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Estimated reading time — 14 minutes

The first time she could remember her father leaving she was four, strangely it wasn’t the first time she’d felt as though she were alone. It was an odd sensation to know that there would be no hugs, no kisses goodnight and she would be ultimately responsible for herself from now and until he eventually returned. Her father was not an especially kind man to others, he didn’t like a lot of people but he worked hard to save them and he loved her with every ounce of his being and that was something that she could believe without question. Her father held her, kissed her, read to her. Her father loved her but just so happened to be kept away by the military; he had a very important job. He saved lives and that’s just what Daddy’s did.

Her Mother was another matter entirely. Mommy had very little to do with her. Would not bother to speak much to her, would not bother to do much more than let her live on cereal and canned spaghetti once the girl figured out how to use the can opener. Mommy was nearly always glued to a book or to game shows on the television. Every so often playing a computer game on the Commodore 64 they owned. In the 1980s it wasn’t unheard of that a child could wander away and do as they wished and would eventually make their way home but usually the parent was aware of where they were going. This girl? Well she could wander from one end of the base to the other, almost escape all the way to the next town or disappear into the heavy woods to collect tadpoles and her mother would never know she had left the front yard. Hugs and kisses were rare and given only on her mother’s terms. Most of the time the girl was passed off to someone else, not particularly wanted around, and had no idea that this was not how families were supposed to operate.

Despite the fact that maternal love was not something freely experienced the girl never felt alone. There was always someone with her, someone that offered all the love she could ever want and asked for nothing in return and she loved this friend with blind affection she did and her friend stayed through the day, through the evening. Was there when she went to bed and there when she awoke, he focused on nothing except her and the girl felt warm and safe with this knowledge.


Her friend came the same day her father left, a whispering voice that called her from the front yard of her home to the trees that lie down at the end of the block she lived on. On either side of her people paid no attention to that small girl, the lone four year old who walked all by herself to the woods. She was invisible to everyone, not just her mother, and was curious about the voice that called her. “…Come here, come play…” The voice whispered, another child wanting to play and she was excited while stepping off the quiet road through the PMQ’s and onto the grass pausing and trying to peer into the shade of the trees. Silence, the girl frowned. The voice stopped talking, maybe she hadn’t heard it all and it was just her imagination. Her mother did say she was stupid more often than anything else and maybe that was the problem. “Come play with me… I’m lonely here all by myself.”

There! It was there! She hadn’t imagined it! There was a friend in there for her to play with! She couldn’t contain her excitement any longer and ran to the tree, bursting through the leaves and into the woods panting and staring right then left and right again. She couldn’t see anything, not at first, and frowned. Where did the voice go? “Hello?” She called, turning around slowly. “Are you there? Where did you go?”

“Over here.” The voice whispered and she turned, grinning. It was like playing a game and it was so hard to find other kids to play with. She missed something this easy, this simple, and just human contact. She had already begun to feel lonely that morning. “Hi, I’m Adam.” A little boy wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, one with He-Man on the front which matched her She-Ra shirt and in her head this was just meant to be. Could he even possibly be a best friend? She’d never had a best friend before and they were supposed to be even better than a friend, maybe even as good as a Daddy.

“Hi, I’m Kory.” Her own response was shy, the prospect of a new friend made her blood rush. Little heart pounding frantically in her chest while stepping toward Adam, admiring his shirt and finding that she liked it very much that he matched her. Friends should match. “Do you want to be my friend?” He smiled and so did she, his hand extending and being taken by her own before he lead her deeper into the woods.

“Do you want to see somewhere neat?” Of course she did, nodding earnestly and falling into step behind him. It seemed like forever that they walked while she walked nattering ceaselessly about the virtues of her the characters on their shirts. She could be She-Ra; they could fight the evil Hordak and then Skeletor if they had time. Priorities had to be established of course though she realized then that she didn’t recognize where they were or the old and gnarled tree that was in front of them, her pretty blond head bobbing forward as she let go of his hand to inspect the knots that seemed to form hand holds up to the thick branches that could hold her quite easily in its welcoming shade. She reached for the first knot when her new friend followed her moving to scale the other side of the tree. “Your Mommy isn’t going to wonder where we are?”

“Mommy’s busy.” She offered by way of explanation, pulling herself up and finally struggled onto the base of the branch where she sat and swung her legs back and forth slowly as though savoring the new height she’d managed to climb to. “Mommy’s always busy.” She continued. “Daddy would wonder but Daddy’s gone for a while. He had to go save people.”


“That sounds dumb.” Adam wrinkled his nose, pulling himself around until he was sitting opposite of her on another branch. “Why does he have to do that? Why doesn’t he just stay and play with you?”

“Daddy says other people need him more.” She frowned, picking at her shorts and peered down at a small and tanned thigh. “It is dumb. He’s gone for –forever- and Mommy says she doesn’t have time, she’s busy. Even my kitty is gone.” Sighing Kory looked around the woods and frowned as though just realizing now she didn’t know where they were. “I’m hungry.”

“Me too.” Adam flipped onto his stomach, lowering himself down while Kory followed him landing with a hard thud and falling onto her backside with a grumble, trying to look at the dirt on her bottom. “Can we go to your house?”

“I don’t know where it is. I’ve never been here.”

“Nobody else has. Just me and you, this is our spot but I can take you home this time and later we can come back to play.” He nodded as though making this a royal command and took her by the hand, leading her back through the trees to where they had met. Should could see the road from between them and frowned a bit, she didn’t really want to take him to her house; her mother wouldn’t let him stay. She was never allowed to have people in the house when her Daddy was away.

“Mommy won’t let you stay.” Sadness filled her voice, sniffling following soon after and she was surprised to feel tears rolling down her face. “She never lets anyone stay.” Kory was alone and the idea of Adam leaving her was more than she bear but he squeezed her hand gently, tugging her along and down the street. “She’ll make you go away.”



“Parents never make me go away.” He was confident and this helped a bit as they stepped up to her house, it was darker than she thought and a sudden terror gripped her. She was supposed to be home a very long time ago. She could be late as long as the sun was still up but when Mommy turned on the lamp and she wasn’t home yet things got bad. Kory froze on the step, pulling her hand back from his and shook her head violently, afraid now to enter the house. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m going to be in trouble.” She whispered, wrapping her little arms around herself. “I’m not allowed out when it’s dark.”

“You won’t be in trouble.” Adam said softly while prying her hands from her middle and took the same one he’d held the whole way to her house and squeezed it, smiling at her. “I promise.” It didn’t help to make her feel better and she clutched painfully to him while he opened the screen door and she held her breath when he lead her into the porch for her to take off her sandals and wiggle her toes listening for her mother. She was relieved to hear the snoring from the couch and the sound of the TV. Jeopardy. Her mother never missed it. Kory refused to move for a moment but Adam was intent on tugging her into the kitchen, past where her mother slept on the couch having not bothered to shower today with her ashtray over flowing onto the table beside an open two liter of diet pop.

The house itself stank of stale smoke and while usually cleaned when her father was home (though it always smelled like cigarettes) it would begin to fall apart shortly after he had left. There were half eaten sandwiches that had begun to turn green on the crusts and her half eaten bowl of cereal from the morning was feeding the flies that had begun to gather in their home. Still she was afraid because she was late and had someone in the house with her. “She’s going to be angry.” Kory whispered, Adam shook his head and brought her to the kitchen, opening the fridge to look inside. It was still full for now though for how long she had no idea. Adam selected two slices of cheese, salami (Kory was grateful for this, the only other choice was bologna and she hated bologna) and had her fetch four slices of bread to make them each a sandwich as well as the bag of milk in its holder. Neither could reach the clean cups and would share her cup from the morning before sitting at the table for their meal.

“Kory?” A sleep addled voice called from the living room making the small girl freeze and look at her friend. Terror etched on her face when the footsteps started, Adam held a finger in front of his lips silencing her as she turned to look at the doorway and her rumpled mother in her nightgown and eyes that didn’t seem to want to focus on her. “Why do you have two sandwiches?”

“One’s Adam’s.”


“Who’s Adam?”

“Him.” Kory nodded to her friend who hadn’t touched his sandwich, staring at her mother and shaking his head. He appeared unhappy with her mother and her mother appeared annoyed with her, stomping to the table and grabbed the plate to slam on the counter top beside her.

“There’s no one there. For fuck’s sakes Kory, I wish you had more sense. Why the hell would you waste food for an imaginary friend?” It came then, the sudden slap to the back of the head and the girl felt her head snap forward, tears blurring her vision, hands resting on her thighs as she watched her fingers clench at her shorts. “Oh stop the damn whining, you aren’t hurt. Do you want me to give you a good reason to cry? Well? Or are you going to shut the fuck up?” She cringed, biting her lower lip not seeing the unabashed hatred in the eyes of her new friend while he watched this scene unfold. “That’s better. Christ, what the hell is wrong with you that you wouldn’t just wake me up to make dinner? I missed Jeopardy because of you. Use your head the next time.” Her mother sniffed the sandwich and rolled her eyes. “You didn’t even bother to butter it, thanks a lot kid.” She left the room leaving Kory and Adam sitting in silence. Kory didn’t reach for her sandwich or look at Adam for a long time.

“She’s mean.” Kory nodded, swallowing hard while Adam pushed the cup of milk to her. “You should have a drink, eat your sandwich and then we’ll go play in your room.” She didn’t argue, just drank her milk and ate her sandwich without tasting it and when she was done she stood up and lead the way to the stairs and her room, the living room stank of cigarettes. Her mother was smoking, coughing and taking a bite of Adam’s sandwich while muttering at just how useless her kid was. With shoulders hunched she opened the door to her room, sitting on her bed and reached for her stuffed mouse, petting the white felt it was covered in.

“I miss my Daddy.” She said quietly when Adam closed the door before coming to sit on the bed beside her, sitting on the floor at her feet. “This doesn’t happen when Daddy’s home. We play and we laugh and watch movies. I’m not stupid when he’s here.” She swallowed hard and could no longer contain the sobs that she struggled to breathe through, tucking her face into the soft white mouse while Adam rubbed Kory’s back.

“I can make it better if you want me to.” He whispered, reaching to tilt her face to look at him. “No more angry voice, no more mean words.”

“No more broom?”

“Broom?” He appeared confused and she felt her lip quiver, nodding and lifted her shirt. There were welts on her sides, along her back leading down and most certainly on her buttocks. “What is that from?” It seemed as though a rage took Adam and he scared her causing Kory to drop her shirt and whimper. Rage lead to yelling and when that started pain came shortly after. Adam closed his eyes, took a breath and touched the side of her face. “Did the broom do this?” She nodded. “Kory I think it’s time to sleep.” She didn’t argue, moving to her dresser and pulled out her favorite Garfield nightgown before going to the bathroom to change and brush her teeth and he was waiting when she came back to help tuck her into bed, setting her mouse in beside her .

“Goodnight Adam.” She whispered in the darkness, peering at the outline of where he stood. “Can you be here when I wake up?” She didn’t see him frown but heard the sharp intake of breath when he turned and left her room, shutting the door quietly behind him. “I don’t want to be lonely anymore.” Though this was said more to herself than to him as the tears started and she cried herself to sleep.

The changeling stood outside the door and listened to the girl cry herself to sleep. It was a sad thing and while it had been very interested in her the sorrow it had also made the creature curious about her home. The girl hadn’t lied, he would have smelled it if she had, and she had been truly terrified to come home to her mother. A mother that had very little redeeming about her and in truth the creature had liked the small girl. Liked her enough that he wouldn’t eat her which was a feat within itself and it had been sometime since it was dissuaded from a warm and innocent meal though there was another body downstairs that he could just as easily take. Slowly the sobbing began to ebb, the very gentle cry for Kory’s father becoming nothing more than a whimper before giving birth to the softest of childish snoring. She slept soundly and he muttered softly under his breath, nothing would disturb the child while she slept and sleep was the one escape from terror that she had. At least for now.

Adam crept silently to the stairs, not wishing to announce his presence, and descending with a grace that was unknown to most creatures only to pause on the very last to turn his head to peer upon the ‘woman’ sitting on the couch. This beast of a mother sat with her legs stretched out, a cigarette burning down in the ashtray beside the fat lump of flesh while reading her book. A heavy set creature with unwashed hair and skin, teeth that were not brushed though neither was her hair and the malodorous musk of something that he could not place was not particularly pleasant but it was nothing that would sour the prospect of what was to come. There was nothing pleasant at all within her, he could sense that and smell the violence she would offer the child that slept above.


Odd how the idea angered him, how she had angered him earlier in the kitchen when he could do nothing, held back by the bread that Kory had placed on the table in front of him. What most did not know was that bread and salt both could provide protection from his ilk but bread with yeast? The creature would not have been able to harm the mother no matter how much he wanted to. How kind of this useless wench to set it away from her. He stepped away from the stairs and into the living room unseen by this sow and would remain as such until he wanted her to see him, for now the television sang to the havoc strewn and stench laden room thanking someone for being a friend.

She reminding him of a toad with her girth and those large tinted glasses she wore, the swells of her fat both appealing and disgusting all in the same moment. The glamour he wore faded slowly and the beast-like woman blinked, shoving away from the child that stood before her now. “What the fuck!?” She cried, hands clutching to the couch on either side of her while the table she knocked with this jerky motion dislodging the astray from its resting place with the cigarette falling to the carpet forgotten while rolling towards him. He said nothing and bent over to pick up the same cigarette in his small four year old fingers and lifted the butt to his nose, sniffing before taking a long drag of the tobacco. “What the fuck are you doing in my house!? Get the fuck out of here! Go home to your parents you little bastard! Get out!” She pushed off the couch, hand cutting through the air and connected with the cherubic chubbiness of his small cheek to knock his head hard to the left with a resounding wail of flesh against flesh. For a moment after the room was entrenched in a silent tableau where neither party moved or spoke, merely the sound of her labored breathing filled the silence before he looked back to her exhaling a greyish blue plume of smoke.

“So it’s not just yours?” He canted his small head to the side, shoving the glowing cherry of the cigarette into the hand of this creature that was called a mother. “Any child, hmm? As long as it’s smaller than you? Which isn’t really a hard task when you think of it, and especially if it bothers you?” The Mother screamed, stepping back and held her painfully throbbing hand, panting with the terror she felt. “Ignore your bairn all day, sleep, and let her be terrified of what you’re going to do to her. I was going to eat that poor girl until I smelled that fear on her.” The child stepped forward and mother stepped back, swallowing hard, the child taking another puff of the cigarette before looking down to it and seeing that he had smoked it to nothing as there hadn’t been much left of it to begin with before tossing it in the ashtray and stretching. “Took her to my home in the middle of the woods, took nearly eight hours round trip and you didn’t know. If she didn’t come back would you have said anything or been relieved?” Adam smiled, a malicious thing when he stopped advancing on her, instead clasping his hands behind his back as he backed her into the wall of the house.

She screamed and screamed and finally when he’d had enough he screamed too, a piercing sound that made her cover her ears and double over, to his level to stare eye to eye with him. “No one can hear you if I don’t want them to and well…” He sucked in a breath, the tanned color of his flesh shifting to mottled grey. “…I really don’t want them to.” Limbs and teeth elongated, his head losing hair and beginning to elongate into a point much like a spade. Nude and covered in filth with stray hair that peeked out of his flesh here and there. Hideous and smelling of the earth, licking his teeth and lips whilst his ears sucked inside of his head with a soft popping sound. “Makes a good meal hard to enjoy.”

He lunged and the screaming began anew while his clawed fingers delved into the folds of fat on her stomach, tearing away skin and showcasing the yellow curdled fat beneath. It was warm, slick under his fingers and he buried his face into her belly while she tried to pummel his head, gagging on her own blood and bile. The girl would rest peacefully, as would everyone else near them. No one would hear the bitch and he could take all the time he wanted, running his tongue along that bloodied gash nestling inside of the wound when he began to sup. Screaming soon giving way wet slurping and gnawing on bone followed by the softest of contented sighs, it would be a good night.

The sun shone through the pale blue Smurfette curtains into Kory’s bedroom, the stark white of her walls and bedroom furniture momentarily blinding the small child as she yawned and sat up while rubbing the sleep from her eyes. It took a moment to remember her friend and she was saddened to see that Adam was gone, her father was gone, everyone was gone except for her mother. Frowning the little girl got out of bed to pee before going down the stairs and was puzzled to see just how clean the house was, her mother gone from the couch and the smell of eggs with bacon were coming from the kitchen. Tentatively she stepped off the stairs and crept slowly into the kitchen where her mother stood in front of the stove making breakfast clean and dressed, the smell of cigarettes didn’t even hang in the air anymore.
“Mommy?” She looked for her box of cereal and found nothing and grew all the more confused when her mother turned to her, holding a frying pan and nodding to the table by the window.

“Have a seat, breakfast is ready.” The voice was warm, loving and Kory wasn’t sure she trusted it but went to the table as she was told. “Did you have sweet dreams?” A moment later scrambled eggs with bacon were set on the table in front of her with a glass of milk, the girl lifting her fork and nodding moving to take a bite of her breakfast. Kory sighed happily before smiling at her mother. Happy, truly happy, for the first time since her father left the day before.

“Mommy, you forgot the toast.”

“We’ll save toast for when Daddy comes home, that can be your special thing with him.” Her mother still smiled, sipping her own glass of milk that seemed thicker than her own, coating the glass in a much heavier sort of film, but the girl couldn’t be bothered to wonder about it when she could have this moment, this nearly perfect moment with her mother sitting beside her, stroking her hair. “Would you like to go for a walk in the woods today?”

“Yes please, Mommy.” Kory smiled, leaning into the hand that brushed her hair. “I’d really like that.”

Credit: A.R Dooley

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