by Julia Zygiel ’19
The townspeople of Emsworth hide their secrets in the marsh. Signs line the singular road which snakes around it, warning against entrance and to beware the almost ever present fog. On sweaty summer nights and cool fall days teenagers will wander around it, carefully tip-toeing across logs to avoid sinking their hiking boots and sneakers into puddles of mud. They search for necklaces with keys for pendants and small wooden boxes that have been glued shut, lacquered flowers on their lids. Anything that will fit the legends their grandparents tell them. Once sunken in the marsh, a secret will stay there, but if somehow discovered, it will betray its former master in a heartbeat. Most of the kids are only looking for dirt on high school rivals. Rumors were adequate in tainting a reputation, but a secret gathered from the marsh had real weight. It had the power to destroy. Something about the act of ritual requiring balance, the grandparents would say. The teenagers assumed their grandparents over-exaggerated as always, like when they told their stories of the war. They merely craved the privilege of a secret, a rarity in a town as small as theirs, and the thrilling satisfaction that accompanied its telling. They never expected to find anything more than a box, or a key. They never expected their neighbors to be capable of secrets more sinister than these. Until Cecil Hester of the 10th grade, shivering despite the summer heat, lost her purchase on a mossy log and felt soft flesh cushioning her fall.