I crumple over a snowy-white boulder carpeted in lichen. My eyes drift over the things around me; I see symbols, pictures written into white birch-bark, secrets left behind by moss lettering and fairy-feet. Patterns are etched into the soil beneath me; worn roots curl into spirals, and mushrooms, bearded with mold, make ancient villages in the shadow of the trees.
VERA HADZIC, THE SPIDER
Ash, not many years away from entering adulthood, continued with his morning ritual as he had since he’d been trusted to feed himself his own breakfast. Shirtless, he sat on the edge of his bed, stretched his arms above his head, and walked down the hallway to where the soft light from beyond the window barely lit the hard backs of the chairs at the kitchen table. He sat alone and reached inside the chipped porcelain bowl to grab an apple that was past ripeness. As he chewed around the browning spots, he dabbed at the edges of his lips with his open hand, trying his best to contain all of the fruit’s juices. Outside, the moon said goodbye to another night.
Sammy told us that it stayed in the old playhouse behind his stepdad’s deer stand. His Skeletor action figure went missing because of it, and it was responsible for another kid’s stolen bike.
No one had ever seen it, but its presence was carried through passing voices in the hallways of the Northland community schools. Most of the kids said it was some type of troll or goblin.
The magpie wouldn’t go away, no matter how many times Baudelaire glared at it, or asked nicely. Baudelaire could only assume that it had found its way in by using the oak opposite her – the tree that had been old when Baudelaire had arrived was still living. Its branches arched over the entire forgotten courtyard and annually coated all in a shower: first of acorns, then fallen leaves. The snow would always follow, blanketing the paving stones, Baudelaire and bench in a stifling smother.
They called her the Witch’s Daughter, but in truth, she was just a little girl.
From the tales in town, I’d expected to see a monster. Some terrible misshapen thing, too horrifying to behold, too scary to even begin to describe. From the stories, I expected bulging eyes, sharp white teeth, claws, an inhuman snarling voice, a hunched back and webbed toes.
So when I came to the place where they kept her, I peeked through the window to the little black room where she was held. There were no bulging eyes and sharp teeth. She was just a normal looking little girl.
Jenna held the small parcel in her hands tightly. “You say you’ve done this before? More than once before? Has it ever failed?”
She and Tom stood before the desk of the doll maker. He gestured to the wall behind them covered in thank you notes and snaps of happy customers with their purchases.
I stand at the bedroom window, my fingernails digging into the window sill and worry about Gregg’s prized Ferrari because there’s a bull—big and black and threatening like a bull is supposed to look—outside near the detached garage in the too-bright glare of the security lights. Sometimes the bull gallops back and forth across the lawn, tossing its great head, scaring me with its horns, other times it just chews its cud, waiting.
The Texas summer shone yellow with dust and dry grass and sun. Daniel was eight years old and lived on a triangular plot of land. Two sides of the triangle were bordered by oak woods, tangled and gnarled and parched. The bottom third of the triangle, though, was road, hot and dark and flatter than the earth was supposed to be and more dangerous than a rattlesnake. More than anything in the world, Daniel loved the wood and hated the road.
The wood loved Daniel in return.
The night They came was a thunderstorm night, the very sky a black-feathered bird calling: Now. Now you are at the place of oblivion. The stars above us were in flight, one moment visible, the next concealed, startling from the branches. In the day everything has its place and is confined to exist there. In the darkness, we all have the gift of wings. The moonlight unfurled along the razor edge of the leaves and the lightning pecked the Earth with the indifference of a beak: Now. Now you are obliterated.
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We watch her from the corners of our eyes but say we’re looking elsewhere, somewhere. The neighborhood calls her the lady of the earth and pretend they don’t see her when they can hear her dancing.
GRACE SAFFORD, SHE IS BEAUTIFUL