The girl wakes every morning long before the sun rises. She is eleven years old, or perhaps twelve. Birthdays are for other people. People with parents and sisters and brothers. She sees them sometimes on the edges, walking hand-in-hand, laughing or talking or crying.
The girl never laughs, and she never speaks unless to whisper absently to the rocks and bones. And tears like birthdays are for other people. She has no need of them. She lives alone in a crumbling shack just beyond the sea of bones and is content.
No one knows where the bone yard came from. Fifty square, barren miles of dirt and dust and bones. The teeth are the best. Still sharp and easily adaptable. The girl sells them when she can for food and blankets. Once, when she was young and foolish, she sold seventy-two well-polished teeth for a doll made of straw. She could have fed herself for a month for half the price, but the straw made good kindling in the end.
Occasionally, serious men and women in severe suits and dresses came with their clipboards and false smiles. And their questions. Always the same three questions.
“Where are your parents?”
“How old are you?”
None of your business.
“Wouldn’t you like to come with us?”
But they never believed her when she said no. The women would tut and the men would frown, and sometimes they would return with men in long coats and far too sweet voices.
“You need to come with us,” they would say. “It’s for your own good.”
And no matter how many there were or how fast they ran, she always lost them amidst the bones. Until one day they stopped coming.
Until one day there was only the girl and her garden of bones.