His garden hid deep within the park grounds, shying away from intruders behind an iron wrought gate. The gate didn’t keep the public out—they never visited the park anyway—but rather turned away munching deer who gazed enviously over the black spiked fence at the temptations inside. One scratch from the sharp point had been enough…
Anna learned monsters were real one night as she crouched in bed, her ear pressed against the wall that separated their bedroom from the living room. This was before Papa had left with the marching men, back when Mama came home from selling in the market while the sun was still high. Annabelle had never seen her mother look like that day when Mama came home. She kissed Papa as they welcomed her home and Annabelle heard her whisper to him, 'We need to talk.' As soon as supper ended, the two sisters were ordered to bed.
Transcribed below are the contents found within a letter inside an unmarked envelope. I found it atop the nightstand at my bedside, leaning against the broken motel clock radio. The letter itself was written on plain computer paper in a messy half-cursive, half-print handwriting.
She dug in the shade of an elm tree where the dirt was still soft and moist and tried to keep her eyes off Starry. The queer thing was, nothing else touched the body. Flies avoided it, the ants and beetles marched around it, and the smell hadn't drawn any scalehound. The monster had touched it. You should never eat something a monster touches. Papa had never said this but she felt sure he would if he were with her. Perhaps that’s how you become a monster in the first place, she mused.
You're not supposed to be scared at nine-and-three-quarters, she knew. You had to be brave and strong and protect the little ones that get scared. Papa said so. Monsters weren’t real. Papa said that, too.
Beyond the field was the enemy’s land. I was almost there. And there was no going back. I could not return a failure to my family. I could not explain to them how I had allowed her to fall into their hands and not saved her. I had to do it. She was counting on me. I was all she had.