24 March 2009


Henry leaned back on the couch. There was a show on television that he remembered liking once. He couldn't remember why, now, as it merged with the background noise. Traffic in the street, his wife on the phone with her sister, the dog barking. The dog barking was important, although he couldn't remember why. It wasn't his dog. His wife said she had gotten the dog because she felt watched every time she was in the backyard. A busy street ran by the front of the house, with strange people going to odd places for God-only-knows what reasons, but that didn't bother her. It was the undeveloped, uninhabited, shrew-infested tract of land behind the house that bothered her. It was her dog, and she should let it in.

Henry sat up straight as he remembered assuring her that he would let the dog in if she was still talking to her sister. He could still hear her talking. The dog had fallen silent, but she hadn't noticed, so Henry was still in the clear.

In slow, lumbering motions, Henry rose to his feet and moved to the kitchen. He could barely hear his wife upstairs as he passed through the archway and realized why she had wanted that assurance. Their bedroom was at the front of the house and she could hear almost nothing from the kitchen or backyard. Reaching the back door, he opened it and put his head out.

There was no dog.

There were several lilac bushes in the center of the yard, and a small fir tree growing at the corner of the shed. The shed itself was to the side of the yard, coming within a few feet of the high wooden fence that lined the property. Henry looked from bush to shed to bush to tree and saw no dog. Henry called out the dog's name, but as he listened to the answering silence he realized that it was silence, trees and grass rustling in the evening breeze but bereft of the noises of animals. Not even a cricket.

Henry looked to the light affixed to the front of the shed door and saw no mosquitoes or gnats. Moths were gathered nowhere. Henry gaped and studied the yard for any sign of life. He stared at the plants; the small dips, rolls, and rises that left his yard perpetually uneven; and the shed. He saw nothing but plants, shadows, and shed.

The lilac bushes each cast three shadows, one from the light on the shed, one from the kitchen light, and one from the light next to Henry's head at the back door. The shed should have cast the same three shadows, but only the one from its own light stretched into Henry's field of vision, the others blocked by the shed itself. The pine tree, at the back corner of the shed, was immersed in shadow.

Henry stepped back in and grabbed the flashlight he used to scare off intrusive possums. With a flick, he turned it on and shone it towards the pine tree. Shadow. Waving the flashlight around, he could discern a vague yet indescribable shape to the shadow but saw nothing to cast it. A motion caught in the corner of his eye caused him to turn the flashlight to the front of the shed.

The light at the front of the shed created a pool of light directly underneath it, and in the pool there was a shadow not cast on the ground but hanging in the air. The flashlight painted a silhouette of this second thing against the fence and Henry saw that it was like nothing he had ever seen or heard of. Something he would have not thought possible. Something that seemed, at last, to have noticed him.

His wife did not hear Henry's screams, nor did the neighbors hear hers

Goe, writing again.

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