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“You can’t go,” she said. “You just can’t.”

He folded his arms and looked out, his lips set in a thin line. Out there, the darkness held sway, pierced only by the tiniest specks of light- light that held no promise of safety.

“It’s the only way,” he said. “You said so. It rolled downhill.”

“I said I thought it did,” she began, hesitant.

“You saw it,” he shouted. “You know you did. It has to be out there, it isn’t up here, and I have to find it!”

She started to cry. He clutched at his hair for a moment then knelt down next to her to look her right in the eyes.

“Hey, hey,” he said, his voice softer, “Don’t cry. It isn’t your fault. I shouldn’t have shouted at you. Look, it’s my responsibility. I have to go find it, before Father finds out. You know what he’s like. He’ll freak out.”

She sniffed. “But it isn’t safe.”

He patted her cheek. “It can’t be far,” he said. “I’ll barely even be out of the light.”

She looked down. “Nanna says you don’t need to reach the shadows for them to get you.”

He nodded. “Nanna also says they can’t get you if somebody in the light is watching you, though, doesn’t she?”

She stuck a finger in her mouth and sucked it, nodding slowly.

“So you can keep me safe, you see? You stay up here in the bright, safe light, and you watch me. Don’t take your eyes off me, and I’ll be right back. Okay?”

She looked at him, her pink eyes wide and bright, still shimmering with tears.

“Okay,” she said. “I won’t even blink.”

He stood up and walked slowly down the hill into the darkness, searching for the precious orb. He hoped that Nanna was right about the safety of being watched, that it wasn’t simply one of the stories she made up. It was a tiny sliver of hope, but it was all he had.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: This is my postponed story for yesterday’s Three Word Wednesday, using the prompt words Downhill, Freak and Sliver.)