Part Eleven

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Within the hour they returned to the outskirts of their village. Twilight descended.

He passed the fork, but soon realized she had stopped behind him. He turned to see her facing the twisting path which lead to the graveyard.

He followed her stare and looked in dread out over the prairie-- and beyond its stretch of taboo girth-- at the tiny squares of bright light, suspended in the dark.

"We-- need to go past-- the forbidden prairie," she declared. "And-- we need to do it now."

"It's dangerous--" he contended, standing at her side. "We could die. Would you risk that?"

She hung her head. "For someone I love? Yes."

She took both his hands and met his gaze. He could not look away. Was this a trick she learned from the monster?

"My sister might still be alive. I know you're afraid. So am I. But we can do it. Together. The fear wants to wrap you up, round and round, and never let go, but we can fight it, we can break free. You and me. Maybe that's all love is, facing fear. Together. We survived the river."

"The current helped us."

"We survived the big worm--"

"That wasn't us, that was lightning."

"The feathered beast--"

"The pumpkin put us in the barrel."

"Please. Please!"

He sighed, embarrassed for his clammy hands. "Were you and your friends really going to feed me to the monster?"

"Yes. No. Maybe. Look, I changed my mind. It's different now."

"But, I'm not even sure-- she exists."

She let go of his hands. "How could you say such a thing?"

"Your dad never mentioned her, when he caught us that time."

She stepped back.

"This girl, and her attacks, she could be in on it--"

"You just saw her carried off!"

"Did I? I heard a sound, sure, but I was looking at you and--"

"I don't believe this," she bit her bottom lip.

"Neither do I. Your dad's a big guy. He would be better."

"My parents are visiting my cousins!"

"That's convenient. Why not ask your weirdo friends?"

"I just spent two and a half weeks convincing them to feed you to the-- Okay, Okay. I'll kiss you. Isn't that what you want?" She wrapped her arms around his neck. "Then will you help me?"

They grappled. He twisted his face this way and that.

"Let me kiss you. Let me kiss you. Let me kiss you."

He pulled her hands away. "No."

"Why not!"

"I want us to be real," he said.

Her eyes burned. The slightest of snarls curled her lips. She backed away. The night enveloped her. She receded into darkness. She receded into memory. She said nothing.

He looked at the moon.


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