“Is this it? Is this…all that’s left?” Jakob asked. The villagers stood among the remnants, stricken with fear, dumbfounded.
They gathered in the center of what was left the playground. The jungle gym—once only a few crossties with heavy, knotted ropes for climbing—was mostly gone; only the support beams protruded from the grass, the edges jagged and sharp, like broken toothpicks.
“And that—what is that over there?” said Josiah, his voice trembling.
“Is that…my god, is that a shoe?” someone deeper in the crowd exclaimed.
A blonde-haired woman broke from the throng to grab the shoe. “No, no, no! Not Kamyra! Not my baby…!” she screeched, clutching the shoe to her chest. A man tore himself from the group and went to the woman, wrapping his arms around her and stroking her hair. For a moment, there was only the sound of the wind cutting through the trees and the wails of the woman with the shoe.
Abruptly, a question cut through her grief. “Where’s the sandbox?” The loud whisper came from Kaitlin. She stood with her jaw set and her shoulders square, a pillar in the midst of chaos, but the shudder in her voice reverberated throughout the crowd, and the villagers pulled closer together. “The sandbox?” she asked again, extending her hands beseechingly.
Heads turned left and right, but no one responded.
Another villager pointed to the clearing near the tree line. “Is that…the swing?”
Jakob pulled away from the others to an object that was half-rammed into the ground. It was the old swing. He pulled it up with a yank. All that was left was a bit of chain attached to the fractured wooden seat. Teeth marks had made an ugly, ragged curve in the wood, and it was splattered with fresh blood and bits of flesh.
Kaitlin whipped around to the village elder.
“Do you see now? Do you believe now?” she shrieked, her fear turned to fury.
The elder remained motionless, unable to move or speak.
“Perhaps you will give the offering next season, Elder?” Jakob spat, his eyes ablaze in rage. “And maybe you will not be so wise? So callous?” He waved the broken, bloodied swingseat wildly. “Shall we appease them, next season, Elder?” he repeated, his voice rising. “Or will you imagine still that they do not exist?”
The elder threw himself on the ground and at the feet of his wayward flock, he screamed for forgiveness.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN