So That Nothing Could Ever Sneak Up On Us
Persephone Erin Hudson
Our house stood with its back to the steepest hill you ever saw. Almost a pillar, dotted with daisies. Freckles of white and yellow floating in a sea of green. Mother said we built our house with its back to a wall so that nothing could ever sneak up on us.
The hill weren’t much wider than the house, but we never dared look what was on the other side. We were a fearful family that way. Back to the wall, scanning the horizon. We didn’t dare take our eyes from the grassy plain, vast, infinite for all we knew.
Mother always kept her fingers on the trigger, even if the gun weren’t in her hand. Even in sleep, her finger always curled. Ready. Twitchy. When we played in the yard she’d patrol across the porch. Even when sitting down. Even when we slept. She patrolled. Stern. Vigilant.
We had a good life there. A small one, maybe. A fearful one, certainly. But we were never want for comfort. Troubles passed us by on the way to their ends. A single sunny day together, forever. Mother, sister, puppy, and me. We were a family. A family with our back to the wall.
One awake, puppy ran for the hill. Weren’t no reason why, far as we knew. Puppy had never turned from the wall before. No flight of fancy had never turned his eye to it. He knew the rules. And one awake, he ran for the hill anyway. Bolted. Barking. Never to be seen again.
Sister and I ran after puppy. But mother stopped us. She told us it was too late. She told us puppy belonged to the things behind us, now. No family would dare tread in such places, she said. Puppy was no longer our family, she said. We would have to forgive and forget, she said.
Sister and I, we tried to forget. We did. But it weren’t the same without puppy. The sun shone through clouds that weren’t there. Mother’s footsteps echoed like blows through the house. We tried to play but all our games were made for three. Even our dreams turned to the wall.
One asleep, when mother was, sister and I snuck out of bed. We knew we’d have to find puppy. We missed him so. We had to find puppy to be a family again. And we knew we’d have to tread behind us. Behind the house. Behind the hill. One asleep, we snuck out to face the things behind us.
Down the porch, around the hill. Wood to grass, bristling at our trespass. Sister trailed behind me as I ran. Around the hill, I came to face that which lies behind us.
I saw something indescribable.
I heard the gun fire.
I heard sister drop to the ground.
But I did not look away.
I saw the things which lie behind us, where family dares not tread. We met in silence. A long, horrible silence. Until mother pulled the trigger. Until she fell to the grass.
I did not look away.
I saw the thing we’d held our backs to all our lives.
I walked right into it.
And it took me as its own.