This glade should have been exotic and serene. The trees that surrounded the clearing had a purple hue that was reassuring rather than threatening. Their branches reached high enough so the sky appeared overrun by leaves during the day, sheltering Maldus’ albino skin from the scorching blue sun. On the ground, there were no gaps between the trees for him to escape.
At least they made this prison look comfortable, he thought. So long as he remained awake, nothing moved against him.
With the onset of night, came the brand of loneliness that was not liberating, but dread-inducing. In his isolation, Maldus had begun to see things that weren’t really there. The branches of the trees he loved to look at became snakes, their purple leaves turning into dark fangs of jaws that appeared to consume the moon at certain times in the lunar cycle.
Each morning, he woke to find parts of himself missing. Today marked his sixth arm, and fourth leg. “The problem with being immortal,” thought Maldus, “is that everything grows back.” Each day, his fingers grew back slowly and with extreme pain; each day he awoke to find that another had been taken from him. Mortals would not have to put up with this entrapment; their bodies changed where those of the Gods resisted any alterations. The pain was etched into his memory, each finger a tally mark in the jail cell of the only sane prisoner he had visited, when he was the God of Justice.
His life before the last ten days seemed more like someone else’s, than his own. He arrived in this place after he announced retirement. The God of Forests, Jorel, had warned him: “If you go, that which you held up for so long will fall away. Before long, the world shall crumble.” All eyes had then turned to him, waiting for a reply. When Maldus replied that he wanted to live amongst mortals, there was shocked silence.
He could not remember anything between that, and when he had awoken there, his body shattered as if from a long fall. He was jerked back to the present by dusk turning to night. He had lain very still, with his eyes closed trying not to go to sleep, to try and catch his tormentor. He opened his eyes.
Nothing seemed different, until he looked at the moon. In its place, was an enormous skull with an elongated jaw. Its dark, eyeless sockets were staring at him and it was getting larger with every passing second, gradually filling the view of the night sky. Maldus noticed there was a gap between its eyes, a red glow emanated from them more vividly as it approached. He picked up a rock that lay nearby, waited until the monster was close enough, and threw it before jumping to the side.
Millions of bones that clattered into the middle of the glade, building a stack that seemed to reach high enough to be a precarious ladder to freedom. He dug through the grey mass, found the skull and yanked the enormous jewel he found there. Holding it, he felt renewed, as if part of himself had come back. He noticed that he was now glowing, and wearing clothes he would have worn in his previous life.
Maldus grinned – with this new power, he envisioned shaping the world as his own. As he glowed, he failed to see the branches snaking around his arms, poising to yank them from their sockets.