by Rachel Abbey McCafferty

November 14

The attacks have slowed since the monster hunter came to town.

It’s been a rough year. All of us in the village assumed the monster was a shark, at first, the way it rose from the ocean deep, fast as lightning, shooting forward toward its prey under the cover of dark, churning waters, the way its teeth tore desperately, purposefully, at its victims, ripping flesh from bone and bone from life.

But then, a month later, one came from the sky.

It was night, cloudless and dark, the monster silent as it lit upon its prey. There were those that said it must have been an owl, that they attack sometimes, all claws and sharp beaks, but there were toothmarks in the wounds.

After that, the attacks came quick and constant. The blame came for the beasts of land next, the ones that stalked our forests and hills. In all, the teeth rendered the verdict the same.

Our world became small while the monster’s grew.

But the monster hunter arrived a month ago, and there is hope again.


February 2

The attacks have dwindled, from twelve in a month, to seven, to two. Now, a whole month has passed without the specter of sharp teeth.

The monster hunter has built a large house on the top of the highest hill in our village, a fortress, really. He asked three families to leave their homes so he could level them and raise his own. He needed the hill so he could watch for the monsters, he said.

We gave it to him.


April 24

At least one beast must have evaded the monster hunter. The attacks are less frequent, but no less cruel.

Fear still infects our small town: how could it not, knowing one could be ripped from life’s embrace at any moment? We thought we were safe; we thought it was done. But the past two months have brought back the attacks, one by water and two by land. The monster hunter says he has the situation under control. We have to trust him.


May 7

We are all afraid to leave our houses, all but the monster hunter. He comes and goes as he pleases, but the attacks continue. He was so effective at first, but the monsters that remain must be faster, stronger. We have to be patient.


July 2

There is but one remaining beast. It belongs to the monster hunter. He kept it alive as a way to keep the others at bay, he said. He hadn’t wanted to tell us, but said perhaps now that we know the truth of it, the people will panic less.

But the beast still needs to feed. We brought the monster hunter one of our cows, and he fed the creature in front of us. Its roars shook our bones, and the cow was no more within minutes. When I turned to look at the monster hunter, he met my eyes. He hadn’t been watching the carnage; he had been watching us.


August 6

The monster hunter’s demands have been growing. At first, it was the house at the top of the hill. Then the cows. Now, it is a portion of all our crops, the wheat, the carrots, the potatoes. He wants a share of all the fruit harvested this fall, a percentage of the ale brewed and the bread baked.

Our town used its stores during the year of the attacks. We need to replenish them before the winter. The cows’ numbers are dwindling, and we’ve turned to the goats. Our milk is running low. The monster hunter does not listen to our pleas.


September 9

Tonight when we brought the goats, the monster hunter shook his head. “Freedom has its price. The monster must be fed appropriately.”

He let us choose. I’ll never forget the way he wailed.


October 12

The stores are empty, and the farmers predict a long, cold winter. The children are hungry. And still the screams come from the top of the hill, echoed below, predictable now like the hands of a clock.

The fear has become something small and hard and hot, burning coal in our bellies.

No one knows where the creatures came from, or why they chose our town. But they were honest in their hunger.

The callousness of nature is one thing. The cruelty of man is another.


November 17

We have gathered the necessary tools: the hammers, the wrenches. When the sun goes down, we’ll climb the hill.

And then we’ll free the creature from its cage.

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