The Fourth: Grandmother

She may be old, but she can still wield the shotgun her father had given her. She is still able to lift it onto her shoulder, and she can still aim as good as any sniper (though she likes to think of herself as better). She remembers having target practice with her father, the hunting trips they used to take almost every deer season since she had turned twelve; the lessons her father would teach her. He was a good teacher. Her mother, of course, taught her the basics any lady would learn from their mother—how to cook, clean, how to dress—and though those weren’t bad lessons and she’s glad she’d learned them, she remembers enjoying her father’s teachings more.

He taught her the importance of stories, as well as how to tell them. He taught her to be proud of their name and to always keep it in mind, even if she got married and took on another name. He’s the one who taught her how to hunt, how survive in the wild. He taught her to respect nature, as well as to be wary of it—this includes the animals. Wolves, in particular. Her father had such an odd fondness for wolves, those wild, and often vicious canines in the forest (especially when hungry). He even went so far as to add them to carve the face of a wolf into various parts of the house. She eventually grew into this fondness as well, after attempting to shoot one, only to realize that it wasn’t going to attack her. She remembers how her own grandmother smiled whenever a pack of wolves howled.

(Even now, she wonders if wolves are their family’s spirit animal, or something, if it’s possible for a whole family can share a spirit animal, of course.)

She remembers trying to pass all of these lessons onto her own child. They hadn’t stuck as well as they had with her.

But her granddaughter, oh, she was such a champ as a child. Her granddaughter would go out exploring the forest, climbing trees, and always come running back with stories of talking animals and magical adventures. Her granddaughter didn’t (and still doesn’t) like guns, but she did learn how to work the crossbow her cousin had made. Grandmother remembers being so proud and happy when her granddaughter first attempted to lift the weapon, even though she didn’t succeed on the first try. Even her own child, who had helped spawn her granddaughter into existence, was happy that day. Everything was once good and happiness.

Then that twisted, twisted monster revealed himself, took what he could get, and ruined everything.

He’s still alive; Grandmother knows that he’s waiting out there, somewhere in the forest surrounding her house. He’s waiting and eager to attack her granddaughter again. And he will move too fast for police to stop him; and he’s too smart to risk being tracked. That’s one lesson that stuck.

Even though she doesn’t want to go through the sadness of drawing a weapon on a loved one again, she will do it. She will remember how much her granddaughter’s spirit has dulled, and she will put the beast down, even if it ends up killing her inside.

That is why, every night, Grandmother grabs her shotgun; she sets a chair near her granddaughter’s room; and waits.

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