A Pile Of Dust
by K. Kylyra Ameringer
Though the heat of the day was intense little warmth crept into the back garden. A coolness abided in the shadows; the chill of greedy growth gobbling up every ounce of sunshine to proliferate more verdancy.
Margaret headed toward the towering ancient winter cherry tree in the middle of the yard. It was suffering from the numerous sucker shoots that had sprung up out of the ground, that much was evident. While the young shoots were green and lush, the tree itself was twisted with age, large chunks of moss growing from every nook and cranny possible. Very few leaf buds were visible on its branches; most of its life was being sucked up through its root system from the wealth of young shoots.
Margaret grabbed the nearest bunch of sucker trees and hacked at their base. Repeated attempts finally broke through the tough fibres, and Margaret pulled a great handful of severed twigs up. Their ends dripped with sap, a gooey substance the colour of rust. Holding them away from her clothes, Margaret shambled to the mound in the corner to throw them on the heap and begin again.
The branches of the mound shuddered with movement and a low hiss issued forth. Margaret stopped in her tracks and peered towards the pile of refuse. Had a cat gotten in there?
Four long claws groped their way out of the opening. If Margaret had been standing any further away she might have missed their stealthy appearance; they were a dark rich green that melded easily with the foliage on the pile. A hand slithered its way out, a hand so pale it seemed almost transparent.
Margaret felt a few hot drops of urine moisten her underwear. The back of her mind quickly registered the fact that every bird call, every noise from the outside world had stopped. She felt caged in by the open green of the yard, cut off from her neighbors by the impenetrable growth. Her feet stumbled back towards the house as an arm followed the hand out of the hole. The stench of rotting vegetation rolled towards her like a storm, assaulting her senses like a tornado; twirling around in its sickly sweetness until Margaret tasted bile in the back of her throat.
A head emerged from the hole, squeezing itself out from the impossible small opening to emerge with a wet pop. The face was a sick parody of human features; they looked as if they'd been crudely carved from a soft wood. Gouges and unevenness marked the creature, whatever it was. It fixed its pink eyes with red pupils on Margaret and hissed, showing splintered teeth over four inches long. Its long, cord-like hair whipped around it of its own free will, like the branches of a tree caught in a violent wind.
"H-hail Mary, f-f-full of .... H-hail M-m-mary ..." The chants of her church, repeated so often since childhood, were forgotten in the face of her terror. Her mumblings brought more hissing from the creature and it began to hurry the process of extracting itself from the hole in the mound.
Margaret didn't wait to see any more. Turning tail she moved faster than she knew her sixty-eight year old frame was capable of and ran for the safety of the house. The stench of the creature surrounded her; she was sure her old flesh would be caught by those claws at any moment, and then she would feel the bite of teeth ...
Slamming the back door shut, Margaret turned the key in the lock (thank God she left it there) and listened, trembling violently. A snuffling sound came from the door and then a scratching, long and delicate like those sharp claws had been dragged down the surface of the wood lightly, lovingly. Backing away from the door she hurried through the house to the phone. Her hands shook as she picked up the receiver. Her ears caught a dial tone, bringing a moment's brief sound of sanity before the line went dead.
The back door started banging, and Margaret whimpered. She made her way to the front of the house and peered out at the road. Her Honda Civic stood parked at the top of the drive, twenty or thirty steps away from the front door. Grabbing for her purse she dumped its contents on the floor in her haste to find her car key. There was a bang on the window from behind her, then scrabbling at the front door. Margaret eased herself into the hall; the front door was shaking in its frame and she whispered out a desperate prayer to keep the lock secure.
The door stood solidly, keeping whatever was outside from coming in. Margaret slowly released her breath; she hadn't even realized she was holding it. It seemed like she wouldn't be able to leave the house, but if the creature was kept outside she might be able to hold on until someone came to help her. She was, after all, expecting the local lad to come by; perhaps he'd even show up in the morning. He was young and strapping. Margaret was positive that with his help she could escape.
Minutes ticked by into hours and Margaret was quick to discover that as long as she remained in the house and did not attempt to leave by either door she was left alone, but when she reached for a door handle the scratching and banging would begin. Darkness fell outside and as the latest quietness stretched out longer and longer Margaret became aware of two things; a gnawing hunger in her belly and a stale stink of sweat off her own body.
She crept into the kitchen, her eyes glued to the windows facing the back garden. The darkness there was absolute; not one outline or shape could clearly be made out. Refusing to turn on the lights and make herself more visible from the outside, Margaret felt her way blindly, groping for the loaf of bread she'd bought earlier from the supermarket.
A breathless scream escaped from her as her eyes caught a pair of blazing pink eyes with red pupils staring at her from the window. She bolted from the kitchen, slamming hard into the sharp edge of the countertop before she made the relative safety of the hallway.
Crawling on the thin carpet, Margaret kept her head low and made her way down to the last bedroom. She reached up from the floor to close the curtains; she didn't want to show her face or see those eyes again. Groping her way to the bed, she found her small bag and threw it to the floor. Exhausted with terror but too wound up to sleep, Margaret curled up on the bed in a fetal position and began praying.
A Pile Of Dust by K. Kylyra Ameringer