Chapter 2:



Dwarfs enjoy holes. The farm boy who went on to become a man--but always a son--whose descent into the dark beneath him found itself broken up by and only tree roots did not share the same enthusiasm for hole dwarfkind committed itself to wholly. In other words, the man who fled in the dark now fell in the dark. And while he fell, he fell as man..

But he landed dwarf.

To detail and describe what transpired in the darkness beloved by dwarfs is betrayed by the very nature of its being dark. If one were to share a space with the son of the farm, no closing of distance would reveal what had been endured beyond touch. Only he himself could offer insight, an account cemented in trust and recorded thus: first, the hair once rooted at the top of the son’s skull severed its bonds and flitted away to reveal a great, bald dome. At the same time, his cheekbones became ravaged with strands of the same hue as that which remained flowing and flaring out the sides of his scalp (the last survivors of his own sudden barbering). The man became overcome with sudden pain shooting through his legs, the bones beneath his flesh shortening themselves into one another forcibly. Nothing shattered nor splintered, but the son could not stir free from the feeling of one’s limbs caving into themselves. His arms too shrunk in size, but they near doubled in girth. The same fast became true of his legs, the mass of his skin stretched wide to cover the unexpected developing. Blows delivered to the man’s nerves mounted the peak of its potency, and he hollered. Despite the wind screeching right alongside, his own voice seemed to command attention of the shaft itself. But then all became very quiet...

Some time later, the man who fell into the earth woke up surely at its bottom. His dazed vision caught the same dirt caked fingernails he had once observed beneath the branches of a tree that too easily sentenced him, he felt. But he was wrong--concerning the judgment handed down by bark, this is one matter, but it stood incorrect for the man to assume he gaze upon himself the same. Indeed, realization wore his callouses.

He had become dwarf.

The dwarf had not the term to describe this condition of course, this complete change in composition. But he knew he had changed. His hands were wider than his father’s. His arms teemed with hair not too dissimilar to that which hung from the his cheeks and the bottom and sides of his skull. The dwarf was aware of the dull pain that continued to hang in his limbs, and so he did not make any immediate attempt to rise. Momentarily, he marveled at his ability to behold himself at all--that he’d survived.

The dwarf craned his neck to look straight up and, as if beholding a distant star, the moon met his gaze.

The dark that returned did so during hours of immobility. The dwarf was aware of the sweeping blackness and felt he could do nothing. And indeed he did only lay, waiting for the blanket that would smother. When the moon completed its abandoning, a very quiet swept save for stifled groans. The dwarf shut his eyes and opened them again. He concluded no difference.

Ataga Corliss
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