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The Reaping Epilogue

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"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!"

- Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass

PROLOGUE

As the ocean waves hit my legs, I stumble back from the force. The water splashes the sands, suctioning my feet, trapping me, claiming me for its own. The wind lashes my hair, covering my eyes while I withstand the elements and the growing storm in the distance that will strike in full force by nightfall. The clouds darken the skies, and lightning flares. A magnificent sight. But soon it will be night, and I must hide indoors, but I refuse to cower in fear it will be at my doorstep, ready to take me far away.

Beyond the shore, and past the mountains, it waits, still after so many years, even though I finally defeated the monster who has stolen so much from me. But it also gave me much in return, even though I hated to admit it. Its gift is farther down the beach with the precious boy and girl, twins, as they run with their shaggy, drooling, protective dog. I continue to back away from the rough water until I meet dry sand, watching the children and their mother play. I smile at their antics, wishing to join them. Soon I will, when I take them home as the sun sets, a farewell to another day.

I will shelter them in my arms, saying silent prayers to the Almighty above and giving thanks for our survival. Long ago, I turned my back on my god, but I found my faith again because of the strength and courage that allowed me to stand up to the dangers that have chased me into adulthood. I promised the children they would be safe from any harm. I have kept my promise, but at the cost of others. Unforgiveable acts that will haunt me until my death.

The one who has helped me through it all stands off in the distance, at the top of the wooden steps, keeping watch over his family. I sense him before I see him, finally turning to acknowledge him. He lifts his hand in greeting. His face brightens when I smile. It's not always easy for us to do so. We've had little to find joy in. But the reason for our misery occurred years ago. We are wiser and older, and secrets have bonded us, deeply and irrevocably.

A greenish tint swirls beyond the tree covered hills, meeting the clouds to bring forth impeding destruction. But the nightly attacks have become less, including the cries of the wild animals. It once ruled the land, terrorizing all. We defeated it and no longer live in terror like prior generations. Force of habit calls us to remain behind boarded up windows and locked doors at night, anxious for daybreak to arrive.

My fear vanished long ago. The family I created has helped. My love, and theirs, chased away the monster obsessed with making me his property again.

I belong to no one but myself. But my heart has been given to many, most of whom are here, racing toward me for a loving embrace I will gladly give.

I shake out my leg, the one with the limp, and join my family, turning away from the entity calling me to join it in an unholy union it once forced upon me many years ago. Instead, I observe the ocean one last time, welcoming the darkness without dread because I slayed the monster with its sharp fangs, and pointed claws. I found escape, and my freedom with it.

Memories of when I was a young girl, carefree and innocent before the monster took me, sweep over me like a woolen blanket. But one memory stands out above all the rest, plaguing me more than the death of my parents, and my grandmother's ultimate sacrifice, of the friends who have come and gone.

I wait for the children and my man who will come home with me.

But the scars remain, reminding me of the monster, the abomination who stole me away as his unholy bride....

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