It almost got Sissy today.
She’s the littlest one, and Mama usually keeps a careful watch over her — but somehow she crawled too close to the doorway.
I saw it out of the corner of my eye; something dark and very quick.
Sissy squeaked in fear. Mama grabbed her and bundled all six of us into the farthest part of the room.
Mama says we can’t go out.
“We’re in mortal danger!” she warns. “Don’t you stir from this spot!”
It’s boring in here. All there is to do is eat, sleep, and squabble with my siblings.
Our home is cramped. I want to explore.
“Mark my words, we are being watched. There’s an enemy close at hand!”
“But, Mama! Who would be our enemy?” I protest. “We’re just children!”
“Sssh!” Mama says. “Don’t be so loud!”
I think she’s tired, and just trying to keep us quiet to suit herself.
I used to think Mama was mistaken about the enemy, but something did try to take Sissy.
When Mama’s back is turned, I sneak closer to the doorway. I want to peek out, to see what’s there, but I can’t quite do it.
Mama says things we don’t understand. She says we’re keeping safe here, and we don’t dare go outside — but then she says that it won’t be long before we’re all out on our own.
We can’t even explore everywhere inside, yet. There are passageways she won’t allow us to go down, because we might get lost.
Somewhere, there’s a storeroom.
I remember crying, when I was younger, because I was hungry.
“I’m out of milk,” Mama said. “I’ll be back. You all stay right here and don’t get in any trouble.”
She disappeared down a passageway — I think it was the middle one. It seemed like a long time, but she came back and we all had some milk.
Now that we’re older, she brings fresh vegetables and roots for us. She believes that’s the healthiest diet. We still get to have milk, but not as much.
She says that, someday soon, she’ll take us all with her so we can pick out our own food.
She goes outside sometimes, very cautiously. She’s never gone long.
Bruno, the oldest, nudges me and whispers that, next time she goes out, he’ll follow.
Mama says, “I need to go outside. You all stay right here and behave. Bruno, you’re in charge.”
Instead of staying with us, he sneaks out behind her. She doesn’t notice.
Mama is back.
Bruno has not come back. He has disappeared, and Mama won’t say what happened. She won’t even allow us to say his name, so…
We don’t talk about Bruno anymore.
I saw it again — the dark, swiftly moving thing. Just before it happened, what little light we had was obscured. The intruder was blocking the doorway.
Mama was down the corridor at the time, so we had no protection. This time I was left in charge.
“Sissy!” I gulped, pulling her away. But not before something sharp slashed her shoulder.
“Owww!” she whimpered. “You’re hurting me!”
“I’m hurting you?”
“You pinched me!” she claimed.
“I saved you! You were too close to the door again, and the… the enemy almost got you! That’s the second time, Sissy.”
Mama is back. She drops the produce and runs to Sissy.
“What happened?” she demands, glaring at me before giving Sissy her full attention. “Oh dear, you’re bleeding!”
She begins cleaning Sissy’s wound, while I try to explain how it was all Sissy’s fault for being too close to the door and how I’m actually the hero of the moment for saving her life.
“It was the — whatever that is that’s outside. Our enemy.”
Mama nods grimly.
“That was a close call.”
Sissy has been kidnapped.
It wasn’t entirely my fault; I was trying to break up a tussle between two of my other siblings, and I turned my back for a split second.
Why does something like this happen when Mama leaves the room? She’ll think I’m not responsible. I was trying!
I got the skirmish settled, and looked over to check on Sissy just in time to see her being pulled through the doorway.
“Sissy!” I shrieked desperately — but there was nothing I could do. I’m not allowed to go outside.
Mama must have heard me, because suddenly she’s here. I’m panting, wild-eyed, facing the door. Right away, she sees that Sissy is gone.
“I — I…” Wanting to explain, all I can do is stammer.
“Ssshhh…” Mama says. “It was bound to happen. There was nothing you could have done.”
We don’t talk about Sissy anymore.
There’s more room now that there’s only four of us children left. But we’re also growing, so we each need more space.
Today we get to see where Mama gets our food. Mama leads us, and I take up the rear.
The corridor is very dark and twisty, but not scary. It has a strong, comforting smell of earth, and the enemy feels very far away. But Mama says we can’t stay here long; there’s not enough oxygen.
There must be a lot of greens and roots stored back here. The smell is intense.
“There’s no milk!” I notice, scanning the nooks and crannies.
Mama laughs a little.
“It was never stored here — and you won’t be needing it anymore. Milk is for babies.”
Back when we still needed a lot of milk, before Bruno disappeared, he always got the most.
“It’s because I’m the biggest and strongest!” he boasted. “I need more to keep me going.”
I never thought that was fair. Shouldn’t the smaller ones get more, because they need to grow more? By my reckoning, Sissy should have had the first chance to drink her fill.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. They’re both gone. I’m kind of glad Bruno’s not here, but I feel a tiny bit guilty about Sissy.
Mama says it’s time. Today I will venture outside.
She peeks out to make sure it’s clear, then gives me a little boost.
I scurry over the dry grass, looking this way and that. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, and I feel vulnerable. I decide to go back home.
I see something that looks familiar.
Sissy. I’ve found Sissy.
Part of her, at least.
I’m staring in horror at the remains of my sister. Her blank eyes stare, unseeing.
I don’t realize that the enemy is approaching.
Everything goes black, and then there’s millions of tiny pinpricks of shimmering lights.
The last thing I hear is the deep, rumbling voice of a human.
It says, “Whatcha got, Kismet? What is it? A gopher? Oh, good kitty. Goood kitty!”
I have met my fate.