“A monster lives in that closet,” Grandma said. She looked at me, and then the closet. Her wrinkled and fascinating hands so calmly slid a coaster under her tea.
“What?” I said.
This was an alarming turn in the evening. I inched my way closer to her, painfully aware of every noise around me, but my eyes were locked on the closet door.
“The worst kind, too,” she said.
Her hair was white as the moon and it finally hung loose down her back after a long day. A single stream of steam rose from her cup in a line all the way to the ceiling. It broke like a whisp as her wonderful, warning hand wafted through, and she spoke just as calmly. Story time was approaching, though I never quite realized it quickly enough. Grandma’s traps for my imagination were set with such flawless skill, they could set a boatman to sea without an oar.
“That monster is a Kructhæ Monster, and a particularly nasty Kructhæ at that.”
“Wh-What do we do?” I said, my terror spilling from the stutter.
“Do you have any herbs?”
“Yes child. Herbs will keep the monster at bay for the night. We will put them on the threshold and the doorposts until morning. The Kructhæ will be gone when the sun arrives. We have to be quick!”
She made her slow way up to her feet, but I was already out the door and headed for the garden. The shadowing darkness outside held no fear like the one living in my closet. The night was still warmed by the sun that was long gone. The fireflies and crickets were no Kructhæ.
As I approached the gate I slowed and gathered some breath.
“I come to gather some of what grows in this garden!” I said, remembering what Grandma had told me weeks ago, “I will only take what I need.”
“Never seek to harvest under the moon without asking permission,” she had told me.
In the sun the garden grows, it reaches, drinks, and sings, but the moon makes all the rows from thyme to eggplant dream, because the wisest gardener knows to not disturb the peace, to shoo-off all the crows, and leave the plants to sleep, Gardeners give it all we owe, and take only what we need.
I quoted my grandmother’s words as I plucked up a few of the more aromatic herbs in the patch. The feeling of a very accomplished adventurer swept over me. I knew this quest. I could teach class on it. As I left the humming beds of what we’d grown, I felt the tendrils of massive vines soaring twenty stories tall behind me. I knew their menacing shape, their thickening numbers, and their hunger for my blood. Pinching, choking, suffocating desires like torturous towers in my wake. But I was not worried. I knew the Cricket Lords and the Moon Mistress heard my request, and had already granted me entrance. This story was a fortnight old, and I needn’t fear it any longer. I was in Grandma’s hands.
“I found some herbs!” I said as I ran into the room panting.
“Ah. Lovely,” Grandmother smiled as she took some of the greenery from my hands. Together we tied them into bundles with twine we had used to repair our battered couch. We hung the bundles with pins to the posts around the closet door, as laid some at the foot of the door. Grandma told me all about the Kructhæ.
“They have thousands of scales, and each contains a thousand more. All of them menacing and animated to their own monstrous shape. Every scale reflects a cresting, crashing wave of terror. An ancient fear that is paralytic to behold. Before you can act, the monster opens it’s horrific mouth with the patience of a lion, but snaps it shut like a broken violin string.
“Here,” she was handing me a bundle of wild onions, “Sleep with these for the night, just for ease of mind. In the morning I’ll cook them into your eggs.”
She tucked me into my cozy bed, and I couldn’t help but smile as Mistress Moon shined in through my window. Grandmother once told me how she and the Mistress rescued an entire village from Sinking Grass. I knew that I was safe in these walls with these allies, and yet I clutched my onions tight, just in case.