October 10

Fictober, Prompt 10 – “It’s so quiet.”

Original fiction.

Warnings: horror, implied monster, implied violent death.

“And you’re sure everything’s all right? I don’t like you being out there alone,” Anna said.

I tucked my cell phone more firmly between my ear and my shoulder, thinking for probably the hundredth time that I really needed one of those little Bluetooth earpieces or something. “It’s fine, I promise. It’s so quiet, what could possibly happen? And besides,” I cut her off when I heard her take another breath to protest, “it’s not like I’m staying out here. Just stopping by the house once a day to make sure everything’s okay.” Carefully, I stepped up onto the chair and tilted the little battered tin watering can over the last of the house plants. Why I left the most difficult to reach one for last was anyone’s guess, but it always worked out that way. Probably subconscious avoidance, or something like that.

“I guess,” she agreed, sighing. “I just wish you wouldn’t go after dark.”

“Not much choice, at this point,” I muttered, then sighed myself, stepping down off the chair and dragging it back into the kitchen. “It’s getting dark so early these days, and you know I don’t get off work until six-thirty.”

“All right. Text me when you get home?”

“Sure,” I promised, and she let me hang up. “Okay,” I said to myself. “What else?”

Nothing for today, when I checked the list they had left for me. Today had been plant-watering day, and I’d brought in the newspaper and the mail, and made sure the traps were empty of mice. This house-sitting thing was pretty easy, really, mostly just a chunk of time out of my evening, and even that wasn’t a big deal for a couple of weeks. I didn’t know the Carters well, but had seen no reason to turn down their request, being one of the nearer neighbors out here; they didn’t have any pets to worry about, and were even paying me a little bit.

The house creaked and settled around me, which I was more used to now after a week. It was an older house, a farmhouse originally, though the neighboring fields were now owned by a neighboring farmer. I couldn’t remember what the Carters said they did, but it definitely wasn’t farming.

“Well, that’s it for today, then,” I told the house. Shrugging my coat back on and sliding into my shoes, I flipped out the lights near the door. There was one lamp, distant in the living room, that they had left on a timer, but that light didn’t really reach this far. Still, I hesitated.

Speaking of subconscious avoidance…this was the one thing I had found I didn’t like about house-sitting out here. The driveway ran up to the garage (a converted barn), which was some distance from the house, with only a small, not very well lighted path in between.

It’s just your imagination, I told myself firmly, stepping outside, pulling the door closed and locking it firmly. There’s nothing and no one out here except you.

The prickling at the back of my neck every night for the past week wanted to tell me otherwise, but I had looked around, even forcing myself to step off the path with my flashlight one night and looking further afield, but there had been nothing.

Ahead of me was the small light at the front of the garage, illuminating the small area where my car was parked, and beyond that, the neighboring farmer’s fields of corn and soybeans, not yet harvested. Behind me, on the other side of the house, the stand of aspens stood gray in the dark, the yellow-gold of their changing leaves dulled by the lack of light, shivering with a low susurration as the breeze picked up.

I told myself I wasn’t shivering too, and walked just a little more quickly.

Off to my right, in the deeper shadow between the house and the garage, came a low, moaning whine.

I froze, body locking tight with fear, and listened hard.

Nothing, except the whisper of wind through the trees. Forcing in a gulp of air, made myself turn and look, squinting into the darker area, wishing desperately that there was some kind of moonlight tonight.

I couldn’t- couldn’t see anything, though of course the garage light up ahead was not helping my night vision.

Still, it was almost certainly my imagination, given how spooked I’d been feeling out here every evening. I swallowed, deliberately made myself look to my car again, and started forward. I just needed to get that far and everything would be—

I had taken only three steps when I heard the noise again, and another sound, a strange shuffle, like something moving.

This time, when my head turned helplessly toward the shadowed stretch, there was a deeper shadow there, just at the edge of where the garage light reached. It moved, and suddenly there were eyes looking back at mine.

Eyes that glowed a sickly yellowish color. Eyes too low down to be human…but too far from the ground to be an animal.

Distantly, my brain told me that I was now equidistant between the house and my car, and that it would be better to get to my car. I could unlock it before I got to it, and could get the hell out of here if I could get inside.

Without a decision from the conscious part of my mind, I bolted for the car.

I could not avoid the moaning whine that rose into a yet more awful noise behind me, and the sound of pursuit, swifter than I had expected.

My hand fumbled in my jacket pocket for my keys. Why hadn’t I gotten them out before, I always got them in hand as soon as I was done locking the house—

The terrible sound of uneven, running footsteps was growing closer, and another moan rose. Somehow, I managed not to look behind me.

Pressing buttons on my key fob as soon as I could feel them, I finally heard the familiar beep and click of the doors unlocking, the car lights flashing once. There, and now I just had to get into it, only paces away now.

The sounds behind grew closer, louder, but I was almost there—

My fingers were inches from the door handle when something caught me around the ankle, and dragged me back.

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