I was so naïve as a young boy, it wasn’t even funny. Anything you’d tell me, I’d have believed you. The sky was blue because of all the water it held before the rain? Okay. The wind comes from the moon blowing on us? Sure, why not. Stewed rhubarb was made from mashed human brains? Even though my mother grew it fresh in our back garden, I would’ve believed you, and probably never touch the stuff again.

My gullible nature was beginning to affect me in school. Bullies tricked me out of my lunch money, informing me of a new Break Tax they were collecting for on behalf of the teachers. I’d fork over every penny and go hungry as long as my parents didn’t get in trouble. My mother’s frustration increased, as did my level of malnutrition. No matter how many times she explained that these mean kids were tricking me, the very next day they’d come up with another ingenious ploy and leave with my money.

In the end, my mother was about to give up all hope and stop giving my lunch money altogether when my wizened grandmother intervened.

“Hush, dear,” she cooed after Mum had finished venting herself red in the face. “It’s not the boy’s fault, poor thing. He just has a very trusting heart.”

“But it drives me crazy!” snapped Mum, and I jumped slightly at the anger in her voice. “Karl and I work ourselves to the bone to provide for him, and he just keeps throwing it away. He believes everything anyone tells him. It’s getting ridiculous!”

“He means well, I’m sure,” said Grandma, holding Mum’s shaking fists until they relaxed and opened. “There, that’s better. Send the boy to my room in fifteen minutes, dear. I’ll help him out.”

With that, Grandma hobbled out of the kitchen, leaving my mother alone to stare at me with reluctant despair. I averted my gaze, ashamed, and pretended to focus on my Math homework as she returned to preparing dinner.

Minutes later she was by my side, a much calmer hand now resting on my shoulder. I still flinched.

She gave me a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry for being angry before, dear,” she said, eyes glistening with the threat of tears. “I know it’s not your fault… go and pay your Grandma a visit, okay? When you can back, set the table. Sound good?” I nodded, gaze still cast to my feet with red-hot shame. She ruffled my thick blond hair. “There’s a good boy. Off you go, now.”

I hurried up the stairs, skirting around the seat of the stair lift Grandma had the strength to put away. I approached her closed door and knocked. Tap-tap-tap.

“Come in, dear.” Grandma’s voice, like a shrill wind through reeds. “I’ve been expecting you.”

I opened the door and stepped inside. Grandma was sat on her old oaken rocking chair, a thin smile stretching across her lips at the sight of me.

“Hello, sweet boy,” she said, her eyes welcoming me. She beckoned with a thin, bony hand, fingers crooked like gnarled twigs. “Close the door and come closer. I promise I don’t bite.”

Closing the door, I approached her slowly, my gaze drifting from her smiling face to the outstretched hand, constantly beckoning. As I drew closer, her fingers unfurled, an invitation to take her hand. I took it, my small hand instantly enveloped in her dry, papery grip.

“Good,” she purred, her smile widening to reveal rows of serrated yellow teeth. She yanked me forward with a vicious cry.

I yelped as I stumbled into her. Her horrifying teeth sank into the young, tender flesh of my forearm, fangs digging deep. What the hell? What was she doing? Why was she doing this? My mind was ablaze with pain and confusion.

With a hungry, muffled moan she pulled her head back and I cried out in agony as she tore a bloody chunk from my arm, blood spraying everywhere. Oh God, the blood. I’d never seen so much before. My face grew pale as wide eyes watched it all fountain from the ugly gash. I don’t know if it was shock setting in, but I felt like I was being completely drained and would collapse at any moment, weak and helpless to this monster’s mercy.

She finally released her iron grip and I crumpled to the floor, clutching the wound and crying in pain and terror. She smiled a sick, twisted smile as my blood spilled from between those fangs, staining her wrinkled chin crimson.

“Now,” she crooned, having swallowed my flesh. “What did we learn?”

Terrified as I was, there was no denying I understood her question. The truth was as painful as the severed artery I now clutched for dear life.

She had lied to me, just as everyone else had before her.

I never trusted anyone after that day.

I had been so naïve…

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