Art by Shana Ahemode
Writing by Gabby Maloy
Tucked behind the bottomless bay, surrounded by miles of bushy thorns, lies a cottage overrun by salamanders.
Years ago, before the true owners moved in, four children went scavenging for blackberries. They would return to the woman of the house, their keeper, with their attempts to tear down the living room walls. Buckets of snails, birds with three wings, and frogs with two eyes were merely ploys to blur the line between in and out. These children were rather egalitarian, you see, and saw no difference between person and possum. They brought their keeper esteemed members of the animal kingdom but again and again fell witness to bluebirds and blackbirds, squirrels and salmon, all being inevitably expunged.
Then came the salamanders.
They were perceptive and unpredictable. They could turn on faucets and open cupboard doors. Most of all, they were voraciously hungry. No matter how often the children’s keeper set traps and vats of glue, each morning she would wake to find something missing. She could’ve sworn she went to bed with two pillows last night and that the desk had all of its legs. Day by day, the house became less crowded with furniture and more abundant in amphibians. They were inside the jug of milk, under the grand piano, and behind the bathroom mirrors. She could see them, but somehow worse, she could hear them. All night, every night, hundreds of slimy feet, slapping across her hardwood floors, and eating her enclosure from the inside out.
And she woke every morning until she didn’t.
It is not known what became of her or her flock, but it is said in the village that the salamanders have not honored the children’s wishes. They’ve taken up permanent residence in the cottage by the bay, and generations have passed, captive to the new keeper’s desires. However, every few years, an alien enters the home—a turtle with half a shell or a hare of handsome height. It is an attempt made by young amphibians to tear down the house’s foundation and blur the lines that remain to this day.
Each time, the invaders are quickly expunged, but all of the village knows that there will come a day when they aren’t.