Sparrow dumped some damp leaves on top of the fire, sending smoke stinging into everyone's eyes. The comforting glow from the fire disappeared. Bee sat alert, head cocked to one side, clutching her metal pipe with both hands.
"Why did you do that?" Tekla asked. Sparrow ignored her.
"I think they're gone now."
Bee loosened her grip slightly and let her shoulders relax, "Yes. I can't hear them any more."
"Who's gone? What is it? Why will nobody tell me?" Tekla's blanket fell off her shoulders and she shivered, "I want the fire back...."
"We can't have the fire." Sparrow snapped, "Go back to sleep."
"I'm co...old..." Tekla whined.
Sparrow took the blanket from around her own shoulders and shoved it at Tekla. "Take mine. Now will you go to sleep?"
Tekla sniffed and wrapped the extra blanket around herself, "...don't have to be so mean about it..."
Zed sat up suddenly, pulling the blanket away from Dee as he did so. Dee grumbled in his sleep and turned over, but didn't wake up.
"Why's the fire..."
"Shush!" Sparrow and Bee spoke at the same time. The only sound was the breeze moving the tops of the trees. Zed carefully draped the blanket back over Dee and leant back against the concrete. Rat burrowed into the blankets next to Tekla.
"Maybe this wasn't a good place to camp." Sparrow said into the dark.
"We had to stop." Zed said. "It was dark."
"Ha." Bee placed her metal pipe on the ground, keeping it close though.
"Tomorrow we'll be out of the forest." Sparrow said, more to herself than anyone else. "Tomorrow I'll find a better place to camp.
But tomorrow did not see them out of the forest. The trees closed in around them, getting thicker and closer together. Clumps of moss and lichen hung off the branches, and fallen trees barred their way. They had to push through the tangle of branches and tripped on hidden roots, as the sky above them in the narrow gap of the tree tops got darker and darker, and the sounds of the birds faded away into the evening.
Sparrow's tumble took her down a steep hill and into a pit at the base of a fallen tree. The others paused at the top of the slope, before carefully making their way down. Sparrow, dazed, having hit her head on a hard knot of the roots, lay where she fell for a bit, before clambering groggily to her feet. She came face to face with a skull.
It was twisted in the roots of the tree, stained with dirt, and cracked in places where the tree roots had tightened. She turned around, slipped, and fell back into the pit, right on top of a jumbled pile of bones. She screamed. The others reached her and stopped short.
"What is it?" Bee asked, but Sparrow could only gape wordlessly as she tried to grasp her way out.
Zed reached down to help her up, but his gaze was elsewhere.
The hollow was filled with bones, sticking out of the ground where the trees had blown over, the roots not anchored in the shallow, stony, ground. Some still had scraps of fabric clinging to them, bleached by the sun and tattered by the wind. Every step they took revealed a new skeleton, half buried in the slippery leaf mould. Sparrow swallowed down her desire to be sick and scrambled back onto the safety of the hill.
"Will someone tell me what's going on?" Bee said.
"Bones..." Sparrow gasped. "Lots of them, just like they said."