Some of the monsters shoot you. Some of the same monsters (different outfits) starve you. Or burn you. Alive. Yes, Little One. Some of them burn you alive.
He sits there, at the kitchen table, glassy-eyed and foggy.
Other monsters steal your food. What little of it you managed to hoard. Still, others rob the shoes from your rotting feet. And a modest number of some of the same monsters that starve you… they pick through your pilfered possessions. They take your taken watch. And your taken ring. And your taken tokens. And your taken money. And your taken teeth. When you first get there, they take some of your teeth. Yes, Little One. Some of your teeth get taken. I know it’s frightening, but please, allow me to finish, Little One. And then, your taken teeth get taken by some of the same monsters that starve you. But, only a modest number of those monsters. The monsters who burn you, though? They’re too busy burning to take any of your taken totems.
Nonno nods at his own thoughts. His hands rest on his lap. Over a scythe that only he sees.
During the day, some of the monsters sew. And, at night, they lurk in the dead, decrepit room you share with a hundred other skeletons. Held between their index fingers and thumbs, stolen sewing needles. These monsters, they poke you and your fellow skeletons with the sharp points as you sleep. And, if you don’t jump out of your slumber from pain, the monsters grasp your big toe in their fingers and wiggle it. They wait… and they tickle it. By that point, if you still do not stir in your cot… well… well, these particular monsters know that you have been tossed from the land of the living. And, Little One, what do they do then? I’ll tell you, but do not have nightmares.
Taking one hand off of his invisible scythe, Nonno reaches his brittle fingers across the table. He wants to hold the girl’s hand within his own. She obliges. Feeling his thin bones beneath his tired skin, the girl wants to weep for him. For his life.
It’s gruesome, Little One. Horrifying, but imperative to know. You’re strong. You understand and handle it well. People do desperate, disturbing things in the name of self-preservation. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that. We all have unwanted monsters seething right under our flesh. It’s unfortunate when we feel forced to shed our protective layer. When those horrors are let loose and we release ourselves to becoming who we are at our most instinctual and savage. All of us: you, me, Nonna, your father, mother, your brother and sister. Savages floating on the cusps of our pores.
Nonno loses himself in unwelcome memories. He always does. He sighs.
The monsters that jab you and wiggle your toes, Little One. Remember them? Yes, well, those monsters pull your dead body from the wooden bed and haul you outside. They drag your fresh corpse behind the the barracks in which you used to sleep and dream. And, as if ripped straight from one of your nightmares, the monsters fight over and feast on your flesh and fat. Your muscles and sinew. All of the gristle and marrow. You are not wasted. You are dinner for monsters. You are a carcass. And, if in the unearthly, harsh winter, you warm the gorging monsters as you feed them. Feverish steam rises from your guts, your newly unmoving blood, your cruor like water on embers. Don’t forget, Little One – no nightmares tonight.