by Maria Dahvana Headley
read by Tina Connolly
Buildings were built, in the beginning, everyone knows, to hold the dead down. Every cellar floor was built over the ceiling of something else. Now cellars are used for all sorts of purposes. Roots. Paint cans. Pantries. Workshops. Other.
There’s a rhyme someone invented for children. It’s chanted in nurseries in the Banisher’s town. The nurseries are upholstered in chintz, and the walls are padded, as though they’re asylums and the babies inmates.
There is an awful thing that lives beneath the cellar floor, little darlings. There is an awful thing that comes up from beneath the cellar floor, up and through the cellar door.
The rhyme’s sometimes sung as a lullaby to pretty little ones, who curl in pretty little chairs, and play with pretty little rolling horses and pretty little rocking dogs. When they nod off to sleep, all’s well and right, but beneath their houses, things are fell and wrong. Things press their noses up through the dirt.
If you wake at night and hear a roar, perhaps you’ve heard the awful thing that roars behind the cellar door.
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Maria Dahvana Headley is the New York Times-bestselling author and editor of Magonia, Queen of Kings, The Year of Yes, and with Kat Howard, The End of the Sentence. With Neil Gaiman, she is the editor of the anthology Unnatural Creatures. Aerie, the sequel to Magonia, is upcoming in September from HarperCollins, and in 2017 her Beowulf adaptation, The Mere Wife will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Her Nebula and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated short fiction has been anthologized in many year’s bests. Her work has been supported by The MacDowell Colony, and Arte Studio Ginestrelle, among others.
Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series, from Tor Teen. Ironskin, her first fantasy novel, was a Nebula finalist. Her stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Analog, and more, and her first collection is forthcoming from Fairwood Press in August. Her narrations have appeared all over, including Podcastle, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon, and her website is tinaconnolly.com.