The baby born of the flames.

Maria Aden had a quiet childhood in the Deep woods with her caretaker Selda Brooker. She didn’t know any other children. She didn’t know any other adults. She had never really seen other people. That’s why it was so hard to understand what Selda meant when she said they were leaving to find a new home, and that Maria would make new friends. She didn’t like all of the walking, but she didn’t feel afraid. Even when they approached a little building that she had never seen before, she was not afraid! Even when Selda told her that they would be living there, that this was their new home, Maria felt sure that she would like it. Why wouldn’t she?

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It was cute and small, it’s walls dusty and cool. There were old things covered in spider webs, and strange rooms with strange things hanging from the wall. Selda got to work right away taking them down.

Maria explored the house, he yard, the creek across the path, and it didn’t take long before she worked up the courage to cross the river on the stones close to a little waterfall…

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She scoped out the new building, she fished in the little pond and swept her eyes back and forth, all around, slowly observing the surrounding area. When she sees the door open she can’t believe her eyes, it looks like… Selda! A tall woman, an adult! She runs right over and inside she meets a nice family that lives there, the Ojas family.

 

These are the first people she has ever met since Selda, and she does not remember meeting Selda. Selda was just… always there. Selda is the one to comfort her in the night when something makes a bump, when something knocks on the walls, when something closes the bed chambers door. Selda is the one to soothe her when she cries, when there’s a misty figure that walks through the walls.

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But Selda was also the one that came in the night with terrible fangs, and a dark and moody look in her eyes.

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Selda was a dark, mysterious, and powerful being. Maria hoped it wasn’t herself that Selda came after when these angry moods would take over.

And Maria was not the only one. She saw Selda’s eyes cloud over like a rainstorm, she saw Selda leaving the house with clenched fists, and she saw the bodies of her neighbors slumped on the ground. She heard the hiss in Selda’s voice, she heard cries in the night, she heard the whispered stories of her neighbors. Some had unnerving stories about not remembering how they ended up asleep on the ground, cold, sore, and confused.

But she made a friend who knew about the secret night visits from Selda. His name was Raheem and he had a similar relationship with Selda. One that involved love, friendship and the terrifying neck nibbles.

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They searched for safety in the trees together. In the trees they thought they were safe, and they asked the trees to keep them safe all night long.

But this did nothing to stop Selda’s late night snacking. And it did nothing to stop the bumps and knocks heard throughout the house. Maria did not know where it came from, she didn’t understand. One night she and Raheem returned from the woods to the door open…

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Why was the door open? She could see that there were things strewn around the floor, broken, smashed, or just not in their rightful place. There were rats chewing on old books and clothing, cats had gotten into the house and were chasing the rats. There was a knife stuck into the wooden floors.

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They were afraid.

 

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