House of my dreams

May 17:
We finally got moved. The new house is beautiful. And huge. I’m not sure we need all the space, but David says we couldn’t beat the price and we’ll figure out a way to fill it up. I think he wants a few kids. Either that, or he plans to adopt out the local shelter.

The neighbors on the west side are friends of David’s. They found their house not much earlier than we did. I’m glad that David and Blake got transferred together. Geena is a lot of fun, even if she does ask about us having kids every time I see her.

The eastern side neighbors are strange. I met the woman yesterday. She stared at us while we moved boxes in and out. She let out a squelched screech when she saw the lawnmower. I don’t know why unless she thinks I’m going to tackle her overgrown forest.

The previous owners of our new house kept the garden and lawn up very well, so I don’t think we’ll have any trouble keeping it nice. It is going to need a cutting, though, so I’m going to go make sure the mower is in prime condition tomorrow.

May 18:
Well, that was weird. I had the mower out, checking the oil and blades, making sure nothing got messed up in the move when the odd lady from next door strolled up the drive. I thought maybe she was finally going to say something to me, but she just stared for a while then left without saying anything.

I think I’ll wait until tomorrow to mow. She freaked me out some. David will be home tomorrow and I’ll feel better having him here when I mow.

May 19:
David says to ignore the neighbor. He says she’s nuts. I agree. She’s totally bonkers. But she made me feel really weird. She said something strange, too, when I pulled the mower out of the garage.

“Don’t hurt it!”

Don’t hurt what? The grass? It’s meant to be cut. If it isn’t, my yard will end up looking like hers. I suppose she’s just lazy and doesn’t want to mow. If I don’t mow, I suppose she figures the city will just let her overgrowth slide.

But I like a neat yard. I’m just waiting now for her to leave so I can mow without her interference.

May 20:
She’s gone. She left this morning, very early. I was already up, waiting for a chance to get outside. I got the mower and nearly ran around the yard, cutting as fast as I could. The air smelled so deliciously sweet, that fresh-cut-grass smell that just screams summer.

Uh-oh. I see her pulling into her driveway. I hope she doesn’t say anything about my yard.

May 21:
She told me again not to hurt the grass. But, this time, there was more.

“Don’t hurt it. You’re supposed to be its caretaker. Don’t cut it, don’t make it scream. They’ll come for you.”

I don’t know who ‘they’ is, but why would anyone not want me to mow the yard. And scream? The grass? Unbelievable.

June 2:
She was gone again today, so I mowed. The grass grows so much faster here than where we used to live.

I saw more rabbits than usual around the yard today. I think there was also a deer in the backyard early this morning. Birds sang and fluttered around while I mowed. It’s so peaceful here.

June 4:
I’m afraid to go outside. The birds that sang so sweetly just a few days ago are more aggressive now. They’re flying themselves into the windows. I can’t even get outside to clean off the blood smears. Their dying screeches are harsh, not musical. I almost feel I’m in the middle of a Hitchcock movie.

Two very large deer are sitting on the lawn, one in the back, one in the front. They seem to be watching the house.

The rabbits are hopping around the yard, from the neighbor’s overgrown lawn to my cut one. They’re angry hopping.

June 6:
David can’t go to work anymore. His boss has called six times already, but the animals won’t let us leave.

I tried signaling to the next door neighbor, but she just stares at me and shakes her head before going back into her house.

I asked David what happened to the former owners, but he said he didn’t know. I think he was lying. I asked him how we got such a big house so cheap, too, but I think he lied about that, too.

June 10:
The big window in the living room exploded a few minutes ago. I hear little footsteps inside now. Birds are flying around upstairs. Those windows broke last night.

I don’t think anyone will be coming. No one believes we’re trapped by woodland creatures. Especially David’s boss. He got fired yesterday.

I wish we’d never moved here. Or I hadn’t mown the lawn.

Who’s there?

The old church was silent. Services ended at eleven on Sunday morning. By all reasoning, it should have been empty at two in the morning on Tuesday. But it wasn’t.

Jerome could see the massive shadow lurking in the building. It would move back and forth across the sanctuary, in front of the brightly colored stained glass windows. No sound or vibration accompanied the movement of the beast, though.

“Sam, look at it!”

Jerome’s friend stared at the hulking figure inside the church. He nodded. “Yeah, I see it, Jer.”

“What is it, you think?” Jerome wasn’t well versed in Bible stories, but he was pretty certain he’d never heard of any beasts lingering in a chapel.

“Well,” his pastor friend said, “I don’t rightly know, Jerome. I’ll have to think on it, check my Bible, and pray about it, I suppose.”

Jerome grinned. “I knew you’d know what to do, Sam!”

Jerome started up his battered old truck and turned toward the end of the parking lot. But Sam stopped him.

“Jerome. It stopped.”

“Huh?” Jerome forgot for a moment what he’d asked Sam to look at. “You mean the thing in the ol’ church?”

“Yes. It stopped pacing and looked toward the truck,” Sam said. “You think it heard us?”

Jerome shrugged, but to test his friend’s theory, he backed the truck backward, deeper into the church’s lot. He watched the massive shadow turn to keep pace with the vehicle. His eyes grew wide at the thought the shadow might be sentient.

“Sam!”

“I saw, Jerome. We need to call the police. I think it’s somebody in there.”

The pastor pulled out his cell phone and dialed the emergency line. He reported a suspicious person in the church and hung up.

“Let’s get out of here, Jerome. I feel the need to pray.”

The two men tore off into the night, leaving the figure for the police to figure out.

When the police arrived, five minutes later, every light in the church was on. The single sergeant of the department strode up to the door and checked it. It was unlocked. The seasoned officer opened the door cautiously and stepped inside.

No one greeted the officer, but every scroll of scripture and every decoration was turned upside down. The large crucifix that normally presided over the church was dangling from the giant ceiling fan in the middle of the big, open sanctuary. Under the hanging cross, every pew in the church was stacked, making a pyramid of polished wood.

When the lights flickered rapidly, the officer fled. He was already in his patrol car, calling for backup, when the maniacal laughter began.

On the ceiling

“Did you see that?”

James looked up at his brother’s screeched question. “See what, Tommy?”

Tommy pointed into the kitchen. “There, on the ceiling. Something crawled across the ceiling. Just now.”

James turned the swivel rocker around to gaze into the kitchen. He didn’t see anything unusual about the small area.

“Okay, I think someone’s had a lot too much to drink. I mean, if you’re seeing things,” he jabbed at his older brother.

Tommy shook his head, “Nope, ain’t had nothing to drink. You’ve been playing video games with me the whole time, jerk. When would I have had time to get anything?”

James conceded the point. “Fine, you’re not drunk. Maybe just tir…  Holy hell! What was that?”

Tommy asked, “Something large and sorta white? Crawling across the ceiling?”

“Yeah. I swear it almost looked like a person.”

Tommy grinned, vindicated. “Like a girl with long dark hair? On her hands and knees?”

James swallowed hard and nodded, too scared now to talk.

“Yeah, that’s what I saw, too. It almost looked like that girl from back in high school. You know the one?”

Again James nodded, he knew exactly which girl his brother was talking about. The girl everyone made fun of. The girl who vanished the summer between Tommy’s junior and senior years. The girl whose torso the cops had found the next winter.

“But,” James whispered, “why would she be here? And why now?”

“I don’t know,” Tommy said, looking nervous.

James’ eyes grew large with fright, his body stiffening to immobility.

The voice that issued from the figure behind Tommy was eerie, seeming distant and breathy but all-too-clear, “Tom-my. Help me, Tom-my.”

Her pale hands reached for the older man. James, suddenly released from his terror, bolted.

What was left of Tommy was found two days later, hands still clutching the game controller.

Giggles

Tom looked at his friend, considering whether Liam would be able to handle his revelation. He decided, ready or not, he had to tell his friend what had been going on.

“Liam,” he started, “I have to tell you something. It’s pretty strange, so bear with me, please.”

“Sure, Tom,” the raven-headed man replied. “I’m all ears.”

“Alright. Well, it started out just like any other night; me and the wife went to bed, the kids were already asleep and it was quiet. Nobody had said anything cross, no one was stressed, it was all pretty normal and peaceful.”

Liam nodded, jotting down a few notes. He motioned for Tom to continue his story.

“Melli had just fallen asleep when I heard it. It sounded like giggles. Like a little girl’s, you know?”

Tom exhaled harshly. “It almost sounded like Lily, but I went to check on her and she was sound asleep. I watched her for a minute or two, but she didn’t make any sounds or movements. So I checked on the twins, and they were both sleeping, too.”

Liam interrupted, “How old are the twins, Tom? Both boys, right?”

Tom, his mind visibly wrenched from his story, started then nodded. “Yeah, both boys. They’re nine.”

He answered Liam’s next question before it was asked, “Lily’s two. Well, almost three, now, I guess.”

Tom watched Liam write his answers on his notepad before continuing his story, “So I went back to bed. The giggling kept going, off and on, all night. I asked Melli about it in the morning, but she didn’t hear it. Told me I was just imagining things.”

Tom’s voice grew raspy. He reached for the paper cup of water next to his clasped hands. “I told her I wasn’t. But she just laughed and went to work. I dropped the twins off at school and Lily at the sitter’s. Then I went to work. I kept thinking about those giggles all day.”

Liam waited, letting the silence stretch for almost a minute. Then, “What day was that, Tom? Was it Tuesday or Wednesday?”

“Oh, I think it was Tuesday. No. No, Tuesday night is when the giggling started. So, at work on Wednesday.”

“Alright,” Liam said, again making notes on his notepad. “Go on.”

“Wednesday night, after work, it was fine, until the giggling started. That was about dinner time. Melli and the boys ignored it. I thought they were playing a joke on me. But Melli got mad when I said so, and I went for a beer. Didn’t get home til after one sometime.”

Liam interruped, “And the giggling? Were you still hearing it when you went out? Or did it stop?”

“Oh, it stopped when I left the house. It started back up again as soon as I got in the door. I laid down with Melli, but she was sound asleep so she wasn’t making any giggling sound. I didn’t even bother checking on Lily. Didn’t want to wake the tyke.”

“So, now it’s Thursday, right? What happened then, Tom,” Liam asked, pen poised above the notebook.

“I didn’t work on Thursday. Melli let me sleep in. She took the boys to school and Lily to the sitter. The giggling woke me up, of course. I searched the house. I didn’t find what it was. I tore the house apart. Went through every room.” The distraught man held back sobs. “Melli and the kids didn’t come home. I don’t know where they are. Or where they went.”

Tom looked at his hands, examining the blood on them. “I…I think I cut myself on something. See?”

Liam looked at Tom’s hands, noting the blood and the cuts and scratches on his fingers and palms. “I see, Tom, I see.”

Liam read over his notes. Then he walked to the door of the small, windowless space. He spoke into a little box mounted at shoulder height on the wall, “Joyce, did you find out who he is and where he came from?”

A woman’s voice responded, “No, Liam, I haven’t. But the lab says the blood isn’t his.”

Nine lives

I have discovered something amazing. That old adage about cats having nine lives is true! Sort of.

I have a cat named Spunky. Yesterday, Spunky escaped the house, ran into the street, and was hit by a delivery truck. I was devastated.

I buried Spunky out by the oak tree she loved to climb so much. I spent the rest of yesterday in a daze, wondering what I was going to do without my Spunkster.

But this morning, Spunky was back. I know it was Spunks because she came when I called.

See, I woke up and there was a cat sitting on the large exposed roots of the oak tree. It was black and white, so I thought it must have been a friend coming to pay respects to Spunky, who was an orange tabby.

But, when I opened the door, I was choked up and all I got out was “Spunky” and the black and white cat came running. She trotted into the house and went straight for Spunky’s bowl of food. Amazed at the coincidence, I called her name three or four more times. She responded by looking at me and purring at me each time!

So, I know that Spunky’s back. She’s just different now.

UPDATE:    I decided to test my theory on cat’s nine lives. So, I put poison in Spunky’s food. She died again. This time, when she came back, she was a tortoise-shell long-hair. She was mad at me for a bit, like she knew I killed her.

UPDATE 2:    I had to do it again. Just to make sure. This time, I threw her in the pond, weighted down with a couple of cinder blocks. Sure enough, she came back. This time, she’s entirely black. Spunky is most definitely mad at me now.

UPDATE 3:    I think Spunks is watching me. All the time. She knows I’ve killed her. She sniffs her food for ten minutes before taking a bite, now. She also won’t go outside anymore. When I get close, she swipes at me with her claws. May have to kill her again to save myself.

UPDATE 4:    Meow! Human is gone. They, interestingly enough, don’t have nine lives.   ~Spunky~

Abandoned hearts

The kids weren’t supposed to be in the abandoned house out on route 99, but it was a sort of tradition for the local teenagers to dare one another to spend the night in the run-down old plantation house.

There were rumors in the county that the last owner, an ancient withered man named Walters, was a serial killer back in the early part of the century. Of course, Walters died a good twenty years ago and no one in the county knew him before he was a bent, crooked old man.

Every few weeks, another group of teens would gather on the dirt driveway in front of the gate, daring and double-dog daring each other to spend a full night in the house. The sheriff had tried padlocking the gate, but that wasn’t very helpful when the stone wall surrounding the house was crumbled and fallen in places. The trespassers simply went around the lock. Patrols in the area, although supposedly beefed up, were few and far between.

One of this weekend’s teens was a nephew of the sheriff, so he was confident that no patrols would come by. Or so he told the other teenagers.

The four kids who were brave enough to enter the manse were greeted with dusty air, dim moonlight, and the creaking sounds of an old building.

All boys, the group split in half, two by two, to explore the house. The sheriff’s nephew and his partner decided to explore the second floor and attic while the others went through the first floor and basement.

Cloth-covered furniture and spiderwebs were everywhere. The boys moved bits of cloth, peering underneath to see what lurked. Antique furniture wasn’t interesting enough and there were no bodies, so the boys kept moving.

The upstairs pair decided to knock on walls, looking for secret passages or hidden rooms. They got bored after an hour or so and began a knock-on-wood, Marco Polo variant game. The boys downstairs could hear the muffled shouts of the two above, but they diligently continued their search for anything to prove Walters guilty of being interesting.

The stairs down to the basement were rickety and rotting, but the braver of the boys picked his way carefully down, promising to yell if he found anything. The blonde who stayed behind agreed to the idea, grateful he didn’t have to navigate the death trap.

The boy in the basement found much of the same there as in the rest of the house. Cloth-covered bits and pieces, old gardening tools, and a rack of home-canned vegetables. Sighing at his bad luck, he picked up a jar of what looked like beets, stared at it for a few seconds, then started to put it back in its place on the rack.

But he stopped with his hand halfway there. The jar dropped from his hand, crashing and breaking with unnatural loudness. There, on the edge of the wooden rack in front of him, was a latch. He carefully unhooked it and pushed the hidden door open.

There was a glow inside the room. It came from a low-wattage bare bulb dangling in the middle of the room.

The boy was just processing that when a hand came from behind a shelf across the room. The boy’s eyes bulged, staring at Sheriff Walters, who held a still-bleeding heart in his hands.

 

In the darkness

There it was again. Flutters, or swishing. Something like that.

The lamp by the bed switched on, her hand hovering over the knob. She waited, listening closely, searching for the cause of the sounds. But there was nothing. Only the usual nighttime sounds of crickets and frogs with the faintest of traffic whirs in the background.

Uneasy, she turned the knob, killing the light once again. The animal sounds grew louder, the traffic fainter. She pulled her blanket up around her shoulders, settling back into sleep.

The chirps and croaks ended, abruptly, replaced by the fluttery, swooshing, rustling sounds. Almost the sound of a too-long, too-voluminous taffeta skirt moving along the floor.

She snapped the light back on, her heart pounding in her chest. Once again the bugs and animals were singing their nighttime chorus, but nothing was out of place.

Her heart thudded so hard and loud, she imagined it was connected directly to her ears. She waited, searching her bedroom for movement.

Her heart slowed, her logical-self laughed at her excitable-self, and she twisted the light switch, plunging her room into darkness yet again.

The blackness pressed in on her, but she tried her best to ignore it, focusing instead on the chattering of the crickets outside. She was about to drift off when the frogs’ last croak silenced the crickets’ conversation. In the deep silence, there came again the bizarre, out-of-place sound of swishing. But this time, the fluttery sound carried an undertone, a creaky, crackly sound like smoldering flames.

She reached for the lamp, but her fingers got twisted up in something. Something smooth and silky. Her heart pounded, her breath puffed heavily in and out, her mouth opened to scream, but before a sound emerged, her gaping jaw was filled with fingers of thick, acrid liquid.

She searched the darkness for salvation, but there was only darkness. And blood.