>Down at the end of the tracks, where even the dusky dogs had stopped pacing, was that house, ever-standing. Built by someone’s hands back in the days when people did things like that: pioneering, trailblazing, fate-forging. Logs, it was, locked together, real wood that you could tell was wood, and not particles of timber forced together like all our houses were.

We stood outside the house for a while, each of us shifting out weight. Pete said, Reckon he’s home? And I said, Where else would he be? Those dogs were growling up by the main road, but we knew they weren’t every hungry till well after dark. Pete told me once that the dogs got so hungry that they cracked their own ribs just from barking.

But that was just a story. This, the house, this was real. Through the tiny cracks in its wooden walls seeped the presence of a bloodthirsty pirate. The real blistering breath of evil, resting four feet from where we stood.

Dare you, said Pete.

Dare me what, I said, my voice shaking. He had to say it.


We had never been this close before. We had invented excuses for ourselves, wandered away. But tonight we were here.

Knock, said Pete.

Knock, I said.



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