A short time after the events of the previous chapter, Kira visits Annabella in her cottage. She goes there alone, a little frightened, since Matt has grown bored with their visits. When Annabella asks her why she’s frightened, Kira tells her that a wild beast chased her. Kira is surprised when Annabella laughs at this news—Annabella has always been kind to her. Annabella tells Kira that they’ll boil coneflowers today, and they get to work.
We have yet to learn why Annabella is laughing at Kira for mentioning wild beasts. The fact that Annabella is only changing her behavior now that Matt is no longer present in her cottage, however, suggests that Kira is privy to special, secret information.
As Kira and Annabella boil coneflowers, Kira tells Annabella again that she was frightened about wild beasts on her walk. Annabella again laughs, but this time tells Kira that there are no beasts. Kira is confused—while it’s true that there would be no beasts in the clearing where Annabella lives, since there are fires there, this doesn’t mean that there are no beasts in the forest. Kira thinks that Annabella sounds as childish as Matt. She tells Annabella that she heard growls, but Annabella insists that Kira heard a human pretending to be a beast.
We’ve heard about beasts previously—in fact, beasts supposedly ate Kira’s father. At the same time, we haven’t seen any beasts in the novel, meaning that Annabella’s claim is a plausible one. The fact that Kira has spent her entire life afraid of beasts, even though she’s never seen one, shows how greatly fear shapes her behavior—and presumably the behavior of the other villagers.
Later, when Kira is eating with Thomas, she asks him if he’s ever seen a beast. Thomas points out that the hunters bring beasts back from their hunts, but Kira replies that the only beasts they bring are hares, birds, or deer—nothing dangerous to humans. She tells Thomas that her father was supposedly taken by beasts. Thomas can’t think of anyone he knows who’s seen a beast. While he finds it hard to believe that beasts don’t exist, he suggests that he and Kira should believe Annabella, since her name has four syllables. Before they can discuss the matter any further, Thomas complains of a headache, since he’s been hard at work all day, and retires to his room. Kira’s day of walking outside has been exhausting, but satisfying, too; she thinks that Thomas should go outside more often.
Thomas is a little less suspicious of beasts than Kira is, and there are several reasons that this is so. First, his parents weren’t killed by beasts, so he’s less interested in them than Kira is. Second, he’s been living in the Edifice for much longer than Kira, meaning that he’s more likely to accept what the Council has told him. (Kira even thinks that Thomas needs to go outside more—in other words, he should be more curious.) At the same time, he and Kira are both highly respectful of the elderly; therefore, they agree that Annabella, with her four syllables, is probably telling the truth.
Alone in her room, Kira wonders if it’s true that there are no beasts. If this is so, she wonders what could have happened to her father. As she falls asleep, she thinks about her cloth—the cloth tells her something important about her father, but when she wakes up she finds that she can’t remember it.
Kira’s interactions with her cloth have an almost psychoanalytic feeling—there’s a sense that she knows exactly what happened to her father, but can’t put it into words.