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.
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.