When I was a child I used to hear stories. Tucked in a nice warm bed, a fire crackling below the chimney, the heat would beat against my cheeks. The lights would dance within my eyes. But the true warmth was not within the flickering flames nor the thick cotton sheets. No. The true warmth was within a single kiss, one right upon my forehead. It was my mother’s. She would hum sometimes as I tried to fall asleep, to sway into an untold dream of heroes and wonderlands, but the humming was never enough. I never did fall. She could tell from my breathing; know that I was awake; know that I felt her gaze upon me. And so, she would tell me a story instead. It was a ritual of sorts. A tradition.

At the time, we lived in a small home with only one floor; with only one room. The kitchen, the dining room, the bedroom. It was all the same to me. Sitting on the bed in some small corner, she would speak of the dangers crawling in the night. The horrors that existed outside our small home, beyond our short, shabby wooden door. She would point to it, speaking of the monsters lurking just behind. And I would look upon it with my eyes wide, flown open, and no longer in a feeble attempt to pretend, to provide a façade- a false pretense of sleep. But never had they been filled with fear. Never did I tremble at night when the flames were low and my mother was asleep. Never did my skin crawl as the night remained so quiet, so silent, that the dead could rise and take me under and leave me none the any wiser. Never… And that was because I always knew that she was right by my side.

When I was a child I used to hear stories. It was because of them that I remember her so well. The name of the country she wanted to live in; the name of the castle and her future husband, and my future father would be. I even remember the names she wanted for my baby sibling. If it was a boy, it would be… If it was a girl it would be… I had already planned on what we’ll do if a future like that had ever come. The fun we’d have. The stories I’d tell them. My mother’s stories.

But that was long ago. The warmth now is forgotten. As a new day comes, a night is right behind.

The horrors outside that door were real. A searing cold that could never be bridged by fire; never be bridged by a single kiss.

That is my world now.

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And a dead woman cannot do a single thing to stop it.

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