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A Golden Sliver

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I press my sore tongue to the roof of my mouth, trying to find the source of my discomfort while Edna mumbles to herself at the fireside.

“Oh, you’re such a good little one. Yes, such a cutie you are,” she croons, her eyes staring off.

“Who are you talking to, Edna?” I ask politely, ignoring the sharp pain in my tongue, and leaning forward to stoke the fire with the dull ages-old fire iron. A log collapses in on itself when I prod it, so I toss another armful of firewood into the little hearth.

“Oh, Jeremy, I forgot you were standing there,” Edna breathes in surprise. My name’s not Jeremy but I reply anyways:

“Who were you talking to, Edna?”

“Yes, yes,” she stammers quietly, “my pet.”

“Pet?” I inquire with a word, setting the fire iron aside and leaning back down into the old armchair. For a moment, Edna just rocks back and forth on her rocking chair, an afghan on her lap.

“My pet worm. You’ve met him, silly,” she smiles happily.

“A pet worm?” I raise an eyebrow, “what do you do with a pet worm?”

“I walk him, I play with him, and I brush his little worm teeth,” Edna replies earnestly, still staring into the fire.

“Where is the worm?” I ask idly.

“Worm? Oh, yeah. He must be around here somewhere…” she trails off. As she moves her lips, no words come out.

“I’m going to go fetch more wood,” I tell Edna, getting to my feet and looking towards the elderly woman.

“Yes, yes, Jeremy. Be careful, it’s awfully slick off on the rocks.”

Outside the aging home, I take a moment to breathe in the brisk air. My lungs can almost taste the salt from sea, and I cross my arms over my torso to conserve some heat when a cool morning breeze gusts over me. As I start walking forwards, the frost-coated grass cracks underfoot like dead leaves. My footprints trail behind me, beginning just before the large Victorian-style house and leading to my currently progressing position about twenty steps towards the southern edge of the isle.

The island floats three miles east from Fleischville, although the increasingly poor weather has rendered the trip insurmountable regardless of the distance. Rough waves crash perpetually on every rocky outcrop that dares extend from the jagged coast of the island, and the bare winds have ripped down every tree that anyone had ever bothered planting on the barren property. The loose soil that grass roots have failed to hold down has likewise been blown away long ago, leaving only bare stone behind in large patches around the outskirts of the isle, bare stone that the water slicks into a traction-less black ice terrain every time the oft-seen clouds so much as let loose a drizzle.

Currently, rain pelts down from the overcast gray sky above, prompting me to hunch my neck to protect my face from the elements. I strain my eyes to see my way towards the back shed where the ferryman helped me carry the firewood last time he came to deliver supplies. He had kindly lent me a fleeting moment of company when his boat docked. We talked about politics, news from the mainland, and any other hints of a conversation I could latch onto until he informed me he had to leave.

As I glance over the rough seas, I wish dearly the boatman would return. Edna’s company has a way of wearing people down, and there’s not much I wouldn’t give to see another human even for a moment. I can’t blame Edna, of course; given all she had been through, who could?

After rubbing some heat into my finger, I grab an armful of dry wood from the little shed. Not even an arm’s length from the small shack, glistening black stone runs down into the swirling, dark waves below. I let out a visible shiver as I turn the other way and march back towards the house, my haul in hand.

Last year, the winter had not lasted so long. Even during the coldest, stormiest stretch of the season, I had been locked up at the island no longer than two weeks. Presently, I had dwelled in isolation for about a month, and the storm showed no signs of letting up. I knew the ferryman would try his best to get supplies out to Edna and me, but with the jagged rocks around the island, sailing for us in anything but the best weather could spell out disaster.

Edna’s daughters had paid me almost double for my troubles last winter, and I could only assume they planned some bonus for me this time around. I had always wondered why they didn’t just ship the old woman off to some home if they didn’t want to live with her, but they insisted Edna’d go ballistic if they ever tried to take her off the isle.

“She’s doing no harm,” I say aloud, making it to the front step of the house.

Back in the living room, I find Edna where I left her, rocking quietly in her antique little chair. She nestles in under her small blanket as her eyes shut with a content sigh.

Quietly as possible, I set the wood down besides the fire and feed into the hearth one of the large logs. As I do so, a flare of light flows into the living room, scaring off the vacant shadows that had previously hung around the chamber. Glancing around in the fresh light, I notice something by Edna’s foot:

A worm.

The simple creature squirms silently in place just before the slumbering woman. In the flickering firelight, I watch it curl and uncurl in place, idly moving over the hardwood floor. I make a motion to grab it and throw it out of the house, but stop myself, remembering the odd prior conversation with Edna.

“Hmm,” I murmur, climbing to my feet and then sitting down in the armchair adjacent to Edna’s. I find my book untouched at the table and read through a couple chapters before I stand up again to add more fuel to the fire. As I do so, I notice again the sharp pain in my tongue.

To investigate, I pace over to the restroom and thoroughly examine my tongue in the mirror. This must sound odd, but lodged the soft flesh of my tongue, in the shallow trough running down the center of the organ, I find a little sliver of gold. I can’t directly see the golden sliver, only feel it with the resulting pain when I press my finger to the spot on the tongue. When I turn my head to a certain angle, the sliver catches the light and gleams a bright golden little hue.

“How in God’s name…” I speak to my reflection in confusion before interrupting myself to check the golden sliver again in the mirror.

Not recognizing any immediate course of action to remove the foreign object, I more or less do my best to ignore it during the following days. Every time I have something to eat, the wicked little shard of metal stings me, and I curse and choke on whatever I had tried to consume. Edna looks at me with concern, and I apologize for my language, always turning red from slight embarrassment.

Not overly concerned with my troubles, Edna occupies herself by ‘playing’ with her little pet worm. She watches it slither on the floor, smiles gleefully, and talks to him with the warm recognition she normally reserves for her daughters.

I consider tossing the worm, but Edna looks so pleased by its company. Besides, it’s not doing any harm just lying there.

In the evenings, Edna retires to her room, where she sews for an hour or so before going to bed. Late at night, I can sometimes hear her giggling in a hushed voice with the worm, as teenagers do when they think their parents listen. As my housemate gossips with her little pet, I hang out in the bathroom, trying to get that damned sliver out of my tongue.

When I squint my eyes, I can see the sliver itself now. I go after it with a pair of tweezers, trying to grasp its miniscule surface. Fumbling the small tool in my fingers, I can never quite get the prongs to close around the elusive shard of gold. Occasionally I try to grab the sliver with just my fingernails; of course, they do even more poorly than the tweezers. My eyes well up whenever the metal shifts and it cuts further into my tongue, filling my mouth with a dull thudding ache. I curse and stomp my feet in frustration but nothing seems to register my grief.

Days wear by in quiet monotony and the worm grows ever larger. Edna walks it around the house like she would a dog, the curious organism heeling obediently the whole way.

“He needs his exercise,” she would say.

Rain pelts the warped glass windows of the home. I can see different colors shimmering violently with each attack as the scattered sound rings out through the spacious house. Every day, the deluge seems to grow worse, the ocean swelling up like it plans to swallow the island whole.

“What would you like for dinner?” I ask as I stoke the fire with the fire iron.

“What was that, Jeremy?” Edna asks in a baffled voice, sitting in her rocking chair just an arm’s length away from me.

“What would you like for dinner?” I repeat.

“Well, what do we have?” she asks, uncharacteristically cognizant of my inquiry.

“Not much,” I admit, “last time I was in the pantry, we still had some rice, potatoes, crackers, cheese, salted ham, and some canned goods…”

I trail off as I try to think of more food.

“How about ham and potatoes?” Edna suggests.

“Sure,” I nod and walk off to grab the food. As I leave, I suddenly consider how clear-minded she seemed throughout the exchange. In fact, ever since she started talking with that pet of hers-

My line of thought breaks when I enter the pantry and look over the minuscule supply of food remaining in the room. I look down where I remember the potatoes waiting, finding just an empty gunny sack where they should have sat.

“Don’t remember running out of potatoes,” I mumble as I grab some rice as a replacement.

As I cook the simple meal, I can hear Edna whispering from the other room:

“Maybe I should go sailing again,” the old woman thinks aloud, “I guess you’re not much of a sailor, without feet or hands and all. Maybe I could keep you in my backpack. I always had a backpack; everyone did. Would you like that? A nice little change of pace.”

I frown as the rice cooks, Edna never talked about the old days.

“I used to sail up along the north, where nobody else would go, did you know that? Other sailors were chicken, used to talk about shipwrecks and of men going missing. Pfft, never happened to me, I was a professional. You’d never see wrecks anyways; even if a ship did go down the sea just kind of eats the ship ups, sucks them right down into the depths.”

The woman sort of trailed off and left me cooking in silence. I strained my ears to hear if she kept whispering to the worm, but only silence greeted me.

“Food’s done,” I announced as I left the kitchen with two plates in hand.

“Oh, don’t let Jeremy hear your name,” Edna whispers to the worm who sits purring on her lap. It lifts its head to me.

“What’s its name?” I frown as I hand Edna the plate.

“Thank you,” Edna nods politely as she grabs the plate of food. I don’t move. Edna lifts her fork and knife and merrily starts eating her supper.

“What’s the worm’s name?”

Edna pauses before answering hesitantly:

“It’s Sliver.”

“What an odd name,” I answer soullessly, letting my weight fall to the armchair.

We sit beside the fire as Edna eats her meal. I leave my own food practically untouched, suddenly oh-so-very aware of the pain in my tongue. With every beat of my heart the hurt sings out in a sudden accent. My teeth clench in a half-hearted attempt to ignore the unpleasant lingering sensation.

“Well, I’ve finished,” Edna says happily, holding out her plate.

“Then why don’t you put it away?” I growl, gritting my teeth and pressing a finger to my aching temple. Edna looks confused by my response for a moment, but then quietly clambers to her feet and shuffles over to the kitchen, plate in hand.

She leaves worm behind.

“Sliver?” I think aloud, looking towards the serpentine creature. It seems to cock its head as it hears its name.

“You’re lucky the old bat likes you,” I hiss, “I’d throw you into that fire at a moment’s notice.”

The worm cowers.

“How are you doing, Jeremy?” Edna asks as she returns to the room, quietly sitting back down on the recliner. The worm hides behind its master.

I close my eyes, trying to ignore the pain in my mouth.

“I’m fine, sorry if I was rude to you,” I apologize as I try to feel the sliver in my tongue, “I’ve just got a bad… toothache.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Edna’s brow furrows in worry, “Make sure to see the dentist once this storm lets up. I’ve lost teeth before by neglecting my dental health.”

The worm lets out a quiet whine, and I glare in return.

“You seem awfully hostile of Sliver,” Edna observes nervously, “has he done something to offend you?”

“No, I just think it’s odd for a grown woman to play with a worm, that’s all.”

“Do you hate him?”

"I hardly know him."

"How else could you hate him?"

I look down, trying to soothe the mounting migraine in my brain. Little bites of agony shoot out from the sliver in my tongue, and I choke back tears.

“I’m going to bed,” I state plainly, getting suddenly to my feet.

“My, it’s awfully early for sleep, Jeremy.”

“My name’s not Jeremy!” I snap before shaking my head again, embarrassed.

“Oh,” Edna says, looking offended by my outburst, “sorry. I must have mistaken you for someone else. I hate to ask for more, but would you mind adding more wood to the fire? It’s starting to grow faint and I’d best not go out on the rocks.

“Of course,” I answer quietly with a little nod, “I didn’t mean to yell, by the way.”

“No, no, it’s alright.”

With that, I step out of the house to retrieve more firewood to burn. I notice at that time, the hearing has abandoned my left ear, filling that side of my head with a vacant ringing sound. When I adjust my jaw the perpetual ringing seems to splinter apart into white noise, turning into the background static of an un-tuned radio.

Rain runs over my face as I fake a yawning motion to try to manipulate the pressure in my inner ear. No matter what I try, the sense refuses to return to the organ, and I unhappily make the rest of the hike in half-silence.

At the little woodshed, I grab another armful of wood, with moderate worry spying the dwindling stacks left. If this nasty weather holds out much longer I’ll have to burn some of Edna’s furniture just to keep the old maid alive.

Turning away from the little shack, I slip on the slick rock, crashing down on my face and spilling the wood.

“Shit,” I curse, feeling blood rolling down over my eye from a ripe gash on the right side of my forehead. With my sleeve, I mop up what I can before picking the firewood back up and trudging along towards the solitary home. The pain from the injury hardly even registers over the golden sliver which I can still feel burrowing deeper into my tongue.

“Oh, are you alright?” Edna breathes with concern when I enter the living room.

“Took a little tumble,” I smile weakly as I drop all but one log to the side of the hearth and feed the remaining to the crackling flames, “but I’m just fine. I’m going to go get myself cleaned up and then get to bed. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Edna replies, concern still dripping from her voice.

With my good ear, I swear I can hear the worm snickering behind my back.

As I enter my own bathroom, I find the right side of my face coated in blood. When I watch carefully, the fluid seems to run backwards, back into the gouge on my forehead. It shivers with a dull thudding perfectly in line with my heartbeats.

Taking a towel from the cabinet, I wipe myself clean while the floorboards creak from the living room.

“Do you think Jeremy’s alright, Sliver?” Edna’s voice carries as she shuffles around the living room. As I vacantly listen, my reflection scrubs the blood from his visage.

“Do you think he knows?” her voice whispers in a dry hush. I pause.

“Nobody else saw it,” she moans idly, “no skin, no bones, but such a look in its eyes. The way it approached me, I knew it was awfully clever. Its voice, Sliver, oh, if you could only hear its voice. It spoke like a radio tuned up to heaven’s frequency. Such a static it would breathe before it spoke and its flesh would quiver from the inside out. No face but the voice of god.”

“Poor old woman,” I sigh, “would have been better off if she had drowned.”

She whimpers with fear, loud enough for me to hear from the bathroom, where I’ve finished cleaning the wound on my brow.

“Someday I’ll return, but I don’t want to…” her voice trails off. I consider going down to comfort her, but somehow I like the idea of her suffering.

“Don’t be cruel,” I tell myself before following her voice to the living room, where she paces erratically before the fireside.

“It’s alright, Edna,” I try to comfort her, keeping my voice low.

“You never saw it, Jeremy,” she shakes her head.

“It’s alright, Edna,” I repeat, stepping close enough to put an arm over her shoulder. She seems to calm ever so slightly with the contact. As he breaths gradually slow, a thunder-clap echoes out from over the unsettled gray sea surrounding the solitary island.

The waters churn frigid in place, erecting tall waves, forming deep undertows, and tearing the ocean apart from the sheer force of it all, endlessly cascading and crashing back together and then apart again. With each staccato flash of flight from the sky above, the sea stretches its fingers upwards to steal the thunder away before plummeting back down into a low trough.

Edna had once survived fifty days in that water. That was a fact I occasionally had to remind myself of: that old woman’s boat had sunk in a storm, and she went right on living without it. Her unconscious body found its way to land long after the search had ceased.

“It’s alright, Edna,” I say for a third time, and she sobs quietly as I do.

No one could explain how she had survived the stormy tide, least of all her. When she finally came to, she said nothing of any sense, just babbled on about extraneous details of her life prior to the accident. Little ticks remained in her personality aside from the general incoherency of her words, most notably a sharp anxiety of crowds and dry land. It all goes to show, nobody in their right mind would choose to live on a damned island in the middle of nowhere.

I glare out the window and off over the ocean as I let go of Edna. Her emotions seemed to have settled down now.

“Goodnight,” I nod politely and trace my steps back to the restroom. Edna carefully sets her weight back down into the rocking chair.

I spend a good fifteen minutes searching for that golden sliver in my tongue, as has become my nightly ritual. Blood and saliva drips down my swollen tongue as I dig my fingernails into the soft red flesh. My eyes well up, and I spit out curses under my breath.

Shaking my head in defeat, I do my best to wipe down the mess I’ve made over the sink and floor. Rain splatters over window.

As I lay down to sleep after finishing the task, the static crackles sharply in my left ear. I can hear breathing through that ear, disorientatingly out of sync with my own breaths. My forehead scrunches up in concentration as I try my best to ignore the skewed perception, but my focus breaks when a new sound slithers through my brain, a low voice detached from my mind:

“Is he listening?”

My eyes shoot open.

“Is he listening?” it repeats, a voice not belonging to Edna or myself. Stealthily, I slide out from under my sheets and tip-toe out of my room towards the source of the sound.

It speaks from behind Edna’s sealed door.

“I love you very much,” it croons sweetly, seductively, “do you love me?”

I can hear the faintest hint of Edna’s response, although not well enough to make out any particular words or phrases.

“That’s good,” the voice says before inquiring softly, “how much?”

Again, I can’t quite make out how the elderly woman answers, but after a moment the voice continues in its charismatic tone:

“Ah, so you would die for me, good. But tell me, would you kill for me?”

I knock sharply against the door.

Silence.

“Edna!” I bark in through the thin little door, but again, she fails to answer me. After trying the locked knob and with mounting frustration, I drive my palm sharply into the wood, the hard thud resonating through the empty house.

“Edna! Open up or I’m removing the damn door!” I growl with unrestrained hostility.

Before I can think of my next course of action, the door quietly opens itself up. After overcoming a second of surprise, I barge into the room.

Edna stands at the opened door, her wrinkled hand still clutching the knob. In the dim light, my eyes strain to find the source of the voice that Edna had conversed with moments ago. My sight dances from shadow to shadow, from corner to corner, until my attention falls to the woman at the door.

“Who were you talking to?” I growl.

“I’m sorry,” she stammers, “I was asleep and must not have heard you knock the first time. I’m sorry, Jeremy.”

“Who were you talking to?” I repeat the question, “where’s your worm?”

“You mean Sliver? Oh, he must have run off in all the confusion.”

My attention shifts to the window, closed tight and locked from the inside. The rug on the floor before the glass barrier lays slightly out of line with the bed as though someone had tripped over it.

“I’m taking your door,” I declare at last, unable to think of any other clear course of action, “it’s not safe for a woman your age to be able to lock herself up. What if you had taken a bad fall?”

“Oh, I suppose you’re right Jeremy.”

“First thing in the morning,” I nod, settling my resolve. Still upset, but with nothing out to do presently, I grind my teeth in place as I stagger back to my own bedroom. The sliver digs deeper and deeper into my tongue.

The morning comes unceremoniously, the sun hidden beyond the thick veil of clouds. A sudden tug of wind drives a wave of rain into my window, waking me from muddled dreams with a jolt.

Still, the metal festers in my tongue.

“Just keeps raining,” I moan weakly, watching the weather while I stretch out the weariness from my body. A radio static cackles in my left year, as though the sound has settled overnight and my morning movements have coaxed the noise back into motion.

“Better get the door,” I tell myself in a vague effort to muster the energy required to climb to my feet.

In time, I crawl pitifully out of my room.

“Good morning, dear,” Edna smiles brightly as I step into the living room. I ignore her and dig around in the nearby closet until I find a screwdriver for the door.

Working with clumsy, exhausted fingers, I start unscrewing the hinges of the door. Having not probably been replaced since the building of the house, the rusted, bent screws cling to their sockets. One particularly stubborn screw on the lower hinge of the doorway forces me to pry the entire plate away from the wooden door-frame by using the screwdriver as a makeshift crowbar.

Once pulled apart, the hinges fall to the floor with a clang and the door falls out of place with a crash. A cloud of dust shoots out from the board’s impact. I sling the fallen door over my shoulder and drag it out through the living room. Edna watches wordlessly all the while.

Outside, I carry my prize out over the rocks and cast it into the sea. Within moments, it vanishes beneath a layer of foam.

When walking back to the secluded home, I notice an odd track in the sparse dirt of the island. I follow it with curiosity, a tube-like impression in the occasional tract of ground. It runs all the way around the small cottage several times, as though something had circled the house in the night.

Back at the front of the house, I sit down on the step, staring out over the sea.

Hours roll by as a lost voice whispers in my left ear, creeping up through the static. Its harmonics hold a scattered collection of smaller voices within it, as though a crowd speaks all at once. I listen to the discordant choir for a fair amount of time, interested in its words, yet hardly remember anything they say once the voice snakes down beneath the radio static, still buzzing happily along.

The sky grows intermittently darker and brighter with no seeming regard for the appropriate passage of time. A long shadow cast by the small wooden shed bends unevenly from the light, flickering whenever I focus on it for more than a moment.

All the while, the sliver stabs into my tongue.

I reach a set of fingers up into my mouth to play with the wound, quickly finding that the metal shard has swollen to the approximate size of my thumb, so large I cannot quite comfortably close my mouth around it. The metal comprises a mass far beyond my own tongue, but nevertheless clings effortlessly to the flesh. No matter how I try to shift and pull at it, it remains firmly lodged in the tongue, the metallic tumor growing larger all the while.

Trying to ignore the sour taste of gold in my mouth, I stand upright and pace in place before the house. The air has dropped a significant portion of its warmth, and I suppress a shiver as I look at the façade of the old building. Within, I can hear the floor creaking and whispering.

“She’s still talking to that damn worm...”

Twice more, I follow the dirt impression that I have left from my pacing.

“Shut up!” I scream at the front door, still hearing the incessant hushed voices, “I can still hear you! Shut up!”

For a while, I stand still and wait for the noise to continue, but in the voices’ temporary absence the radio static in my left ear shrieks to life, until I can no longer make any sense of my auditory perception and cannot determine whether or not the voices have actually ceased for good.

The sound gradually dances down into a low growl of violins. I could almost swear I’ve heard the sound before, but can’t quite place the source.

“Sliver…” I hear Edna whisper, her voice sliding effortlessly through the interference.

With a rumbling anger building pressure in my skull, I stomp into the home with jagged movements and glare towards the general area of the house where the voice had escaped from. That damned sliver burns in my mouth all the while, its filthy metal skin settling into my taste-buds. Gulping away the unpleasant taste, I keep my attention leveled towards the voice.

“Sliver…” Edna moans once more in defeat, and from my current position I can hear it clearly emanates from the old woman’s bedroom.

As I hurry to enter the room, I find it sealed with a wooden door.

For a confused moment, I struggle to recall throwing that very door out into the see and stop at the barrier in muddled recollection. Although baffled by its re-appearance, I nevertheless try the knob, but find the door sealed tight. I rap my closed knuckles against the upper corner of the door.

“Open up, Edna!” I call, my bleeding mouth just besides the wood.

No response.

I try throwing my weight several times against the seal, but the door holds tight, as though nailed shut. It hardly trembles against the blunt of my assault.

“Open up!” I scream, although I can hardly annunciate the words with the golden mass lodged so perfectly in my tongue.

My anger subsides to reason long enough for me to realize I’ll need a tool to open the door up. Although I consider using the screwdriver to detach the door at the hinges as I had before, in my aggravated state, my hands instead find themselves grasping at the fire iron which sits beside the long dead fire.

“Open the door!” I try to command once more as I stand un-easily before the door with the rusted fire iron. Through the door, I can hear heavy breathing, but judging by the timbre, it seems to originate from an entirely different entity than Edna.

Shaking my head with frustration and ducking any thoughts of hesitation, I drive the metal instrument into the door, smashing a fresh aperture just next to the knob. The impact manages to dislodge the latch from the socket, and the door flies open with a sharp thud.

I try to say something, but at the sight of the room’s occupant my words elude me.

In the center of the still chamber upon Edna’s bed, only illuminated by the antique lamp sitting an arms’ length away on the nightstand, there sits a vaguely humanoid creature intently watching my entrance, although ‘watching’ may describe the being’s actions too generously, as nowhere upon its body can I find a set of eyes.

“Sliver?” my Adam’s apple catches in my throat.

It has no real neck or face, just a large lump extending upwards from between its shoulders, adorned by a massive gaping mouth filled with golden, needle-like teeth. I can hardly describe the inhuman texture of the thing’s skin except by comparison to that of a worm’s.

My grip tightens on the fire iron when a deep-rooted shiver coils through my spine. Every pore prickles with the mere sight of the organism on display.

As I observe it, it hardly makes any movement at all. It sits erect on the edge of the bed, its long legs reaching down to the floor, while its palms rest on its bare knees. All the while, the naked being breaths heavily from its lightly quivering maw; its attention resting squarely on my position at the door of the room, calmly calculated my next action.

With my uncharacteristically enraged disposition temporarily hindered by the raw apprehension inspired by the creature’s menacing façade, I find myself struggling to muster up any semblance of bravery necessary to approach the wretched thing.

In my left ear, I hear all kinds of things, a wild cacophony of music, idle chatter, and pained sobbing. The unpleasant mixture seems to grow in amplitude with every moment I spend in the room.

I step forward.

Inch by inch, I make my steady approach while it watches indifferently. The nearby lamp’s light catches occasionally on the monstrosity’s golden teeth, razor-sharp and aching for an excuse to tear into something soft.

With the fire iron raised and the creature still immobile, I step just close enough to strike. Sweat pools above my lips while my arm twitches sporadically.

I strike.

With a wild, unrestrained swing, the metal instrument collides with the soft head, sending its owner whiplashing to the ground under the force of the blow. Murderously, I launch the blunt weapon repeatedly into my victim, smashing its face again and again against the floor.

I continue the motion, unyielding, until the object of my attack has been reduced to mush and all the strength has seeped out of my arms.

Edna lies at the foot of her bed, her head utterly destroyed and her body motionless.

I collapse in an exhausted heap before her, dropping the newly bent fire iron to the ground. The noise in my left ear gradually wears down to silence, and I take in my breaths carefully. At the same time, the rain quietly stops tapping against the windows.

While I rub my tired eyes, a hard piece of metal falls from my mouth: a tooth of solid gold.

After five minutes, I’ve gathered my wits and gotten back to my feet. After thirty minutes, I’ve dumped Edna into the sea. After an hour or two, I’ve cleaned the room, eaten supper, straightened the rug, discarded the bent weapon, and kindled a bright new fire to warm the chilled air.

The storm gradually clears, with a clear sky watching over the fullest night’s rest that has come to me ever since setting foot on the island. With an overwhelming hunger, I work through the house’s food supply and merrily finish my book besides the fireside.

The following day, the ferryman returns and I convince him to take me back to the mainland, carrying with me nothing but the clothes on my back and in my breast pocket, a heavy shard of purest gold.

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