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I look out the window and I get a feeling too familiar for my liking. I can’t see or hear anything, but the feeling is all I need to be sure.

It’s them,” I announce to my parents. “It’s always them.”

My parents don’t respond or even glance in my direction to roll a set eyes. A few years ago mother and father pretended to care enough to tell me there was no such thing as them, but now just sit silently in front of their idiot box.

After they showed up the first time I started reinforcing the house with defenses to keep my parents and myself safe. I wish my mother and father knew how many times my foresight has saved this family.

Years of trial and error have led me to believe that they’re afraid of fire. I spread chunks of coal from the barbecue all around the perimeter of the house. Only rocks that had been used so they will still smell the memory of fire and flame.

Pepper is also useful. A human will sneeze around the stuff, but if they are anywhere near pepper it seems to hurt their brain. Piles of pepper are hidden everywhere around the house, inside and out. Mother finds them every so often, but they’re easily replaced, as long as I remember to check them every couple of days.

I found a contact online that claims he has a ward I can draw in a few subtle places that would not only protect the house, but would also cause harm to any of them that tried to attack the house. The ward is expensive, though.

Despite my confidence in my defenses, I decide to do some reconnaissance with my only friend, and the only other person I know who knows about them. My German shepherd, Gray.

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