When the sun has finally set for good, I go out back and feed Tom. It has to be right when the sky’s the color of ink, and preferably no stars. If there are stars, he’s liable not to show up. I only gleaned this pattern after many a night of waiting for him to come out when the moon was brilliant and stars speckled the sky like dandruff. Those nights I would wait with his meal in hand at the edge of the wood like an idiot. But when the sky was quiet, he’d always come.
The kids were supposed to be in bed by that hour, but sometimes I’d look back at the house and see the little thumbprints of their faces against an orange square of light. On the nights I had to feed Tom, the kids would seldom come near me the next morning. I’d fix their breakfast and feel their eyes on the back of my head, peeking around the corner. Once I left the kitchen, I’d quietly climb halfway up the stairs and watch them chew in silence. Supposing a stair creaked, they would scatter like mice.
The wood looked different in the daytime; friendlier, I suppose. Green, brown, and gold, plentiful timber and plenty of game to be had. But I knew what was in there, or rather who, and would warn the kids profusely not to enter. Well one day Geoff didn’t much feel like heeding my warning. His ball rolled in amongst the trees, and he ran after it. I came out to do some chore or another just in time to see him traipsing out, ball under his arm.
Gave him a good lashing for that. Made sure his sister saw, too. I told him next time his ball rolled out he better just let it rot out there, lest he want to be rotting instead.
Tom was hungry again that night, calling for his food just a few hours before Geoff passed on, God rest his little soul. His sister had taken it on herself to call the authorities, even though I insisted to her that I had not one thing to hide. She just kept shaking her head, shaking it and shaking it, phone in hand.
When they came, I told them what had happened. Tom had gotten him. Sure as shit.
Emma Cariello is a journalism major living in New York. Aside from writing short fiction, she also enjoys reviewing films in her spare time.