I was traveling through the dark woods. I had started my journey alone, but as is natural I fell in and out of various groups and with various companions. At times I camped alone, and at times the campfire was loud with merrymaking and good company.

As I traveled through the swampy part of the woods, I began to have a regular set of companions across my travels. We traveled during the day and made merry at the campfire at night. Occasionally a companion split off and rejoined us later, but for the most part we were a constant. It was a pleasant sense of normality compared to the rest of the journey, and I was glad to have a sense of permanance.

On the night that we reached the edge of the swamp, I noticed that my friends were starting to slow down in our travels. It seemed like it took us forever to reach camp that night, and my companions spoke barely a word to me that day. I paid no mind and blamed it on the long journey. We setup camp and built the fire as we had so many times before.

I was distracted while the others played by the fire. I was lost in my thoughts staring at the stars and thinking about the next days of travel. I dozed off accidentally, paying little mind to my traveling companions.

I awoke slowly the next morning, groggy and with sleep in my eyes. My friends still seemed to be gathered around the fire, talking. As my senses came to, I realized my friends were no longer alive. Their flesh rotten, their bones and muscles visible. Their corpses continued to mimic life, laughing in shrill voices and tending to the now dead fire. The most dead and decomposed corpses picked bits of flesh and muscle off of the less rotten ones. They washed each others remains with ash, leaving sterile white bone.

My friends noticed I had awoken and was watching their strange mockery. A few of the dead smiled at me but they avoided my gaze. They talked as if I was not present, and I took offense but they paid no mind to my complaints. One of them looked at me and mouthed lipless words

It’s ok to go on without us. The living shouldn’t spend too much time with the dead.

I gathered my stuff, watching this communion of the dead. I nodded a mark of respect to my dead companions, and left as they continued to pay me no mind.