By Ryan M. Harris
By Ryan M. Harris
Sam Hansward was jolted from a deep sleep by the sound of his bedroom door slamming open. He sat bolt upright in bed and nearly revealed the hiding place of the .38 revolver he kept hidden behind the nightstand before he realized the intruder was his eight year old girl Anita.
She was still half asleep, wobbling a little as though about to fall down, her eyes half lidded, but tears were streaming down her face.
“What’s wrong baby?” he groaned, rubbing his eyes.
“Button growled at me,” She said. “He won’t get off my bed. He’s getting me all muddy, and when I tried to get him down he growled at me.”
Thoughts came slowly to him, percolating through his weary head ache. “shit…Honey Button’s not on your bed…Button’s dead.”
“But he’s getting me muddy.”
She held up her hands and it put a chill down his neck. His vision clearing from blurry, adjusting to the light, and Anita had mud on her hands, and the hem of her night-coat, and her feet.
He jumped out of bed, suddenly alarmed. He must have looked angry because she recoiled as though about to run from him.
He grabbed her hands. They were like ice.
“You’ve been outside,” He shouted, though he hadn’t meant to shout at her. She looked scared now.
“No,” she shook her head. “Button came in!”
He stepped out into the hall and to the banister so he could see downstairs. The front door stood open.
“What the hell were you doing outside?” He was still yelling. “- Anita!”
He was stopped mid-sentence by a foul smell beginning to pollute the hall, assaulting his senses. His attention turned to Anita’s room, down the hall, opposite his room. Her door was open and beyond it was too dark to see.
A shiver went through him.
Behind in the doorway Anita was crying.
“What in the hell did you do?”
Sam yawned at the little white worm caught between his fingers. It had been a long night, followed by a morning spent talking to doctor’s he couldn’t afford. Now, he was picking maggots out from out the carpet from where she’d drug the carcass in.
Disgusting things – he crushed it between his finger and thumb, breaking it in half, then threw it in the trash-bag he was filling.
Anita had done strange things before.
In the spring she had tried to save a baby bird that had fallen from its nest, taking it in. They found it dead the next day, twisted into an unnatural pose on bed of rag blankets she’d made for it. But, she insisted on trying to feed it anyway, talking to it while she tried in vain to make a corpse eat. Even when the ants began their procession into the blankets she was still carrying on. Eventually he had to take it from her and throw it away while she sobbed.
“His name is Hailey, daddy,” She’d told him. “He’ll learn to fly.”
“No,” he’d told her. “It’s dead, and the bugs are eating it.”
Then he caught her the next day trying to dig it out of the trash and had to ground her for a few weeks. But, exhuming the dog at Four in the morning was a whole new level of disturbing. The psychologist he’d spoken too thought it was related to her mother’s leaving. Kelly had cleared out about a year ago, sneaking out in the middle of the night without saying a word to him or Anita.
A ‘post traumatic response’ the doctor called it. She’s acting ‘out.’
Doctors were all useless.
Sam had wrapped ‘Button’ up in the sheets and quilt and thrown it all in a trash bag. Even double bagged he could still smell it. It was more muddy bones then it was anything rotten but the mass still smelled like sour milk.
Anita was upstairs. He’d told her to do her homework, or read something. He didn’t really care he just didn’t want her to see where he was going to re-bury this mess.
It was soggy outside, having rained off and on all week. Sam’s boots sank a half an inch into the grass as he made the trek across the yard, trash bags slung over one shoulder. There were a lot of places to choose from in which to bury a body. They lived on a six acre plot lost out in farmland, and shielded from the road by unkempt thickets of dense trees and thorns. He only cared to mow the area around the house itself.
Grabbing a shovel from the shed, he headed into the brambles, walking till he was sure the site couldn’t be seen from the house. He picked a space absent any large tree roots and proceeded to dig a hole, going about three feet down and making it a few feet wide. The ground was moist and gave easily.
With little ceremony he tossed Button into his new home, and began to shovel the dirt back in. Sam hadn’t liked the dog even when it was alive. It wasn’t a purebred worth anything, couldn’t hunt. It was a just a mutt Kelly had brought it home and it had been strictly hers and Anita’s pet. To him it was just a loud, smelly thing that destroyed his furniture.
Sam’s face went pale and he froze.
The bag had moved…only slightly, but it moved!
“It’s settling,” he told himself. “It’s just settling into place.”
He waited a moment for it to move again, carefully watching the grave intently. After a few minutes he scolded himself for being such a coward. He scooped up another shovel of dirt.
At the impact from the dirt the black plastic twisted up at him.
Sam screamed. Trying to leap back he tripped and fell.
In the grave the bag shook violently. The plastic rippled and stretched. He could sharp points, claws or teeth, pressing outward about to burst free. Sam scrambled to his feet. Raising the shovel over his head he brought it crashing down onto what remained of Button.
Sam struck again and again, until the struggling stopped. Then moving at a frantic pace he began to re-fill the hole, heaving dirt till the hole was gone.
Dirt was not enough! He began clawing rocks up out of the ground, piling them on top the dirt. He threw every log he could find on it as well until several hundred pounds had to be holding the dog in its grave.
Then Sam ran for the house.
Sitting, trembling in his chair Sam argued with himself over what he’d seen. He held his gun in one hand like a child with his favorite blanket.
“Not sure,” he mumbled over and over.
He knew what he thought he’d seen. But he was willing to entertain the idea that he and Anita were both going crazy.
Button is dead! The dead are dead. They don’t move, they don’t make noise, or else there’s no point to it. I’m just going crazy.
Maybe he didn’t even have to be crazy. It sounded crazy right then in the moment, seeing a dead dog move but he was under a lot of stress, no jobs lately, raising a kid alone, and he’d barely slept last night. Wasn’t one hallucination excusable?
For the rest of the day the argument continued in his mind, coming to no conclusion. He locked the doors, fastened the windows, and pulled the blinds closed. He paced through the house muttering, tracking mud across the carpets till they were all near ruined before he realized what he was doing and removed his boots.
Anita came down only for dinner. He managed to throw spaghetti together as an afterthought. They sat at opposite ends of the table, eating quickly and neither one speaking. She must have felt she was in trouble - A lot trouble if it was making her dad act this strange. And, he couldn’t bring himself to start talking. He avoided even looking at her except for quick paranoid glances. He was terrified she’d say some crazy thing - like all of this is real. He didn’t think he could take that right now. He might just snap.
“Can I be excused,” was all she said to him that night, and a nod was the best response he could muster.
That night he slept downstairs in his chair, gun in one pocket of his robes. Any sleep came in short fits. He was constantly waking, his pulse racing, thinking he had heard something. But aside from vivid nightmares the night passed without incident.
For the next three nights he held similar vigils. As exhaustion set in he became even more paranoid.
Anita woke herself up for school, and walked herself down their drive to bus in the morning. Sam watched her leave from the window, half expecting to see her pulled into the woods by some undead monstrosity.
It wasn’t until Friday, when the sun rose for the fourth straight time with everything still as it should be, that Sam felt brave enough to face the day like a normal person. A couldn’t live his life hiding.
He took shower to wake himself up, made a large breakfast for him and Anita, and then walked her to the bus taking pains not to watch the tree-line in a nervous manner.
After she left, walking back to the house Sam decided it was time to learn if any sanity to his fears at all. It was time to go check on Button’s new grave.
He went back in for a thicker coat and his mud boots.
A few minutes later, standing at the wood-line, his enthusiasm had faded some. He drew his gun, and took a deep breath, then slowly headed in.
Sam snuck up on the grave. To his relief, he found it exactly as he’d left it, not a stone or log was out of place. No undead paws pierced the surface; there were no signs that anything had clawed its way free of the earth.
“Of course not,” Sam said out loud. He’d seen nothing. All of it was nonsense. He spat upon the muddy earth, and decided he was in need of a beer.
Late that night, Sam was stirred from his sleep by a single out-of-place noise in his otherwise quiet house. He was far from alert, weary and just a little drunk, but he clung to consciousness as best he could and held completely still to listen.
Again he heard a creak - a board perhaps, or the stairs. A creak could be nothing in an old house.
There was another creak - a coincidence perhaps? He was very tired.
Now he heard a new sound that took him a moment to identify in his inebriated state, the ‘chink’ of metal moving against metal – the deadbolt. Then, he heard the downstairs’ door being opened.
He flew out of bed, threw on his robe, and gun in hand burst into the hall. As he had not long ago he ran to the banister, just in time to see Anita dressed in her nightgown and barefoot step out the open door and into the darkness.
Flying down the stairs, jumping most of them and nearly stumbling to his death, he made it to the living room and chased her out into the night.
“Anita,” he yelled.
Anita hadn’t gone far. She stood just a few feet out into the wet grass. She didn’t respond. She was in a sort of trance her expression completely blank. With a distant gaze she was staring out into the woods.
She opened her mouth as though about to yell out. Sam caught her just before she could; putting his hand over her mouth to stifle the sound before it was made.
“Anita?” he said again. She just stared at him her expression unchanging. Scooping her up, he carried her back inside.
He sat her down on the couch, and knelt down in front of her.
“Anita?” He waved his hand in front of her eyes. She looked at him. She was awake, her eyes were open she knew he was here but she was in sort trance that was hard to break.
“ANITA,” He yelled.
Anita blinked, and then her expression paled. She looked frightened. “I’m sorry daddy,” she moaned. “I didn’t mean to bring Button back. I didn’t, I’m sorry!
His eyes widened. “You bought him back?”
“I didn’t mean too,” she said shaking her head. She was starting to cry.
Two questions fought for dominance in Sam’s weary mind. The first to stumble out of mouth was “how?”
She looked down at the floor, tears starting to run down her face.
“You see them in your dreams,” she mumbled, “you can say goodbye or ask to them to wake up.”
“Why would you want him to wake up?” He grabbed her hands and held them. “He’s dead. He’s supposed to stay dead!”
“I didn’t want to wake him up,” Anita said. “I was trying to wake mom up.”
Sam’s blood froze in his veins and he let go of her.
“Anita….no your mom just left…”
She shook her head and looked him in the eyes. “I saw. You were arguing and you hit her too hard. Now she’d in the woods. Button woke me up barking and I saw. But I can fix it all now dad!”
Sam was backing up, pulling at his hair till it hurt. “No Anita, no, no, no,” he babbled. Catching his knee on the coffee table, he tripped. He lay on the floor head swimming. She was still going on.
Anita jumped up from the couch. “I’m not angry,” she insisted holding her hands up. “I know it was accident but I can fix it dad. I can control it now! I can bring mom back and we’ll be together again.”
Sam shot her. He didn’t even realize he’d drawn the gun till the shot rang out. He looked at the weapon in his hand with amazement and then to Anita. She’d been hit in the chest a few inches beneath her throat, stopping her rant mid-sentence. She stayed standing for a second or two, mouth agape, then his little girl crumpled to the ground.
It was ungodly late now, and Sam found himself again sitting in his chair jumping at every little noise. He was freezing. He hadn’t bothered to dress or even throw on shoes, before burying Anita. He’d dug the hole barefoot with just his robe on, wrapped the body up in trash bags, an entire box of trash bags, then thrown it in the hole and it was done. Anita lay in as much peace as she’d ever find not far from where her mother lay.
There were probably smarter things he could’ve done to hide it, but waiting was impossible. The moment shock wore off there was an uncontrollable urge to be rid of the body. You couldn’t just leave it lying there looking at you. Did you want to watch your loved ones decompose and think ‘My God I’ve done this to them.’?
It had been the same with Kelly.
The police had believed his story about Kelly: that she had ran off with a boyfriend. But how could he explain Anita?
Perhaps Kelly came back and got her?
No the sheriff might be lazy but he wasn’t that stupid. This time they‘d investigate. They would look and if they found what was beneath his lawn, it would be better to shoot himself right now. Sam didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to go to jail for a hundred years.
He’d have to leave. Maybe Kelly came back and got them both. Maybe she came back, he and her made up, and all three of them left on an impromptu vacation…or something. It might buy him enough time to run. How could he make it look like that’s what happened?
There was a ‘thump’ in the kitchen and his heart nearly stopped. Sam pointed his gun at empty air, his hands shaking.
It took about a minute before he heard it again, a soft banging sound coming from the kitchen. He rose on quivering legs, and slowly headed into the kitchen waving his weapon in front of him. The kitchen was empty. He looked around for anything fallen or out place, but everything seemed untouched.
Again there was a thump quieter, this time. Sam turned. It was coming from the window.
It took him a moment, taking deep breaths, to build up enough courage.
He went to the window, pulled back the curtains, and caught a glimpse of fluttering grey wings. A little bird had smacked into the window. It danced around like it was stunned on the window sill.
When it stopped for a moment, Sam’s blood ran cold. The bird was missing its eye among other things, and a colony of ants moved among its feathers still determined to eat the baby bird’s rotten parts.
And, beyond the bird, out in the darkness, just on the edge of what he could see stood two people staring back at him.
Sam dropped his gun and ran. He skidded to the front the door and locked it, the deadbolt and the chain. Where to go? They were in the front yard, so out the back. He tore through the house, shoving any piece of furniture to get in his way.
Reaching the other door, he pulled up spotting the cracks near the lock and hinges. He could the shadow of something pacing on the other side. Then, he heard the scraping sound of claws tearing wood, and the whine of an eager animal.
Sam ran the other way now back through the house with no idea where he was going now. He ran back into the living room where a cold wind blowing in stopped him in his tracks.
The front door stood wide open.
He didn’t want to look but something made him do so, making him turn to face them. Anita and Kelly stood in the living room. Anita was little pale and smeared with dirt from her journey back from her new grave but death not had time to anything to her beyond that. She might have been alive again but for the small hole in her chest. Death had not been so kind to her mother. Kelly was a wiry frame of bone held together by just scraps of rancid meat. Her face was mostly still there but it had bloated, most of her hair had fallen out, and whole colonies of critters seemed to have made a home of her cranium.
He made a start at the open door but found Button guarding the frame, snarling at him all bare bone amid patches of sickly fur.
“You’re A Bad Daddy!” Anita screamed in a shrilly voice and pointed her finger. One queue Button leapt up, pinning Sam against the wall. The dog’s Skeletal paws scratching into chest, its jaws waited half askew and emitting a fearsome noise.
Sam opened his mouth but no sounds came out.
“And, you were a worse husband Sam,” Kelly hissed. “You’re a pathetic, cowardly little thing.” A year in the ground had given her a voice deeper then a man’s, and dirt foamed along her bare gums as she talked, dribbling down what remained of her chin. “But, don’t worry...”
“I can fix it,” Anita said, and cruel smile crossed his daughter’s lips. “We’re going to be a family again.”
copyright 2010 Ryan M. Harris
Ryan M. Harris has granted Jezri's Nightmares non-exclusive right to publish Disturbing Behavior.
The winner of the poetry section of the contest was Victoria Blackwell with her entry, Halloween Spooks and Spirits. Be sure to check out her blog here.
Halloween Spooks And Spirits
Witches and ghosts and goblins appear,
as Halloween comes around each year.
They’re seeking and plotting to make you scream,
as if you were in a terrible dream.
Wickedly laughing and stirring their brew,
trying their best to terrify you.
They howl and moan into the night.
You imagine you see them, and feel a fright.
Children go out to trick or treat.
Is it worth all this, for something to eat?
They jump and run at every sound,
chasing each other all around.
Be strong. Be brave. Stay out of sight.
Their time is up, at the stroke of midnight.
For another year, they’ll have to wait,
to once again try and seal your fate.
copyright 2010 Victoria Blackwell
Victoria Blackwell has granted Jezri's Nightmares non-exclusive right to publish Halloween Spooks And Spirits.
I hope you enjoyed these two authors as much as I did! With Christmas coming up, we are all busy, busy, busy but I have a few treats planned for you all this week! Please be sure to check back and have a Scary Christmas!