When I was four, I played in my backyard with a stuffed animal my father had bought when I was born: a cute little black rabbit.
It was my favorite toy in the entire world, and my only memory of my father before the divorce. I would spend hours coming up with adventures for my little bunny friend.
Then, one day, I lost him. I cried until Mom agreed to look for him. She returned an hour later, deathly pale. She said she had phone calls to make.
She told me that I couldn’t play outside anymore. We never spoke of my little black rabbit again.
When I was seven, my friend Lily came over to hang out. We soon grew bored and she asked if we could play outside. I nervously unlocked the back door.
Once outside, Lily said she liked our fence, the way it opened in the back, leading out into the woods.
Before I knew it, we were exploring the wilderness, venturing further and further from home. Soon, we reached a hole in the earth, bigger than the both of us put together.
It seemed to go down forever.
Mom sprinted towards us, grabbed our hands, and dragged us back to the house. She sent Lily home and grounded me for two weeks. I never spoke to Lily again.
When I was eleven, Mom finished the fence. I could see the relief in her eyes.
That peace was shattered the very next day, when I looked out my bedroom window and saw it had been torn to shreds with superhuman strength. *Mercilessly*. I didn’t sleep that night.
When I was eighteen, the night after graduation, I decided I had to learn the truth.
I waited until Mom was fast asleep, then snuck outside, armed with nothing but my phone and a butter knife for protection. I walked through the darkness until I found the hole. I shivered.
It had doubled in size.
Taking a deep breath, I slid down into the darkness until I reached the bottom. The cave was large enough to walk around freely. After examining every corner, I realized the beast was not home.
I looked around. The pieces of the puzzle started to fit together. There was a lamp. There was a camera. There was even a small bed.
Then I noticed the small Polaroid photographs that lined the walls of the cave.
The pictures were faded: a little girl playing in the grass, a teenager studying in her room, a high schooler in her graduation robes. I realized they were all of me. All taken from a distance.
My heart raced. I wondered what sick monster lived here. *Spied* on me. Then, I froze. I heard footsteps from the other end of the cave. I drew my knife.
There, with ragged clothes and a crazed smile on his face, was a familiar man, blocking my only exit. He was holding my little black rabbit.
“Welcome home, *Elizabeth*,” my father purred.