“I don’t like that.” Frog whispers. “I don’t like that at all.”
I more than “don’t like” what I’m seeing. The black stain in the distance is a scab on the landscape, eating the light around it.
I feel Rabbit’s weight press against the outside of my boots. “We really have to go there?”
“If we want to save the Frozen Man and end this winter?” I sigh, releasing a cloud of vapor from my scarf. “Yeah.”
Frog defiantly lifts his head higher out of my pocket. “I could get used to the cold. And the snow is kinda pretty.”
“Oh, hush.” Rabbit hisses, shaking her head so her ears fall back to her neck. “The sooner we go, the sooner we can go swimming again.”
I remember swimming. Sometimes I dunk my head under the water in the bath and pretend I’m in a warm lake. Craving the real thing, I move forward.
Only now do I notice how much distance we’re traveled. Familiar houses are shadows in the distance and only skeletal trees line the frozen river. The landscape is slowly devoured by the curling darkness ahead of us.
It only grows more silent as we get close enough for the house to take shape. If not for the shadows, it woul dhave been a normal house, complete with white fences and flowered curtains in the windows.
I stop across the street, watching the house and the dark when Rabbit bumps me on the heel.
“Boot, there’s a light in the bag.” She whispers.
The feelin gof the house watching back makes me round a silent, empty block to hide before fishing through the bag for whatever the light is. I probably shifted he bag and knocked a lamp back on.
I pull up what appears to be a candy necklace. The diamond shaped lump of sugar in the center is carved with the simple instruction; “Wear Me.”
All three of us blink at the glowing candy in confusion and a few moments pass before Rabbis finally says “Marsalla is weird.”
Braving a blast of cold air, I stretch the necklace over my head and quickly tuck it into my coat so I can put my hat and hood back on. Before I can zip up, I feel it tug me towards the house and it’s light-eating darkness. Reluctantly, I follow the candy’s instructions and approach on soft feet to make as little noise as possible. My friends are quiet as I move across the street and my eyes adjust to the dark in no time.
The wood fence is decaying away and I try to ignore the fact all the edges are chipped with what looks like teeth marks. The candy light leads me and my friends right up to the front steps and to the door.
“So…” Frog says after a moment. “Do we knock?”
The necklace dims and I get the feeling that’s a bad idea. “Let’s just go in.” And I lift my hand to the brass knob.
“Boot!” Rabbit hisses in warning but I still give the door a shove. Frog and Rabbit hide deep in my pockets at the rush of warm air blowing out into the night but that’s all that comes at us. No monsters, no teeth, no nothing. So, I step inside.
And my foot touches nothing. Nothing but air.