What Lies Beneath by Laura Banks

The earth shifted. Mounds of rocky silt capsized and flooded the underground prison, soiling every orifice. The stench of decay rotted the air, stale and punishing. Beneath the surface, the groans were barely audible. Muffled by a lungful of mulching debris, they went unheard by all. The girl’s presence in the unmarked grave was noted only by creeping beetles and the worms that slivered against her prickling skin.

The girl had lost track of the days she had been there, trapped. Waiting. She did not know what she was waiting for, or how she had come to be imprisoned in such an unforgiving environment. She had no memories, not of her life before, not of anything. She knew only of the hell that surrounded her.

The earth was cold and filled with strange fragments that tore at her flesh. And it moved, as if it were alive. Breathing. Sometimes patiently, other times in guttural rasps, but all the time waiting. Just as she waited. Her own breaths grew laboured as mud infiltrated her throat, her nose. Her lungs. She could not cry for help. Not that anyone could have heard. The last of the air became thick and pungent as her weakened body lost control of its functions.

The girl shivered as something snaked and writhed beneath her thigh. She looked for it instinctively, though the sheer darkness of the tomb shielded her from the sight of the creeping invader. She strained to recall something beyond this existence, some reason, some explanation, but she was at a loss. Her mind could not form words, only pictures. Hideous images. But eventually, she knew, even the longest time must pass.

And soon, it was time. She had already waited too long and now it was her turn to make her escape. Newfound resolution filled her with power and she knew then that this prison could no longer hold her. Strength reverberated throughout her entire being as she pushed up, up. Nails scratched at walls of stony mud clusters. Calves and thighs tensed as she began the ascent to freedom. Poised fingers stretched towards the surface, until they poked through and touched the clean air. She clawed herself away from the grave, away from death. She was reborn.

Standing upon the surface, she surveyed her new surroundings. A steady rain began to fall, cleansing her body of all evidence of her grisly beginnings, of the earth that had encased her like a womb. Her bare skin was now bleached and unblemished, contrasting with an ebony mane that spread across her back and spilt upon the delicate contours of her face.

Her purpose hit her suddenly in a blinding image, branding her cheeks with a fiery hue. She licked her lips, igniting them with crimson heat. Eyes with darkened lashes blazed amber, casting a light of their own. She gazed down at her body for the first time, noting that it was strong, supple. Attractive. She smiled, causing her eyes to glow with even more fervour. This was going to be easy. There was no victim quite like a willing victim. Something crawled inside her in agreement.


Moving across the wasteland, she heard the distant bustle of activity; a motorway. Her smile intensified. Someone was bound to stop for her. They would have no idea of course, but some lucky person was about to make her very satisfied. Not that they would live long enough to know it. Discretion was vital. It had been too long, imprisoned for countless centuries beneath the hallowed ground. Fortunately for her though, the binds of the old religion had lost their grip, and had all but diminished. There would be no going back there now. She was free, at liberty to do as she pleased. Maim, kill, eat, fornicate. All without consequence. Life was good.

She reached the motorway and immediately, a silver Audi was pulling over to rescue her. The window lowered and the ruddy complexion of a young man emerged. He made no attempt to disguise his excitement as his eyes roved her body and became hazy with desire. When she immediately accepted his offer of a lift, it was apparent that he could not believe his luck.  He offered her a drink, which she snatched up appreciatively. It was her first drink in countless years and she drank the bottle dry. The man watched her the whole time, a smug grin plastered across his face. She too was excited now, sensing that the kill would come soon. The flushed man grinned back at her, seemingly happy that he had pleased her. He twisted the key in the ignition and the vehicle roared into life, turning the world into a blur of motion. All she had to do now, was wait for her moment and then request a pit stop at some remote location.

She sank into her chair and sighed. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to indulge in the moment, and let herself drift.

The woman awoke with a start. Her eyes darted in confusion, but she saw nothing. Darkness pressed against her, suffocating. She was no longer in the car. That had been warm, comforting. Her mind felt strange, clouded, and her whole body was limp. She was lying down and something was covering her. With effort, she managed to shift and painful lumps dug into her back. She gulped, not wishing to think the worst. Tried to ignore the crawling shiver that trailed her spine. She took a deep breath. Too deep. She choked as fresh soil attacked her airways. She could smell it now, the familiar, awful scent of damp earth and rot. She could barely believe it. Another unmarked grave. She sighed and for the first time ever, found herself cursing the descent of humankind, which all those years ago she had embraced with open arms. She closed her eyes and relaxed. It was going to be a long wait.

Sarah Skinner is in her second year studying English Literature in Newcastle University . Last week she was inspired by the new exhibition in the Baltic.

Artwork by Elise Danks

Want more? Read Facing Problems

Nah, time for Poetry

Go back to Issue 2

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The earth shifted. Mounds of rocky silt capsized and flooded the underground prison, soiling every orifice. The stench of decay rotted the air, stale and punishing. Beneath the surface, the groans were barely audible. Muffled by a lungful of mulching debris, they went unheard by all. The girl’s presence in the unmarked grave was noted only by creeping beetles and the worms that slivered against her prickling skin.

The girl had lost track of the days she had been there, trapped. Waiting. She did not know what she was waiting for, or how she had come to be imprisoned in such an unforgiving environment. She had no memories, not of her life before, not of anything. She knew only of the hell that surrounded her.

The earth was cold and filled with strange fragments that tore at her flesh. And it moved, as if it were alive. Breathing. Sometimes patiently, other times in guttural rasps, but all the time waiting. Just as she waited. Her own breaths grew laboured as mud infiltrated her throat, her nose. Her lungs. She could not cry for help. Not that anyone could have heard. The last of the air became thick and pungent as her weakened body lost control of its functions.

The girl shivered as something snaked and writhed beneath her thigh. She looked for it instinctively, though the sheer darkness of the tomb shielded her from the sight of the creeping invader. She strained to recall something beyond this existence, some reason, some explanation, but she was at a loss. Her mind could not form words, only pictures. Hideous images. But eventually, she knew, even the longest time must pass.

And soon, it was time. She had already waited too long and now it was her turn to make her escape. Newfound resolution filled her with power and she knew then that this prison could no longer hold her. Strength reverberated throughout her entire being as she pushed up, up. Nails scratched at walls of stony mud clusters. Calves and thighs tensed as she began the ascent to freedom. Poised fingers stretched towards the surface, until they poked through and touched the clean air. She clawed herself away from the grave, away from death. She was reborn.

Standing upon the surface, she surveyed her new surroundings. A steady rain began to fall, cleansing her body of all evidence of her grisly beginnings, of the earth that had encased her like a womb. Her bare skin was now bleached and unblemished, contrasting with an ebony mane that spread across her back and spilt upon the delicate contours of her face.

Her purpose hit her suddenly in a blinding image, branding her cheeks with a fiery hue. She licked her lips, igniting them with crimson heat. Eyes with darkened lashes blazed amber, casting a light of their own. She gazed down at her body for the first time, noting that it was strong, supple. Attractive. She smiled, causing her eyes to glow with even more fervour. This was going to be easy. There was no victim quite like a willing victim. Something crawled inside her in agreement.

Moving across the wasteland, she heard the distant bustle of activity; a motorway. Her smile intensified. Someone was bound to stop for her. They would have no idea of course, but some lucky person was about to make her very satisfied. Not that they would live long enough to know it. Discretion was vital. It had been too long, imprisoned for countless centuries beneath the hallowed ground. Fortunately for her though, the binds of the old religion had lost their grip, and had all but diminished. There would be no going back there now. She was free, at liberty to do as she pleased. Maim, kill, eat, fornicate. All without consequence. Life was good.

She reached the motorway and immediately, a silver Audi was pulling over to rescue her. The window lowered and the ruddy complexion of a young man emerged. He made no attempt to disguise his excitement as his eyes roved her body and became hazy with desire. When she immediately accepted his offer of a lift, it was apparent that he could not believe his luck.  He offered her a drink, which she snatched up appreciatively. It was her first drink in countless years and she drank the bottle dry. The man watched her the whole time, a smug grin plastered across his face. She too was excited now, sensing that the kill would come soon. The flushed man grinned back at her, seemingly happy that he had pleased her. He twisted the key in the ignition and the vehicle roared into life, turning the world into a blur of motion. All she had to do now, was wait for her moment and then request a pit stop at some remote location.

She sank into her chair and sighed. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to indulge in the moment, and let herself drift.

The woman awoke with a start. Her eyes darted in confusion, but she saw nothing. Darkness pressed against her, suffocating. She was no longer in the car. That had been warm, comforting. Her mind felt strange, clouded, and her whole body was limp. She was lying down and something was covering her. With effort, she managed to shift and painful lumps dug into her back. She gulped, not wishing to think the worst. Tried to ignore the crawling shiver that trailed her spine. She took a deep breath. Too deep. She choked as fresh soil attacked her airways. She could smell it now, the familiar, awful scent of damp earth and rot. She could barely believe it. Another unmarked grave. She sighed and for the first time ever, found herself cursing the descent of humankind, which all those years ago she had embraced with open arms. She closed her eyes and relaxed. It was going to be a long wait.

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4 Responses to What Lies Beneath by Laura Banks

  1. Laura Banks says:

    This artwork is amazing; it really captures the image I had when I created this character!

  2. Julia Winton says:

    Love this short story…could be the opening chapter to an incredible story, can we have more please?

  3. Glen Winton says:

    Tremendous! An atmospheric, claustrophobic and deliciously dark piece of writing that left me wanting to know more! I certainly hope more is on it’s way…

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