THE PALE LEAN ONES • by Stefan Bachmann

They stand about the cottage on dark winter days, milky eyes peering in at the windows. They are so silent in their waiting, so still.

My father heaps coal on the fire, smiling, twinkling; he does not see them. My mother is in the kitchen, busy with the cooking; she does not see them.

But I see them. I see them often now, when life in our cottage is merriest, and the world outside dismal and cold. That is when they like to come. Gaunt faces close against the frosty panes. Withered lips parted. And the eyes, the empty, staring eyes, never blinking, like twin moons in an endless night. They look longingly at the warmth and the wealth and the joy. They look hungrily.

My mother brings the stew to the table. Though we eat well, there is still enough leftover for many more meals. When we have finished, my father tunes his fiddle, begins to scratch away at it until it shrieks. My mother sits in her rocker and sews.

I curl up on the hearth, my face turned away from the windows. The flames are close enough to singe my hair and yet still I shiver. For I feel their gaze, their yearning look crawling through the panes, and I fear the time is coming when they will no longer be content to watch from the whirling snow and the bitter cold. I fear the time is coming when they will come in. The pale lean ones.

Stefan Bachmann writes in Zurich.

This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.

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