Grandmother warned me to never sell the horseshoe, it was cold iron and would ward me from evil, but starvation isn’t evil and it’ll kill you all the same. When the peddler offered two loaves of bread for it, I didn’t hesitate. I slept that night on a full stomach.
The scratching at my window woke me at three a.m. Something outside tittered with malicious laughter. I pulled my blankets over my head, but the scratching continued, a relentless scritch, scritch, scritch until I thought I was going mad.
The scratching stopped.
In the breath of silence that followed, there came a sound that made the fresh bread calcify in my stomach: the soft, sure sound of a latch being undone from the outside.