The Creature in the Pit
by DJ Tyrer
Nieder felt his bowels clench as he heard the words that every man, woman and child of Anzar dreaded.
“Throw him into the pit. Let the creature feast upon his flesh.”
As a child, Nieder had been frightened with the threat of being thrown to the Creature in the Pit. “Eat all your greens, or else…” “Go to sleep right away, or else…” “Come straight home from school, or else…”
Then, as he grew to manhood, it was the same thing. Every law. Every demand. Every royal whim. Each was followed by the same threat: “or else…”
Always “or else…” and he’d always sought to do whatever was demanded of him and still he was going to die in the most hideous way possible. And, all because his tax pot was one measly penny short. One penny—one life! It hadn’t even been his fault: the guard at the gate had demanded a penny entrance fee on pain of… He’d paid out of the pot, only to find his money pouch was missing from his belt and he couldn’t make it up. He tried to explain. “Throw the guard in! Throw the thief in! Not me—I’m not to blame!”
But, such cries only angered Lady Demona more and she ordered, “Quick! Quick! Throw him away!”
As if he were rubbish!
Nieder attempted to struggle, but the black-armoured guardsmen were too strong and he couldn’t resist and they dragged him to the pit.
The pit was feared across Anzar. It had appeared one night following a great storm, some forty years earlier, swallowing five houses whole. An investigation by the Queen’s servants had discerned the awful cries that rose from it were those of a monster hungry for human flesh. In a fine example of synergy, it was realised the creature in the pit might be placated whilst simultaneously obviating the need to pay an executioner.
Other than that history, the pit was no more interesting than any other enormous hole in the ground, yet was far more feared.
They took Nieder to the edge of it and he had a moment to gaze down into the darkness before they pushed him in…
* * *
Nieder awoke to a sense of pain. He was pretty certain he had broken several bones and, as he stood and felt his ribs move unnaturally and saw how his left arm hung uselessly, he knew he had.
There was a small circle of light far above him and he could see climbing out was an impossibility. Looking around, he could see the bones of previous victims disarticulated and cast about, many clearly scored or broken, having been devoured.
There were also tunnels and, rather than wait to die, he decided to seize the chance, no matter how small, of escape.
As he stumbled through the darkness, he heard the soft sound of shambling ahead of him.
Fearfully, he turned and walked as quickly as he could back to the pit. But, before he could take another tunnel, he heard behind him the crunch of a bone beneath a foot and something slammed into him, knocking him to the rib-strewn floor.
Painfully, Nieder rolled over and looked up at the beast.
It had the shape of a man. In fact, it was a man. An old man, his naked form concealed by a long grey beard. There was a femur held as a club in one hand and a terrifying look of hungry madness in his eyes.
The man advanced on him, club raised, and understanding struck Nieder moments before the killing blow: there was no monster in the pit. The only creatures in it were, and always had been, the humans thrown into it, feeding off one another to survive.
He died feeling a sense of betrayal.
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DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Disturbance (Laurel Highlands), Tales of the Black Arts (Hazardous Press), Amok!, Stomping Grounds and Ill-considered Expeditions (all April Moon Books), Altered States II (Indie Authors Press), Destroy All Robots (Dynatox Ministries), and Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor). DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/