2035. Winter.

When my family and I board the M train, I have no idea what to expect. I’m just relieved we’re safe from the avalanche. “Welcome, Mr. Fright,” the train’s conductor greets, with a tip of his hat towards my father. “Glad to see you brought the whole family!” He says that brightly, as if we had a choice, but I know what he really means. Glad to see all of you made it out safely. “So am I, sir,” Dad says. “And call me Schiz—”. My father was Mr. Fright, and every time I hear that, I expect to find him looming over my shoulder.” As Dad boards the train, the conductor turns his attention to me and my siblings. “Hello, youngsters. What are your names?” “Terror,” answers my brother, who stands tall and solid, almost as comforting of a force to us as Dad is. My little sister says, “Worry.” And in between the two of them, I speak up, telling the man my name. “Fear.” He looks over our shoulders, as if expecting to see a mother. Except, Mom was destroyed long before the avalanches came that threatened to wipe out all of us. I shudder as I remember the way our home shook and rattled, dinner plates shattering, doors knocking back and forth. The cranium caves collapsed out of nowhere, and though it had been hours since the other monsters rescued us and brought us safely to this train station, my whole body still reverberates from the shock. I wonder if it will ever fade.

On the train, I sit with my siblings, but there are dozens of other monsters around us. Many of them are my friends. There’s Anxiety, Agitation, even Depression, though he’s currently asleep, with a blanket pulled all the way up to his eyes. “I wonder where we’re going,” my sister Worry wonders. Despite everything, her eyes are wide with excitement. She thinks all of this is an adventure. I wish I was that innocent, that fearless. “We’re going to a place called Mortal Monster Lodge,” says my brother, Terror. “It will be a safe place for us all.” Several other monsters board the train, and then suddenly the doors hum shut. The train lurches into motion, and we’re off. I’m nervous to leave behind the safety of the cranium caves, even though I know they were never safe to begin with. For years the humans have been steadily wrecking our home, and blaming us for all the unease in their minds.

Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Maybe the Mortal Monster Lodge is where we’ve belonged all this time. After a long exhausting train ride—we arrive at a sparkly white mountaintop smothered in snow, and topped with the most spectacular mansion I’ve ever seen. “Here we are, everyone!” declares the conductor. “Home sweet home!”

We alight in the freezing cold, and trudge up the snowy slopes to the front of the house, where an angelic group of creatures who resemble me and my family stand and wait with smiles. Our welcoming committee. “Welcome to the lodge,” they say, and gesture behind them to the sprawling building. Through its golden lit windows, I see other monsters: some drink cocoa by a fire, others play board games and chuckle together. The place looks even more inviting than home ever did. For once, I feel my fear lift as a smile spreads across my face.

Welcome to the lodge, indeed.