The sun has yet to rise when Amaya breaks from her slumber. Thick shadows crawl over the water and up the trees. The moon`s glow falls behind layers of clouds painting the visible world with a hue of grey. The chill that had been running between the trees now sinks its teeth in deep and refuses to let go.
Amaya slips from the branch back into the muck. She breaks the surface with small ripples that release a pungent smell from the organic build up slowly decaying beneath. The cold wraps in tight and bites the bare skin. The dress draped over her sags with the weight of the mud dragging it down. It holds tighter to her frame in these conditions, stiff and wrinkled. She does not waste time in wiping away the bark clinging to her clothes. Like little bugs the black beads of bark rattle across the fabric while she wades on.
Each step she takes she sinks in more and more into the soft ground. Rotting leaves and flutter around her shins, tickling the skin. She wades on through the muck as the water grows shallow but the ground grows more unstable. The wind falls silent and darkness stretches out before her. Pools of unknown depth slumber between the roots of trees. The water is utterly motionless. The trees grow taller with thicker bases and thinner tops.
The shadows swipe at Amaya, march along behind her as she inches on. The leaves become scarce as the trees slowly die off. The roots form dangerous tangles that snag at her dress and ankles. One second the icy water will come only to her ankles then in the next she swims through the black gunk drifting over the ground. She crawls through roots that tug and pull at her attire and drags herself along with the snatching claws of tree branches. She does all of this in utter silence.
The moon still claims the sky, hidden behind a curtain of clouds when she finally reaches her destination. Here the trees are spindly little things clawing at a sky they can`t even dream of reaching. The branches sweep low against the knee-high water which holds the same black pigment as the rest of the swamp. The ground is just as unsteady yet holds under Amaya`s feet so she does not sink.
The moon`s light casts down between the clouds in this single location creating intricate patterns along the water from the tree branches. The air is stale here, oxygen greedily guzzled by decaying matter. The trees stand tall but dead. Their bark peels off to reveal soft, dark pulp rotting away. No roots breach the water here though once upon a time the trees had knees to break the still surface. A single piece of pier remains untouched in the center of the clearing from a time when the swamp was not so large. The wood is green and grey with countless planks missing.
The old boards, smoothed by time, creak and groan as Amaya pulls herself from the water. Mud and leaves plop down beneath the surface as they slowly fall off of her. The muck stains up just past her waist while the dampness has soaked all the way up her dress and braid. The fabric is taunt against her, weighted down so it lays just so. With the dress pulled so tight the form she hides from most becomes visible, a delicate feminine figure just a bit too thin to be healthy.
The clouds drift slow across the sky creating more unique shadows along the ground. Amaya sits and waits along the creaky old pier piece. She is unmoving upon the damp wood. Her feet graze the water`s surface sending small ripples out from her feet whenever she shifts the slightest bit. Her chest rises and falls steadily, barely noticeable. Her hazel eyes catch the moonlight, glistening brightly. How loud those eyes scream, yet when her lips move her voice is nearly silent.
The water ripples in that moment. It bubbles up, popping with more of that foul scent. The moon is like a spotlight that catches the spray of water from each breaking bubble. The droplets soar across the air and splatter across the skirt of Amaya`s dress. She watches with thin lips pulled tight and hazel eyes uncomfortably blank. She does not shy away from the shards of water piercing her skin with a new burst of icy fire.
She is motionless even as the water breaks for two big eyes. The anoxic water is too shallow and too cold this far north to be home to any creature for if the creature can survive one of those conditions the other two typically prove deadly. A creature for which those two large, shimmering, yellowish-green eyes belong may lurk in the marsh, but should not be able to survive this far in the swamp. The shapes disappear beneath the surface just as quick as they appeared. The water falls still and a silence settles back over the swamp like a fog for sound that clogs the ears.
Amaya slides off the rotting wood. Her dress pulls up before sinking back down. It tangles tight around her legs, brushing atop her rubber boots. She wades slowly towards where the bubbles had just been. Her motion is incredibly slow so that the water hardly stirs with her movement. She stalks towards the spot before kneeling in the frigid water. She stays there for what seems like an eternity, her chest unmoving as she refuses to breath. She holds an ear close to the underwater world and listens to the babbles of currents flowing beneath the surface. She stays and listens and then she is up again.
Amaya wades to the largest tree amongst those growing through the weak ground. She pulls herself up upon bulging roots that rest right against the trunk. The winding spirals of trees tangle up to a knot in the top. Amaya worms her body through a crack between the slim, brown, tangling trunks. The space between is wide enough for a few people and the woody bottom provides a dry shelter in an otherwise water-logged world. Here the darkness lays in such heavy loops that shadows cannot exist.
Amaya pokes around in the darkness. Her movements are quick and sure as she lowers herself down through the tangles of the trunk. The damp bark is slick beneath her hands, yet only small trickles of water spill in from the surrounding swamp. The bite of the air out of the tree slowly relinquishes its grip. Inside the tree the air does not smell of slow decay, the whispers of past life do not trickle down the tree trunk. Inside the tree the air is light and fresh, sweet in scent like a flower with a light fragrance. The rotting wood and permanent layer of moisture do not plague her nose with any foul scent. It is a relief from the swamp`s stench.
The further Amaya descends the sweeter the air becomes and the less light that leaks through. The night hours may draw to an end in a world outside of the tree, but that world does not matter at this point. She is too caught up in her climbing so she does not slip. Here the real world will not touch and she is not foolish enough to bring it along.
The sweetness in the air is slowly replaced with a unique bite of something bitter yet not too foul, a deliciously disgusting scent simultaneously terrible and incredible. A warmth starts to drift upwards in a rush of air. The draft is slow at first but slowly gains force. Amaya`s hands are like raisins by this point. Her arms quake as her grip tightens until her fingers are a ghostly white. The day wading through muck without food or water followed by the strain of a steep climb with no sight of the bottom and no safety rope are taking their toll upon her muscles.
The weariness settling over her is quickly vanquished. A sharp glow ascends from the dark hollow of twining roots. The creeping shadows which crawl down after her fade away between the knots of roots. They swing above and mock her as she steps down upon the blistering ground. The heat peaks upon the ground to a sweltering blaze so intense it makes the cold above so desirable. She takes but one glance around the mysterious world beneath the swamp.
Amaya is walking with Dante.