Speaking to Skull Kings
by Emily B. Cataneo
When Bird with his crown of black roses disappears from the clearing, Genevieve knows she and Joseph won’t be safe anymore. At night, while Joseph sleeps, she sorts the walnuts and lingonberries that Bird gathered for them to eat, counting fewer each time. Her stomach aches and she flinches at the rustle of the skull kings in the ghost forest beyond the clearing.
Sometimes, she clambers up trees, her boots slipping on bark, straining to hear the rustle of Bird’s wings, the growl of his caw.
Night after night, Bird doesn’t return.
Night after night, the skull kings crunch through the undergrowth, closer and closer.