(For the first part of this story, “The Dirty Pot,” click here.)
She did smell it. She smelled the rot even after she had broken the ice on the basin and washed her hands twice. She smelled it in her hair, and she smelled it on her bedclothes when she hid under the covers.
It was the smell that awakened her, the stench of rancid feet and honey. She tried to cover her nose but could not raise a hand.
And someone was slumped by the door, a small shadow straightening its back. She could see its yellow eyes as it rose slowly to its feet and stretched its arms toward the ceiling, the shadow of a tiny, old man stretching to the ceiling. She tried to cry out, but she was alone in an empty house in a dying village in a godless world. No one could hear her and she could not scream.
Its dark fingers spread across the ceiling like the branches of a tree, filling the room with a poisonous stench of sour underclothing and shit. Shadows slipped down the walls, thickening until they formed a forest of darkness around her.