Corey couldn’t move his legs. No matter how hard he struggled, they wouldn’t leave their spot in the center of the grassy circle carved into the ground.
In the morning, when he was leaving for his hike along the cliff sides, the innkeeper warned him, “Return before sunset, or you’ll lose your head.”
Corey had assumed he’d meant dangerous falls or wild animals. Not this dark magic fuckery.
He tried pulling off his shoes but couldn’t lift his feet out of them or even pull his socks off. Whatever was happening, he was here to stay.
By the time the moon was rising over the hills, Corey was getting nervous. He yelled, hoping a farmer or passerby on the distant road would hear his pleas, but no one came.
As the temperature dropped, lightning flashed on the horizon. It looked like it was heading straight for him.
It would be a long night if he didn’t leave soon. At some point, his legs would tire, and he’d want to lie down. Yet, he feared the rest of his body would stick too if he tried.
That’s when the beam of a flashlight appeared on the path.
“Help!” Corey called out.
He couldn’t tell who it was until a familiar voice answered. “I told you to return before sunset.”
The innkeeper approached, careful not to cross the line into the circle.
“I’m sorry... I didn’t realize.”
“You travellers never do.” He moved around the perimeter until he got to a point where Corey hadn’t noticed the circle broke into a thin narrow line.
The innkeeper stepped towards him, like a tightrope walker avoiding certain death. “It wasn’t all I said, was it?”
Corey blinked, trying to understand, but the innkeeper was too quick. He drew an axe and swung it, sinking it into Corey’s neck.
Blood poured onto the ground, and Corey died quickly. The innkeeper grabbed his body as it fell.
“This is never what I want, boy.”
The man felt the air lighten as the storm dissipated.
“I wish you travellers would start listening,” the innkeeper grumbled as he hoisted the body over his shoulder. “But if you keep waking the gods, someone’s got to be sacrificed and it sure as hell ain’t going to be me.”
He picked up his axe and backed out of the circle. He hoped he wouldn’t have to do this again as he walked back home along the path.