Even though they washed, the grit of the mines creased in their skin. They always looked dusky as though they belonged to the night itself or to the ground they labored under. Not that they minded, for there were only the seven of them after all; there was no one to impress or surprise by their appearance.
They gathered around Allard the night of Dylan's vision. They always turned to him. He wasn't the oldest, not a graybeard like Hartwood with all the stories. Allard's beard still has some black in it, making it an odd mix of black and gray, and his back was still straight. He looked like the rest of them in his brown clothing. But they had always trusted him.
"What do you think, Aidan?" he began. Aidan was the only one to have lived outside the group.
"It's danger, danger for sure," Aidan almost growled. "They're faithless beings, these women, worse than the men. What happened to me...she'll bring it here now. Into our home. They can't change what they are."
"No one can," Roan called. Allard was surprised to hear his voice. He rarely spoke when they were all together.
"I say we hide, underground, until she passes," Aidan said. "If she doesn't find anyone, then she'll move on."
"It will come to pass," Dylan said. "It is meant to happen."
Kipp stood up. His back was rounded, the hump quite apparent even in the dim light. "We cannot control the past or the future," he offered. "If she is coming, then all we can do is work with the present. Presently, I feel hungry. If we can do nothing, then I say we should take care of present needs. Hunger in this case, is the most pressing of present needs."
The others laughed despite their concern.
"I seem to remember," Hartwood began as he fluffed his white beard over his chest. "Some prophesy..."
"Not another prophecy," Aidan insisted. "They never really happen."
"What I saw today was real," Dylan said.
"Some prophecy," Hartwood continued, "about a young girl who was meant to find us. We were to offer her sanctuary."
"I can tell you what will happen," Aidan said. "It'll be all the old folk tales all over again. That we're out to do mischief. That we can freeze people with a blast of our breath. That we steal infants and make them like us. That we abduct women to, shall I say this nicely, to procreate and increase our numbers."
"We wouldn't know what to do with a woman," Spangler said.
"We'll be blamed," Aidan went on, "for keeping this girl."
"I think not," Allard said. "Tell us, Dylan, tell us more."
"She was running. I could almost touch her fear. It filled the space where I worked. She's running through the woods, even now. Towards us."
"But what is she running from?" Roan cried, moved by the vision.
"She runs from death," Dylan promised.
Can't change what you can't change, Allard thought. He watched the woods around him wondering where the girl was at this moment. Was she frightened by the night sounds and the deepening blackness? Or would she know the terror as a signal of continued life? Black hair and white skin. And death behind her.
Fiction under Phyllis Carol Agins
Nonfiction, under Phyllis Agins Grode
For Children, under Phyllis Agins Grode