SomeThing

A tale of horror

Something moves. Or does it? Del isn’t sure. He looks and listens hard. For an instant, the thin, wiry man sees a motion, a movement among the trees at the edge of his back yard. Holding his shotgun with both hands, he readies himself to aim and fire. His eyes again search the trees and the marsh beyond the trees.

All is quiet. Nothing stirs, only the troubled whimper of a wind. Strange. Usually the marsh is alive with chirps and buzzes and all kinds of splashes. But now, not a sound. He listens harder, more carefully. Slowly he begins to hear the normal, marshy voices that grow louder as the afternoon light fades and evening approaches.

“Nothing here,” he decides. “Must be her imagination. She’s always thinking up things.”

He turns and steps easily across the wet grass, drenched from a sudden afternoon downpour that ended only moments ago. Returning to the house, he enters the back door and walks into the kitchen. Ginny stands waiting by the sink. She clenches a large butcher knife.

“Well, d’you see anything?” she asks, her eyes filled with terror.

“Nary a thing.” He sets his gun in a corner by the stove.

“You think I’m making it all up. Well, I’m not. I did too see something sneaking outside the bedroom window. Heard its growls too.”

“Now, now.” He takes his wife into his arms, then eases the knife from her hand and lays it in the sink. He holds her close to him.

“You must’ve heard the noises yourself. They were loud enough.” She settles into the sanctuary of his broad shoulders for a long, lingering embrace. Her whole body is shivering. He runs his hands gently through her hair and whispers soothing words into her ear until she is calm. After a few minutes of silence pass between them, he lightly kisses her lips.

Releasing her from his arms, he asks his usual, “D’you fix my supper for work?”

“You still going to work after what I seen?” She holds onto his arm.

“Course I am. How could I not?”

“Please stay home tonight. Just this once.” Her hand squeezes tighter and tighter.

“Shush.” He wrenches her hand from his arm.

“Sure wish you would stay home with me tonight.” She reaches again for his arm.

He forces her hand away. “Finish my supper while I get dressed,” he says, ignoring the supplication in her voice.

She chokes out the words, “It’s ready. ‘Cept for wrapping up a piece of that chocolate cake I made special this morning.”

“Look, if you get scared again, have George come on by,” he says, referring to their only son. “You can go stay at his house tonight. I’ll pick you up in the morning.” These are his last words on the subject. It is time to ready for work.

Del goes off into the bedroom and changes into his security guard uniform and is back in the kitchen just as Ginny is placing the cake into his gray lunch box.

Her eyes plea with him to stay with her and not run off to work. But he takes his supper from her hands and pulls his Atlanta Braves cap off the hat stand by the outside kitchen door.

Flipping the cap onto his head, he kisses her cheek a goodnight kiss. Then he is through the door and gone.

Ginny walks into the living room at the front of the house and watches Del through the large picture window as he drives away in his Ford Explorer. Then she drops into the large comfortable chair, Del’s chair, and trembles. Soon her entire body shakes. Tears well up into her eyes. Her face, wrinkled and sagging, appears to be much older than her fifty-seven years. The room darkens as the night fills it with its blackness. Ginny sits alone, afraid to fall asleep because of the nightmares she’s been having. She fights off the sleep. It is too much for her. She’s so tired from her lack of sleep over the last few days that she’s soon dozing off.

Asleep, she starts drifting in and out of her subconscious. It is then that a something eases its way out of the shadows of her sleep and into her dreams, those worlds of gray and fog and unhappiness that inhabit her slumber. Through these lands of mist and uneasiness, of phantoms, specters and dark, ugly things, this SomeThing walks, consuming everything in its path.

Thunder shakes her awake. Her clothes are drenched with sweat, the kind of sweat that only comes from fear. Out the window, a storm rages with a hard, driving rain pelting the grass. Again, the thunder grumbles and a tree crashes in the distance. Lightning streaks the sky and brightens the room.

Just for a moment, she sees it. A shadow, or at least what she, at first, believes to be a shadow. It isn’t. It is the SomeThing that had haunted her nightmares for days, the SomeThing that had made those awful growling noises, the SomeThing that had escaped into nothing earlier that afternoon, the SomeThing that had come from some hell of an evil place.

And a wicked looking SomeThing it is, its eyes cold and cruel with a hate that can only come from another world, its mouth dripping a mixture of white, rabid fear and dark, red blood, its huge body a black silhouette outlined against the lightning flashing in the distance.

Ginny cowers into her chair, struggling to breathe. She wants to scream, tries to scream, but the scream does not come out of her mouth. The Thing, the SomeThing reaches for her, its long talons grasping to tear open her neck.

*****

The house is unusually quiet when Del gets home. It is four o’clock in the morning of a cold, clear February night. The storm earlier has passed, leaving everything drenched and a full moon to fill the sky. Guided by the light of the moon, he hurries through the living room and into the dark bedroom. He leaves the light off so as not to wake Ginny and quickly undresses for bed. He crawls under the clean sheets, then turns to give his wife of thirty-seven years a goodnight kiss.

Ginny is not there. She is gone from her side of the bed where she always sleeps.

He starts to get out of the bed, but then decides, “Must be at George’s.”

He is relieved. Within minutes, he is snoring. His dreams delve deep, deeper and deeper and deeper into that subterranean underground that is his inner consciousness until he is struggling through a swamp, legs hip-deep in water. Cypress trees everywhere, and a heavy, red fog closes in around him.

Alone. No other life in the swamp, but the flies. Those damnable flies circling his head, making no noise. An eerie silence breathes on him as he forces his way through the muck and the mire. Feeling eyes following him, stalking him, he turns and sees…nothing. He looks back to where he is going. A necklace, his wife’s necklace, drops into his hand and opens. His photograph smiles back at him. He looks up. There she is, Ginny pinned to a tree.

This startles him awake. His body is unable to move, frozen with fear. Rain beats against the rooftop. Thunder groans nearby. Lightning lights the room while the shadow of a SomeThing covers Del’s face.

Near 500 words: The Sixties

The Sixties are a long time gone but lately I have been remembering. During the 1960s, it seemed like everywhere you turned, there were larger-than-life personalities. Not celebrities but people who moved mountains. Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath.

Every night we turned on the TV and there was Uncle Walter and Johnny Carson to guide us. Carol Burnett made us laugh our booties off. Alan Shepard and John Glenn flew into the outer reaches of space. John Kennedy inspired us to do better for our country and the First Lady showed us style. Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, Billy Graham and the Maharishi quenched our spiritual thirst. Even in the Soviet Union, there was Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

No matter what your political persuasion, there was someone for everyone. Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy for the liberals, Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley for the conservatives. And Che Guevara for the radicals.

Ralph Nader, Betty Friedan and Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez dreamed big dreams and shared them with the world. The times were changing. Utopia was just around the corner.

We landed a man on the moon and celebrated our freedom at Woodstock. Then the party came tumbling down with a thud at Altamonte.

By the end of the decade, our innocence was buried in the harsh reality that utopias always end in dystopia. Captain America was shot off his mototcycle. The Beatles broke up and Sgt Peppers disbanded his band. That day in April,1970, was more than the day the music died. It was the day our hearts were broken. It was the day the earth opened up and swallowed our hope.

All we were left with was Richard Nixon and Vietnam, and Superman was only a comic book and Batman a TV show. All we were left with was Kent State, OPEC, Watergate, stagflation and the Brady Bunch. The Seventies brought us plop back down to earth. It was like we had been dropped on our heads and we had a hangover like all get-out.

Then came Camp David and “the City Upon a Hill” of Ronald Reagan. The Berlin Wall came crashing down. For one brief moment, there was a Middle East Peace Accord. Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands. For one brief, shining moment, Camelot was shining again. Only to be brought back to our senses by Y2K and 9/11.

But we can never forget those bonfires of hope shining from the Decade That Was: the Peace Corps and Earth Day, Woodstock and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. And we still dream of a better world. It’s just going to be a long time coming. As Jessie Jackson says, “Keep hope alive.”

Near 500 words: The nightmare

“What are you afraid of?” the psychiatrist asked his patient. He sat in a large comfy chair next to his desk.

“I’m afraid something is going to happen to Frankie.” Darla rested her head against the pillow on the couch.

“And what makes you think that?” Dr. Spenser asked, furthering his questions.

“I keep having this nightmare,” Darla said.

“And?” Dr. Spenser scribbled a line on his pad.

Darla hesitated.

“Darla, we’ve only an hour.” Dr. Spenser hated to rush his patient but they did have only an hour.

“George says I am being foolish.”

“Are you being foolish?” Dr. Spenser asked. He always asked obvious questions. It was his way.

“I don’t think so. Frankie’s the only child I can ever have.”

“Anything that happens to him, and that’s it?” The psychiatrist was getting somewhere.

“Yes,” Darla said, hoping for some reassurance.

“You think you have any control over that?” Dr. Spenser started a doodle. His doodles were always helpful. Over the years, he’d never known a doodle to fail.

“No. I don’t.”

“So? Tell me about the dream.”

“Frankie has a dog.”

“Do you have a dog now?” The doodle was slowing coming into a shape.

“Well, no.” Darla’s eyes were closed. She was afraid of the dream but she wanted to give the doctor an accurate picture.

“Continue. Does the dog have a name?”

“Fluffy, I think.”

“You’re not sure.”

“Yes, Fluffy is his name.”

“Sounds like a very nice dog.”

“Oh, he is. And he loves Frankie. At least, at the start of the dream.” Darla opened her eyes. Tears filled them. She decided that she didn’t want to go on.

“Continue. What makes you think there’s a problem?”

Darla resisted, then went on, “Fluffy and Frankie are out running in a field one day.”

“How old is Frankie? In this dream?”

“About eight. Please don’t make me go on.”

“That’s up to you. But naming your fear could be very helpful.” Dr. Spenser looked at the clock on the wall. Forty minutes left of the session. Plenty of time.

“They are running in the park. Then Fluffy turns and—”

“Yes?”

“No, I can’t go on.”

“I see.”

“Tell me what it means.” Darla was desperate to know.

“That you can’t go on? That’s easy. You’re afraid of what happens next.”

“I am.” Darla was crying.

Dr. Spenser reached over to his desk and pulled out a Kleenex and passed it over to Darla. As she cleaned up her tears, he studied his pregnant patient.

“It took us a long time and a lot of effort to get pregnant.”

“And you’re having these nightmares about that child and a dog?”

“I am.”

“What if Frankie doesn’t have a dog?”

“No Fluffy?”

“No Fluffy.”

Darla had never thought of that. It seemed so obvious. “No Fluffy,” she whispered to herself. Then to Dr. Spenser, “But what if he wants a dog?”

“Get him a cat instead.”

Darla smiled and sat up on the couch. She was so relieved.

Dr. Spenser looked at the clock. Fifteen minutes to go. He turned to Darla. “Anything else?”

Darla stood and shook Dr. Spenser’s hand. It was obvious she was relieved.

Dr. Spenser escorted her to the door.

Darla turned and hugged her psychiatrist. Then she went out into the lobby.

Dr. Spenser picked up his pad, stared at the doodle, and smiled. It was of a cat.