An excerpt from “The Attic” by Bekah Ferguson & Rachel Xu.
A mist swirled around the trio and a swamp stretched out ahead of them. Dead trees reached upward from the murk at odd angles, casting spindly shadows over the oily surface. Floating weeds shifted positions as gaseous bubbles rose to the surface and burst around them.
Ian turned toward Varkis, who stood with hairy gray arms crossed over his chest and feet spread wide. “What do you think?” The last thing he wanted to do was enter the swamp, but Kurik had given him no other choice.
“I think it wasn’t a smart idea to come with you after all,” the dog-man replied.
“Come on. Seriously.”
“Who said I wasn’t being serious?”
Lily stood nearby, one hand on her hip as she squinted up at the dusky sky.
Ian ran a hand down his face and took a deep breath, nearly choking on the stench of the water. “Well, . . . let’s get this over with then.” He stepped into the cold goop, weed-muck sucking at his foot. Another step forward and he sunk down, slimy vegetation and dank water swirling about his knees. “Come on guys,” he glanced over his shoulder. “We have to get to the Jubaka Tree and out of this swamp before nightfall or we won’t live to see morning.”
Varkis harrumphed. “This swamp gets deep fast, you do realize. We’re going to have to swim a lot of the way and it’s going to be freezing.”
“I know.” He met eyes with Lily in an apologetic glance. She looked frightened now. “We’ll take breaks as needed and warm up afterwards.”
“Does anything, uh, dangerous, live in this swamp?” she asked.
“Not that I know of.”
It was a lie.
There was something lurking in the swamp; something that had started out quite small but had been growing for many years since.