by

Kevin David Anderson

Howling screams of anguish exploded from the backyard. Margaret bolted outside. She didn’t need to see the carnage to know what was happening.

The neighbor’s pit-bull, a vile creature, had finally chewed his way through the decaying wood fence. It was a terror in the neighborhood and had already bitten two people. One needing stitches. Why the animal hadn’t been put down was unfathomable. But past inaction wasn’t paramount in her mind right now. It was the shrieks of pain painting its gory picture, and Sienna.

Margaret’s only child, five-year-old Sienna, was building sandcastles in the backyard, alone. A spirited and creative child, the kind that gets lost in her own world when building, and not mindful enough to sense an approaching threat.

She ran to the sandbox and found it empty, save for a half-destroyed castle and a dozen dog tracks. Seeing the deep paw prints, four toes with deep gouges in the sand denoting ungroomed claws, turned her blood cold.

“Sienna!” Margaret shouted.

Her adrenaline surged as she located a blood trail. The arterial spray leaked across the deck, dripped down the back steps, then continued off toward the side yard. Drag marks in the dirt seemed to show a struggle. Margret sprinted up the deck, jumped over the railing, nearly careened into the trash cans, righted herself, then dashed toward the side yard.

She found them immediately.

A blood-soaked corpse, tiny rib cage exposed, jostled as chunks of flesh were ripped from its breast. A hind leg twitched lifelessly as Sienna’s head rose up from behind the crimson mass, her carnivorous teeth, not yet fully formed, glazed in red gore.

“Stop it, Sienna,” Margret said, slapping her hands together. She knew she had to be stern in these moments like her mom was with her. “You must learn to control yourself.”

Sienna’s blood-soaked features turned sullen. “Sorry, mommy.” She then pointed at the canine pile of exposed meat. “But he bit first.”

Margret knelt down and took her only child in her arms. “I know, sweetie. One day, we’ll be able to eat anything or anyone at any time. But that time is not now. Until then we must use restraint.”

Sienna gazed down at the crimson mess, one paw still twitching. “When will it be time for The Great Cutting?”

Margrett smiled. “Culling, sweetheart. The Great Culling.”

Sienna looked at her mom with a crimson grin. “Culling. How much longer, Mommy?”

“Be patient, my love.” She pulled Sienna close. “Soon, there won’t be a fence in the world that can keep them safe from us.”

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