It would come at night and steal children. It would sneak into our village and into our homes, no matter what we did to prevent it. Somehow, it would always find a way. We sent people to the woods, on a hunt, almost every night. Nothing was ever caught or even seen.
But in the end, every it turns out to be a human.
They dragged our neighbour, Mr Hal, out into the street. He was on the ground, on his knees, making a manic laughing noise. My parents didn’t want to tell me what had happened, but I knew what all the blood meant. His hands were dark red, and they dripped on his clothes. His mouth was red, too. He was it. They caught him. They didn’t let us children enter his home, but I was disgusted nonetheless. I couldn’t help but imagine it all, his teeth tearing apart the body of Mrs Alanna’s baby, and many babies before. A cannibal among us. A baby-eater.
“Where are the bodies of other children?” a man screamed at Mr Hal.
“How did you get into our homes?” another shouted.
They wanted answers. Without them, they felt even more wounded, helpless. Could one of us really be the monster we feared? Everyone was too disturbed to pay attention to me, so I managed to get closer. Mr Hal laughed at the questions, his eyes darkened by a glow of insanity. How was he able to trick us all, to hide his true face?
“Where are the remains of our children?” a woman cried.
For a moment, Mr Hal’s eyes cleared, his face turned pale.
“I don’t know,” he growled. “I only killed one!”
“You’re lying!” a man kicked him hard and Mr Hal fell to the ground.
The village justice was quick. One of the women who lost a child was the first to throw a stone. Another followed. Mr Hal laughed and laughed, until he stopped – forever.
The night came and we all went to our homes in silence. Nobody wanted to speak about what had happened. The monster was gone but we knew would not be able to sleep. I went to my room, got into the bed, but kept looking through the window. A dark feeling pressed my chest and didn’t let me fall asleep. I looked at the small hills through my window, at the trees and the woods. I looked until it seemed to me that I saw something there…
On top of a little hill, two creatures sat. The larger one smiled, and said:
“And that, my darling daughter, is how they stop hunting you.”