Excerpt

Excerpt

Excerpt-“The Pariah Child & the Ever-Giving Stone”

By Natasha D. Lane

Prologue
Sarafina danced barefoot in the field, the afternoon Montana sun warming her skin and the grass tickling her tiny feet. Around her, small patches of glittery light flew here and there. These were her friends. They were much smaller than her with translucent wings and shimmering bodies coated in gold.

Sarah wasn’t sure what her friends were exactly. She only knew they weren’t like her, so she called them fairies because they looked like the little people from her books.

The fairies showered Sarah in bright gold as the sun beamed down on her, making her titian red hair to come to life like flames in a fire.

As the fairies flew around her, they played tiny instruments, their cheerful melody filling her ears. She closed her eyes and danced faster.

One fairy broke from the band and flew over to Sarah whose eyes were still closed. He blew a ball of golden dust in her face, and she began to cough uncontrollably. Once the dust had cleared from the air, Sarah took a deep breath, her cheeks now a light red.
“Gaelin!” she said. “I know it was you. You’re the only one who’d play such a nasty trick.”

The fairies grouped together and giggled, their wings brightening with each laugh. Ethlen, the eldest of the group, who had flowing gray hair and always wore pretty dresses with jewels, stepped in front of the others. She fluttered over to Sarah, hovering just above her nose.

“Are you so certain it was Gaelin, child? You know it is never good to speak falsely.”

“Of course it was,” she said and crossed her arms playfully. “You told me yourself he’s the trickster of the group.”

Ethlen raised a brow. “I did? Hm, I can’t recall. Seems to me you’ll have to prove it was Gaelin.”

Sarah gave her a small smile and jutted her chin out. “And if you want me to prove it you’ll have to catch me first.”

The young girl darted to her left and sprinted around the field with her friends following behind her, dodging the old, stone well that stood in the center of the field. Suddenly, Sarah spun on her heels and turned to face them with one hand held up.

“Halt!” Sarah took an authoritative pose. The band of fairies came to a stop, hovering a few feet from Sarah. She picked up a stray stick and pointed it at the group. “I wouldn’t go any further if I were you,” she said with a devilish glint in her eyes.

“And why is that?” asked one fairy.

Sarah drew a line in the dirt. “Because,” she said, “I am Peter Pan and beyond this line is Neverland. If you want to enter, you’ll have to fight me first. Ha!” She thrust the stick out. “Do any of you dare?”

The fairies huddled together and whispered to one another, stealing glances at the redheaded child. Sarah waited for their decision, stick at the ready.

Ethlen turned to Sarah. “Are you ready for our answer?”

Sarah looked from left to right at the fairies, before puffing out her chest and nodding.

The fairy smirked. “We dare!” she said, and they all flew at Sarah at once, tickling her sides.

Sarah dropped the stick to try and protect herself from the onslaught, but it was too late. Her sides shook from laughter while she bit her lip trying to hold back the giggles. She dashed across the field to escape the fairies, but they were tiny and quick.

I know a place they’ll never find me, Sarah thought as she ran into the woods. She could hear their little wings fluttering behind her, though it didn’t matter. This time she would win.

She ran to the oldest tree in the forest and wrapped her arms around its trunk.

“Mother Tree, let me up. The fairies are trying to catch me.”

The tree lowered one of its branches, and Sarah climbed up, holding on with all her strength as she was lifted from the ground. Once Sarah was up in the tree, she climbed up a few more branches and looked around for the fairies below her. When she saw their sparkling trail of dust speed past Mother Tree, she smiled and stuck her tongue out at the receding group.

“Victory is mine,” she whispered and leaned back on the branch.

Then, there was a quick snap, and she plummeted downward through the air. Mother Tree reached out with her branches. Sadly, Sarah was falling too fast. As she came crashing to the ground a streak of pain stretched across her left arm. Sarah screamed. She grabbed her arm and began sobbing.

“Sarah? What happened?” The fairies were moving toward her in their trail of gold. “We heard you scream and–”

“Sarafina!” Her mother’s voice swept through the forest like a dark cloud. The fairies disappeared, and Mother Tree lifted her branches. Lucille came stomping through the trees.

“Where are you, girl,” she said. “What have you done now?”

“I’m here, Mama,” Sarah sobbed. She could see her mother approaching, her white apron snug around her belly and stained from cooking. Lucille was a stout woman with short, light brown hair that curled up around her ears. Her round face went well with her round tummy and pudgy arms, which could warm the coldest child. Lucille had what some would call a mother’s body.

She marched up to Sarah and shook her head, before tucking her hair behind her ears. She grabbed Sarah by her arm. Her hands were cut and calloused from working on the farm.

Sarah screamed again as fresh tears fell from her eyes. Her mother dropped her and looked at the tree Sarah had been lying beside.

“What did I tell you about climbing these trees?” Lucille’s mouth dropped downward into an angry frown.

Sarah continued to cry. Her mother grabbed her other arm and dragged her through the woods to their home.

She sat Sarah down at the kitchen table, grabbed the phone from the side of the wall and stretched the line into the other room.

When she returned, Lucille crossed her arms and glared at Sarah, making her clamp her mouth shut and turn her cries into sniffles.

Within twenty minutes a tall, thin-shouldered man stepped into their house through the small screen door. He wore a long, white coat and carried a black case in his right hand. He greeted Lucille and took a seat beside Sarah before examining her arm.

“It’s definitely broken,” he said. “We’ll have to take her to the hospital. Are you sure you want the one you requested, ma’am?” He peered over his glasses at Sarah’s mother.

Lucille gave him a sharp nod, and Sarah was swooped into the doctor’s car. He sped off from their little house and down the streets of their small town. Sarah, with her mother beside her, watched as the tiny houses and shops turned into nothing but trees.

“Mama, where are we going?” Sarah asked.

Her mother kept her gaze forward. “To the hospital. The doctor is going to make you all better.”

“But didn’t we pass the hospital? We’re way past the town now–”

“It’s a new one,” she snapped. “You’ll understand when we get there.”

When the car finally stopped, Sarah didn’t recognize where they were. The building had an ominous presence, surrounded by a metal black fence and structures of gargoyles on the roof’s edge. She watched warily as the doctor led them into the building, and straight into a white-walled office where he placed her arm in a cast.

Sarah felt a great sense of relief. She hopped off the examination table ready to leave, but at the same moment, her mother jumped to her feet and left the room. The girl began stumbling after her mother, but the doctor took hold of her good arm.
He smiled, showing off a set of perfect teeth.

It was a very disconcerting smile.

“Would you like to follow me, Sarah?”

“Where’s my Mama?” she asked peering at the door her mother had left from.

“She had to pay the bill. She asked me to watch you until she comes back,” said the doctor. “Actually, I think I have something you’d be interested in. Would you like to come along with me?” He released her arm and held out a hand to her.

Sarah looked between him and the door.

“Do I have a choice?” she asked.

He only continued to smile and took her hand in his to lead her down a hallway.

“Your mother tells me you talk to trees. Is that true?”

Sarah chewed her lip. Her mother always said it was bad to lie.

“Yes, trees, fairies and other things.” She waited for a reaction. He gave none and only stared down at her with that smile still across his face. His eyes were open and wide like he wanted to listen to her.

She continued on. “They come to visit me, but Mother Tree is my favorite. She’s the oldest, sweetest tree in the woods.”

“I see,” he said.

Still holding Sarah’s hand he approached a white door. With a glance at the room number, he kneeled down before Sarah.

“In here is another person who sees what you see,” he said.

“You mean things like fairies?”

“Yes, all of that. Let me introduce you.” He stood up and opened the door to reveal a small colorless room with a bed, desk and chair. In the chair was a woman who was hunched over and scribbling furiously on a sheet of paper on the desk. She didn’t even turn her head in their direction when they entered the room.

“Susan,” the doctor said. “This is Sarah. I’ve brought her here to meet you. She sees things like you do.”

The woman did not respond.

He pulled his hand from Sarah’s and took a step back. “I’ll leave you two be, then.”

Before Sarah could protest, he had shoved her into the room, closed the door and locked it.

Sarah gulped down the last of her saliva as her mouth dried. She stared at the door, waiting for the doctor to come back. Instead of hearing the lock click, she heard the echoing sound of receding footsteps. Then, the hall fell silent. She peered behind her. Susan, as the doctor had called her, had not moved.

Sarah took a deep breath and turned to face the woman but didn’t dare speak as all of Susan’s attention was placed on her drawing. Moments passed, but Susan continued to ignore the girl’s presence.

She expected the woman to scream at her, to shout or attack her, but she did nothing. Just drew.

Maybe she’s not that scary. Sarah took slow steps over to peek at the drawing.

Susan hid it away.

“What do you want?” Susan asked, staring at Sarah with two small green eyes from behind a bush of disheveled dark hair.

Sarah leapt back, the fear returning to her now.

“Are you sick?” she asked.

Susan stared at the ceiling without blinking, then, looked back at Sarah.

“That’s what they keep telling me.”

“You mean the doctor?” Sarah asked, glancing at the door then turning back to Susan. “I don’t trust him.”

She looked Sarah up and down. “I don’t trust him either.”

Her green eyes rolled over Sarah once more. “I’m not used to people. But you seem all right. Maybe we’ll get along.

Sarah smiled. “I’d like that. I don’t have any friends other than the trees and fairies really. He said you could see them, too.”

Susan stilled. Her eyes locked onto Sarah. When she spoke, her voice was strained. “You see them, too then? Don’t trust them. Don’t trust them.”

“What?” Sarah backed up against the door as Susan jumped from her chair and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Don’t trust them,” she repeated. “They’re demons. They put me in here! They wouldn’t stop talking to me. Because they wouldn’t stop talking to me… I asked them nicely, I begged!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sarah cried, fumbling for the door handle, her hands shaking and palms coated in sweat.
Susan grabbed her chin and forced Sarah to look at her. She rubbed her hands over the girl’s face.

“I see now,” Susan said, “You’re one of them. Look at you. Coming in disguise now, my little fairy friend. Where’s your fairy dust? Get me out of here.”

“I can’t,” Sarah whined, her heart nearly ready to beat out of her chest.

Susan’s hands moved from Sarah’s face to her neck. She leaned her face down to the girl’s so their noses were touching and then screamed.

“Get me out of here, or I’ll kill you!” Her hands tightened around Sarah’s small throat, slowing the passage of air. Sarah gasped for breath as darkness began to engulf her.

“I’ll kill you!” Susan continued to scream while shaking Sarah by the neck.

The door flew open, and Sarah was knocked to the ground. The doctor came back in with two other men dressed in white. They dragged Susan to her bed and held her down. She thrashed under their grasp until the doctor put a needle in her arm. Her body grew limp, but her piercing green eyes continued to bore into Sarah.

The door creaked. Sarah turned around to see her mother enter the room. She reached out to her, but Lucille didn’t take her hand. Instead she grabbed her by the shoulders.

“This is where you’ll end up if you keep playing pretend, Sarah,” she said. “I’ll be forced to put you here. Just at age four! You don’t want that, do you?”

Sarah shook her head, images of Susan flashing through her mind. “No, Mama,” she said.

“Then you’ll be a good girl from now on?”

Sarah took one last glance at Susan who was now unconscious on the bed. The last bit of blood drained from Sarah’s face and she turned to her mother. “Yes, Mama. I’ll be good.”

“You’re going to stop talking to all your imaginary friends?”

Sarah bobbed her head up and down repeatedly. “Yes, Mama. I won’t talk to them anymore.”

~*~

The doctor dropped Sarah and Lucille off.

“You’ll be normal now, Sarah. Just a normal little gal.” He smiled his teeth somehow whiter than they were before. Sarah didn’t respond. Her mother thanked him for his help and placed her hand on Sarah’s back, guiding her daughter to the house. Once the screen door was opened, Sarah headed for her room.

“We’re not done yet,” Lucille said, and Sarah immediately stopped her ascension.

She turned back, fear in her eyes.“I promise I won’t–”

“Promising isn’t enough,” her mother said. “We have to make sure these crazy ideas aren’t planted in your head again. It’s time we end this.”

“So, w-what should we do, Mama?” She wished her voice were steadier.

Her mother huffed. “We need to burn your books.”

The words started a sickening feeling in Sarah’s stomach.

Her mother placed her hands on her hips, seeming to stare down at the child even though she was the one elevated on the stairs.

“Please, Mama–”

“Every book.” Her voice was humorless. “This stops now. If you don’t do it, I will.”

“Mama, I–”

“Sarafina, I said now!” Her voice echoed through the house like a storm. Sarah shivered. She’d never seen her mother so upset before. She stumbled up the stairs and into her room where she gathered all her books in a bed sheet and brought them down to the kitchen. Her mother already had the oven filled with flames.

Lucille snatched the makeshift trash bag from Sarah and tossed it open on the floor.

“No more mystery!” she screamed and tossed a book into the flames.

“No more fantasy!” Another book curled into ashes followed by another and then another…

“No more adventure!” The final book landed in the fire. Sarah’s eyes stung from the smoke, but the smoke was not the reason for her tears.

Her mother turned back to her. Her face was an angry red; the flames cast a dark shadow on her.

“Where is it?” she said.

Sarah did not respond.

“Where is the last book?” Without waiting for Sarah to answer she marched into Sarah’s room and pushed the bed mattress to the side. There on the iron bedspring was a hardback book with Peter and Wendy written on its cover. She snatched the book, marched down the stairs, and tossed it into the fire.

“No!” Sarah screamed and reached for the book. Her mother grabbed her by the shoulder and held her back.

“You really aren’t right in the head, are you, gal?”

The house door flew open and a tall, wiry frame stepped inside. Still dressed in his work clothes, Sarah’s father entered the house. “What in the Lord’s name is going on here?”

“Daddy, Peter Pan!” Sarah wailed and pointed to the oven. Her father glanced over the scene in his house before pulling the book from the fire and tossing it on the table. Sarah immediately grabbed the novel and held it to her chest.

“Be careful, it’ll burn you,” her father said and tried to pull the book from her arms.

“It’s okay, Daddy. It’s not hot.” Sarah pressed the book closer to her chest, enjoying the heat that rose from it. She smiled at her father, her hero. He grinned and pushed the red strands of hair away from her face. Then, he turned to his wife.

Lucille crossed her arms. Sweat covered her forehead, black splotches of burnt paper decorated her arms, and her chest rose high at a steady pace. The house filled with the smell of burning paper.

“It was for her own good,” she said. “It was for her own good.”

Chapter 1
(Nine Years Later)

Sarah stood several feet away from the well with a small pail in her hand. The late summer sun warmed her skin, but her hands were still shaking. She placed the pail on the ground and stepped toward the well. With one hand she reached out to grab the rope, but it was too far away. She stretched out her arm again, placing her free hand on the stone rim of the well for a better reach. The cold solid feeling slipped into her fingertips and ran through her body in strong vibrations. It was a very old well.

A strong wind tangled her fiery hair, covering her face like a mask. The familiar smell of bacon and eggs floated on the breeze.

Breakfast was cooking, and her mother would be calling her in soon.

I just have to get water for the house. Her fingers grazed the rope, and she reached out a little more until she grasped it. She attached it to the bucket before lowering it into the dark water.

Sarah pulled the pail up, water sloshing around the rim. The pail was small, so it couldn’t hold much. She would have to come back several more times to get all the water for the day.

She pulled hard on the rope, and the bucket bumped into the stonewall of the well, causing rings to spread through the water. Sarah watched the rings spread from the center to the edges. It was amazing how one could turn into many with a simple movement.

She set the pail back on the well’s rim and hesitated before placing a hand in the water, allowing the liquid bliss to soak her skin. Rocks and stones were always a bit stronger, kind of forceful. The water was okay, always gentle, always slow.

The smooth, cool feeling seeped into her and with it came memories of when she was younger. When she splashed around in the kitchen sink while her mother washed her as a baby. When she stood out on the farm, head turned up to the sky with the spring raining beating down on her. When water spilled on her little legs as she dragged a tin bucket twice her size across the yard. When she splashed water on her freckled face during a hot summer day…

“Sarafina Leah Wickeson!” shouted Sarah’s mother from their house. The girl woke from her trance and fear gripped her heart.

“Sarafina!” The woman’s voice came again.

She snatched the pail and ran through the woods to her house, ignoring the urge to feel the bark of all the trees she was passing.

“Sarafina!” Her mother shouted, standing by the kitchen window. Sarah burst through the door with a fast rising chest and offered her mother the pail. The woman, who by now was red in the face, crossed her arms and looked down at her daughter. Sarah stared back up at her mother, who was more intimidating than the county fair’s biggest hog.

Her throat tightened. “Yes, Mama?”

Lucille shook her head and snatched the pail from her hands. “What have you been doing, gal? You’re soaked.”

Sarah gazed down at herself. Her mother was right; her clothes were drenched in well water.

She peered into the pail and frowned when she saw it was empty.

“Mama, I filled it up. I must have spilled the water when I was running back here –”

“Sarah,” Lucille said not giving her the chance for an excuse, “what did I tell you? I said get some water from the well. I didn’t say anything about pouring it all over yourself. You know the pipes aren’t fixed yet, that’s why we need the well water to drink. I don’t know what your father and I are going to do with you. When the George’s son started acting up, do you know what they did with him? Do ya? They sent him away. Is that what you want? I told you before. We can’t have you running around like this. The neighbors will think we’re raising a crazy child.”

The words flew from her mouth quickly, stealing all her breath. Her mother sighed and turned to the window. “Go get cleaned up. I want to see you in some dry clothes.”

Sarah nodded, hugged herself and snuck up to the bathroom, grabbing a fresh dress from her closet on the way. The stairs had squeaked as she scampered up them. The house was old, falling apart and in desperate need of repair. The red paint on the shudders had faded and started to peel away. The porch wood was rotting from years of sunlight and termites. The roof was made of tin, and on a rainy night, it was hard to get to sleep.

In the bathroom, Sarah took a towel and began to pat herself dry. She looked in the mirror at her matted hair and freckled face. A single strand rested on her shoulders. She twirled the strand of hair aimlessly, never moving her eyes from the mirror.

“Are you ever going to be normal?” The words were light on her tongue, yet they dragged on her mind like the world’s heaviest weight. She took in a deep breath and closed her eyes, the chill from the well water sinking into her.

“No, because you’re just like me,” said a voice.

Sarah’s eyes flashed open. Her image was no longer reflected in the mirror. Susan’s piercing green eyes stared back at her instead.

“You’re like me, Sarah. All messed up in the head.”

“No,” Sarah whispered and wiped the mirror off. The image remained. Susan smiled from ear to ear showing off brown, decaying teeth.

“You’re not real. You’re dead. Mama told me you died in the institution six years ago,” said Sarah clutching the towel to her chest. She tried to avert her gaze, yet her eyes always returned to the undead woman looking down at her.

“That’s what I used to say to the demons. They got me in the end, though. Remember, Sarah? I told you when you came to visit me.”

Sarah closed her eyes and held firmly onto the bathroom sink. “I don’t remember. I won’t remember. Just forget. Forget it ever happened!”

“But Sarah,” said Susan.

“No,” she replied.

“But Sarah…”

“No.”

“Sarah!”

“I said no!” Sarah opened her eyes. Susan was gone. A scared, wide-eyed girl stared back at her. She held onto the sink to steady her shaking body. It was hard to breathe. She placed a hand on her chest.

“I promised Mama,” she said to herself. “I promised Mama I wouldn’t imagine things anymore. All it took for the George’s boy was reading the wrong way and playing pretend. I can’t let Mama down.”

She wiped off her face, wishing her freckles and red hair would come off as well. She watched herself in the mirror, expecting Susan to pop up again, but the dead woman didn’t come back.

Sarah slipped on her dress. She was thirteen but had the body of a ten year old and was the size of a twig. She had pale skin as well as a tiny nose that fell right between her dark blue eyes. Sarah wasn’t meant to wear dresses, no, not with her knobby knees and flat chest, but her mother said jeans weren’t appropriate for a girl. Even for a farm girl.

“Breakfast!” Lucille’s booming voice rang through the house.

Sarah ran down the stairs and took a seat beside her mother. Her father Paul sat at the head of the table. He was a gruff man, rough around the edges and hardened from years of work. Still, his eyes were a soft blue that made the lines on his face a sign of maturity instead of old age. He was about six feet tall and thin with short, scruffy, sun-bleached hair. His arms were toned and tanned from working in the sun, but his face was pale like Sarah’s. Some would say he had a father’s arms. They were strong enough and long enough to swing a child high in the sky.

“Bow your head to pray,” Paul said, his voice raspy. “May the Lord bless us and this food we are about to receive. In the—”

“Don’t be sad, Sarah. You can always talk to us. We’re here for you.”

Sarah shook her head and ignored the voice.

“Amen,” the family said in unison.

Paul coughed. “Did you check on the cow, Lucille? Is her milk still sour?”

Sarah’s mother shook her head, causing her hair to sway, and pouted her lips.

“I just don’t know why that darn cow started squirting out sour milk.”

“I don’t know either,” he responded.

Her mother bit into a slice of bacon. “Something is a coming. I can feel it. My elbow got cold last night, ya know?” There was a long silence.

It was known, far and wide, that when Lucille’s elbow got cold something was going to happen. Some change was about to occur. And her elbow was never wrong. You could call it some form of woman’s intuition, though Lucille tried to keep it hush since it didn’t gain the family any popularity in town.

“Lucy…is it cold now?” Paul asked.

The woman shrugged and touched her elbow. “It’s colder than a freezer in December.”

“Well, then let’s all head in early tonight. I don’t want to take any chances. You hear me, Sarah? We need to be cautious these next few days.” His eyes fell on her. “Why is your hair wet?”

Sarah tensed. “I–”

“Were you messing in the well water again?” He continued to stare at her while her mind scrambled for words.

Sarah sighed and poked at her eggs. “I spilled it on myself when I was running back to the house. I’m sorry, Daddy. I’ll go back out and fetch some more.” She slumped in her seat and gazed down at the cracked wooden table.

Her father was silent for a moment. Finally, he said, “It’s all right, Sarah. No harm done.”

Her mother twisted her lips and wrinkled her nose. “It is not all right, Paul. It’s not all right for young gals to go around frolicking in well water, playing in mud, climbing trees. No, none of this is all right.”

“The mud was years ago, Mama. I haven’t done it since fifth grade,” Sarah said in a weak attempt to defend herself.

The woman glared. “So? It still happened. You may be sneaking around doing it again for all I know. What is wrong with you, Sarah?”

“Lucille.” Her father leveled his gaze at his wife.

She looked at him, surprised. “Paul, you know what I’m saying is true.”

“Sarah is fine,” he said and wiped his mouth. “Nothing is wrong with my daughter, and if there is, it’s nothing to worry about. And she’s not going to no crazy house either so stop telling her that. You don’t think I hear you down here with her? My daughter isn’t being sent anywhere. You tried doing that once, you won’t get away with it again.” He gave his wife a long, hard look.

With hesitation and a head held high, Lucille gave him a “humph” and turned back to her breakfast.

Sarah’s father checked the clock. “I’m late. Don’t have time to finish breakfast.”

He stood and grabbed his coat. Before leaving, he gave both Lucille and Sarah a kiss on the cheek. Sarah heard the truck engine start up, and the tires against the dirt as he drove away.

Lucille stared at the door with wide eyes. Sarah watched her mother and felt guilt building in her stomach. Her parents argued about her a lot, but she didn’t want to be the thing that came between them. She watched her mother’s face go through several different emotions ranging from sadness to anger to guilt and back again.

“Sarah,” Lucille said quietly, “go finish your chores. Gather some firewood and tend to the animals.”

Sarah nodded. “Yes, Mama.” With heavy arms and legs, she rose from the table. She glanced back at her mother before closing the screen door and picking up the wicker basket from the porch. She headed toward the chicken coop to gather eggs. The cow mooed from the stables near the edge of the few acres of farmland the family owned. Most of what they grew was barley.

Fall was approaching, yet strangely the wind had died down, and it was now a hot, dry day. The sun beat on Sarah’s skin like a drum as she crossed the yard. The chicken coop was old and bound to collapse at any minute. The wood was falling apart, and the wire fence was becoming rusty from years of rain. Sarah tested her left foot on the stepping plank to make sure it would hold her. She bent down and crawled into the now tiny space. It seemed so big when she was a child, but now if she stood her head would crack the ceiling.

She started on the left and traveled down the row. The chickens clucked and she fed them bits of feed as she gathered their eggs.

“You all don’t think I need to be in a crazy house, right?” She patted the chickens’ heads. “But then again you are a chicken and I’m talking to you, so what does that mean?”

The chickens stared at her.

“Yup, I thought so.”

The rusty tin roof of the coop shook. A gust of wind blew through the open door and the old coop creaked. Sarah held her breath praying it wouldn’t cave in. The wind continued to blow and with it a low growl traveled to her ears. She looked out the tiny coop window toward the woods and squinted her eyes.

There was nothing there, so, she turned away from the window and went back to work. She heard another growl, this one louder than the last. Once again she looked up and out the window.

A dark four-legged figure slowly emerged from the woods, hunched over and emitting a snarl from its throat that made Sarah’s heart skip a beat. She jumped for the door handle and tried to push it down to cover the opening, but it wouldn’t budge. She slammed on the handle again and still it didn’t move.

The wolf howled, and Sarah screamed. In a single moment, the beast was by the coop door. The girl’s eyes grew large in surprise at its speed. Its fur was a poisoning black that harshly contrasted with its stunningly white sharp teeth. The beast launched itself at her, and she pushed to the back wall of the coop. The chickens clucked wildly and flapped around her.

The wolf beat its body against the wooden walls trying to force itself through the small opening. It snapped at Sarah’s legs, drool dripping from its mouth. Sarah kicked at the canine’s snout, but it did not falter. The coop walls began to crack.

“Help!” Sarah screeched. “Help! Mama!”

The wolf growled, and it seemed rabid with foam frothing from its mouth. Everything about him was ravenous, wild, except his eyes. The pupils weren’t dilated, and they didn’t look around the coop. They had an odd calm and focus to them. The beast was ignoring the chickens. Instead, it had locked its eyes on Sarah.

Sarah watched the beast as it watched her, the look in his eyes making her feel as if she had already been captured.

She dug her nails into the wood and gritted her teeth.

“No!” she screamed and started to rapidly kick at the wolf’s head.

“Sarafina. Get away from Sarafina,” the voice shouted.

“Someone, please!” Her eyes had filled with tears.

The wolf yelped. Its growling figure disappeared from the door.

Sarah remained pressed against the back wall of the coop. She gazed out the door and watched as some invisible forced dragged the wolf back into the shadows of the forest. The beast howled and clawed at the ground, desperate for an escape. Soon it had disappeared into the trees, and Sarah could only stare after it. Her heart was still beating fast, and she was more afraid than a turkey on Thanksgiving morning but something tugged at her. She followed behind the wolf. Its tiny eyes glowed in the shadows of the wood’s trees. She continued following and watching as the animal’s furry tail was pulled behind some bushes. She followed the beast into the shrubbery, but all that was left was a hole.

Sarah dropped to her knees and gazed into the black abyss, debating whether she should go in or not. She leaned closer.

“Sarafina! Where are those eggs?” Sarah jerked her neck around at her mother’s commanding voice. She looked back in the direction of her home, then back at the mysterious hole. It was much too big for a rodent to make…

“Sarafina!” Lucille’s hard voice came again.

“Yes, Mama!”

The redhead stood from her kneeling position and followed her mother’s voice back home. As soon as she broke through the brush, she heard a painful howl that made her come to a halt halfway through the woods. Still shaking, Sarah grabbed the eggs and ran inside.

 

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