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Let Us Eat by Jasmine De La Paz

The winter gale blew against the cottage, whistling through the cracks and causing the flames of the fire to dance like the devil. Shivering, I peered through a slit of the boards nailed over the window. Snow covered half the view, heavy against the pane. Flurries of snow drifted sideways, twirling and spinning about. But in the distance, the splatter of red lay visible against the stark white of snow. The rope tied to the maple empty and limp. Please, let it be enough, I pleaded.

"Abitha," mother whispered from behind, wrapping a shawl around my cold shoulders. "Get away from the window, dear.”

I turned around to face her, noticing the deep lines of worry on her face. “Do you think the goat will be enough?” I asked in a hushed tone, away from the children’s listening ears.

“We can only pray, my child.” Mother’s gray eyes grew misty, giving away her doubt. “Come, supper is ready,” she said, voice raised for all to hear. “Let us eat near the fire.”             

My siblings already sat near the warmth of the flames, huddled together like little ducks in a storm. “Oh, porridge again?” James whined, the youngest and the only boy.

“I have also grown weary of porridge,” Jane said. “Can we not eat anything else?" She was but ten years and acted twice her age.

“No complaining. We must reserve,” I said soothingly, passing their steaming bowls.

Lydia took hers with a meager smile, still not speaking. She hadn’t said a word since father passed. It happened almost a year ago . . . but felt like a lifetime.

Mother joined us, sitting with a sigh. We all took hands and bowed our heads for grace. Just as we all murmured, "amen," spoons full of warm porridge edged towards our hungry mouths, the fire sputtered and a bang sounded from the roof. The children squealed; little Lydia clung to my arm.

“Abitha, grab the musket!” Mother shouted.

I peeled Jane off me and ran to where the musket sat propped near the door. I watched mother throw logs into the fire and cocked it ready, my heartbeat thrumming in my ears.

A second thud came from above, so loud I was sure the roof would collapse. The children screamed and hunkered as I aimed the musket high, waving it about. The creature stomped on our shingles, sending sheets of snow to crumble down as the cabin creaked and groaned.

Mother ran to the kitchen, returning with a butcher knife in hand. The blade gleamed orange in the light. Our eyes met – we both knew it was useless. I looked down at the children, their doe-eyes wide with fright––once ruddy cheeks now bone-white––holding onto each other for dear life. They looked at me for reassurance. I was now the one with the musket in their hands. I knew it was only a matter of time before it burst through our cabin. It would devour them first . . . the children. Eat away at their tiny bones. I could not let that happen.

“Mother, hold the musket. I . . . I will go outside.”

“Abitha! You will do no such thing.”

“I must, mother,” I cried. “It will take the children. I am sure of it.”

“I shan’t lose you too.” Tears flowed from her defeated eyes. She knew someone must be sacrificed. “I will go instead,” she trembled.

“No . . . no. They need you.” I pried the knife from her hands, replacing it with the musket. I bent down, handed Jane the blade. Her bulbous eyes widened even more with the realization. “Abitha, no!” The three of them whimpered and sniffled.

"Take care of each other," I said, suppressing tears, and wrapped my shawl around them. I quickly stood and hugged mother's shaking body; her tears soaked into my cheek. "I love you," I whispered and went to the door.

My hands shook. My heart drummed a rapid beat. I was just about to pull the latch, run into the blinding white, when a distant scream came from outside. I froze.


We all looked at each other in confusion.

“Who could that be?” asked mother.

“It could be a trick. The devil’s ploy,” I said.

A pounding at the window caused us all to jump.

“Please, let me in!” a man yelped.

I rushed to the window, peered through the crack. Icy blue eyes looked back at me. Eyes that knew death to be near. “Abitha, please let me in!”

“It is Charles!” I gasped, “from the village.” I looked out again. “Charles, come to the door. With haste!”

“You shall not let him in, Abitha,” mother seethed. “It will just get you both!”

A rapping came from the door; the muted shouts of Charles on the other side.

I closed my eyes and listened. Where has the creature gone? All was silent from above.

“We must save him.”

“Oh, dear Lord!” mother wailed, but stood before the children, knife gripped in both hands. 

Musket ready, I opened the door.

A torrent of icy air and snow hit my lungs, taking my breath in its wrath. Charles stood there, a look of relief on his face as he took one meager step forward. But before he got in, a bellowing roar vibrated from above, rattling the cottage and the marrow in my bones. It happened so fast, so very fast. The creature jumped down from the roof, towering behind Charles. Fangs as large and sharp as icicles engulfed his head. I saw flashes of red splatter onto the snow, dappling my face. I stood there in shock as the creature ate, snapping and slurping.

Then the door slammed shut.

“We are safe now,” mother said with a delirious smile. “It has its meal.” She nudged my numb body over towards the fire. “Now, let us eat.”

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