“Honey, honey, he’s out there again!’
“Huh?” Might as well be talking to a brick wall.
“That kid from number eleven is in our yard again, he’s just standing there in the doorway of the shed looking at me.” I let the curtain fall back into place leaving behind a small collection of soap suds where my hand had been. The sound of creepy music and even creeper pig squealing gets louder as I approach the lounge room. What is he watching? I pause just inside the doorway.
“Honey?” This time he doesn’t even answer. On the screen a terrified woman is lost in an ominous forest in the middle of the night, dry ice mist swirling around her. Watching horror movies in the dark, I couldn’t think of anything worse. The top of his head is sticking out just above the back of the couch. If I snatched up a handful of hair, that might get his attention.
“Honey, would you PLEASE turn that rubbish off and come and look!”
“Oh sure, sorry babe.” I’ve got him worried now, I hate it that I have to be such a dragon to get his attention but, sometimes it seems like the only way. The screen freezes on the image of a bare chested man with a pig’s head, nice.
“That shed looks like it could fall down at any minute, plus it’s got to be crawling with spiders, he could get seriously hurt playing in there.”
“Okay I’ll go out and have a talk with him, try to scare him off.”
“Don’t scare him too much, I don’t want the new neighbours to hate us.”
Back at the kitchen window there’s no sign of the kid, could be he’s in the shed. I watch Rodney wading through the tall overgrown grass, I hope he wipes his shoes well before he comes back inside. We should go to Bunnings on the weekend and buy a lawn mower, how much do lawn mowers cost? He’s sticking his head just inside the door, even he’s reluctant to go in there. Why would a little kid want to play in such a sinister place? The one little window at the front is so filthy and covered in cobwebs that hardly any light gets in even with the door missing.
Rodney is reaching around trying to find a light switch, there isn’t one, I should have told him that. He gets out his phone and starts using it as a torch, he flashes it around for a few seconds then turns around and gives me an exaggerated shrug followed by a head shake.
Okay drama boy I get the picture the kids not in there. He must have gone home. I drop the curtain as he starts walking back. While he’s out there I might as well give him the latest pile of flattened boxes to put in the recycling bin. I meet him at the back door with the boxes.
“Here you go, you can put these in the bin for me while you’re out there.”
“No problem, there are lot here.”
“I told you I finished unpacking the spare room today, have you even looked at it yet?”
“I’ll look at it as soon as I come in. I hope you haven't been overdoing it, remember what the doctor said.”
“How can I relax when the house is in chaos? I just want this place to feel like home. I think I’ll have an early night though, hopefully I won't have nightmares about that weird kid.”
Shutting the screen door I head for the bedroom. I’ll have to stop by number eleven in the morning and have a word with the boys parents, let them know I didn’t want him coming into our back yard. Maybe the people who lived here before where okay with it but I’m not.
Kids too young to wandering around by himself anyway, he must only be about six or seven, though it’s hard to tell with kids. I hope his parents aren't on ice or something, I’d have to be careful.
The door opens as I’m slipping between the sheets.
“I just wanted to come and say good night. The spare room looks great by way, thanks for doing that.” Rodney bends down and gives me a big wet good night kiss.
“You're not coming to bed?"
"No I’m going to stay up and watch a few more episodes of American Horror Story.”
“Okay.” I reach over and turn the lamp off.
Thumping and scratching noises are coming from the ceiling directly above me. A family of possums most likely.
“Honey, do you hear that?” I roll over. The other side of the bed is empty.
Muffled voices drift down the hall from the lounge room. Rodney must still be watching his horror series.
I throw back the covers. “Honey? Are you awake?”
Apart from the voices coming from the TV, there’s no reply from the lounge room.
Rodney’s not on the couch. I pick up the remote and switch off the TV. The house creaks and groans and the stupid possums are making a racket. The fridge chimes in with a hum. The crickets in the long grass outside add to the suburban symphony. I’m used to hearing inner city traffic, sirens, and people yelling at all hours of the night. I don’t know how I’m ever going to get back to sleep.
I check the rest of the rooms in the house, making sure the windows are locked as I go. I start with the spare bedroom I turned into a home office, then the one we’ve designated ‘the nursery’. At the moment it holds most of our boxes of junk and a spare bed for guests. After eleven rounds of unsuccessful IVF, we aren’t rushing to set it up as a proper nursery just yet. I’m betting this round won’t stick either. I’m too stressed because of the move. Right now, I’m also irritated with my husband.
After a full check of the house, I’m back in the lounge room and most of the lights are on.
“Honey? This late night game of hide-and-seek isn’t funny.”
A cool breeze caresses the side of my face. The outer screen door at the back of the house creaks on its hinges and bangs gently against the frame. Partially open, the inner wooden door swings wider. I grab hold of it and peer outside. The crescent moon doesn’t emit enough light to illuminate the yard, but I can make out the outline of the rickety shed. A dim, blue haze appears in the dirty window. Yawning, I rub my eyes. The haze is gone and the shed has returned to darkness. Am I seeing things?
“Rod? Honey?” My heart pounds and the milk I drank before bed sours in my stomach. I lean against a dining chair and stare out the kitchen window. The shed is full of that weird blue haze again. It even spills out the doorway. It flickers before going out once more. Is Rodney in the shed? Why would he go out there now? Did that kid from number eleven come back again?
Before I can talk myself out of it, I grab a flashlight out of the bottom drawer and head outside.
The clothesline spins and creaks in the wind. I pull my dressing gown around me tighter and shine the flashlight across to my right. My red hatchback sits under the carport, five meters away. The shed is three times further from the back step in the other direction.
A neighbour’s dog takes to barking and I jump, stumbling off the step into the long grass. I try not to think about the spiders, ticks, and other creepy crawlies lurking underfoot.
“Honey, are you in here?” I aim my flashlight through the door of the shed.
There’s a hint of a stale, metallic odour. Rusted hooks and nails stick out of the wooden walls to support tools we don’t own. Two splintered and rotting benches run the full length of the shed on either side. Empty milk crates the previous owners left behind sit under the benches. Multiple footprints have been left in the dusty, concrete floor – some big and some small. Black spots are spread across one side of the room and over the dirty window.
My foot makes contact with something and it skids across the floor. Rodney’s phone slides to a stop against one of the crates. It’s covered in dust and those strange black spots. I crouch down and pick it up. The screen is cracked. The spots aren’t black like I first thought. They’re a deep crimson, and they smudge.
I angle my flashlight upwards, running the beam over the corrugated iron and roof trusses. There’s nothing there. Even though I should feel relieved, I feel more anxious than I did before.
Shuddering, I leave the shed. I trip over something soft and warm lying in the grass. I manage to hold onto the flashlight and the phone, but when I look to see what I tripped over, there’s nothing there.
A lump builds in my throat and my chest tightens. Tears fill my eyes and I’m close to panicking. I push myself up and sprint back to the house.
I reach the back door, but it’s shut. I grab the handle, and push as hard as I can. Nothing happens. I’m locked out.
“Rodney!” I bang on the door. “Let me in!”
I give up on the door and tap on the phone. The touchscreen lights up, but it doesn’t respond to any of my other commands. It’s too slick with blood. I try wiping my hands on my dressing gown, the phone too, but it doesn’t seem to help.
The door opens and I fling myself inside.
“Meg. Where the hell have you been? I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
“I was looking for you. I thought you were in the shed. I found your phone.” I hold it out to him.
He examines me, frowning. “You’re bleeding.”
“No, I’m not, I…” I look down at myself. My hands, pyjamas, and dressing gown are covered in blood, much more than the original few drops on Rodney’s phone.
“If you’re not hurt,” Rodney takes a step back, “then whose blood is that?”
I stare at him, confused.
“I thought it was yours.”
I'm happy to say that the ending of the story has been picked up by a Mozette and you can read it by clicking this link. Mozette's ending
This story is a three part collaborative flash fiction challenge set by Chuck Wending. The beginning was written by myself and the middle by Kira Jessup, who has done a wonderful job of continuing the story, in a way that I think is tense and scary and has an enjoyable Aussie flavor to it.