It was longer between cities than she’d thought and no one was stopping to pick her up. Cedar made a camp of sorts between the trees a few hundred yards back from the road and settled in for the night. The air was sharp and spiced with the coming of autumn; she’d have to head south soon, but not yet. There was time enough.

It came into her camp while she sat nodding before the fire, drawn perhaps by the light. It should have been comical, legs too short for its body, head too heavy for its long and flaccid neck, but Cedar was afraid when she saw it and kept her head turned away so that she could just see it in the corner of her eye.

“I am hungry,” it said. Its voice was thick and crumbly, strained. She could taste the dirt that filled its mouth when it spoke.

“I don’t have much,” she said. “Would you like a baked apple?”

It sighed and moved its head against the ground. Cedar speared an apple from her fire and tossed it from hand to hand until it was cool enough to eat. She put the fruit on the ground and turned her back, stuffed her fingers in her ears; even so she could hear it eating and shuddered. She sat that way for a long time, until her fire had flickered down to embers. When she looked around again, she was alone. There was a dead spot where the apple had been. Even as she watched the core crumbled into earth, rich and black and empty.