Monica sees her dead son in mirrors. He’s always standing somewhere in the room behind her, staring, silent, sullen. Sometimes in the mirror her son is younger, just five or six, playing with his trucks or trains. But most of the time he is his 10-year-old self. He watches her brush her teeth, put on makeup, straighten her clothes. He glares, resentful.
It’s three a.m. and as her child lays beside her, she writes. She writes in a notepad that isn’t a notepad. It’s the very last page in a bible that she found in the nightstand. What she writes with is no pen but an eyeliner pencil on its last legs. When she runs the tip across the paper it hardly gets the words out. But desperate are those words scrawled in cursive. And it’s desperation that muffles her sobs.
Richard cursed softly at the state of the parking lot. Piles of rubble and broken bottles covered the asphalt. Shards of glass glittered menacingly, concealing the lot striping. In no mood for punctured tires, he inched his beaten gray SUV around the edge of the lot. By some miracle, a bare spot remained near the curb. He stepped out, massaging his cramped legs, and didn’t bother to glance at the object that loomed overhead.
The dollar store’s windows had been smashed, leaving holes big enough to step through. Richard, eyeing the jagged edges, went for the door. His shoulders slumped with relief as he looked upon racks of laundry detergent, party hats, and off-brand mustard. Perhaps the vandals hadn’t found much worth taking. In any case, it was best not to linger. He hurried down the aisles.
It was an in-between sort of creature. If nothing else, they could agree on that. And as they waited for the others in the last light of the frozen hills, Flanagan was beginning to wish they hadn’t caught it. When he’d first glimpsed it writhing in the snare, he’d mistaken it for a child; it was only after Miller had seen it too that he’d accepted it as real and not a fiction of his senses. They’d been staring at the snow-sealed landscape for so long now that no one trusted their eyes. The sea of white was hypnotic, with a lurid, febrile quality that the hunger played with in unsettling ways.
Tugging on the rope, Flanagan heard a stumbling of hooves and the same whimper he’d first mistaken for an infant’s.
the wings of a plane overhead
intersect perfectly with the back
of an eagle perched
on a gravestone.
No one actually knew if a girl drowned in the pond or not. That’s what local legend suggested, and plenty of people swore they remembered hearing about a tragic afternoon where something like that happened. That, and the family that moved away from the home on the small hill above it. Was the girl their daughter? A stranger? It depended on who you asked.
Her briefcase thudded against the stairs as Elise went up into the house. The client’s son Wade led the way. Despite his age – early thirties, she guessed – there was a white streak in his hair like he’d suffered a terrible fright and never recovered. “Not many female operators these days,” he offered – the typical preamble.
“Not many operators full stop,” she replied. “And mostly freelance since the HC downsized.”
Rose always admired the ogre’s house with its symmetrical shutters and tidy porch, swept clean even in the autumn when dry, curling leaves scuttled in the wind. Some neighbors’ porches were full of bric-a-brac, odds and ends that found no place within the house: an old, threadbare chair, a snow shovel despite a spring thaw. But the ogre’s house was immaculate, everything just so. Often, Rose stood in her dining room window staring across the street at the ogre’s house, sipping her morning coffee or clipping a final hair-roller in place before bed. Its white pillars and low railing bolstered her dreams, and Rose would sometimes wake up, her pillowcases soaked in sweat, her body aching for the serenity of that porch.
We are sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast. My wife Linda is saying something about a dream she had last night. Here is what she says.
“I was sitting in my seat at the cinema when these two guys came in. They were dressed in black and wore masks that covered their entire faces. I couldn’t even see their eyes. They had guns and said they would kill someone if they didn’t get what they wanted. They followed through with that threat and shot me right in the head.”