F is for Funghi


  F is for Funghi

They Dance to Mother Moonlight


Beneath the sparkling green grass of our lawns lies an entirely different world. A world of old beliefs, and primitive worship to old gods whose names have been lost to eternity.   
For Eric cutting the grass has become a new adventure, not only does he have to watch out for Nadine’s flowers, but a new arrival makes itself known, and he quickly discovers this creature is not one to be trifled with.

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"And be careful around my flowers," Nadine shouted from the door as Eric crossed the back yard to the shed in the corner. His hands stuffed into the pockets of his shorts, his shoulders drooping as if they carried the weight of the world upon them. Which in a sense they did.

They carried Nadine’s endless worry about needles things, her constant nagging, as she reminded him daily how she could have married Howard down the street. That he should be thankful she chose him instead, but of course a cretin such as he would never understand the supreme sacrifice she made in becoming his wife. 

“Of course dear,” he said more to himself. After the door slammed and he was sure she was out of earshot, he continued, under his breath. “I’ll run the little bastards down first chance I get, I’ll chop them into mush and carry them into your clean living room on my shoes. I’ll put my feet up on the couch and stain the fabric green with their blood.”

Of course he would do none of this. It was better to just make his way through the day, do as he was told him, and live out his life firmly planted beneath her thumb. Besides, she had money, old money from a family business that had been passed down from generation to generation since the earliest days of the colonies. Money that allowed him to live a life of leisure. They had enough money to hire a gardener to care for their simple lawn, but it was the one thing he actually enjoyed doing, and as it took only a few hours once a week, it wasn’t overly labor intensive.

A concept that fit well with his outlook on life.

At the shed he pulled the push mower from its shadowy interior, enjoying the scent of gas mingling with the odor of cut grass as he topped off the tank and primed the carburetor. The mower roared to life on the first pull and he smiled as the sound of the engine drowned out the shrieking voice of his wife that echoed from the depths of his mind. Sometimes he thought about using the mower on her, running it back and forth across her face as the steel blades did their duty, but he knew that would never happen. Doing that would only jeopardize the life he led. He’d lose everything including his freedom.

No it was better to just live with it.

After carefully cutting around her flowers, all the while resisting the urge to just run them over, he moved to the back perimeter and was running along the high privacy fence that blocked their view of the Morison’s when the mower went through a dip in the yard that wasn’t there two weeks ago. The blade cut into the ground, nearly stalling out as he pushed through the dip until the mower was on the other side. Shutting it off he looked down into a small cavity that appeared to have a hole in the bottom.

How did that get there? He wondered, his gaze drawn to the Morison’s overgrown yard on the other side of the privacy fence. He could see the high weeds through the slats of the fence. It looked like the yard had not been cut in months. But that couldn’t be right, he thought, as he searched his memory for the last time he’d seen either of them.

Neither he nor Nadine were close with the neighbors in the back, hence the reason for the privacy fence, Eric found them to be quite boring. The few times he’d spoken with either Jake, or his wife Estelle, he’d come away with the impression that they were made for one another, and as unimaginative as two bumps on a log.

With a shrug he returned his attention to the hole that had mysteriously appeared in their back yard. Its proximity to the fence led him to believe the cause lay in the neighbors yard, and he knew if he was unable to rectify the problem, he’d have to go over there and have a chat with them. It was a task he did not relish. Jake was the kind of guy that was likely to take things to a physical level if he was intellectually outclassed.

Retrieving a shovel from the shed he returned to the hole and poked around with the tip to see if he could determine what was responsible for the hole. Groundhog was the first thought to pop into his mind as he probed the depths with the shovel. Having grown up in the county he was more familiar with groundhogs than most people who only ever saw them on Groundhog day when they emerged to proclaim the end of winter or foretell another six weeks of ice and snow. They were not the cuddly creatures they were made out to be, and though they were usually quite roly-poly there was a viciousness about them, after all they were a wild animal.

As he probed the depths he spotted movement, something white had briefly appeared, accompanied by a hissing sound reminiscent of a snake. Suddenly the shovel was snatched from his hand and yanked into the ground. The handle dropping into the hole until there was only a foot of it left sticking out of the ground. He wrapped his hands around the handle, fully intending to pull it back out, when the wood slipped through his grip and the entire shovel vanished into the opening.


He stood gazing into the hole for a moment, still not believing what happened before reason reasserted itself, and he was overwhelmed with the desire to run. He raced back to the house, glancing over his shoulder, expecting to find some unnamable thing pursuing him across the well manicured lawn. At the door he fumbled with the handle as a soft whine emerged from the back of his throat. Just when he thought he was going to pass out from his panic, or even worse, suffer a heart attack from his heart thundering in his ears, the door opened and he stumbled into the immaculate mud room.

“Is that you?” Nadine shouted from the depths of the house as he struggled to catch his breath, his hands gripping the sides of the utility sink to hold himself upright. He didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath the entire time and as he struggled to catch up black spots danced before his eyes.

“I just cleaned, don’t be tracking mud into the house.” He voice came from the kitchen beyond the doorway. Footsteps sounded as a shadow crossed the kitchen and he stood up, trying to fix a smile to his face as she came into view.

The screeching nature of her voice belied the simple beauty of her face. Were one to hear her without actually seeing her they would assume she were a shrew like woman with a hatchet face and a blade like nose. On the contrary she was quite simply, beautiful. With short blonde hair framing a symmetrical face that featured sparkling blue eyes.

Why she ever married him was one of the mysteries he chose not to solve, content to accept the fact that she was his wife. She was a compendium of contradictions, beautiful and smart, yet a terrible nag with a little problem keeping the house clean. It’s been said every dark cloud had a silver lining, sometimes those silver linings hid a much darker secret in their shimmering depths.

Nadine’s was fastidious. Always cleaning, never relaxing, and the house sparkled as a result of her obsession. Yet one could not live in a place this clean, not when the smallest piece of dust sent her into a cleaning frenzy. The house looked like it had been taken from the pages of some national magazine, so sterile, so perfect. It lacked that lived in appearance, a fact that kept Eric constantly on his toes.

“Are you all right?” she asked when his frightened expression became obvious to her. She crossed the mud room with a look of concern, her hand out to help him.

“I’m okay,” he said, “a squirrel startled me,” he lied, grabbing for the first thing that popped into his mind.

“A squirrel scared you?” she said as a smile spread across her face, revealing sparkling white teeth.

“Yeah, a squirrel, I must have startled it or something, it ran across my foot and scared the crap out of me.”

“It wasn’t rabid was it?” She asked, her smile fading as she glanced out the window into the back yard. “Maybe we should call animal control,” she said, her amusement turning to concern. “It didn’t bite you did it?”

“No, of course not, it just scared me, that’s all. I’ll be okay.

“Are you sure?” The mistrust grew in her eyes as they shifted from the window to Eric’s face, then back again. It was another of her little idiosyncrasies, she hadn’t been outside in over a year. Her doctor said she suffered from Agoraphobia, among other things. The last time she stepped outside, no further than the patio, she’d suffered a panic attack so bad she had to go into the hospital.

They’d met when he put out flyers to cut people’s grass after losing his job and she became one of his best customers. After a year of taking care of her lawn she had invited him inside and from that their friendship had grown into a relationship. Even when they got married it was in the house. At the time he had been blind to what his future might hold, but it wasn’t long before their clashes started, and Nadine’s true nature emerged. 




“Absolutely,” he said as he showed her his arms and legs, letting her inspect every square inch of his exposed flesh. She nodded satisfied as she stood up and glanced again at the back door.

“Did you finish?”

“Still have to cut the grass, I’m gonna take care of it,” he said, his earlier fear having evaporated.

It was nothing, he sought to convince himself as Nadine turned and walked across the kitchen.

“I’m going down to work out while you finish, how does Chicken Cordon Bleu sound for dinner?”

“Fabulous,” he said.

She glanced back at him with a wide smile before she vanished down the stairs to the basement.

The root of the problems between them lay with him. It was only natural that he would want to go out, after all he didn’t have the same problems she did. While he found her fascinating and exciting, as well as quite sexy, he had to interact with other people. At first she fought against his need to just get out of the house, demanding that he stay with her. A couple of times, in the early days of their relationship he had moved out, but she would call, begging him to come back, and he would always relent.

Before long they came to an understanding. He would do all the shopping, eliminating the need to have things delivered. While running his errands he could mingle with other people. Hang out with his friends for an hour or so, and so on. As long as he always kept in touch, and came home to her, she was happy. It was an agreement he could live with, and while his friends might have teased him about the short leash she kept him on, he was happy, what they didn’t know about, was the size of her sexual appetite.

It may have been the chemical imbalance in her brain that caused it, or the array of drugs she took to counter that imbalance. Whatever the cause. every so often she would become overwhelmed with a need he found difficult to satisfy no matter how long or hard he tried. She once described it as an itch he could just barely reach, as they lay side by side in her king size bed after a long night of very passionate sex. She was an animal in bed, the exact opposite of how she portrayed herself to everyone else.

As the sound of her running on the treadmill came from the basement he stepped outside. She would spend an hour or so in her fully equipped gym that took up one half of the basement. It was the only room in the house he was not allowed to enter and he had only ever been in it once, when she showed it to him after they first got together. It was her sanctuary and Eric had always kept his promise to her to respect her privacy while she was working out.

The remainder of the day passed uneventfully. He finished the grass without further incident though he did keep a close eye on that hole as he cut the rest of the yard.  By the time dinner was finished and they were watching one of Nadine’s favorite shows, Grays Anatomy, he had completely forgotten about the hole along the fence in the back yard.

Later that night with Nadine fast asleep beside him, he was startled awake by a strange sound. He lay in bed listening, trying to determine what the sound was, and where it might be coming from. The pale light of a full moon painted the shadowy branches of the tree behind their house on the wall across from the bed, and Eric watched them moving back and forth in time with that rhythmic sound that lay just at the edge of his consciousness. 

Quietly slipping out of bed, so as not to disturb Nadine who was snoring quietly, he crossed to the French doors that led out onto a small balcony overlooking their back yard.  Here the sound was louder and he recognized it as faint music that seemed to have no source.

He opened the door carefully and stepped out onto the balcony, pulling the door shut behind him. Outside it was obvious the sound was music, and it appeared to be coming from his back yard neighbors, the Morison’s house. But there were no lights on, and the house had an abandoned, neglected air about it. The overgrown yard, the shades pulled down at all the windows. It looked as if they had just up and left in the middle of the night.

The sound of the music grew louder, a soft lilting melody that was unlike anything he’d ever heard before. It wasn’t classical, modern, rock, or even rap. Just a gentle melody that immediately put him at ease even though he was standing on the balcony in the middle of the nigh wearing only a pair of boxers. The moon emerged from behind a bank of clouds, filling the yard below with a pale effervescent light, and in it he thought he detected movement.

Something shifted in that soft white light and he immediately latched onto the word undulate. It hadn’t moved in the traditional sense. He rubbed his eyes as he peered down at the back yard, near the fence where that hole was, and again he spotted movement. A flowing, rolling motion undulating in time with the music. It spread out and withdrew like the waves of the ocean as it flowed back and forth across the lawn.

What was it? He wondered as he rubbed his tired eyes again, peering into that eerie glow, trying to make out any detail that might give him a clue to what he was looking at. As the sound of the music washed through him he felt his eyelids growing heavier with every passing moment.

“Wake up sunshine,” Nadine said as he pulled back the drapes, filling the room with bright morning sunlight. He sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes as he tried to remember when he had come in from the balcony.


“What?” he said, looking around with a bewildered expression, “but I was…” and he let the thought die.

“What’s wrong with you?’ Nadine said as she crossed to the bed and sat down on the edge, her hand coming to rest on his thigh. “I gotta tell you, last night was amazing, I have never been as satisfied as I was after last night.”

“What are you talking about?” He said, searching his mind for any clue to what had happened. The last thing he could remember was standing on the balcony trying to figure out what was hiding in the shadows of the shed.

They dance to mother moonlight. The thought whispered through his mind and he shuddered.

“Don’t you remember? My god I’ve never cum so hard in my life, it felt like you were filling me up. I can’t believe you’d forget something that amazing.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just,” he fumbled over his words, trying to hide his confusion.”

“You must be tired after that performance, tell you what how about I fix you breakfast in bed?”

That was a switch, usually it was Nadine bitching at him because he never offered to fix her breakfast in bed. What was going on?

“Grab a shower if you want, It’ll only take me twenty minutes or so, bacon, eggs scrambled hard, oh you were hard last night, coffee and grapefruit. I believe we have everything we need.” With that she was out of the room, leaving Eric alone to try and figure out what had happened.

Throwing back the covers he swung his legs out of bed and crossed to the bathroom without getting dressed. After relieving himself he climbed into the shower and was soaping himself up when he stopped. There was something hard on his inner thigh and he washed away the soap to expose the flesh.

It was a bump, about the size of a quarter, a hard object was pushing against his flesh from beneath. Cyst, tumor, the thought tumbled through his mind and he knew he would have to make an appointment to have it looked at.

After drying off he checked the bump again, realizing that it appeared to have grown to twice its size, a hard point beneath the flesh that rubbed against his other thigh as he walked. He’d definitely have to make an appointment today.

“Breakfast is served,” Nadine called out from the bedroom and Eric left the bathroom, crossing to the bed while still nude, Nadine’s hungry expression watching him every step of the way.

“Maybe tonight we’ll have a repeat,” she said after tucking him in and placing the tray with his breakfast across his legs. Eric looked from the food on the tray to Nadine’s ravenous expression and felt his appetite leaving him. He was nothing more than her play thing and the realization awakened a cold ball in the pit of his stomach. As long as he performed as she expected he was safe, but what would happen the moment he didn’t?

There’s had never been a sexual relationship until this moment and Eric felt ill equipped to carry on in the capacity she seemed to expect him to. Sure they’d had sex in the past, but nothing like what she had obviously experienced the night before, and still he couldn’t recall anything beyond standing on the balcony trying to get a glimpse at what was hiding in the shadows next to the shed.

Maybe,” he offered, unsure if he would be able to live up to her expectations.

“You better eat before your breakfast gets cold,” she said before leaving the room, “I’m going down to work out, if I can after last night.” Like that she was gone, leaving Eric alone with his thoughts.

After finishing his breakfast he got dressed and slipped into the back yard. Nadine was still working out in the basement, the sound of her treadmill running with that unmistakable rumble that whispered through the house with a low roar. At the shed he searched the ground in the area where he’d seen that movement the night before. There was nothing there, at least nothing that offered any clue to what he’d seen.

Crossing to that mysterious hole he cautiously looked down into those shadowy depths. It appeared the hole had gotten bigger since the last time and from within came a strange, rhythmic sound that he found eerily familiar. His gaze was once again drawn to the overgrown nature of the Morison’s back yard on the other side of the privacy fence.

Their house stood on the other side of that ocean of weeds that rippled in response to the touch of a soft breeze. The house itself carried an abandoned air to it, the window shades drawn against the morning light. He knew he would have to go around and talk to them, find out what was going on with their yard. A task he was not looking forward to. But it was something that had to be done. 


The walk around the block was both uneventful and much too short. At Persimmon street he turned right for the final leg of his journey. All of the streets in their sub-division had been named after assorted fruits, flowers, and trees. Persimmon was intersected by Elm and Maple that formed one block with Elderberry being the street they lived on. As he neared the Morison’s the day that had started out bright and sunny, suddenly became overcast and dreary.

Their front yard mirrored the back with overgrown grass creating a perimeter around the split level structure that sat back from the street. The window shades were drawn, giving the house that abandoned look, and as he slowly walked down the street he noticed that the houses around the Morison’s had taken on that same appearance. Their yards in the early stages of becoming overgrown. Shades drawn against the sunlight, that overwhelming sense of abandonment spreading out from the Morison’s to strangle the life from the neighbors around them.

It was a wonder the homeowners association was allowing this. Maybe they weren’t aware of what was happening. Maybe there had been no time to alert them.

His footsteps had taken on a hollow sound as he neared his destination, even the air around him carried an oppressive sensation that seemed to be warning him away. He felt it on a deep, emotional level, some unnamable thing striving to squash even the faintest glimmer of hope.

As he stood in front of the Morison’s he felt a momentary panic as the house seemed to loom over him. Leering at him with its sightless windows, teasing him with secrets hidden behind drawn shades. He was about to step across the point of no return, once he committed himself to the course of action he’d been considering, he knew there would be no turning back. Today this place would reveal its secrets.

The macadam of the driveway was cracked along its edges, several large chunks having become dislodged, like the ice shelf in Antarctica whose leading edge was continuously  breaking off as the glacier pushed outwards. He knew for a fact the driveway had been redone less than a year before. He could remember the smell of the fresh asphalt that had plagued their mornings for an entire week when it was done. Now it looked as if it had been here for decades, fissures and cracks criss-crossed its surface and in many places fresh glass grew from between them.

As he entered the shadow of the house a fresh chill washed down his spine and he almost turned away at that point. Almost. He pushed on, crossing to the small front porch beneath an awning that shrouded the front door into deep shadows.

He knocked, the sound echoing through the house beyond with an emptiness that touched him in some dark primitive place. They hadn’t been here for a long time. Leaning to his right he cupped his hands around his face as he looked through the window. Beyond the sheer curtains the house lay silent and still.

Turning back he retraced his steps down the stairs and crossed to the double doors of the garage. Inside were the shadowy lumps of two cars sitting side by side, the shadows dense along the back wall. He moved on, along the side of the house to the back yard. As he crossed to the back door he glanced at the privacy fence on the other side of the overgrown yard. From his vantage point he could only see the peak of the roof of his house poking over the top of the fence.

It offered a life line, a connection to the reality of the world he had come from. Reaching the Morison’s back deck he crossed the weathered boards to the sliding glass door whose surface reflected the lows clouds that had emerged as he neared the house. Cupping his hands to block the reflection he peered into the shadowy interior of the house.

Inside he saw a kitchen, counters along one wall, an island in the middle of the floor, and a breakfast nook to the left. As he peered into the shadowy interior of the house he became aware of movement in the high grass behind him. Spinning around he saw the tops of the grass moving in response to whatever was approaching. They were coming at him from three different directions.

He glanced to his right, back the way he had come, spotting movement in the dense weeds. A soft mewling came from the shadowy depths of the grass, like that of a baby, and he spun around to grasp the handle of the sliding glass door. As he did he became aware of a faint rumbling, like the pulse of some massive living thing, thrumming through his hand in time with the beat of his own heart.

He knew this sound, had heard it many times over the years he’d been married to Nadine. It was the sound her treadmill made while she was working out. But that wasn’t possible, there was no way that sound could be heard over here. She was in their basement on the other side of the block.

That mewling sound grew louder, bordering on a screech, and he tugged at the handle only to find the door locked. They were getting closer, he heard them moving through the tall grass behind him, slithering through the dense weeds like snakes on the prowl. In the glass beside him, reflected from the back yard, he saw the weeds directly behind him parting.


A slender object emerged from the weeds, slithering across the deck towards him as movement came from the overgrown yard around him. He twisted the door knob in his hand, his palm slick with sweat against the cool metal surface, leaning into the door with enough force to cause the glass of bow as the door creaked in its frame.

He twisted the knob savagely back and forth as that slender object reached his booted foot, and he lifted it from the deck.

“Get away from me,” he screamed as he stomped on the object, causing it to retreat hastily, dragging its broken tip across the boards of the deck. It was then he saw other slender appendages reaching up through the narrow openings between each board. Hundreds of them it seemed. One tapped the top of his boot, probing the leather surface, and he danced away with a strangled cry of terror.

The door popped open, swinging out, and he quickly darted into the shadowy interior of the house. From behind the safety of the closed door he watched those slender tentacles as they grew from between the boards, weaving back and forth in time to the beat of a silent song. Shaken, covered in a layer of sweat that lay cold against his skin, he turned to the interior of the house, trying to put the image of those tentacles out of his mind.

It appeared he had just jumped from the frying pan into the fire. The walls of the house were covered in a lattice work of slender tentacles that moved in time with the same unheard song. They covered every available object around him save the floor that lay barren in the shadows.

From the depths of the house came that steady sound, the thrumming he’d grown quite familiar with over the time he’d been married. Like the steady beat of some massive heart it marked the passing seconds as he carefully ventured into the deeper shadows.

Coming to the foyer at the front of the house his eyes were drawn to two shadowy objects hanging in the space a crystal chandelier once occupied. Covered in a dense lattice work of small vines, it was readily obvious that beneath them he would probably find the bodies of Jack and Estelle. He felt no sorrow at their passing, only fear that he might join them unless he found a way out.

The front door was covered by a dense layer of interwoven vines that prevented him from opening the door. Among the tangled masses he spotted movement as several of the smaller vines slithered across the larger ones, securing the exit. The front windows offered no escape either as he went from one to the next, the wooden frames invisible beneath a dense layer of gray colored vines that were very much alive, though they appeared dead.

As he moved through the house he remained unaware of the steady movement behind him, vines rose from the walls stretching across to their brethren  to create an impenetrable barrier. After checking the last window on the front of the house, he turned to retrace his steps, only to find his path blocked. He had no other choice, he had to continue in the direction he had been going as it was the only way open to him.

He was being corralled, directed to a destination he had yet to understand. Passing through the dining room that steady beat grew louder all around him, it was the only sound in the house, and as he passed through the room he came to the opening that led down into the bowels of the house.

That steady thrumming sound was coming from those shadowy depths and he stopped at the top of a slanted corridor fully encased by intertwined vines, some as thick as his thigh, and he knew he had reached the heart of this strange beast. From below came that familiar sound, that of the treadmill, accompanied by the running footsteps of someone, most likely Nadine, running full tilt.

The interlaced vines behind him pushed him towards that narrow opening and he tried to keep from falling into that shadowy maw. But it was no use, he was powerless against the combined strength of this alien thing, and before he knew it he was tumbling headlong down that dim corridor.

He tried to work out what manner of creature this was, only to come up empty. There was nothing within the grasp of his understanding to explain what this thing was. Only that it was huge, and had obviously been spreading for some time through the Morison’s house.

When was the last time he’d seen them? He wondered, aware that it had at least been several months. Had this thing been growing inside all that time?

What he could see of the basement was a dense forest of interlaced vines. Nothing looked as it should, and every available surface had been covered by these invading objects. The bar that once stood along the wall was wrapped in a layer of intertwined vines that pulsed in time with the steady thrumming sound so reminiscent of a heartbeat.

With a voice like the rice crispies cereal of his childhood, that impenetrable wall of vines grew behind him, pushing him down a narrow artery toward the sound pulsing through everything around him. He came to a wider room, the thrumming pulse so loud it wrapped itself about him, invading his body, his thoughts, matching the steady beat of his own heart stride for stride.

In the center of the room he saw her. Surrounded by a forest of these primitive things that seemed to be dancing in time with the steady rhythm coming from the treadmill she was running on. Sweat glistened against the flesh of her face, her eyes fixed on an object he could not see, her face set in a mask of disturbed concentration.

Onward she ran, her slender legs scissoring in a steady rhythm as she kept her pace on the treadmill. She was clinging to the handle with white knuckled hands and as he got closer he saw that she was far from enjoying herself. He had the impression she was no longer exercising, but was running for her life, the slender appendages surrounding her were weaving back and forth in time with the steady rhythm of her feet on the treadmill. 

Were they feeding on her misery? The thought stopped him cold as he took in the slender objects gathered around her in a dense crowd. They stood no more than two feet high, like supple tree branches with little to no distinguishing features to tell one from the next. At their base they were each connected to the other by an interlaced network of smaller vines that formed a latticework pattern on the painted concrete.

As he approached she turned her head and spotted him, her eyes growing wide in surprise as he gingerly made his way through the dense crowd that parted to permit him access.

“Can you stop?” He asked, and she shook her head silently. She was winded, struggling to maintain her pace, her face a mask of fatigued terror.

What could he do to save her? He wondered as he looked around the basement at the discarded electronic equipment scattered along the walls. How could he get her out of there? What would happen if she stopped running? The questions chased one another though his mind as he struggled to come up with a solution. His gaze fell on his old recording equipment, he’d put together tracks for a couple of local bands when he was much younger, driven by the hope of discovering something big. A hope that never panned out.

He looked back at the treadmill, at Nadine’s faltering step, the steady sound of her running missing several beats. She was winding down. The creatures became agitated at the interruptions, their smooth surfaces sprouting wicked barbed thorns that quickly smoothed over as the beat picked up again.

She was literally running for her life.

If he recorded her running, maybe he could get her out of here, get both of them out of here before those things turned nasty. The thorns had looked like they were quite capable of tearing a person to shreds. Was that what happened to the Morison’s? He turned away from that line of reasoning, focusing instead on getting his old equipment back together.

Confidence eluded him as he struggled to put his system back together. It had been too many years since he’d fooled with it, and he worked clumsily at first, then more confidently as muscle memory resurfaced to guide him. Soon he was ready and he cautiously approached the treadmill, taking care to avoid those dancing things gathered around her, the memory of those wicked thorns not far from his thoughts
 


He tried to work out what manner of creature this was, only to come up empty. There was nothing within the grasp of his understanding to explain what this thing was. Only that it was huge, and had obviously been spreading for some time through the Morison’s house.

When was the last time he’d seen them? He wondered, aware that it had at least been several months. Had this thing been growing inside all that time?

What he could see of the basement was a dense forest of interlaced vines. Nothing looked as it should, and every available surface had been covered by these invading objects. The bar that once stood along the wall was wrapped in a layer of intertwined vines that pulsed in time with the steady thrumming sound so reminiscent of a heartbeat.

With a voice like the rice crispies cereal of his childhood, that impenetrable wall of vines grew behind him, pushing him down a narrow artery toward the sound pulsing through everything around him. He came to a wider room, the thrumming pulse so loud it wrapped itself about him, invading his body, his thoughts, matching the steady beat of his own heart stride for stride.

In the center of the room he saw her. Surrounded by a forest of these primitive things that seemed to be dancing in time with the steady rhythm coming from the treadmill she was running on. Sweat glistened against the flesh of her face, her eyes fixed on an object he could not see, her face set in a mask of disturbed concentration.

Onward she ran, her slender legs scissoring in a steady rhythm as she kept her pace on the treadmill. She was clinging to the handle with white knuckled hands and as he got closer he saw that she was far from enjoying herself. He had the impression she was no longer exercising, but was running for her life, the slender appendages surrounding her were weaving back and forth in time with the steady rhythm of her feet on the treadmill. 

Were they feeding on her misery? The thought stopped him cold as he took in the slender objects gathered around her in a dense crowd. They stood no more than two feet high, like supple tree branches with little to no distinguishing features to tell one from the next. At their base they were each connected to the other by an interlaced network of smaller vines that formed a latticework pattern on the painted concrete.

As he approached she turned her head and spotted him, her eyes growing wide in surprise as he gingerly made his way through the dense crowd that parted to permit him access.

“Can you stop?” He asked, and she shook her head silently. She was winded, struggling to maintain her pace, her face a mask of fatigued terror.

What could he do to save her? He wondered as he looked around the basement at the discarded electronic equipment scattered along the walls. How could he get her out of there? What would happen if she stopped running? The questions chased one another though his mind as he struggled to come up with a solution. His gaze fell on his old recording equipment, he’d put together tracks for a couple of local bands when he was much younger, driven by the hope of discovering something big. A hope that never panned out.

He looked back at the treadmill, at Nadine’s faltering step, the steady sound of her running missing several beats. She was winding down. The creatures became agitated at the interruptions, their smooth surfaces sprouting wicked barbed thorns that quickly smoothed over as the beat picked up again.

She was literally running for her life.

If he recorded her running, maybe he could get her out of here, get both of them out of here before those things turned nasty. The thorns had looked like they were quite capable of tearing a person to shreds. Was that what happened to the Morison’s? He turned away from that line of reasoning, focusing instead on getting his old equipment back together.

Confidence eluded him as he struggled to put his system back together. It had been too many years since he’d fooled with it, and he worked clumsily at first, then more confidently as muscle memory resurfaced to guide him. Soon he was ready and he cautiously approached the treadmill, taking care to avoid those dancing things gathered around her, the memory of those wicked thorns not far from his thoughts



After recording five minutes of the treadmill he worked his way back to his equipment and finished setting it up. After establishing a five minute loop he flipped the switch to start the replay. Static hissed from the speakers and he adjusted the gain to blanket it. Faintly he heard the recording of the treadmill coming from the speakers and he twisted the volume dial all the way up, filling the basement with sound. They were out of sequence, the two separate sounds coming a split second apart, agitating the creatures around Nadine. Large thorns and assorted other piercing and cutting objects sprouted from their slender bodies and he hurriedly adjusted the speed of the replay to synchronize the two different, yet similar, sounds.

The creature closest to the speakers drifted towards the recorded sound, gathering around the twin speakers to dance in time with the steady thrumming. Slowly he turned the volume up, blanketing the sound of Nadine’s treadmill, drawing even more of the creatures to the speakers.

With a path cleared to the treadmill he raced over and got Nadine’s attention. Her eyes were bloodshot, her breathing came in ragged gasps, her hands grasping the bars so tight her knuckles looked like they were about to break through her skin.

“You can stop,” he said, motioning to the creatures that were now gathered around the speakers.

She shook her head silently, determined to see this to the bitter end, and he pointed at the speakers, turning her head against her will until she could see what was happening. She stopped then, that brief pause causing a flurry of activity to wash through the creatures who quickly settled down to continue dancing.

“We gotta get out of here, can you walk?”

Nadine nodded, took two steps off the treadmill, and collapsed into his arms. Holding her close he raced to the door and slipped through, closing it behind him, muting the recorded sound of the treadmill.

On this side of the door the basement was clear of that invading creature. The concrete block walls still white, but as he watched a faint pattern of darker lines appeared, growing thicker and darker with every passing second. All around them the pattern spread out across every available surface, those searching fingers of night reaching out from the other side of the wall where Nadine’s workout room was.

“We’ve gotta get out of the house,” he said as he lowered her to her feet.

“No! We can’t,” she replied, panic flashing in her eyes, “I can’t go outside.”

“We can’t stay here.” He pointed at the growing lattice work of searching vines that were racing across the walls around them, trying it seemed to block their escape.

He grabbed her hand and dragged her towards the narrow stairs, the walls to either side were already covered, small tendrils of night growing from the surface, reaching across the space to create a barrier. He plowed through the narrow vines, ripping and tearing his way up the steps as panic rushed through his body and his heart thundered in his chest.

They had almost made it, the faint glimmer of the door only inches away from his fingertips, when Nadine’s hand was ripped from his.

“No!” he screamed as he turned back to see her vanishing into a vine packed maw that slowly retreated down the steps. He tried to follow, intent on saving her, her screams muted by a dense layer of tentacles that lashed out at him with razor sharp thorns, laying open his cheek, slicing through the flesh of his arm as he raised it to protect himself.

He retreated, falling back into the kitchen, the image of Nadine vanishing into that squirming morass burned into his mind. Sure, she was a pain in the ass at times, but she surely didn’t deserve what happened to her. For the first time in a long time he was overcome by sadness. It was a sensation he hadn’t felt since his mother died when he was a child.

On its heels followed another, more familiar sensation, that sense of finally being free. It reminded him of when he was released from prison the first time, finishing a 2 year stint for burglary. It was a lightening of the spirit that put a spring in his step.

Nadine was no more, and as he thought this he heard the steady thump of the treadmill in the basement. They had gotten what they wanted and as he looked around the spotless kitchen he realized he was truly free for the first time in his life. She had money in the bank, more than he would ever need, and as her husband he had access to it.

He didn’t need to stay here any longer, he could move on with his life, never work another day and life a live of leisure. Pushing himself to his feet he worked out what he would have to do to get access to her cash. Her bank card was in her pocketbook still sitting on the counter, and he knew her pin number.

It would be a piece of cake to drain her account over the next few months and set himself up wherever he wanted to go. The world was his and as he crossed to the counter he realized the steady thrumming in the basement had stopped.

Had she worn herself out?

It started again and he smiled, let her run herself to death if that’s what she wanted, he was getting out of this place. As he searched through her pocketbook he didn’t hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs beyond the basement door. Nor did he notice the vines emerging from the walls around each door and window. He was focused on more important things as the door behind him swung open with a faint squeal he’d always promised her he would fix.

He did feel the icy hand on his shoulder, the sensation of something spreading across his chest and back, and when he spun around Nadine was waiting for him. But it wasn’t really Nadine anymore. It had her face, and her body, but what lived in the depths of her eyes was anything but the soul of the woman he’d married.  It was an alien thing that lived in her gaze, watching him with a cold indifference.

He felt the tentacles spreading across his chest and back. Climbing his neck and spreading out around his head, probing his lips, his nose, and his ears as a sweetly sinister voice whispered in his mind.

“Relax, this will only take a moment.”


THE END

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