The wall stretched beyond sight in both directions in the dim moonlight. The smooth stone wall towered above Seriah, gentle and strong, like a mother protecting a child in her arms. She set her hand on it.
The wall wanted to wrap around her, to guard her. That is what walls were for; to separate its charges from any harm. But now the harm lived inside the gardens.
The dark thing, small as a sparrow, clung to the smallest twig of the nearest tree. “See, Seriah?”
“Of course,” she giggled. “It’s the wall.”
“And what is a wall far?”
“My parents told me it keeps out predators. It keeps us safe.”
“Of course they said as much,” his voice slithered. “They are faithful parents who want to do best for you. Who told them that?”
Seriah spun and leaned against the wall, feeling its coolness through her dress. “I never thought of it. Their parents, I suppose.”
“And who told them?”
She cocked here head. “Their parents.”
“And on and on, yes? And you trust your parents, and they theirs. It is simple. It is the way I designed it many, many years ago. Faithful parents raise up their children to follow in their footsteps. Every child should be in the image of its parent, daughter.”
Something in his words caught at Seriah. “Is that why you call me daughter?”
The little thing grinned in the darkness, its tiny, sharp teeth bright in the moonlight. The moment stretched.
Seriah turned away and paced along the wall. The thing leaped from tree to tree, never touching the ground. Finally she turned. “You said you would show me something I didn’t know. You’ve only shown me the wall.”
“Yes. The wall. The wall that was built to keep you safe. Safe from things out there.”
“What dangerous things?”
“Predators!” she snapped.
“Predators? Have you ever seen predators before? Some creature that could harm you in any real way?”
She paused. “Well, no. But my parents told me stories.”
“Of course they did, daughter. But what if they’re just stories?”
Seriah’s dress kept pulling at her, tugging at her, away, away! Get away from the beast! Get away from that thing and its lies!
She paid no attention to her dress.
The trees leaned away from the shadow, their branches twitching in fear and disgust.
She paid no attention to the trees.
“You mean there are no predators?” she asked.
“What if there were no predators?” the shadow answered.
“Then why would the wall be here?”
The thing only smiled in answer.
This is the ninth chapter of Summers’ End.