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Rise of Babes

Brooksie C. Fontain

     The children burned down the orphanage.
     You expect to hear about an orphanage burning down, with children inside. The negligence of their caretakers is often to blame, and these caretakers were both negligent and cruel.
     Everyone knew that. You saw it in the darkness behind the children’s eyes as they walked single file through the village, sweet young faces with the souls of jaded adults.
     You even expect to hear about a single child burning down an orphanage or a school – a rogue, a troublemaker pushed too far.
     These children worked together. They barricaded the caretakers in their rooms as they slept. The lone woman who was supposed to keep watch over them at night was no match for all of them – they felled her like an elephant brought down by painted wolves.
     Children don’t often stay children long enough to realize their potential power, to find allies in one another. By the time they reach adulthood, they’re eager to ally themselves with adults, ready to inflict the hazing ritual of childhood pain on a new generation.
     Like coyotes, the children scattered to the woods. Deputes spent hours every day searching, but kept emerging with unnerved eyes and confused faces. Eventually, they gave up.
     “They can’t survive long in there,” said the sheriff, “maybe the bears got them.”
     “Maybe they climbed the trees,” half-joked a deputee, with darting eyes.

     But the children emerge at night. None of them are older than twelve, delicate as elves, they wear the ashes of their burnt orphanage as war paint. Their eyes seem to glitter with embers.
     You know to keep the front door locked and the back door open, in case you have to run out in the night. People live scared now, like the children used to live scared. They won’t let you forget their collective pain.
     You close the curtains, afraid to wake to their ember eyes peering in at you, forcing you to remember.

Brooksie C. Fontaine is a coffee addict who got into college at fifteen and annoyed everyone there. She is a teaching assistant, tutor, illustrator, and grad student. Her work has been published by Eunoia Review, Quail Bell, Boston Accent Lit, Anti-Heroin Chic, and the Cryptids Emerging and Things Improbable anthologies.
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