomfortable silence, with only the crackling wood keeping the quiet alive. I want to say something to ease the tension, even if I would not be understood, but the pressure to remain quiet is too great. Instead, we all sit with the light from the fire flickering against our faces. Weird shadow and freakish glow, switches our terse expressions on and off.

The lion takes a handful of dust from a pouch at his waste and throws it into the flames. The flames rise up and noxious fumes waft out, making me cough uncontrollably. I glare across the fire at him and say, “Stop that!”
In response he cackles at me, and smiles that idiot grin of his.

As I consider how to deal with this situation a heinous whining noise squeals up from below the table. I jump to my feet and back away from the side of the table. Everyone else is also up, poised to run or fight. The plush on watch creeps to the table-edge and looks over.
The whining noise shifts into a deep growl and a series of fast-paced barks. The noise is painful and high-pitched. I feel my heart beat faster in my hands. There is nowhere to run, but surely the source of that noise cannot reach the table-top. Is that not why the plushies live up in this area?

The plushie on watch steps away from the edge and starts to chant. The others join in.
“Poodull! Poodull! Poodull!”

Thinking that this is the way these natives ward off the evil beast down below, I start chanting too. The chant does not seem to have the desired effect. Rather it seems to be driving the beast into a frenzy, with the noise it makes growing more intense.

I stop chanting and look around, with the intention of trying to quiet the others, only to discover that they have surrounded me. They fix me with cold stares. I try to fight them off, but there are too many. The lion roughly grabs me about the shoulders, mutters gibberish in my face. I kick and flail about, but the lion is too big and too strong. He lifts me from the ground, and dangles me over the edge. I give in to my fate and stop struggling. All the time the others continue to chant. All the time the howling, growling, gnashing, hissing, barking continues below.

Suddenly their frenzy ceases and the beast is quiet. I look directly into the lion’s eyes. I see regret in his pupils, veiled by the fiery orange and yellow reflections. He inhales through his nostrils and blows coloured dust into my face. I cough and splutter.

He casts me into the abyss.

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