The Little Block Girl

by Jonathan Woodrow

The Block family came to stay with the Sharp family for an indefinite period, bringing with them a cat, who lasted less than a week, and a small child, whose name is now irrelevant. Not long after the cat disappeared, Grazen Sharp decided it was time broach the delicate subject of the Blocks with his wife.

“How much longer, what?” she replied.

Grazen tilted his head to one side and raised his eyebrows. “Well, I’m not talking about the cat.”

Madina smiled in a way that always soothed Grazen’s irritation. “Why don’t we have something to eat?” she said. “You can set up the new Teat we just got and we can try it out.”

The question was avoided, the matter temporarily forgotten. And the new Teat sounded like a great idea.

“Jaden, Prolter, downstairs please.”

The two girls rattled down the steps and paused when they got to the bottom. “Is that the new Teat?” Jaden asked.

Grazen flashed a modest grin. “Oh, what, this? Yes. Yes, I suppose it is. And what of it?”

“Do we get to try it out?”

“Well, I don’t see why you’d need to. The old one still works OK, doesn’t it?”

Prolter stuck out her tongue.

“There a problem with the old one now?” Grazen asked.

“She’s made it gross,” said Jaden.

“Who’s made it gross?” Grazen asked.

She did.”

The way Prolter had emphasized the word ‘she’ said it all, and Grazen resisted the urge to lean in and conspire with his two girls. He was a grownup, and grownups weren’t supposed to conspire with their kids about other people’s kids. But there was definitely something off about the ‘she’ in question.

She was the Block’s little girl. She was five, maybe six. Precisely how old, Grazen didn’t know, and didn’t care. He’d taken a disliking to the little Block girl from the moment she’d arrived, dragging her long eared stuffed Crocodile into his home. She was too thin, she lurked, she watched everyone, she barely spoke, and then there was her face… mouth slightly open all the time, the tip of her tongue protruding from between her chapped lips. And worst of all, she liked to lick everything.

Grazen had caught her licking the windows, licking the furniture, licking the walls. He’d even walked in on her licking the floor, and had to suppress a strong visceral impulse to stomp down on her head with his boot. Instead, he’d gritted his teeth and walked out of the room, privately nurturing a desire to kill something while he took a shower.

As it transpired, Prolter and Jaden had walked in on the little Block girl caressing their current Teat with her grubby hands, rubbing her mouth all over the sides and the tip. As Prolter told it, when the little Block girl realized she was being watched she raised her head and stared right back at Prolter with big, dumb, brown eyes, her crusty mouth still slightly open, tongue poking out like a little turd.

Grazen could visualize it clearly as he listened to his daughters described what they’d seen, and he gritted his teeth some more, causing a sharp pain just above his left temple. It was a pain he was now experiencing on a daily basis.

“Can we use the new Teat, please?” Grazen saw that Jaden’s begging was genuine, desperate, and without any trace of expectation.

“Of course,” he said.

Prolter went first, and practically lunged at the shiny new plastic tip, mouth pulling and then tensing. She closed her eyes and let herself go entirely. She was on for a full five minutes and Grazen had to pull her away. He showed her how to enter her settings into the user menu and how to access them again for her next feed.

The new Teat, a medium-dark skin tone, standard rounded shape, was a modest, mid-range model, presented on a custom mahogany stand that was adjustable from three to five feet off the ground. It’s valve was tailored to the needs of each user, with four programmable pre-sets designed to synchronise with mouth build and suction strength, utilizing its new compensation chip to alter the speed of the flow. It was something he’d had his eye on for some time now, and it hadn’t come cheap.

After Jaden had finished with the Teat Grazen was about to take a try himself when he felt the presence of the little Block girl somewhere nearby. He turned and saw her lurking in the doorway, white curly hair sticking up at all ends, just watching them, silent. Grazen said nothing. Jaden and Prolter looked at one another, then at their father.

“I want to try,” the girl said, and Grazen’s skin crawled at the itching sound of her chalky voice.

He wanted to be firm, hard, to tell her no. He needed to tell her not to be so rude, tell her ‘I want’ doesn’t fucking get! But now he could sense one of the Block parents hovering in the next room, within ear shot, and instead felt compelled to take a diplomatic approach. He could feel his daughters’ eyes on him, projecting violent thoughts, saying “don’t you dare let her near this thing, Daddy!”

And in that precise moment, he realized that he couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d felt so tense, emotionally or physically.

“Ah, there’s another one… ah, another Teat. The one you’ve all been using, ah…”

Mrs. Block came into the room and spoke. “Oh, sweetie, I’m sure Mr. Sharp wouldn’t mind if you had a try, would he?”

Grazen felt his face flush, and after a moment of silence, smiled. “Well, you see, it’s brand new, and I’m really just trying it out, you know, on sort of a… a trial basis. I may even return it to the store.”

“I see,” said Mrs. Block, nodding. “Well, perhaps another opinion might be helpful. That is, another opinion, in addition to that of your own two daughters. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Grazen’s homicidal thoughts were returning now, this time focussing on the little Block girl’s mother. It was for his wife’s sake only that he did nothing and said nothing, taking solace in the empty self-assurance that he was just picking his battles. He told himself that giving in on this was somehow part of some greater strategic plan, and the time would come when he would get to make his point.

“Well?” said Mrs. Block, her voice gentle, insidious.

Grazen looked over at the girl, her mouth stretching into something that resembled a grin. “Go right ahead,” he said. “Enjoy.” He could feel his daughters’ hate radiating through the back of his head as he watched the girl hop over toward him, licking her lips as she moved in on the Teat. She began feeding, and the sucking noises and heaving grunts forced Grazen and his daughters to leave the room. Perhaps he really would have to return this Teat to the store after all.

*

Grazen’s wife was already downstairs and dressed when he awoke the following morning. She was loading food containers into a back pack. “What’s this?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.

“Oh, I’m taking the Blocks on a short hike around the perimeter.”

Grazen wondered if he’d heard her right. “You’re doing what?”

“It’s perfectly safe this time of year,” she said. “And they asked if they could, so I agreed.”

“First of all, it’s not perfectly safe,” Grazen said, sitting down at the kitchen table. “Far from it, in fact. And secondly, why do you have to take them?”

She gave him a look of dissent. “You can’t expect them to go on their own.”

“Well, why not?” the logic of his question perfectly sound in his own head.

“They don’t know the way, they’re not used to the terrain, they don’t have a stun gun…”

“So lend them one of ours.”

“They don’t know how to use one. Neither one of them has ever seen a Cutter before, so they won’t be expecting the usual signs, and…” she paused. “Grazen, is there something else going on here?”

“Like what?” he said, a feeling of guilt from an unknown origin creeping into his face.

“We’ve talked about this before, and we’ve been through this.”

“You’re imagining things now,” he said, shaking his head. “Imagining things doesn’t bode well for your little trip, you know. You start seeing things, you overreact, people get hurt.”

“Just spit it out, Grazen,” her voice cool, calm, calculated. “What’s on your mind?”

“There’s nothing to spit out, we’re having a perfectly nice… subtextless conversation here, in which I’m telling you not to risk your life playing tour guide to your friends.” He very nearly called them her ‘little friends’. “Is that plain enough for you?”

“Great,” she said, her voice cheery. “So please, feel free to join us,” she said, and Grazen got the feeling he’d been played. “You can be our protector.”

*

Grazen ended up playing chaperone. He packed a few extra things, strapped a stunner to his belt, and headed out with Madina and the two Blocks, leaving Prolter, Jaden and the little Block girl at home by themselves. The trip was a relative success. The Blocks got to see some of the local sights, and Grazen tracked only one Cutter the entire time they were out. They looped around to the southernmost point on the property and approached the house from the back. The bugs were attacking and the two Blocks were flailing their arms about and slapping at the incessant buzzing sound. They were only minutes from home when Grazen heard a sudden, high pitched yelping coming from the house. He looked over at his wife and saw the panic fill her eyes. The four of them sprinted the rest of the way back, hacking at the overhanging branches, ending up in the clearing overlooked by the house, where they saw Prolter holding the little Block girl out of an open window.

“I got this,” Grazen said, racing over to the edge of the reinforced steel perimeter fence and punching the seven digit code into the keypad before yanking open the door. “Close the gate after you come in,” he called back to his wife, and he quickly navigated his way upstairs.

He reached the doorway and yelled, “Prolter!” A small part of him hoped she’d be startled enough to accidentally drop the girl, but a bigger part of him knew the nightmare that could come of something like that.

“What the hell’s going on here?” He saw Jaden sitting on the bed, left hand pressed against her cheek, a red smear across her chin. Prolter was by the window and she pulled back the girl, who was sobbing. It was a quiet, pathetic sound. The girl ran over to Grazen and flung her arms around his neck, wheezing in his ear. He could feel her damp face on his chest, and the sound of her crying making his insides twist and writhe. He shoved her away from him, feeling nauseated, and flinched as a snot bubble splattered on the side of her face.

“What happened here?” he asked again.

The other three came in and the Blocks comforted their daughter; Mr. Block whispering “shhh, shhh, it’s okay”, and Mrs. Block emitting a similar sound to that of her daughter, only a deeper and even more sickening version.

Both Blocks glared over at Prolter, who was now sitting on the bed beside her sister. Mr. Block said, “I ought to have you arrested and thrown in jail, young la…”

“Now wait a minute,” said Grazen. “Just wait a damn minute here, let’s hear what happened first. Gather some facts, before handing down some grand verdict.” He turned to face his daughters, noticing the blood now seeping through Jaden’s fingers. “Girls?” he said. “Explain, please.”

Prolter stood. “She!” she pointed at the girl, a look of pure hatred in her eyes that Grazen had never seen in his daughter before. “She hit Jaden in the face.”

“Hit her with what?” Grazen asked.

Mr. Block interrupted, “It doesn’t matter with what. Your girl was holding our little one out of a window. Stop focusing on the trivialities here. She was trying to kill our daughter.”

“Kill? Please.” Grazen shook his head. “Have you seen Jaden’s face? Stained all red. Look at this. Of course it matters. Perhaps you could let Prolter finish what she was saying.”

Prolter looked down at Jaden, who in turn was looking at the floor. “She hit Jaden in the face with the old Teat.”

Mr. Block said, “Well that sounds like an accident to m…”

“I told you to shut your mouth and wait your turn, Block.”

Madina stepped in between the two men. “All right, let’s everyone cool it,” she said, with a shakiness in her voice that contradicted her statement. “How about I make us some drinks, we go downstairs and discuss this rationally, objectively, like adults.”

Mrs. Block shook her head. “I think we’ve bitten our tongues enough here,” she said. Her stone-cold expression had returned and her voice was now steady and low. “We’ve been biting our tongues for a while now. In fact, these last two weeks have been quite an exercise in tongue biting.”

“Two weeks, huh?” Grazen said. “Feels like a hell of a lot longer than that.”

“Grazen!” Madina said. “You’re not helping anything here.”

“Perhaps this needs to get out in the open,” Mrs. Block said, her expression the same. And Grazen realized that what he’d initially taken for cold, calculated ruthlessness was nothing more than a lack of expression. She continued. “My husband and I, we both feel that our daughter is being unfairly targeted by your two girls.”

“That’s preposterous,” said Madina.

“That’s called bullying,” said Mr. Block. “And it’s not just the girls either. Your husband has played a role in this as well, directly. He’s short with her, he laughs at her mannerisms, her quirks, her idiosyncrasies. I’ve seen the way he looks down at her myself, first hand.”

Madina looked at her husband. “Grazen?”

“Her idiosyncrasies?” Grazen let out a frustrated chuckle and exhaled up to the ceiling. “Come on. You make it sound like she’s some misunderstood child prodigy genius or something. You’re giving her too much credit.”

Madina was about to say something else but Grazen held up a hand. “No, let’s hear more about what Ms. Quirky did to our daughter’s face before we start casting aspersions.” He turned to Prolter. “Honey? You were saying something about the Teat?”

Prolter was about to speak when a loud bang shook the floor beneath their feet. Grazen froze and ran through his mental check list of possibilities.

“Did you close the gate, honey?” He was looking at his wife, eyes locked on hers, slowly realizing the seriousness of the situation.

“I…” she hesitated, looking around at the Blocks. “You were the last…”

“No, Madina,” he said, grabbing her shoulders. “Don’t look at them, look at me. This was your responsibility. Did you, or did you not, close the gate?”

She held his gaze, face turning red. “I think I did not.”

Panic set into Grazen’s body, tightening his chest.

Another crash, this one much louder, followed by a high-pitched spinning sound.

A Cutter had entered their home.

“Oh, no, no, no…” Madina brought a hand to her mouth.

Grazen leapt over to the doorway and sprinted down the hall to the top of the stairs. He flipped open a cabinet door in the wall and punched a large, red button in the centre of a control panel. The mechanism came to life, wheels turning, engines revving, the clanking of twenty-nine separate shutters made from reinforced steel closing down around the house and locking in place.

“Grazen,” his wife called, her voice weak and choked. “Grazen, I’m so sorry. I just wasn’t…”

Grazen noticed a shadow move along the hallway at the bottom of the stairs and stop, two faint glowing lights the shape of eyes turning in his direction.

He ran back to the girls’ bedroom, finding his wife in the doorway. “Get in the closet now,” he said. “And stay hidden.”

The stairs erupted and the high-pitched spinning roared to life again. Grazen slammed the door to the bedroom and ran to the other side of the house, banging his hand against the wall repeatedly as he went, attracting the attention of the Cutter that was bounding up the stairs behind him. “Here! You! Hey, Cutter, over here, you bastard!” He banged the wall some more, seeing the great beast hurtling around the corner, following the sound, eyes glowing, trained on him. “Come and get me!”

Grazen pulled open the door at the end of the hallway and hurled himself head first into the bathroom. He kicked the door shut behind him. Without hesitation, he shifted a lever just below the faucet and pulled back the rug, revealing a three-feet long harpoon gun nestled in a rectangular space in between the tiles. He picked up the weapon, braced his back against the wall and aimed the gun at the door. He was breathing heavily and tried to compose himself. He shut his eyes, rested his finger on the trigger, and waited. The door heaved and groaned for a second before the Cutter’s spinning teeth obliterated the wood paneling, shooting saw dust and larger shards of wood in Grazen’s direction. He felt sharp debris of wood and vinyl spray at his face, nicking the flesh, and he fired the harpoon. A momentary grinding sound cut off the spinning motor, and was followed by complete silence. He opened his eyes, dreading what he might see in front of him, but the Cutter was no longer in sight.

Grazen stood, cautious, and loaded another harpoon into the barrel. Stepping over the bits of door, he peered around the corner and back down the hallway in the direction of the others. The bedroom door was still closed, thankfully, and he couldn’t see the Cutter anywhere. He pulled the stun gun from the holster on his belt, having forgotten it was still there, and started walking, harpoon in one hand, stunner in the other. He took the last few steps more quickly and let himself into the bedroom.

“Honey?” he whispered. “Girls?”

He noticed one of the closet doors swaying, and was prematurely relieved. “It’s me. It’s daddy. You OK in there?”

Madina’s head poked around the door. “Grazen, I… I’m so sorry. I just, all that was going on, I must have…”

“Shhh,” he held his finger up to his face. “We can talk about this later. Are the girls with you?”

She nodded. “Is it gone?” she asked.

“I damaged it, but no, it’s still in the house. I think it was alone, but I can’t be sure.” He paused, frowning. “Where are the others? The Blocks?”

Madina glanced at the door. “They bolted as soon as you did, ran down the hall to the guest room, I think.”

“They take the girl with them?”

Madina nodded.

“OK, stay here, and take this.” He handed her the stun gun. “You know this won’t destroy it, but it might buy you some time to get out if it comes after you.”

She nodded again. “I love you,” she said.

He turned, made his way back out of the room, and headed towards the guest room. Pressing an ear to the door, he listened for the sounds of the Blocks. He turned the handle and started to pull the door open. It slammed shut again, unexpectedly. The noise was loud.

“Shit!” he murmured, glancing around. He grabbed the door handle and yanked it open. The Blocks were huddled together in front of the bed, the girl sandwiched in between her parents.

“Get out of here,” said Mr. Block. “Just go. Go away.”

Grazen raised the harpoon, putting it in range of Mr. Block’s chest.

“You need to be quiet. Understood?”

Mr. Block kicked at the end of the harpoon. “Go,” he said again. “Get lost, leave us alone.”

Grazen felt the fury building inside him again, and for a moment he very nearly forgot about the Cutter that was stalking the house. “No, Block, you’d better listen to me. You’re in my house, and…”

Block broke away from his family and launched himself at Grazen, tackling him to the ground. Grazen dropped the gun and the harpoon fired, lodging itself into the wall at the top of the stairs.

“Sonofabitch!” Block yelled, lashing out, hitting nothing but air and the ground. “Can’t you just leave us the hell alone?”

Grazen held up his arms, defending most of the blows that came close, and managed to push Block off his chest, rolling away. Block lay on his back on the ground, panting, glaring. Grazen ignored him and got to his feet and turned. He was bending down to retrieve the harpoon gun when the high pitched spinning started up again, screaming at an almost unbearable level. Grazen whipped around to see the beast crouching down over Block. The creature’s human eyes looked tiny against the giant bear-like face. The Cutter opened its mouth, lips parting to reveal a large set of spinning upper teeth. The teeth slowed, and then stopped, only for a moment, as if to allow Block the opportunity to see their glinting serrated edges before they began spinning again. Block screamed, and the beast’s eyes sunk downward as its mouth dropped, pressing down into the man’s chest and sawing him in half.

Grazen inserted the last of the harpoons into the barrel and edged over to the door to the spare room. Mrs. Block was staring down in horror at the red mist that surrounded her husband’s flailing body.

“You,” she said, the first sign of emotion she had directed at him since he’d known her. “You!”

“Shut up!” he said. “Keep your fucking mouth shut.”

“This is your fault,” she said, shaking her head, staring at the maddening sight before her.

Grazen looked over and saw the girl sitting cross legged on the bed, staring at him, her soulless eyes watching his expression, seeming to absorb his revulsion.

“This is your fault,” Mrs. Block said again.

“No, this is your fault, lady. You’re the ones who insisted on taking a walk around the property. You’re the ones who let the Cutter into our house.”

She said nothing.

The spinning stopped, and Grazen raised the harpoon one more time, aiming carefully at the space just above the Cutter’s mouth. He slid his index finger over the trigger. “That’s right,” he whispered. “Just stay right th…”

The gun was knocked to the side. The harpoon fired wide, ricocheting against a railing and clattering down the stairs. Grazen looked over and saw Mrs. Block glaring up at him, her upper lip pulled back to reveal her tiny little teeth.

Grazen looked at his gun, groped at the strap for spare harpoons, found none, and looked back at Mrs. Block in complete and utter disbelief.

“You killed my husband,” she said. “You don’t get to be the hero.”

He wasn’t even sure what she meant, but she had blown their only chance of survival. He looked away, trying not to let his rage cloud his ability to consider the remaining options. The harpoons were gone, his wife had the stun gun.

Something tugged at his pant leg. He turned and saw the little Block girl, looking up at him with her stupid face. He studied her, wanting more than anything to hit her across the mouth, when the Cutter’s screaming started up again, startling him. Grazen watched as the beast turned and moved away from the guest room, leaping instead through the door to Prolter and Jaden’s room.

“No!” Grazen yelled.

He heard his wife scream through the wall, heard the stun gun ‘fizz’, and without further thought, Grazen grabbed Mrs. Block by her long, matted hair and dragged her through the door and into the hallway.

She let out a few whooping noises in protest.

“Here,” Grazen yelled, rounding the corner into the room in which his wife and daughters were hiding. The Cutter, whose face was jammed inside the closet, turned around to face them again, poised on its thick haunches. Mrs. Block was struggling, lashing out at Grazen with her long fingers, and Grazen flung the woman at the Cutter. Her head bounced off its nose and the Cutter’s sharp teeth spun reflexively, tearing off the front of her scalp.

Mrs. Block screamed, blood flowing down her face. She somehow managed to pull away from the Cutter’s grip, stumbling out of the room and over to the stairs. She lunged down, three at a time, leaving a trail of blood in her wake.

Grazen edged back, trying not to attract the attention of the Cutter as it instinctively followed its target. He watched with a combination of easing terror and growing fascination as Mrs. Block reached the bottom and hung a right, disappearing from view and sprinting towards what he assumed would be the back door through which they had entered the house moments earlier. He waited, then reached over to the panel on the wall, running his fingers across the selection of switches controlling each of the twenty-nine security panels, landing on the one marked ‘back door’. He waited another moment, and then flipped the switch. He listened for the quiet clank as the door was released, and then grinned at the sound of the door handle being rattled as Mrs. Block made her way outside. And finally, he waited for the sound of the Cutter taking her down on the back lawn before returning the switch to its locked position. The Cutter was outside now, with no way back in.

The silence that followed was very nearly perfect, but the panic came rushing back when he remembered his wife.

“Honey?” he ran to the bedroom and knelt down by the closet door. Madina was on the ground. Her right arm was about halfway severed, the cut moving up at a diagonal, ending at her shoulder. Her face was white and she was no longer screaming. He looked over to the right and saw the two girls huddled against the wall, clutched in each other’s arms. There was nothing physically wrong with them, not that Grazen could tell anyway. “You girls OK?” he asked. Prolter looked at her father and then back down at her mother. Grazen got the message.

“You’re going to be fine, honey.”

Madina said nothing. Her wound was bleeding heavily.

Grazen grabbed the old Teat and ran with it to the hallway. He used the sterilizer and ran back to the bedroom. He changed the setting to ‘medicinal’ and dialed it up to ‘high’.

“Here you go,” he said, bringing the mouth piece to his wife’s face.

“Just get it started, it’ll do the rest.” Madina made no movement.

“Come on!” he said. “Just open your mouth.”

“Here, let me,” said Prolter, leaning in and parting her mother’s lips.

Madina choked a little on the first dose, but within a minute she had noticeably improved. Her wound was clotting, the skin pulling itself together at the tear. Her face regained some colour and she opened her eyes.

Grazen took the teat away and helped her into the bed. “That’s enough for now,” he said. “I’ll give you some more in a couple of hours. Time to rest.” She was asleep in seconds.

Prolter took Jaden in her arms and walked her to the door. “Don’t worry,” she said to her younger sister. “Mom’s going to be fine.”

A quick scan of the house confirmed it was free of Cutters. Grazen would need to manually clear the area between the house and the perimeter, but one thing at a time. Madina was asleep now. The first dose had kick-started the healing process, but the body had to rest and allow the drugs to do their job. Grazen settled into the chair beside her and felt his own eyes start to close.

*

“Daddy?”

Grazen stirred.

“Daddy.” It was Jaden. “Daddy, you’re bleeding.”

He mumbled something and forced his eyes open.

“Daddy!”

“Yeahuh…” He sat up and his head pounded.

“Your leg, daddy. Your leg is hurt.”

He looked down and tried to adjust his eyes to the room. It was taking longer than expected. He reached down to his left leg. It was sticky and wet. He must have hurt himself during the commotion.

“Are you gonna be OK, Daddy?”

That was a good question. He looked over at his wife. She was still sleeping.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“It’s late,” said another voice. Prolter’s.

Grazen motioned to the Teat and sterilizer. “Bring, please,” he said to Prolter. She did as she was asked.

He took a dose of medicine himself and felt its immediate relaxing effects.

“I want you girls to go to bed. Get some sleep. Your mother and I will be fine. Just… rest.”

Prolter nodded. “And what about her?”

Grazen thought for a moment. The little Block girl. “Oh…” he said. “Yeah, where is she?”

“She’s in the guest room still,” said Prolter. “You want me to go lock the door?”

Grazen shook his head and felt a small trace of sadness. “Can you bring her in, please?”

Prolter looked as though she wanted to protest but thought better of it. She left the room and moments later the little Block girl came creeping in. She said nothing, just stared.

“How are you holding up?” he asked her, trying to keep the edge from his voice.

She said nothing, her face completely devoid of any expression.

“Look,” he began. “I’m sorry about your parents. I know how that feels myself.”

Nothing.

“But you’re going to be OK. We’ll take care of you.”

He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but maybe this was it. The girl said nothing, did nothing, and Grazen could see no sign that the girl had taken in a word he’d said.

“Good,” he said. “OK then, I’m glad we had this talk.”

She stayed where she was.

“You can go now, ah…” he thought for a moment, becoming drowsier from the medication. “You can sleep in the guest room tonight. We can make a firmer plan tomorrow when everyone has a clearer head.”
She remained where she was for a moment longer, before creeping back out of the room.

*

A dream… from a strange sound and… a strange sensation…

Grazen’s mind processed the external environment, incorporating it into a dream narrative. Something was feasting, moaning.

It was with him, around him, on him… something far more terrifying than a Cutter.

He opened his eyes, the muscles in his face working overtime to push away the groggy side effects of the drugs. He could feel them working on his leg now, a tingling sensation. Did that mean it was working? He wasn’t clear, partly because he was still a little unconscious, and partly because he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had to use these drugs. But yes, he decided. The sensation was probably normal.

But that didn’t explain the strange sound he was hearing.

Grazen looked over to the side. His wife was still in the bed, but something was out of place. There had been a Teat beside her on the nightstand. It was gone now.

He shook his head from side to side, trying to fling away the disorientation, and caught movement from down on the ground by his feet. He leaned over, the startling image taking a while to permeate through his consciousness.

The little Block girl was at his feet, crouching down, her face pressed against his knee, against the open wound. The leg of his pants was rolled up, the scar from his wound still raw, exposed, oozing. She looked up at him, her revolting chapped lips stained a dark red, the tip of her tongue poking out. Her empty brown eyes were a blank canvas for interpretation, and right now Grazen saw only the sinister, the macabre, the menacing, and the plain disgusting in the soul that inhabited those eyes. The girl’s mouth twitched; maybe a smile, maybe a grin. He didn’t know. All he knew was he hated her more than he had hated anything, anyone, anywhere, at any other time in his whole entire life.

He grabbed her arm and stood. She squealed like a fucking animal. He tore her from the ground and stormed out of the room, along the hall, down the stairs. Her squealing persisted. He yanked hard and heard a popping sound from her shoulder. She cried out and the sound of it made him smile a little, his teeth clenched so tight they were about to crumble in his mouth.

He flipped the manual safety lock on the back door and pushed it open. The Cutter was heading towards them from across the lawn. Grazen hurled the little Block girl through the open door. She landed on her dislocated arm, her chapped mouth distended in pain, her face resting against the smear across the short grass that used to be her mother, the tip of her tongue prodding at the dirt. Grazen hesitated before slamming the door shut. He wanted to stay and watch as something invaded the little Block girl’s life and got under her skin, instead of the other way around. There had to be some kind of justice there, he thought.

He pulled the steel plate shut and locked it in place, then he sat down with his back against the door and listened. After a while, he heard Jaden and Prolter walking above him, opening the door to where Madina lay resting. And then Madina’s voice, laughing, crying, embracing the girls, the sound of kisses being planted on faces and heads. As he waited for one of them to call down, “Daddy,” Grazen began to weep.

The End