Carcelli retracted his boot from the mud. It pulled back, and by a stroke of good fortune he was able to hook his toes at a sharp enough angle to keep it with him.
He tripped backwards, falling gently to sit on the wet, dirt trail.
He was in the swamp, Carcelli knew this. But the smells were all congealing together. Mud, rot, wood smoke. It was hard to get direction.
It also did not help that he was recently struck blind.
The phantom pain where his eyes used to be was a constant distraction. The frogs chirped from all directions, and it was like a ringing that pierced his inner-most head, striking his core. The constancy of sound was driving him mad. It was also hindering his travels.
What should have been a day’s walk back to his hovel in the swamp was turning into a week of misery. He had been on the trail five days already.
He had fallen at least twenty times each day. Carcelli had been livid before, but now, the thought of dying in the swamp, a mile away from home was making him regret his decision.
The King had demanded punishment. It was to be death or blindness. Carcelli had chosen the latter.
But his existence was out of spite. The lord of this land wanted him dead to take the remaining bits of land. Carcelli did not know to what ends, but the last thing he saw before his sentencing was that lord’s face, shocked and appalled that Carcelli made no arguments, and chose blindness.
Carcelli laughed, sitting on the trail. The bandages over his upper face itched. The blood had dried, poking and prodding his skin. He was afraid to remove it, though. He wasn’t the cleanest, and he knew this.
Carcelli pushed himself up. He stood up straight, and tried to concentrate. He would have closed his eyes, and his muscle memory went to do just that. He giggled a pained laugh.
The chirping. The frogs wouldn’t be next to the path. Turning his body a small bit at a time he listened for a break in the sound. Chirping seemed to overwhelm him. He fought against an instinct to scream, as he had done that the entire second day of his new life.
As he turned he could feel a parting in the chirps. A small space in one direction where he guessed the path would be.
Carcelli stuck one foot out, putting all his weight into the other, testing. Earth was under it. He smiled.
He took a small step forward, and then tried again.
Still earth. His whole body relaxed a bit, but it wasn’t cause for celebration yet.
He took another step and found the tips of grass. He was heading off the trail.
He sighed. These swamps were his home. How was this so difficult?
Because I can’t see, he told himself, giggling.
He turned again, listening intently. He found the direction with the least chirping, and took another test-step. Grasses again.
What was he doing wrong?
He thought about the frogs, the swamp. The frogs are in the water, not on the trail, he thought.
He had an epiphany. The frogs ARE in the water, right along the trail.
He turned his body to the loudest chirping, made sure the sun was behind him, and took a big, confidant stride.
Earth. Solid earth.
“Ha-ha!” he exclaimed.
Another step, earth.
Soon his steps were filled with song.
“Can’t kill me, you can’t kill me!”
Carcelli sang it all the back to his recently burned down cottage.