Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Fiction

The Island

I was five when we moved to the island.

Mommy and Daddy knew that the end was near. There were harbingers, omens, and dire events: poisoned apples, collapsing buildings, broken sidewalks, and the ever-present idiot boxes, a parade of heathens that prayed in tongues. A riot over papayas and saddle shoes broke out in the fifth quarter, and half the city burned. In a far-off desert, our soldiers fought the sand worms; we sent them care packages, stuffed with candy and thick socks. A wicked witch built a palace made from shoes; when they dug her out with the business end of a stiletto heel, they found she’d been orchestrating the fate of the world from behind an emerald curtain. When the curtain fell, it all fell apart; there was nothing left but darkness and ennui. Then a hole tore itself in the ozone, and crazy dust fell through — whomever it touched lost the power of speech. The earth rent her garments, and a jagged satellite of land mass broke off the coast and floated away.

I was five when we moved to the island. My sister Thea was three.

We loaded our lives into a tiny ship and set sail. We sailed the seven seas; we sailed for forty days and forty nights. We were tossed by strange creatures: eight-legged squid with suction-cup fingers, and city-sized whales with flapping tails. Grinning dolphins swam in our wake, leaping to say hello. Mommy and Daddy sat on the deck and played cards, talking about the life we’d build when we reached land. Thea and I sat at their feet. They told us stories about everything we’d escaped in The Outside World, everything scary that lay far away.

Now we’d always be safe.

On the forty-first day, the island peeked its head over the calm blue line of the horizon: an uninhabited jewel no more than a couple miles across, covered with sloping hills, lush forests, sandy beaches, strange flowers. A jutting cliff led down to a bed of rocks where the sea foamed and leaped. A fresh water spring trickled from the island’s obsidian heart, turning into a creek that ran toward the sea.

We called the island Treasure. We were home.

• • • •

We dismantled the ship and built a house. We planted crops in the lush glades, and searched the island for things that were good to eat: luscious fruits, speckled mushrooms, hearty nuts, savory turtle’s meat, and smooth seagull’s eggs. Wild sheep roamed the island; we caught them, corralled them, sheared their wool, slaughtered their rams, and drank their mothers’ milk. We slept on beds made from grass. On the radio, we listened to the events of The Outside World: a spreading epidemic that turned its victims pink before they dissolved into dust and floated away. A suicide cult that tattooed its members with sinister symbols in languages we’d inherited from foreign stars.

“Turn off the radio,” Mommy said. “Turn off that silliness.” So we did, and she gave us chores.

My brother Rock was born. Rock belonged to the island; he’d never known another home. Whether under sunny blue skies or torrential summer rain, he thrived. He grew so fast it was uncanny. From the beginning, he followed Daddy everywhere. Together, they figured out how to catch the biggest fish, how to fell the widest tree, how to build the hottest fire that would keep us warm all night.

Thea and I wanted to go on forest expeditions, too. We wanted to capture the wriggling, rainbow-skinned gods that breathed their last on the beach. But Mommy needed us at home. We washed our clothes in the creek and beat them clean on the flat rocks. We sheared the sheep and spun the wool into thread and knitted it into cloth. We cooked fish and turtle legs together in stews that steamed and bubbled all day, seasoned with wild herbs.

My brother Leaf was born. He was a weird baby; the island was in his blood. He never laughed and never cried. He only surveyed his family with a placid contentment, as if to say, “I am here, you are here, everything is fine.” He would only eat fruit. As he grew, he tagged along with Rock, who was tagging along with Daddy.

My brother Bug was born. He was an angry baby; he screamed for hours on end. We did our best to entertain him, dangling charms of iridescent shells, tickling his toes with the fallen feathers of seagulls, singing him songs about the island, full of gibberish and nonsense words. He still screamed. Maybe he was just mad that his name was Bug. He grew fastest of all, and in no time at all he was tagging along with Leaf, who was tagging along with Rock, who was tagging along with Daddy.

Thea and I cooked fruit into jam, washed the clothes in the stream, sheared the sheep of their winter wool, scoured the iron cauldron with sand, and fought all the time, because she kept hanging her hammock too close to mine.

Our parents still said they loved each other, but Daddy spent all his time somewhere else, and Mommy kept waking up from nightmares to insist that it was all a dream, that we were not her children, and that she’d never lived on an island named Treasure. Daddy kissed her and brought her guava juice but she knocked it out of his hand. He shook his head, and walked away. He walked until he reached the other end of the island, where he sat at the edge of the cliff that looked down on the pointed rocks and the spraying sea. There, he thought about what would happen if he jumped.

Back at our home by the hammocks and the hearth, Mommy tore the low-hanging branches from the trees; she chased us with the branches, and she hit us as hard as she could, trying to turn us into the children she remembered.

When Daddy came back to camp, he saw our fresh bruises, our black eyes, our scratched and bleeding arms. He shook his head, and took Rock to the water’s edge to fish.

My sister Violet was born. I took her into my arms the way a younger girl would have taken a doll; I knew that in some way she would always be mine. Patiently, I turned the radio dials, looking for a song I knew, a song to sing her to sleep. Finally, out of the static and whine of the space between signals, a few strains of a familiar melody emerged: The Temptations, singing “My Girl.”

It was a sign. Thea and I hung Violet’s hammock between our own, even though she was too small to sleep in it.

“Turn that off,” Mommy said. “I hated that song.”

I turned off the radio and stroked the fine dark hairs on Violet’s sweet-smelling, satin-soft skull.

By this time, we all belonged to the island.

• • • •

But something strange happened the night that Violet was born.

It began with a storm. When you live on an island, you can see a storm coming from a long way off. All day, as Mommy writhed and cried and cursed and pushed, we’d seen the storm as it moved over the water and gathered strength. During the day it came as a dark cloud against the light-filled sky; during the night it came as flashes of lightning that cracked in jagged branches against the darkened clouds. At night, as we slept, the storm broke. It raged with such delirium, it seemed that our Treasure would break apart. Thunder louder than the Fourth of July fireworks I remembered from so long ago in The Outside World; lightning bright as a bonfire that illuminated the entire island for one razor-edged moment before the darkness returned with demonic depth. Wind screamed and howled through the trees. Rain poured down on us in buckets, thick as soup, teeming with small creatures from the shallow waters: plankton and krill.

A horned owl hooted mournfully in the distance, terror in his call. The sheep stampeded across the island and we could feel the vibrations of their pounding feet. Leaf and Bug climbed into my hammock and huddled against me. Violet cried. Thea buried her head under her pillow. Only Rock was unafraid.

Then the island shuddered and quivered and bucked. A crack rang out like cannon fire. And just like that, the winds died down, the rain faded away to a drizzle, and the storm was gone. My fitful sleep that night was filled with dark dreams.

The next day we woke to find the island changed. A lightning-struck tree at the highest point on the island had spread fire from branch to branch, burning a dark circle in the center of the forest before the heavy rains could extinguish the blaze. And a crevice had opened in the center of the island, ripping a chasm across a sunny meadow. Rock found it first, and came running back to tell us what he’d seen.

We stood on the edge, staring down. The crevice seemed to continue for miles. We could not see the bottom; it disappeared into darkness. If I squinted, I thought I could see the shadows squirm and shift.

“You should have known,” Mommy told Daddy.

“How could I?” he said. “How could I have known?” He shook his head and walked away. Rock followed him. Together they built a fire on the beach. They caught and killed a baby boar and stuck it up on a spit: a feast to celebrate the newest addition to our family.

All day we frolicked on the beach, basking in the sweet smells of fresh fruit and roasting meat. Thea collected shells. Rock poked and stirred the flames with a pointed stick. Leaf combed the tide pools for new species of crab. Bug mixed sand and dirt and water to make mud. I tried to build a palace out of sand. Together we held hands and waded out into the waves, against the incoming tide.

All day we watched a speck of darkness on the water. It grew and grew. It was coming closer.

It was another ship.

The ship made landfall as day turned to night. We sat on the beach, warmed by the rays of the setting sun, feasting on the rich meat of the roasted pig, and watched the ship as it cast anchor in our bay.

• • • •

They were travelers like ourselves, a family in search of their own small island to make a home. We informed them that our island was named Treasure, and it was ours alone, but they were welcome to stay for a night or three. They shared their story, and we shared our feast.

Their name was Robinson. They had four children; the oldest was younger than me, but older than Thea. The youngest was the same age as Bug. We’d never met children like us before. We ran wild, running in looping circles across the beach, inventing pretend games that no one else could understand, playing hide-and-seek in every nook and cranny. Thea told the newcomers a story about a pure white horse with a pink crystal horn, a beast of perfect nobility and grace. She said that if you glimpsed the white horse, you dreamed the most joyful dreams for a week. She said she’d only seen it once. The newcomers believed her; I think Leaf and Bug believed her, too, even though they knew it wasn’t true. The kids put together a hunting party to comb the island.

I felt much older than the rest. I knew that Thea’s story was fantasy, and I didn’t want to play make-believe. Instead, I sat on the beach, listening to the parents as they talked about the world beyond the seas.

A new epidemic raged; this disease turned its victims a pale yellow-green, then shriveled them like raisins until they were nothing but skin. The wars in the deserts continued, and they’d built a McDonald’s on the moon. The prophet my parents had once followed was now in prison for tax evasion and child rape. The sky was dead: aliens from Alpha Centauri had slipped through the hole in the ozone and injected a poisonous gas into the clouds.

Still, despite these setbacks, humanity survived.

“I thought by now they’d all be dead,” Daddy said, dejected.

“Any day now,” Mr. Robinson said. “Any day.”

“Maybe the quickening is farther off than we thought,” Mommy said, and went off into the darkness to let Violet nurse.

As promised, the Robinsons stayed for three days. Meanwhile, my parents whispered and hissed their way through a protracted fight. Mommy was lonely; she wanted the Robinsons to stay.

But Daddy had seen the way Mommy and Mr. Robinson looked at each other across the fire’s dying flames. He didn’t say anything, but he wouldn’t let the Robinsons remain here.

“I hate you,” Mommy said. “I hate you, and I hate this island.”

Daddy shook his head and walked away. He took Mr. Robinson on a tour of the island, showing him the structures he and Rock had built with a saw, a hammer and some nails.

Mommy and Mrs. Robinson stayed at the camp and made stew. I stayed too, while the rest of the kids played games with pebbles and sticks. With a dulled knife, I struggled to cut and peel an assortment of strange tropical fruits.

• • • •

On the third day we gathered on the beach to say goodbye. We gave them more food for their journey, and some seeds we’d saved from our island’s bounty of native fruits. In return, they gave us some things my brothers had never seen: a television and a phone. “It might get lonely on your island,” Mr. Robinson explained. “So here’s something. With this teevee, you can learn about what’s going on in The Outside World. It will tell you if everyone is dead. With this phone, you can call your friends.”

“We have no friends,” Mommy said.

“You can call your family.”

“We have no family.”

“Well, you can call us.”

“Okay.”

We played with the teevee and the phone, and we watched as the Robinsons climbed into their ship and sailed away.

• • • •

Things continued as before, but the island had changed. The crevice at the center was growing; it got wider by the day. The bottom was still too far away to see. But the dark things, wriggling in that depthless gloom — they seemed to be growing, too. If I looked closely, I could make out tails, and eyes, and wings. Other times, I couldn’t see a thing. I thought my eyes were playing tricks.

The sheep were never the same after their panicked stampede. In the spring, six lambs were stillborn; only three survived, and they were sickly and weak.

The boars that roamed the island had also been spooked. One day, beneath a clear blue sky, a hawk wheeled too close to a suckling. The mother boar screamed in warning, and her shriek set off a riot. The boars ran as if the devil were branding their backsides; they ran and ran until they reached the cliff that overlooked the pointed rocks and the spraying sea, then kept running, and plunged off the edge, one by one. They died in a screaming nightmare below, and the waters foamed red with blood until their bloated bodies washed out to sea.

The blackened circle on the island’s highest point remained dead and charred. A poisoned fungus grew in the ashes and spread outward, infecting the trees; each autumn it gained more ground until the forest was nearly decayed.

Daddy and Rock had fished too much in the streams, and now the waters ran barren and clear; the only fish to be had were the canny, cunning ones that hid carefully in the sea.

It seemed the island was turning against us. It was staging a revolt; it was going strange. We had to work much harder to survive.

Luckily, we were older now; we could work as a team.

Thea could make anything; with her nimble fingers she crafted comfortable clothes and lovely necklaces and wonderful boxes full of shells. She’d developed storytelling into an art, and when we sat around the fire cracking nuts or filleting fish, her silly anecdotes and fanciful tales kept us entertained while our hands did tedious work.

Rock was taller than me, strong as could be, and good at everything he tried. He could leap farthest, run fastest, and climb the highest trees. His quick wit and clever mind kept us laughing all the time. Even when we were sad, or hungry, or fighting, Rock could always make us laugh. He taught Leaf and Bug all the things that Daddy had taught him; he wrestled them on the beach for the entertainment of their sisters, so that they might grow as tall and strong as he.

Leaf remained as even-tempered as he’d always been; it was impossible to make him angry. We teased him mercilessly, but he just laughed. He read all the books we’d brought from The Outside World. There were only a dozen, but he read them cover to cover. Through those books, he came to understand what made other people feel as they did. He watched and listened, as he always had, and soon he understood us all. He knew why Rock still got angry, even though he was the strongest. He knew why Daddy spent so much time sitting on the cliff’s edge, staring out at the sea. He knew why I went on longer walks every night, ranging ever farther from the hammocks and the hearth.

Bug still hated his name. Bug. Like Leaf, he read all the books cover to cover. But while Leaf learned about humans, Bug learned about the world. The books were his atlas, his dictionary, his encyclopedia. When he’d finished with the books, he surveyed the island. Soon he knew the location of every rock, every stream, every tree. He knew all the edibles — what they were called, and where they lived. He knew the history of The Outside World, and whenever we spoke of the things we’d learned from our parents, he corrected us: there had never been an emerald curtain, it was always made of iron. There had never been a disease that turned people into raisins or dust. We told him he was living up to his name, and he stalked off to fume by the fire.

Violet grew from a baby into a girl, and she was the sweetest child there could ever be. She was smart, and funny, and wise. She loved everyone, and there was nothing we wouldn’t do for her. Secure in the knowledge that she was adored by all, she had endless amounts of love to give.

But once, when we were gathering gooseberries on the hillside, I caught her staring into the crevice; it was wider than ever, and darker than night. And, from a place so far down it couldn’t even rightfully exist, I could hear the buzzing and humming of locusts, the croaking of odd and twisted birds.

Violet stood on the edge. She gazed into the blackness, twisting the curling tip of one pigtail around her tiny fingertip. Her look was far, far away.

“Don’t look in there,” I scolded her. “Come on. Let’s go home.”

I thought my brothers and sisters were the five most perfect people who ever lived.

• • • •

Mommy and Daddy were fighting all the time. They fought about the storm, about the earthquake, about the teevee, about the phone, about the radio, about the Robinsons, and they fought whenever there wasn’t enough to eat. They fought about the hammocks, which were falling into disrepair, and they fought when the fire went out.

Finally they agreed to disagree. Daddy went to live on the far side of the island, where the cliff overlooked the pointed rocks and the spraying sea. Mommy went to live on the near side of the island, where tall grasses grew and vivid flowers bloomed. Daddy took the teevee. Mom took the phone.

They left us the radio, the hammocks, and the hearth.

We would have lived like wild things except for Thea, who made sure we went to bed on time and woke with the sun. Thea gave orders to Leaf and Bug, who kept the fires lit at night and kept away the beasts. I swept the hearth and made the stews. Rock brought firewood and hunted the boars, which were surlier than ever. He seemed older now; overwhelmed with responsibilities, he was no longer so quick with a joke. Violet scavenged for berries and tried to make us smile. We did, but only because she asked. We were all tired, and we felt broken inside — our island was damaged, and so were we.

And the war between our parents raged on. Each tried to lure us to their side of the island. Daddy had the teevee; he invited us to his cliff to watch the game, even though the signal took six months to reach us, so the fate of the players was already long decided in The Outside World before it reached our shores. Mommy had the phone; she never called anyone, but she kept saying she might call the Robinsons. She said we could go live on their island and start a new life — so we should stick with her.

Back at the camp, we fiddled with the radio, but nowadays nothing came through but crackles and static and whispers. If I leaned in close, I could hear the same distended whirs and shrieks that came from the crevice in the middle of the island.

Mommy and Daddy sent Violet back and forth across the island, bearing messages between them. Violet told Mommy about the games we’d watched on Daddy’s teevee; she told Daddy what Mommy had been saying about the phone. She didn’t mean to stir up trouble, but she was still quite young.

One night, when the moon was no more than a sliver, Mommy crept over to Daddy’s side of the island, where he slept on the rocks in a shack made of driftwood. She tossed the teevee over the cliff, and its broken shards floated out to sea.

When Daddy discovered what she had done, he was very angry. He marched over to her side of the island, where she slept in the grass in a hut made out of sticks and leaves, and smashed the phone against the rocks.

Furious, she stormed over to our camp and smashed the radio to pieces, too. She said she didn’t want him to take it; she was getting to it first.

It didn’t matter, anyway; it had been a long time since we’d heard anything from The Outside World.

Bug and Leaf blamed Violet for making our parents fight; in turn she became sullen and cross. She refused to do her chores or eat her stew. She told Bug he was ugly, and when Rock told her to apologize, she said she hated us all and ran away. We stayed up all night looking for her. When dawn came, we found her curled inside the mouth of the island’s one small cave. Rock picked her up and carried her home.

• • • •

Creatures kept crawling out of the crevice. Things that made horrible noises in the dark; we could hear their poisoned laughter, just outside the ring of firelight. We could hear the screams of birds and the shrieks of piglets and the warning calls of owls as the things ranged across the island, feasting at will. And sometimes, as they rustled and scratched in the dark, we could smell them: an acrid stink, like rotting, burning flesh.

“If only we had that phone,” Thea said wistfully, as we sat around the fire one night. It was our nightly ritual. We watched the glowing embers and the flickering flames, and we talked about how to save our island. Occasionally we wondered about The Outside World.

“Maybe everyone’s dead,” I said.

“If only we had that phone, maybe we could find out.”

“Maybe it doesn’t matter.”

Of all of them, I was the only one who remembered The Outside World. I didn’t think it was the answer to our problems. I wanted to save the island, whatever the cost.

• • • •

A few nights later, as we sat around the fire, Violet announced: “I want to go live with Mommy.”

“You can’t do that,” Bug said.

“Why not?”

“Because that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

“I don’t care,” Violet said. “I like it there. There are flowers. The things aren’t there. I want to go.”

“If you’re going to live with Mommy, then Leaf and I are going to live with Daddy.”

“You can’t do that,” Thea said.

“Why not?”

“Because we won’t have anyone to stir the fire or sit watch at midnight or throw rocks at the things to make them stay away. We won’t have anyone to help cut the branches to fix the hammocks. We won’t have anyone to bring seagull’s eggs,” Thea said.

“Because we’ll be all alone,” I said. “Three isn’t enough.”

“How much is enough?” Leaf asked, as if he was talking to himself. “How many, I mean?”

“Only six is enough,” I said.

“Only six is enough,” Thea agreed.

“Enough is enough,” Rock said. “I’m sick of all of you.” He got up and stalked away from the fire.

Violet started to cry. Leaf and Bug told her it was her fault, and she cried harder. Thea told them it was their fault, and Bug got mad, and Leaf got annoyed, which was the angriest he ever got. Their argument grew louder and louder until it filled the night, drowning out even the weirdest and cruelest noises from the dark.

“Shut up, all of you,” I shouted. “I’ll go talk to Rock.”

I wandered off into the darkness to look for him. I knew that whatever he said, he would never desert us. His loyalty to us was so fierce, his care so necessary, that it made him angry sometimes. He was bound by a desperate love that could never be ignored.

I found him sitting on the beach, watching the dark waves sliding quietly in and out, lit only by the brilliance of the full moon.

I sat beside him.

“I have a plan,” I said. So I told him. He listened. We were silent for a while, then we spoke for a while, and then we were silent again.

After a long time, we returned to the campfire. Violet had fallen asleep. We told Bug and Leaf to go away; we had something to talk about with Thea. They were upset all over again. They insisted they deserved to hear as much as anyone else. They asserted that they belonged to the island, too. We told them no, and they huffed away.

I had to speak, because I was the oldest, and besides, it was my idea.

“We must kill our parents,” I said.

• • • •

We did it that night, while Leaf and Bug and Violet lay in their hammocks asleep. Mommy first. We dashed out her brains with a rock. We dragged her body to the crevice and left it lying on the edge of the abyss. Daddy second. Before the rock fell, I felt a moment of pity; I was the oldest, so I remembered. I knew he’d never really wanted to come to the island. But then I remembered all the times he’d seen our bruises, our black eyes, our scratched arms, and looked away. The curse was half his. He let out a strangled snore, and we dropped the rock onto his skull.

We dragged his body to the other edge of the crevice. Then, we said the prayer that they’d taught us long ago. We sang a song we’d written about the island, one of those songs we used to sing to make Bug stop crying for just a minute or three. Then we tipped their bodies into the deep.

The sounds were appalling. Those sounds were not sounds made by our parents, who were already dead. Those sounds were the screeches and yelps of hideous creatures that fought over our parents’ bones and brains and blood.

I hoped we could appease the island. I hoped with this sacrifice, the curse would stray, and our island could be whole, the brilliant Treasure it had been when we were young. But when I heard the satisfied braying of creatures from another place, I was afraid I’d been wrong. Maybe we’d only fed them. Maybe they’d only grown stronger.

We returned to the shore, and in the early light of dawn, we cooked breakfast on the beach. When Leaf, Bug, and Violet woke with the sun, we beckoned them down and told them what we’d done.

They cried, but they understood, as we’d known they would. We belonged to the island more than we’d belonged to our parents. And we belonged to each other most of all.

“Now we can start from scratch,” I said. “No more overfishing. No more forest fires. No more stampeding sheep. No more haunted boars.”

Thea broke in: “And hopefully, no more of those . . . things.”

• • • •

After we killed our parents, the island began to recover. The small flock of sheep multiplied in the spring; the ewes all lived through birth and the lambs thrived to the last woolly one. The wild boars birthed kinder, calmer sucklings; they were becoming tame. The poison fungus on the mountaintop crept backward in the direction it had come.

Leaf found a few freshwater fish, stranded and sleeping in a shadowy cove in a trapped inlet of the creek. He caught and released them into the wilds of the stream, and soon they were doing what fishes do; in a season or two we could begin fishing again. Bug wrote a natural history of the island, cataloguing each of its myriad species for future generations. (Not that there would be any. We loved each other, but not like that.) Thea taught Violet to sew. Rock collected all the driftwood and lumber he could find, and began building a gazebo that we called “the church.” I dug deep into the pouches of preserved seeds, and cultivated a garden that was better than any we’d grown in years.

Best of all, the crevice began to close. At first it moved so slowly it seemed impossible; I dismissed it as wishful thinking. But then the movement became unmistakable. It moved by three inches; then five. The gash was healing.

But even as it creaked closed, something was growing inside of it. When the fissure was no more than three feet wide, it emerged. We called it the tree. It did look like a tree — from some angles.

Sometimes it looked like a tower. Sometimes it looked like a mushroom. Sometimes it looked like a giant. Sometimes it looked like the beanstalk that a boy once climbed, to meet a giant on the other side. Sometimes it looked like a skyscraper. Sometimes it looked like a monster.

But mostly, it looked like a tree.

By the time two summers had passed, the crevice had closed completely, and there was nothing left but the tree. In the third summer, it reached maturity. Hanging from the tip of each of its six branches was a cotton-wrapped sack, and struggling in those sacks were six sick creatures, cocooned but growing. Occasionally we could see their mouths, opened in hopes that an insect or a baby bird would blunder in.

Then another ship arrived.

It was the first ship we’d seen since the Robinsons had lifted anchor and sailed away. We were wild to meet them, and from the moment we spotted the ship, we waited on the beach, preparing a feast that rivaled all feasts before it. We lit a huge bonfire to draw them near. We danced and sang songs, even while Rock prepared a miniature arsenal, just in case they were enemies and not friends: we knew nothing now about The Outside World.

They made landfall as night fell. Two men and a woman: travelers like my parents had once been. They were my age. They were fascinated by us, and entranced by our island. We invited them onto the beach, and informed them that this island was called Treasure and it was ours alone, but they were welcome to stay a night or three. We shared our feast with them under the brightening stars. The roast lamb and grilled fruits tasted like the food of the gods.

As the visitors ate, they told us they were looking for some long-lost cousins of theirs: a family called Robinson.

“I thought you looked familiar,” I said. I remembered the Robinsons’ wide blue eyes and white blond hair.

“Is there still The Outside World?” Bug asked.

They said that there was.

After the food was finished, the man leaned forward, ready to ask what they’d all been wondering.

“You’re all so young,” he said. “How long have you been stranded here?”

Everyone looked at me, waiting for me to answer.

I laughed.

“We have always lived on the island,” I said.

• • • •

That night, we waited until the visitors fell asleep. Then we crept, slowly and silently, to the beach where they dreamed. We dashed out their brains with rocks and fed their bodies to the tree.

Desirina Boskovich

Desirina Boskovich

Desirina Boskovic

Desirina Boskovich’s short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Kaleidotrope, Triptych Tales, PodCastle, Drabblecast, and anthologies such as The Way of the Wizard, Aliens: Recent Encounters, and The Apocalypse Triptych. Her nonfiction pieces on music, literature, and culture have appeared in Lightspeed, Weird Fiction Review, the Huffington PostWonderbook, and The Steampunk Bible. She is also the editor of It Came From the North: An Anthology of Finnish Speculative Fiction (Cheeky Frawg, 2013), and together with Jeff VanderMeer, co-author of The Steampunk User’s Manual (Abrams Image, 2014). Find her online at www.desirinaboskovich.com.