Monday, August 27, 2007

Chapter 3: First Night, Part I

"Alexis," Vernon shouted, "time to come inside!"

Head hung low in thought, he walked slowly back up the driveway. Every step kicked up gray dust barely visible in the twilight. Rocks clattered and spun away from his feet. A chill autumn wind blew across the yard. He shivered and hugged himself, hands rubbing the goose bumps growing on bare arms sticking out of his short sleeves. Feels more like November than October. The breeze carried a hint of fresh mowed grass and an even fainter aroma of turned earth, as if someone were tilling a garden. Or digging a grave.

Something about this place just ain't right. Vernon shook his head and kicked a stone, which went rattling down the driveway. Did we make a mistake coming here? He couldn't find anything major out of kilter about Jennings Grove, just a lot of little things that made him uncomfortable. Lord knew any tight-knit community had its share of oddities. Every staff meeting at Franklin Plastics had ended with the workers filing past a small ceramic goat that had become their unofficial mascot and nodding as if to an old friend. Neighborhood Watch gatherings at their old home followed such an exact pattern that anyone who dared interrupt the ritual found himself ostracized for weeks. But this place took weird to an all new level. How many other towns could claim that every last resident attends the local church? Why aren't there any farm animals? There's got to be enough room out here for a small herd or two, but I haven't seen so much as a cat. And what's with the whole home-by-dark thing? They're worse than Alexis when she gets to whining about her nightlight. His head lifted, and he frowned. His daughter had never answered his call.

Vernon stepped off the driveway and angled across the yard for the pecan tree. The mass of branches and leaves had devolved into a hulking lump of shadow that hid the darkening sky behind it. Something creaked from within. He stopped short, suddenly anxious about stepping any closer.

"Alexis?" No answer other than the rhythmic rasping of a rope on the tree branches. He stomped angrily across a few yards of grass and halted again. The blackness under the tree refused to lighten no matter how close he got. No point in going forward if I can't see what I'm doing. "Young lady, if you're not out of there and in the house when I get back, I'm going to pop that hiney of yours." He started back to the house. The breeze grew as he walked. It sighed in his ears, as if trying to form words. The hair on the back of his neck tried to stand. Something's not right. Twisting around, he bellowed at the tree. "Alexis! Get in the house now!"

Still no answer. He ran up the steps and into the house. He glanced to the left and saw Cheryl sitting on their bed, Raymond cradled in her arms. "Do you know where a flashlight is?" he asked.

"I think I saw that big one of yours on the kitchen counter. Why?"

"I gotta go get Alexis," he called as he made his way to the kitchen. "She wouldn't come when I called. I guess she's having too much fun on that swing."

What she called his big flashlight was nearly a hand-held spotlight. He glanced up and down the counter. He found it hiding behind a large box of cereal bearing a tiger on its front. Vernon knocked the cereal aside, snatched his light, pointed it upward and clicked it on. Even with the lights on in the house, the flashlight threatened to blind him. Forgot I put new batteries in it before we moved.

Rubbing his eyes, he stormed out of the kitchen. Glass rattled as he bumped into the front door. Still trying to wipe the spots from his vision, he jumped off the porch and ran to the tree.

"Alexis Nichole, you get in that house right now or so help me…"

She wasn't there.

He slapped a hand down on the plank, stopping it in mid-swing. The wood still felt warm.

"Alexis?" he whispered.

He played the light through the tree. It traveled from branch to branch, struggling to penetrate leaves and shadow. Something rustled above him. He whipped the flashlight up, but found nothing other than limbs. Vernon dropped his hands and head. Where is she?

Wind gusted. Branches creaked overhead with a sound like a menacing chuckle. He swished the light back and forth. The beam sliced through darkness, but seemed reluctant to illuminate anything other than the grass at his feet. He slapped the head of the flashlight. He should have been able to see the house clearly, but his light fell short, offering only the barest hint of bushes underneath bedroom windows that glowed in the twilight.

The breeze dwindled and died, trailing off with a faint sigh. "Bye-bye, Daddy."

Vernon broke into a run, swinging his flashlight in wild arcs that offered glimpses of his new yard. A tree root caught his foot and tripped him. He stumbled, rolled and bounced back to his feet. Skirting a bush, he dashed behind the house and barely turned in time to avoid a barbed wire fence. His foot kicked concrete steps, and he fell against a silver beast hunkering against the fence, light skittering off to one side and landed in the grass to shine on the steps. His body draped itself over cool metal, and his head smacked down with a hollow bong.

Turning over, he slid down the propane tank and sat on the ground, his head banging the side once more. He winced at the bolt of pain that stabbed through his temples. A sob ripped free of his chest as he groped for the flashlight. His fingers brushed metal, pushing the light away. He froze. Something glowed softly just beyond the light splashed on the wall in front of him. It looked like a pair of legs incased in white hose.

"Alexis? Honey, you scared me." A faint titter of laughter floated on the night.

He grabbed the flashlight and turned it toward her. A flurry of movement resolved itself into a crepe myrtle, its pale branches dancing in the breeze.

"Alexis! You stop this right now!"

Laughter answered him once more.
Part II coming Friday!

Labels: dota maphacks for mac dota maphacks for mac


At August 27, 2007 8:37 AM , Blogger Bret Jordan said...

This was really a chilling installment, Jeff. My sense of fear always increases when a family member is threatened, especially a young one. To me it's more fearful than the threat to the main character because I simpathize with him being in a situation out of his control, and the fear for the loved one that goes along with it. Nice work, Jeff!dota maphacks for mac  

Post a Comment dota maphacks for mac

dota maphacks for mac

<< Home dota maphacks for mac