Young Family (Chapter 7, page 1 of 10)

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Chapter 7

Samantha had only walked the path to the beach a few times in the last five years. The first time she and Prudence had gone down to verify the boat was indeed there. They had looked around for anything to salvage, but they hadn't turned up anything. The other times she had come down to the beach by herself to make sure the boat was still there.

The path looked a lot different at night. The trees took on a menacing quality, the branches like clawed hands reaching out to grab her. An owl hooted as it searched the forest for prey. Samantha hoped that didn't include her. She squealed like one of the toddlers when something rattled the brush to her right. She held up the lantern, but didn't see anything.

"It's just the wind," she told herself. Or a squirrel or chipmunk or something harmless like that. There were plenty of those on Eternity. But her mind conjured pictures of bears twice her size, huge black monsters with razor-sharp claws and teeth.

"I'm a big girl," she said. "I'm not scared of the dark."

She remembered the first few nights after Reverend Crane and Pryde had died. Samantha had been only six years old, not much removed from a toddler. Though she had slept in the dormitory for quite a few days already, the room became completely foreign to her at night. Every noise prompted her to hug her dolly and whimper. She had finally gone into the adjoining room where Miss Brigham slept.

She shook Miss Brigham's shoulder until the older girl woke up. "Samantha? What are you doing up at this hour? A girl your age ought to be getting some sleep."

"I'm scared," Samantha said. "Can I sleep with you?"

"I suppose that would be all right for tonight." Miss Brigham moved aside so Samantha could crawl onto the bed with her. They had done that for three straight nights, until Miss Brigham finally looked Samantha in the eye and said, "I'm sorry, young lady, but you have to get used to sleeping on your own. You're a big girl and you should sleep in your own bed."

"But it's so dark."

"That may be, but there's nothing in the dark that isn't there in the light."

Samantha had considered this. They had finally settled for keeping one of their precious candles lit through the night. They did this for two nights, until Samantha became certain nothing inside the room could harm her.

As she walked now along the path, though, Samantha thought back to what Miss Brigham had said. That might have been true in the dormitory, but it wasn't true in the forest. There were plenty of animals that only came out at night to do their hunting. Those animals were not friendly to humans either. Samantha started to wish she'd brought the pitchfork with her.

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