The trio wanders a plane that sits somewhere between yesterday and tomorrow, but not quite today. Where the light is not from the sun, but from an unknown source always just out of reach. Around the next bend, over the next hedge, around the next wall…Never here.
Their feet make soft crunching noises on the bark-like ground. For all they know it’s a tree of immense proportion. Now and then, where the ground is thin, their heavy boots punch through. To look into the hole is to see nothing. Truly nothing. A void.
One cocks his rifle’s hammer, he pauses, watching. A shadow the size of a house flickers, twitching like an animal in the throes of death. The shadow moves. Skitters across the rough ground. Its each step leaves a hole from which black smoke rises. The shadow lurches in a zig-zag—leaving a trail of palm-sized smoke spewing geysers behind.
“Big.” Says the first, moving the stock of his rifle against his shoulder.
“Watch the ground.” Says the second. His eyes flash, tracking the shadow.
“Hmm, thin here.” The first replies.
“Fall through to nothing.” The third grunts.
The first drops to a knee, the ground cracks. "No,” he says with a sharp inhale. The crack, started by the impact of his knee, begins to spread. Spiderwebs crawling outward.
“Move.” Says the second. “Roll.”
But the first can’t. He knows he should. Knows each moment he lingers brings him closer to obliteration.
The shadow stops, still flickering. On-and-off, on-and-off. It turns to face the trio. Bending down, readying to leap, its shoulders drop low. The rate of flicker increases. Now the flutter of butterfly wings, now the whir of a hummingbird.
All three aim, then fire.
The shadow lunges with a howl.
The shot of the first shakes him. The frail ground near his knee, already cracked, breaks. His leg falls in. He drops his rifle. Clawing for a hold, he finds purchase. Heaves himself forward, pulls himself free, but something is wrong. Where his leg should be is smoke and shadow. The other two back away.
The shadow stalks towards the fallen. The ground shakes.
The first, facing a choice between the shadow and pit lets go. He falls into the hole. Into nothing. Into nonexistence.
The shadow howls, grows, and turns towards the other two.
They’re already running, but not for long.