Bidio rested his feet and let them soak in the softly lapping, crystalline water. It soothed him so, not just for the pleasant temperature but also because it reminded him why he had come to Cairnrook in the first place. The tiny island was his own little slice of paradise resting comfortably and hidden off the tip of Scotland. He had left the village some 20 odd years ago. Just one day up and set sail in his old white dinghy, now long list to the ravages of time and waste. He knew he would find what he was looking for. And now, his aching bare feet soothed to a nearby pink, he was ready to continue his hunt.
He stood upright creakily, his old bones no more gold for traipsing than his boat had been for seafaring. But the walking stick helped, yes, one made of knotted Ridgewood scavenged from a tree from a time before now. He hobbled around the South bend of the island, past the tiny hut he had constructed with his own gnarled hands. The rocky beach hurt his feet so, yes, the ground has teeth but he had grown, over time, to respect each tiny nip. Each little bite meant a step further in progess.
There it was. His labyrinth, his magnum opus. A collection of stones backbreakingly collected over the years. Lain out on the beach in a perfect spiral. He had completed it last night. Each stone in the glyph was a Hagstone, a rock with a perfect circle bored through the center. Untouched by man, carved to precision from forces that Bidio chose not to attempt to understand. He knew that Cairnrook had a good cache of these unusual rocks and his persistence had paid off. Overnight, his boon had been delivered by Those Who Walk The Rocks. He never saw them, but he heard them in the night, yes. He heard their salient whispers and knew what they craved. Furthermore, what HE craved. He made a bargain and it had paid off.
Bidio steeled himself, cast aside his stick. The time was nigh. With a deep breath, he began to walk the labyrinth of rocks. Each step was fire, flesh cooked raw and freshly salted. Each step in the rocks drew blood but this was what They desired. He traced a ring of red as he stooped along, never stopping, never crying out. No time to show weakness. He finally emerged in the center. He breathed deep the briny, peat coated air and gazed down at his prize. A single Hagrock lie at the center, yet larger and polished smooth. He bent down to pick it up, ignoring the pain in his back and knowing this would be the last time he would feel it. He turned the rock over. There it was, as beautiful to behold as They had promised. In the circular divot, expertly inserted was a gorgeous crystal of ever changing color. He held it up to the mist dappled sun. It sparkled every color known and some he never knew of and the sight filled him with unseemly joy. He caressed his prize, reached in to pluck it out.
Then, at that very time in this world, in this tiny island, did Bidio discover that most gifts come with a cost. Some trophies too, have teeth. Sharp ones that gnash and nip and squeal horribly with the sounds of the wretched bean sidhe of myth, the Death Hags of old. And as to those screaming soothsayers many a man would fall so too did our dear old Bidio. Those That Walk The Rocks, those wretched dead that lie beneath the barren waste of of Cairnrook: they had promised him a departure from pain, from fear, from agony. From loneliness. But then, perhaps they spoke the truth? Veritas incarnate emerging from blackened lips of lives long lost? As the tiny teeth nipped at his fingers, Bidio fell backwards (intentionally? we’ll never tell).
There were more teeth to meet him, yes. They carried him back out of the spiral, carting flesh to be renewed as one does with shorn metal in a factory. Perhaps too, he was being rebuilt.. As the skin sloughed from his body and as he was lowered beneath the ground, Bidio felt a curious lack of sensation.. No pain. No fear. No agony. And here, beneath the rocks and the sour soil, no loneliness. For he was joined by the forgotten ones, forever damned on this accursed speck of land. An island of the restless who only derived entertainment in divulging madness into the living. As he sighed and joined his new brethren beneath the rock, he took heart in knowing that his years of labor had not been for naught.
But then: crawling, creeping. Skittering and gnashing. Tiny insects and denizens of the underground. Bidio quickly found his husk to be food for the worms and rot. And then, at that very time, in this place without time, dear old Bidio discovered that in death, they too have teeth…