A pipe, grandfather in his chair in the garden, a certain haze to a summer afternoon, the combination of these things always took him back to the same story, the same memory of Libby Nasser, the poor girl.
It was a story like all old people tell but not really. And every time he told it, he seemed to struggle a little more. At the same time, he seemed to need to tell it, to get the words off his chest or make sense of them, somehow.
“Was sixty-odd years ago when little Libby Nasser vanished. We weren’t supposed to play near the edge of the forest, but she wandered that way. She didn’t listen.” He brooded as he packed another round of tobacco into his pipe. “They said she came back, but she never did. That thing wasn’t her.”
The thing that came back, he’d tried to warn her parents it wasn’t human. She smelled like river clay warmed in the sun, and her eyes were, somehow, too bright.
They accused him of terrible lies. They didn’t believe him, even after she stabbed the family dog for growling at her or when she cut the ear off a milk cow. They didn’t believe him when part of her finger came off, and inside was clay, where there should’ve been veins and blood.
And in the end, after her family had burned with the house and after the thing that was not Libby Nasser had scampered back to the shadows of the forest, he finally spoke the word, for himself, if no one else.
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