Protected – Frances Koziar

“The house is…haunted.”

Dahla looked at her brother to see if he were joking, but Ahmed’s face was grim as he eyed the lonely house on the hill in the distance, half buried in weeds. “Haunted?” Dahla echoed. “I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts.”

Ahmed shrugged uncomfortably, his face still somber, dark eyes pools of unusual solemnity. “Not…the usual haunted. See that girl there?”

Dahla followed Ahmed’s eyes to the hill, where a white girl somewhere under ten plucked flowers from the overgrown field. “She’s the reason you don’t knock it down?”

But Ahmed turned to Dahla, a sad half-smile on his face. “I would take her in if I could,” he said gently, lovingly, in the same voice he used for the daughters he adored, “but she just runs back to the house if you get close. She’s from the neighbourhood, but I never…You can see the scars on her body from what parents she had. No.”

Her brother returned his gaze to that girl, now sitting on the crumbling porch of that brown, two story house, roof tiles green with moss, a large hole in the upper story but otherwise unremarkable.

“When she runs inside, everything changes. The weather changes. The doors become solid. I forget what I’m doing. Strange noises come from the fields. It’s…impossible,” he said, and Dahla doesn’t know if he means what happens or reaching the girl.

“We’ve all tried,” Ahmed added, and this time, when he looked her way, he looked a little crazed. But that madness changed to tenderness, to pity, to awe, before her eyes.

“The house protects her,” he explained, “as her parents didn’t.

“As we didn’t,” he added, his voice catching on the words.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrances Koziar is primarily a fiction writer of the contemporary fiction, high fantasy, and young adult genres, though she also publishes poetry and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in 15+ literary magazines, and she is seeking an agent for a diverse NA high fantasy novel. She is a social justice advocate and a retired/disabled archaeologist and anthropologist, and lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.