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“Latch the door!”

My mom looked at me in confusion for a moment but I turned away from her, slamming the front door shut and turning the lock just as they slammed against the door. I turned away from the door, leaning back against it as she started pulling the curtains shut across the hall.

The door thudded behind me and I heard knob rattling as they tried to open it.

The latch held. It always did and we were always safe.

---

I leaned back a little, looking up at the clouds in the sky. Mom didn't need my help right then, so she'd told me to go “run along and play”. I haven't “played” in at least five years. I'm too old for that now. Too much responsibility. I have to help her and take care of the house.

A sound in the bushes behind me pulled my attention away from the clouds. What was that? I turned and peered into the undergrowth, my palms resting on the log as I leaned over.

It was too dark to see, but now that the thing seemed to know it had my attention, a sense of fear washed over me. The thing Mom had always told me to watch out for, the reason she'd always told me to never go any further than the river...it had found me.

I didn't want to put Mom in danger. But she'd always told me that the latch would keep me safe. As long as I could make it back into the house and latch the door, I would be safe.

I backed away slowly, hoping it hadn't actually seen me, before turning around and breaking out in a full run back to the house. I could hear the creature's footsteps behind me, hear its calm and measured breathing. It was so fast, and yet so effortless at the same time.

I understood now why Dad hadn't made it back that day.

The stitch in my side was making it hard to breathe, but I had to keep going. I had to make it inside. I could feel it reaching for my heels just as I shoved the door open and slammed it behind me.

“Latch the door!” --Robin

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