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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Ms. Nosnam’s Dinner

“Remind me where you found her?” Cher asks Tai, squinting at him from the passenger’s seat.

 

“Craigslist. Mureum Nosnam” Tai replies, avoiding Cher’s gaze. 

 

“Craigslist… Craigslist…” 

 

“That’s what I said.” 

 

“Baby, ” Cher began sweetly, “Craigslist is for f*cking pedophiles! ”

 

“Watch ya’ mouth-”

 

“Poor Ana. She’s hogtied-”

 

“What the f-” 

 

“What if they try and sell her organs to the black market-”

 

“They’re not-”

 

“What are they feeding her?! Unseasoned chicken. My poor baby-”

 

“SHUT UP! Why can’t you trust my choices? Huh? I wish you’d put a little bit of faith in your husband. I’m trying.”

 

“How can I put trust in someone who’s unemployed?”

 

“You’re really gonna do that?”

 

“You can barely keep a job, how the hell you gonna keep my daughter safe?”

 

“Did you schedule a babysitter for our anniversary or did I? Are you forking up money to the landlords? So damn overbearing.”

 

“I just can’t. I work all day. The people at the law firm hate me, and I come back home, and  I don’t even know where my daughter is.”

 

Cher sniffled, burying her face in her palms. Her tears slowly welled up in her hands, it felt like she had bricks of stress tethered to her ankles. She slumped over on the dashboard, her sobs infectious.

 

Tai’s hold on the driver’s wheel tightened, his teeth gritting, but the sound of Cher’s sobs made his grip soften. His eyes grew moist, feeling his wife’s pain embrace his own. He took one hand off the wheel, resting it in Cher’s lap. Rubbing her thigh, he sighed, Cher intertwining her fingers with his. 

 

“Stop worrying so much, Anayra is fine, baby.”

 

“I hope so.”

 

The Honda Civic 2009 whipped around the corner, rolling down an unmarked, concrete two-way. The wheels kicked the stranded pebbles off the road and into the raveen beside them, a plume of dust lifted in the car’s rear, blocking the sign-botched by the mass of snow and dirt clung to it.

 

 “Welcome to Snaleville”

 

The surrounding mountains were blanketed in frosting, piercing the clouds. The breeze was brisk, the forestry void of all animal life. The tree-leaves were painted over white, yet the branches hadn’t withered in the unforgiving cold. The gorgeous trees eerily loomed over the icy road. They drove further down the road, the snow and plant life suddenly disappearing. It was as if winter became summer, the heat abruptly pounding down on the couple. 

 

“Global warming’s really doing its work.” Tai states. 

 

Cher was bewildered by the weather phenomenon, looking in the rearview mirror and back at the road ahead, off put by the contrast. 

 

Bleak white houses filled the town, every single lawn, fence and porch identical to the next, the only difference being the address numbers on the door. Tai pressed a button, making the windows slide down. There were no grocery stores or parks or cars.

 

The children played in the fire hydrants jovially, the old widows watered their rainbow-hued flowers, the mothers vigorously stirred pots of gourmet meals, the fathers watching their kids frolic. The noise died the moment the couple arrived, one may have been able to hear a feather hit the ground. The townsfolk all stopped in unison, staring at the car. They were smiling marionettes, every movement as robotic as the last. They waved at once, silently. Their eyes were black pearls, their facial structures perfect. It was as if they were molded into a greco-roman sculpture. Cher fanned herself, skeptically glowering at the homes they drove by. 

 

“What in the suburban hell?” Cher muttered under her breath. 

 

“It’s their way of greeting us,” he rubbed her thigh once more, “We’re almost there babe.”

 

Cher uncomfortably leaned back in her chair, trying to ignore the beady-eyed townsfolk meanwhile Tai shrugged it off as customary. 

 

Tai pulled up to Ms. Nosnam’s driveway, taking the keys out the ignition. He rests his head against the seat cover, letting out a sigh. 

 

“Didn’t notice a driveway when I first came. Anywho, let’s get Anayra.” He says, planting a kiss on Cher’s forehead. Cher leaned in towards his lips, her face still ridden in distress.

 

“Baby, we’ll eat dinner together, I promise.”

 

“That- I’d like that.”

 

They joined hands, walking towards Ms. Nosnam’s door. Her lawn was plastered with flowers just like her neighbors. It was an artificial beauty, masking the sinister aura shrouding the house. Tai raised his hand to knock on the door, but the lock clicked, a woman appeared out of the darkness. 

 

Atop her head was a red mushroom hat with baby blue spots, her torso covered in a yellow chef apron, hardly holding her hazel curls in place. She wore tight, black stockings that strangled her lower half, fuzzy bunny slippers on her feet. She tied an orange baby bib about her neck, with their daughter’s name on it. Like the rest of the town, Ms. Nosnam’s eyes were wide and beady, her cheeks were lifted by youth. Her freckles were strawberry seeds, spotting her all over her porcelain face. Her eyelids weren’t baggy from sleepless nights, they were firm. Her arms were tone enough that she’d pass as an athlete with a healthy diet. She folded her hands together, softly smiling at the couple. She bowed, taking a knee before shaking each of their unraised hands. 

 

“Cheerio. Salutations Mister and Missus Douglass. Missus Douglass, I’m Ms. Nosnam.” She said, looking directly in Cher’s eyes. 

 

Uneasy, Cher returned her handshake, her brow raised in disbelief. Ms. Nosnam’s posh nature rubbed her the wrong way however Tai gladfully returned the gesture. Cher stared at her baby’s bib, about to open her mouth, but the babysitter blissfully interjected.

 

“Worry not. Please come in. Anayra is asleep, and I prepared goodies!” 

 

Pulling the two into the darkness of her home, the door closed behind them autonomously. Clicking her tongue twice, the lights all turned on at the same time, revealing the stained glass chandelier of Orion’s Belt and marble square-tiles under their feet. Along the quartz walls, portraits of each individual planet in the solar system were framed, Ms. Nosnam jittery with each painting she skipped past. 

 

“Art is exquisite, isn’t it?” Her head snapped towards the couple behind her, robotically.

 

“Nah, these are nice Ms. Nosnam.” Tai agreed.

 

“Did you make these?” Cher asked, squinting at Nosnam. 

 

“Yes, I drew every single one in person! Space is a wondrous place.”

 

“So you’ve been to space before?”

 

“No. No. No. ’Twas on a VR simulator. Teehee.” 

 

Nosnam’s neck snapped forward, leading them to the next room. Cher glanced at Tai, narrowing her eyes. 

 

Tai rubbed her back, lightly whispering in her ears, “Stop being so judgemental.” 

 

Cher hooked her arms around Tai’s, indignantly huffing. A visible stream of steam emanated out the kitchen, the fresh aroma of sweet baked goods danced in their noses. Both of their eyes lit up, Tai’s more so than Cher’s. Arriving in the next room, Ms. Nosnam laid out a ruby tablecloth over a quartz table, filled with brownies, breads, fruits, and wine. 

 

The couple pulled out chairs beside each other, Ms. Nosnam sitting across from them. Tai immediately took a bite out of a brownie while Cher hesitantly bit into her own. Ms. Nosnam beams radiantly, watching the two dine. The babysitter licked her lips, watching Tai gorge down her goodies. She peered at Cher prodding her food reluctantly. 

 

“Go on sweet thing.” The sitter’s devilish grin widened, “Take a bite.” 

 

Cher sucked her teeth at Tai scarfing down brownie. She lifted it to her lips biting into the chocolatey brownie. Tai’s eyes widened with delight, biting down again. 

 

“Succulent, isn’t it Mrs. Douglass?” 

 

The thunderous crack of bone and splitting of skin scraped the couple’s ears. Ms. Nosnam’s human shell squelched, a green creature spotted in purple polka dots emerged. Her stomach unfurled itself like mandibles, four tendrils riddled with holes stretching outwards. At its center was a maw with countless rows of canines, crimson pasted along their surface. It was a void where no life returned. 

 

The couple slowly looked up from their food, struck by terror, yet they were mesmerized. Cher felt something get stuck between her teeth. Reaching into her mouth, pulling out a severed finger. Her baby’s severed finger. Tai couldn’t lift a finger. Cher screamed but there was no sound.

 

In the void of the alien’s jaw, a silhouette of her baby’s head stared back at her.

 

“Mama … Papa?” Anayra weakly whispered.

 

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