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The little girl knew about the old well. Most of the family did, although some of them pretended not to. It was far behind the house, hidden in the tall grasses, waiting for someone to fall.

People had fallen before. The little girl’s own father had fallen, but had somehow clawed his way back out of the well’s depths. The little girl’s great aunt had fallen too, but had caught at the edge of the well and hung there, calling for help until someone found her and pulled her out. There were others too. The ones who had fallen and never returned, the ones who had been lost to the well’s darkness. But nobody spoke of them.

Whenever the adults spoke of the old well itself, they did so in a language of hushed voices and furtive glances, a language of shameful secrets and mysteries better left unsolved. The old well was shrouded in rumors, lies, and uncertainties. It was a place as frightening as it was intriguing. Sometimes a child would wander too close, and would be yanked away by a concerned parent and warned to stay away from the well.

The little girl had explored behind the house before. She did so alone and in secret, when everyone else was gone, asleep, or just too busy to notice her. Like the others, she was afraid of the old well and a little repulsed by it, but she was also fascinated. Each time she left the house, she went a little closer to the well, wondering.

She made up stories about what lay at the bottom. The well was a place of darkness and despair, she had been told but what if it was all a lie? What if, at the bottom of the well, there was a magical kingdom? A place where she would never get in trouble, where no one would ever be too busy or too distracted to notice her. A place where she could be happy and carefree forever.

One day, the little girl found herself close enough to see the edge of the old well through the tall grasses. A little shiver ran through her at the sight and she took a few darting steps backwards. Then, warily, the little girl moved forward again. The old well drew her, rich with unspoken promises and possibilities.

Before she knew it she was almost at the edge. The little girl could look down into the well from where she stood, but all she saw was blackness. She took a hesitant step forward, her mind flashing to the world she had created for the bottom of the well.

The little girl cast one last glance over her shoulder, unsure if she hoped to see someone else approaching or not. Then, still alone and unseen, she knelt at the edge of the old well, her heart pounding wildly almost as if it was drumming an alarm, a warning. This was bad, the little girl knew. The old well was a bad place, a forbidden place, a place everyone said to stay far away from. But here she was.

The cold darkness of the well was all-consuming, drawing in everything nearby, swallowing up whatever it could and yet still remaining empty. The little girl stared into the blackness, looking for a reflection, a light, anything, but there was nothing.

Something shifted under the little girl’s knees without warning. Her breath caught in her throat as the ground crumbled away from under her, and her desperate hands caught at the edges of the old well. Her fingers locked around a stone, stopping her fall abruptly, almost before it had begun. The little girl dangled there, hanging from the edge of the old well, her feet kicking uselessly in the empty air below her. The well reminded her of a giant, gaping mouth, and the rock she clung to was a tooth.

The thought of being eaten by the old well spurred the little girl to kick her feet harder, and one of them found the dirt wall. She tried to plant her foot to climb up, but the earth only crumbled and the little girl’s foot slipped back into space as she let out a little shriek.

There was no one to hear her. The little girl hung there, called out again, but she was alone. She tried to climb back over the edge, but she couldn’t do it. Once, she almost lost her grip entirely and it was all she could do just to hold on.

She could not have said how much time elapsed. Her fingers ached, her throat was dry from screaming, and still no one came to help her. The little girl tried to call again, but all she could manage was a whispered plea. She was so tired. Cold and tired and alone.

She was slipping. Try as she might, the little girl had no more strength to pull herself out of the old well. All she could do was hang on and hope that someone came to help her before it was too late.

No one came.

Once, the little girl saw her mother walking through the field. For a moment, as her mother’s head turned towards her, the little girl thought everything was going to be okay. But her mother didn’t see the little girl, only walked off in another direction thinking that everything was perfectly fine.

The little girl’s face was streaked with tears when her fingers finally lost their precarious grip on the edge of the well. She fell silently into the darkness, too exhausted even to scream.

The old well caught her, broke her fall on hard-packed dirt. The little girl lay still, the breath knocked out of her. Then, slowly, she pulled herself into a sitting position. Pain filled her body like water had once filled the old well. Her arms and legs were bleeding where she had cut herself in her desperate struggle to hold on.

Looking upwards, the little girl could see only a small circle of light that was the opening of the well. Other than that, everything was dark and still and quiet.

She sat there for what seemed like a long time. Watching, waiting, hoping. She tried to climb the sides of the well, but always fell back to the bottom.

Fear, loneliness, despair, anger. Emptiness. Emotions and lack of emotions chased each other around her increasingly numb mind. At first, many thoughts clawed at her brain, but slowly there became fewer thoughts, fewer feelings. She was becoming dark and empty, like the old well itself.

Time passed, and the little girl looked up less and less often as the last of her hopes drained away with the rest of her thoughts. She was tired, alone, no one was coming to help her. A last few straggler thoughts drifted sluggishly through her mind, but she could no longer bring herself to react to them.

She was floating in the darkness, alone in space. She felt as empty as the void that surrounded her. She felt nothing. She was nothing.

The blackness of the old well cradled her, wrapping the little girl in a shroud of silence and numbness and absence. Absence of light, absence of love, but also absence of pain, absence of fear. Everything was gone. She saw nothing and felt nothing, but still she cried.

There at the bottom of the old well, alone in the darkness, the little girl cried herself to sleep for the last time.

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forsaken_sadness said...
Oct. 17, 2012 at 2:20 am
This was very well written. The description of the old well made me almost shiver in complete and utter revoltion. It ended quite sad, but was overall written very well :). Keep up the good work!!!
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