The Ruthless Night

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Night is falling, and they are too far from home.

Night is when the wild things come out of the forest and beat their palms against the wall until they’re ragged and bloody. Night is when their howls and keens slam into our ears and rattle our teeth. Night is when we light fires in our homes to reassure ourselves that light and warmth still exist.

As soon as the sun slips away and the moon tugs darkness to surround her, our walls are shut. The horror of the night has been washed away with buckets of dirty water. Wild blood seeps into the soil and poisons the roots of the plants, leaving nothing but shriveled leaves on the ground beside the wall. It’s fortified everyday with more rock. During the day, we mine and grout and wait for a message. We only have a few hours to send runners out into the forest, trying to find another town to beg for help. During the night, we huddle together and wait for the inevitable to happen. Withstand; that’s all we can do.

But these kids can’t withstand anymore. Since they were toddlers, they’ve seen fear in their parents’ eyes. They’ve never gone to school; what use have we for mathematicians and scholars? All their lives they’ve been surviving and waiting. They’re sick of terror. They must know that people tried before to fight the wild things, and what happened. Still, the torchlight flickers off their weapons, and I think I would recognize the desperate determination on their faces. It is the look of people we never see again, but whose screams echo in the shadows of our minds for years.

They think they can reason with the wild things. They think they can find their weaknesses and kill them all. They think they can save us, and themselves.

But the night won’t save anyone.





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