The rifle leans by the cabin door. The gray window is cold to the touch. The mother sucks something from her thumb as she sets out the toast rack, her bare toes curling to grip the woven rug. Her nails have gotten quite long.
The girl comes down the stairs, nodding greetings to the bookcase, the butter bell, the coffee, the chess set. The wicker chair and potbelly stove. The grave sitting silent in the woods.
“You made it to another morning,” the mother says. “Congratulations.”
“And to you,” the girl replies.
The girl looks around. She says, “Only us.”
The mother cuts her pointing finger chopping onions for a scramble. The bats stir in their hibernaculum, the mother’s basement. The dog howls out the door.
A digger, that one.
The girl watches the blood, smells the mother’s eggs hissing in the pan. “I wish I were a vampire,” she declares. “I would love eternally, and take only the littlest sips of blood.” She tilts an invisible teacup to her mouth.
“Little sips turn to big sips,” the mother warns and looks at the girl as if she might be a sip of something herself.
The girl eats her breakfast with quaint noises of approval. The bats settle down, perhaps sensing her nearness. The girl is a sleepwalker. Impossible to wake. She loves games and visitors and yearns for the ability to cough up jewels.
She’s been going back to the grave again. Writing your name in the dirt. Just look at the mud on the stairs.
“I only wanted to lie down a moment,” she says when confronted.
(The girl is not so young as the mother would like to suggest.)
At night, the woods find her, hand cupped about a candleflame and bats all around. Hot wax drools down her knuckles. Hushed, the mother follows close behind, rifle tucked under her arm. To the grave they go. The girl spells your name with eyes closed, as if you were a dream. She lies down beside the grave, her marriage hand dangling in the dog’s mud hole, and waits for you to grasp it.
“You made it to another morning,” the mother will say when next she comes down for breakfast. “Any nightmares?”
The girl will look around. (She will be looking for you.) She will sigh as she says, “Only us.”
K.C. Mead-Brewer lives in Baltimore, MD. She is a graduate of Tin House’s 2018 Winter Workshop for Short Fiction and of the 2018 Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. For more information, visit kcmeadbrewer.com and follow her @meadwriter.
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