Archive for June, 2012

Many weeks had passed since she saw the first touch of green from her pillow. The young plants imparted hope as she endured test after test, and painful treatments. Their delicate flowers slowly morphed into green berries she wanted to pluck when ripe.

She awoke , a week after her final treatment, to find juicy red berries.  Grabbing the ringing phone with eager hands, she held her breath as she listened, sighing as she ended the call. Getting to her feet she headed outside, plucked a sun-warmed berry and popped it in her mouth.

“I am happy to say I will be here next year, to pluck you again.”



Stepping out the back door, she paused as she did every morning when the  joy grabbed her heart. After nine years in a one-bedroom walk up in the city, they had finally saved enough money to buy their dream home. Her husband, a hard-working electrician had never let her give up on their dream. Filling her lungs with crisp morning air, she gazed over the two acres she still couldn’t believe they owned.

She knew the largely natural, wooded property was meant for them the first time they coasted up the drive. Aged trees framed the lot, ending in a dense patch of woods at the rear of the lot. A natural stream meandered through the ground, filling the air with the sound of bullfrogs and buzzing dragonfly wings.  Numerous out-buildings dotted the land behind the two-story, almost two-hundred year old house.

Her focus today was one of the outbuildings, a small, clapboard structure that once served as a tool shed judging by what she found on a quick walk through. Making her way over the field she pushed the creaky door, letting her eyes adjust to the murky atmosphere before going in. Nobody had found it necessary to install electric to the outbuildings, so she had to work while the sun filtered through the windows.

Setting her sights on the sagging shelves at the rear of the building she sorted treasures from trash, marveling at the ancient tins and tools she could use or sell. Wiping her palms on her jeans she realized she should wear work gloves, but she couldn’t stand the detached feeling they produced. She like to feel the earth and textures around her, gloves made her feel isolated from the experience. Or, why she would never have pristine hands with perfectly manicured nails.

Her grumbling stomach forced her to check the time.

“One O’clock already? No wonder my tummy is complaining.”

Putting sown the coffee can full of hardware she had been sorting she headed for the door, cursing as her shin smacked into the handle of a wooden wheelbarrow she hadn’t noticed before.

“Damn, that stings,” she yelped, rubbing her shin, “I’ll deal with you when I get back!”

Making her way to the house she stopped to refill her bird feeders and add clean water to the bird bath. Entering the house she was greeted by her ancient dog who still managed to wag his tail and two grumpy cats who felt they had waited long enough for their morning tuna treat. Making sure they had what they needed she headed to the fridge to find some lunch.

Noticing the flashing red light on the answering machine, she pushed play, grabbed a diet Pepsi and started assembling her sandwich as her husband’s voice filled the kitchen. It made her smile as it always did, their many years together hadn’t changed their friendship or devotion. He informed her that he was calling to say hi, I love you and can’t wait to get home.  She wolfed down her lunch, tossed the plate in the dishwasher and headed back to the shed. Once her eyes adjusted to the murk she headed to the back of the shed, banging a shin on that blasted wheelbarrow again!

“Damn, I have to put you outside, this is getting to be a painful habit!”

The wheelbarrow, made entirely of hardwood, had long, graceful handles that felt nice to hold. The only iron was the bolts holding the pieces together, the axle and its flat, rusted wheel with bulky spokes. The iron wheel echoed off the debris on the floor as she pushed it toward the door, smashing nuts, glass or anything in its way. Maneuvering it out the door she planned to move it to one side until she figured out what to do with it,  but when she saw a group of ants working a hill she shoved the wheelbarrow into their home, scattering and smashing as many as she could. Releasing the handles she stared, wondering how she ended up there, frowning when she saw the damage to the ants.

Wondering what could be mean enough to destroy an entire ecosystem she decided to return to the house. Not feeling quite right, she took a bath and curled up in a window seat to catch up on her reading.

Saturday morning, she stretched, smiling when she realized Rick would be home all day. They had plans to clear litter and other debris from the stream and put in a few sitting areas to relax and enjoy nature.  After a quick breakfast, they headed outside, agreeing that they needed some of the rocks they had collected to add basking sites for frogs and snakes.

“Wait! I have the perfect tool to haul rocks. I found an old wheelbarrow in one of the sheds yesterday, I’ll go get it.”

Beaming with happiness, he watched his wife navigate the uneven ground as she gripped the long wooden handles of her find.

“This should work!” she shouted.

“Look hon! Our garden snakes are out. Even the babies are coming out,” he called. Watching in horror as his wife steered the wheelbarrow toward the reptiles. He screamed at her to stop but she seemed oblivious to his voice as she drove the heavy steel wheel over the family.

“What are you doing? Stop it!” he shouted, pulling her hands from the wheelbarrow.

Her eyes seemed unfocused as she looked into his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, “Why are you looking at me like I just killed your best friend?”

Staring at the broken bodies of the young snakes, he didn’t know what to say. He picked her up and took her into the house, laying her on the couch. As she dozed he decided he needed a beer, hell, that wouldn’t stop his shaky hands or frazzled nerves after what he witnessed, he wasn’t even sure the whiskey he was pouring could do the trick.  Swallowing the contents of the glass he quickly poured another shot before perching on the coffee table to stare at his sleeping wife, the wife who fed birds, saved mice trapped in the house and refused to let him move a pile of brush because a family of snakes had taken up residence.  Her actions today were totally foreign. Worried that she may be sick he sat by the couch all night, dozing off for short periods when he could get the image of the poor snakes out of his head.  A gentle hand caressing his face pulled him from his slumber. Looking into the eyes of his wife he jumped to attention.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

“Of course. Why are we sleeping in the living room?”

“Uh, you were a bit sick yesterday. I carried you in here and you fell asleep.” he said, not ready to talk about what he had seen.

“Sick? I feel fine. I don’t remember much about yesterday though,” she added.

“No problem, maybe you are just tired and overworked from the stress of the move and unpacking. Or, the thought of Linda running the shop while you are on vacation is too much for you to bear!” He shouted, ducking before the pillow made contact with his head.

“Ugh, don’t remind me, I must have been nuts leaving that girl in charge for a day, let alone a month. I may not have any
knickknacks as you call them, left to sell by the time I get back.”

After a quick breakfast they went out and cleared brush, cleaned the picnic table and made plans. When they returned to the stream, he held his breath.

“Didn’t we decide to bring in some rocks for the frogs to sit on?” she asked.

“Not a bad idea, I’ll go get some.” he announced, remembering yesterday. He didn’t want his wife near the area with the dead snakes until he had time to clean it up, something he intended to do as soon as she busy planning her sitting area.

“Ok, I’ll stand here and watch you work,” she chuckled.

“Figures, you always were a slacker,” he said, mustering his best grin.

With a giggle, she answered his jibe with a one-fingered salute.

“Tease,” he called over his shoulder as she plopped in the soft grass.

The rest of the day was as nice as she had planned. One small sitting area, that blended with nature was done and Rick had tamed a large area of field they intended to turn over to plant a garden. Gathering at their new haven by the water, they sipped their beers as she snuggled into his side, watching the falling sun dance over the creek.

Sunday morning, she opened her eyes to find Rick staring at her from his pillow.

“Morning,” he smiled.

“Hi there, ready to get moving?” she asked.

“Well, if you get up I will no reason to stay in bed,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows like Grouch Marx.

She never could resist those eyebrows, so she postponed her rising for another forty-minutes.  After a shower she made her way to the kitchen.

“I’ll start your coffee and meet you by the creek, ok?” She yelled, moving down the stairs as he mumbled something she couldn’t understand. Grabbing her own dose of caffeine from the fridge she headed to the creek to watch the rest of the sun rise. Moments later Rick joined her, barefoot and shirtless in his Levi’s, a sight that almost tempted her to drag him back in the house. “Hey, I saw a school of fish, I guess we do have some in the creek. Wait a few minutes and they will come back to the shore.”

“Great, you will probably be out here hand feeding them one at a time if I know you,” he jested.

“Shut up!”

Spinning around he stared with an open mouth.

“Come on Abs, you know you would if you could” he said, trying another stab at their teasing routine. He smiled when he saw her reach for a pebble, that’s my girl, he thought. If she tossed it at him he would know she was still her sweet self. Unsure of how to read her face, he found himself tensing up as she lobbed the pebble. It bounced off his chest and he had to admit it stung a little. “Ok Abs, that was a little hard.”

“Oh, that was to hard for my baby man was it?” she growled, “let’s try again!”

Grabbing rocks faster that he thought possible she practically stoned him into the creek. He roared with pain as they pummeled his face and chest. Blood ran from his bottom lip as he charged his wife, hoping to pin her arms. Pulling her to her feet he dragged her to the edge of the creek, splashing water on her face in an attempt to snap her back to reality. Pulling loose she started to slap his head. Not knowing what else to do he drove her to the ground and straddled her chest before giving her a good smack to the face.

Melting into the ground, she found herself staring into the troubled eyes of her husband.

“What the hell are you doing?” she asked, “Let me up!”

“No!”

“What do you mean, no? Get off!”

“No! You damn near killed me, you aren’t getting up until I know you are your loving self again.”

“What the hell are you talking about? Oh my god, you’re bleeding! What happened?”

“You pelted me with rocks, that’s what happened! You need help, something is wrong. I think you may be sick.”

“Why would I throw rocks at you? I would never do that! Why are you doing this?” she asked, welling up with tears.

“I don’t know, but you did. It’s not the first odd thing you have done in the past few days.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I don’t want to say. Can’t you just trust me without the details?” he begged.

“NO, I want to know what you are talking about!”

“The snakes, you killed the snakes.” he muttered.

“What are you trying to say?” she demanded.

“You killed our snakes Jen! You went for that wheelbarrow you found and you deliberately drove it over the nest! You crushed them and smiled the entire time!”

“No, no, no, no, I would never do that! Our snakes are dead?” she asked through the tears.

“I know you wouldn’t, that’s why I think we need to find a doctor, you need help,” he urged, stroking her face.

“I can’t remember much of the last two days. I remember working in the tool shed, but after that most of it is just gone. I’m scared Rick. What if I am losing my mind? I would never knowingly hurt you, you have to believe me!”

“I do baby,” he said, rolling to the ground to pull her close, stroking her hair as she wept.

The rest of the week was spent checking in and out of medical offices. She endured blood tests, x-rays, Catscans, MRI’s, and psychologists, but she was deemed healthy and sane.

After a week away from home and the hard work, they noticed her symptoms had disappeared and decided her outbursts must have been fatigue and stress related to the move. Glad to have his wife back he tucked her in the car and headed for home.  He utilized his meager talent as a cook to throw together a dinner of pancakes and bacon before snuggling with his wife on the bed to watch a movie. An hour in he noticed she had fallen asleep so he pulled the blankets up and spooned into her for the night.

When the morning’s sun pried their eyes open they greeted the day with optimism.

“Hi,” he whispered.

“Hi yourself,” she smiled.

“Well, now what?” he asked.

“I guess you have to go to work for a start. I want to get back outside and get back to work.”

“I don’t wanna go to work,” he whined, “I missed you when you were gone.”

“Oh, boo-hoo. Put on your big boy panties and go to work. I will be here when you get home.” she said, kissing his nose.

Later, she watched the retreating tail lights of his car, waving goodbye before turning her attention to the yard. She had so much she wanted to do, she didn’t know what to tackle first. Wandering the grounds she found her eyes gravitating toward the grove of cherry trees next to the main barn. The neglected trees refused to give up, they were filled with cherries waiting to mature.  When the birds began to cluster in the trees, pecking at her perfect cherries she grinned, better they feed the birds than go to waste. Moving toward the shed she decided to retrieve her old wooden chairs and table to surprise Rick with a new sitting area behind the house. Picturing many dinners cooked on the grill as they watched the wildlife she smiled as she headed to the barn for the furniture. Making a small detour to get the wheelbarrow she planned the site in her head.

Parking the aging cart in front of the barn she brought out the table, flipping it on its top into the wheelbarrow. She retrieved two chairs and nestled them into the table. Struggling to keep the heavy load balanced she maneuvered the uneven ground as she made her over the yard. The sound of the birds squawking and munching on the cherries, her cherries assaulted her ears, blinding her to everything else. Releasing the wheelbarrows smooth handles, she rose up to stare at the trees.

“Damn birds! Get out of my trees!” she screamed.

Running into the house she bolted up the stairs, opening a closet at the rear of the house to reveal the gun safe. The shotgun felt right at home in her hands as she pulled it from the darkness. Grabbing a box of ammo from the cache she headed down the stairs and across the yard. Shoot and load, shoot and load…she didn’t stop until every bird attacking her cherries was on the ground.

“Jen! Wake up.”

Opening her eyes she found Rick looking down at her.

“Oh my god, you are alive! What happened.”

“I don’t know.” she croaked.

“What happened to the birds? Are you ok? Tell me what happened!”

“I don’t KNOW!” she shouted, rising from the ground. “Leave me alone, why are you dogging me?”

“Say what? What the hell are you talking about?” he asked her retreating back. “Talk to me Jen! The ground is full of dead birds full of buckshot and you have nothing to tell me?” He shouted, slumping on a log.

He spent a fitful night on the couch after Abby locked him out of the bedroom. The next morning, he washed his face in the sink, grabbed a quick cup of coffee and busied himself in the yard until the sun threatened to set. Deciding he needed guidance, something to point him in the right direction he headed to the library.

“Good evening sir, can I help you? It will have to be fast, we close at nine,” the librarian said as he approached the desk.

“I’m not sure. I need information on personality changes, or mental conditions that can change someone’s personality.”

“Wow, tall order, can you tell me more?”

“Well, my wife and I finally bought our dream house and I thought things would be perfect. I need to find out what would cause someone who feeds the birds, rescues mice, returns turtles to the river and feeds stray cats turn, well, mean. I need to know why someone like this would suddenly start harming the very creatures they loved.”

“Oh, you are new here? What house did you buy?”

“I think they called it the “Old Peterson Place,” he said.

“Oh.”

“What does “oh” mean,” he asked, “you said that like it was a bad thing.”

“Well, no…I mean it is all just rumors, local myths, I shouldn’t even mention it,” she said, avoiding his stare.

“What kind of myths?”

“You know, the usual small town myths. Scandal, murder, ghosts etc.” she grinned.

“No, I don’t know, tell me,” he shouted.

“Give me a minute, you’re scaring me,” she whined.

“Sorry, but this is important. I need to know.”

“Ok… the story goes like this; Zoe Smythe built a house on some land her father left her in his will. I guess she went nuts after that, putting up outbuildings and growing cherries. She threatened anyone who walked on her land, it didn’t matter if they were human or animal, they were all dealt with harshly. It’s said that she once shot a horse because she stepped in a pile of manure. She married more than once, the first time because she was promised by her father, the rest were men who crossed her path. Newspaper reports of the time tell of over forty transient workers that had gone looking for work on local farms, never to be seen again.  That’s all I know, well that and the fact that all of her husbands disappeared. It’s rumored that she killed them and  buried them on the property. That’s all I know, honest!” she insisted.

Memories of the last few days tore through his mind like a cyclone. Jen hurting snakes, birds and even him. What did it mean? The first time he witnessed this she had gone for a wheelbarrow to haul rocks, today she had loaded furniture on the wheelbarrow before shooting the birds. Once the cloud lifted he realized that she had been sitting on the wheelbarrow, drinking a Pepsi when she pelted him with rocks.

“Excuse me, do any of the myths mention an old, wooden wheelbarrow?”

“Wow, are you psychic?” she said, getting excited, “Rumor has it that there was an old wooden wheelbarrow in one of the sheds. The person who bought the farm after Zoe died claimed that something that looked like bloodstains would show up on the wood for a short time, then disappear. Nobody ever proved, or disproved it. People around here figure this is what she used to move all the bodies.”

Driving home, faster than he should have, his mind bounced from thought to thought, each one in itself would qualify him for a stint in the nut house, but all together they were beyond mad. Could Zoe’s evil somehow be embedded in an inanimate object? Impossible, but how else could he explain the violent actions of his compassionate wife? Why did each episode happen while she was in contact with that wheelbarrow? It was her eyes that led him to believe in his theory, he had been looking into his wife’s eyes for years, and during those episodes, the eyes were not hers. They were blank, dead, yet full of hate, he would swear they even changed color. Shoving the pedal to the floor he prayed a wayward deer didn’t feel the need to cross the road, but his fear over his wife outweighed his fear of having an accident.

Racing down the driveway he skidded to a stop near the front door. Jumping from the still rocking car he flew into the house, taking the stairs two at a time, praying he would find his wife still locked in their bedroom. His heart skipped a beat when he found the door open and the room dark.

“Abs! Abby, where are you?” he called. When she didn’t respond he did a quick check of the bedrooms and bathroom before heading downstairs. “Abs! Are you down here?” Greeting with silence he decided it was time to panic. The house was dark and his unhinged wife was nowhere in sight. The sound of gun fire tore into his soul. Tearing down the front steps he ran into the night, listening for any sound that would lead him to his wife. When another shot rang out, he headed toward the cherry trees by the barn.Then he heard his wife’s voice, and it turned his blood to ice.

“I’ll teach you to Poop in the grass where I want to walk!” she yelled, pulling off another shot.

Movement to the right caught his attention and he realized it was the dog, running as fast as his ancient legs would allow. The moon shed just enough light for him to see the dark silhouette of his wife, shot-gun at chest level, track her beloved dog. When a noise caught her attention she pulled both triggers, causing an explosion of bark on a nearby tree. Not wanting her to see him he circled around the barn, hoping to jump her from behind and take the gun.

“Here puppy, come out, come out, I won’t hurt you. I just want to blow your frigging brains out!” she taunted.

With his back against the barn he slowly slid toward his wife. She had stopped to bang her dying flashlight on her palm, tossing it to the ground when it refused to relight. He took one more step and was almost ready to spring when he made contact with the pile of brush he meant to clear away. Hearing the snapping twig she spun to face him.

“Here puppy, puppy, come to momma,” she sneered, slowly moving toward his hiding place in the shadow. Putting the shotgun to her shoulder she fired a shot in his general direction that hit the wall closer to his head than he would have liked. Jumping from the shadow he hoped she loved him enough to well, not kill him.

“Abs, it me!”

“Well, well. You’re not that damn, disrespectful dog, but you’ll do,” she said, taking aim once more.

Dropping to the ground, he heard himself scream as the brush exploded behind him, raining debris on his head as he crawled toward the back of the barn.

“Now, now, I can’t have you coming on this land, tearing it up and doing what you want, surely you understand that. Come on out and take your punishment like a big boy,” she taunted.

Having no intention of showing his face he moved behind the barn. Once he felt sure she couldn’t see him, he sprung to his feet and ran to the next outbuilding, hoping to buy enough time to come up with a new plan.

“Ricky, where are you sweetheart? Red rover, red rover, let Ricky come over,” she sang, banging the shotguns stock on the walls as she circled the building.

Crawling along the floor, careful not pass a window he searched for a rope, a tarp, anything he could use to restrain his wife if he could get a jump on her. He moved a carefully as he could, but jumped when he knocked over a metal can. Worried that Abs heard the noise he froze, wrinkling his nose when he realized the overturned can was full of gas that was now seeping into the dirt floor. Righting the can he cringed, waiting for a gunshot, a gunshot that could spark this building into an intense fire. He had never thought about ways to die, but he didn’t think fire was one of the better ways. Freezing in place, trying to get a fix on her location he swore she would hear his beating heart. It was then a plan began to form. Gas, fire, fire, gas, how could he use it? Noticing the wheelbarrow parked near the door he made his decision. Grabbing the can he crawled over to the object trying to destroy his life. Pouring the remaining gas over the dry wood he pushed the wheelbarrow over to the door, feeling his pockets for the matches he carried to burn unwanted brush. Willing his shaking hands to relax he mentally rehearsed what he wanted to do. His goal was to burn the wheelbarrow, but do it in a way that wouldn’t cook him like a chicken or hurt Abs.

“Come out here you little wuss, you are starting to piss me off!” Abs screamed,  “If I have to come in there and dig you out you are NOT going to die quick and painless! Choice is yours!”

Jumping to his feet, he took a few deep breaths and kicked open the doors. Before she could react, he shoved the wheelbarrow outside, struck a match and tossed it on the gas soaked wood. She fired one more shot that shattered the door frame before dropping the gun.

“NO, put it out!” she screamed, grabbing her head as she fell to her knees. “Stop it Rick, I need it, I must have it! Don’t do this,” she pled.

She threw her head back so far he feared her neck would break as an unearthly howl escaped her throat. He rushed to her side as she collapsed, grabbing her face in both hands. Her confused eyes took in the fire, looking to him for an explanation as he led her into the house. Their aging dog nosed open the door, following him as he placed her on the couch, licking her tear-stained face as she stroked his head. She had no memories of her violent actions and for that he was grateful. He told her that she had suffered a slight illness from stress and assured her that it was all behind them.

If she had more questions, she never asked them, content to focus on her dream home and her animals. He made sure every inch of the wheelbarrow had burned. He cleaned up the ashes and buried them far from the house, but he was never able to shake the image of the woman, with eyes as black as night, that rose with the smoke from the burning wheelbarrow to disappear into the dark. Was she gone for good, all he could do was hope.

Copyright 2012 Jane Kohler

What’s up with these rocks!” she muttered, biting into her sandwich.

It started last Thursday when she headed to the river for lunch. A single rock on the pristine bank, then a second on Friday and so on, until there were six.

When the Dragonfly spoke, she jumped.

“Measure them,” it ordered.

Fearing insanity had finally caught her, she pulled a tape from her purse and jotted the measurements on a folder.

“Use them wisely,” it said.

She bought coffee and a lottery ticket after work, sporting those numbers. That evening, she was a millionaire.

Visit Madison Wood’s site participate in this weeks 100-word writing challenge.

The Storm

Posted: June 21, 2012 in Poetry, short stories, Uncategorized, writing
Tags: , ,

Electric air, anticipation, yearning
Trees, sky moving as one
Swaying movement alive with scent

Wild turbulence orchestrates nature’s manic dance
Electric, magnetic
stirring body and soul

Vibrating skies rumble
Lightning captivates
Dance, embrace the chaos
Welcome cleansing rain

Slumber to natures liquid drumming

The sun was still contemplating its rise as she felt her way down the bluff behind her home. With her kit in one hand she used the other to grab familiar trees and rocks as she lowered herself to the riverbank. The first rays of the morning lit up the river’s surface, guiding her to her special spot.

Opening her kit she set up her portable easel, stool and arranged her paints as she breathed in the landscape. Lulled by the morning sounds she watched the local wildlife hunt for food and care for their young. A Blue Heron stretched it wings as it gazed into the water for a potential breakfast. A pair of cardinals fed their anxious young in a nearby tree and she couldn’t help but smile as a momma mallard swam by with her three ducklings close behind. There was very little wind and the day promised to be a hot one, so she wanted to get as much done as she could before the heat chased her inside. Placing a canvas on the easel she let her eyes roam the environment, waiting to see what cried out for attention. Whatever spoke the loudest would be her subject of the day.

Noticing a group of frogs floating on waterlilies near the bank, she realized she had found her muse. The rising sun glistened off their backs, highlighting their spots as well as the moisture droplets clinging to the dark leaves. Squeezing paint onto the palate she picked up a brush and concentrated on the composition of the painting. Deep in thought, she didn’t notice the encroaching sound at first, but slowly the sound of breaking twigs got her attention. Peering over her shoulder she looked for animals or humans but returned to the painting when she found that she was alone.

She was working on the leaves when the smell reached her nose. At first she thought it smelled like a wet dog, but quickly wrinkled her nose as the scent doubled. Looking over her shoulder she screwed up her face, hoping that whatever it was would quickly move on. Focusing on the canvas she decided to add a flower for color. Things were going well, the water looked great, the frogs glistened in the light and the morning dew reflected the sunrise, all she needed to do was add the flower.

When the scent got stronger she decided to head for home and paint a flower from memory. It wasn’t a smell like death, but it was unpleasant and it was ruining her creativity. Picking up her paint tubes she started to stow her gear, freezing in terror when she heard footsteps behind her. She gripped the large tube of titanium white so hard she feared it would pop as she slowly swiveled her head, falling from her stool with a scream.

As a shadow fell over her face she looked up, gazing into the biggest pair of brown eyes she had ever seen. The eyes seemed truly upset over her fear, they looked at her, questioning and concerned. As the creature wrinkled its brow, extending a hairy hand she realized she should be in a panic, but something in the creatures face told her she would be safe.

It walked over to her easel, feeling the edges of her canvas as it took in the image. She swore she saw a small smile overtake its hairy face.

“Ummm,” it grunted, pointing at the painting.

“You like the picture?” she squeaked.

Baring its teeth the creature uttered a deep breath.

Afraid to move she kept her soggy seat on the bank of the river as she observed her visitor. Clearly eight foot tall, or taller, it was covered from head to toe in soft, sable colored fur. It’s face, covered with the same fur, but much shorter had lips, a nose and eyes much like hers. It had extremely elongated arms and legs and huge hands, with five fingers on each. It was furry like an animal, yet it acted like it wanted to communicate with her as a human.

Finding the courage to rise to her feet she froze as the creature hissed and back away.

“It’s ok,” she crooned, “I just want to know you better. If you like that picture, let me show you some more.”

Moving slowly toward her kit the creature backed away as she pulled out more of her paintings.

“This is a painting of my dog, and this one is a baby duck in this river and this one, shows the light on all of the wildflowers lining the river,” she said softly so she didn’t spook her visitor. Laying the paintings on the ground she backed away, waiting to see what it would do.

The creature squatted on its haunches, reaching out with its massive hand to stroke the surface of the paintings. From time to time it would expel it’s breath, or release a grunt or moan. When it was done it spun to fix its eyes on her. Unsure of what to expect she shrunk into the ground.

“Are you Big Foot?” she croaked.

The creature raised up to its full height, throwing its arms into the air. Fearing the worst she pushed into the ground and closed her eyes, waiting for the end. Hearing a new sound she peeked through her hands, noticing that the creature had grabbed its waist in a hug and its head was tossed back as it released a giant belly laugh.

Realizing she was in no danger she stood up to face her visitor.

“I get it!” she shouted, “you are stuck with the name Bigfoot but you find it funny?”

The creature wiped it’s eyes and reached out a hand. Without thinking she reached out to meet it, feeling nothing but love as it grasped her fingers.

She left that day, full of wonder and awe, but she knew she couldn’t tell anyone about the creature or they would hunt it down and expose it to the world. From time to time she would return to paint and the creature would appear to watch her work. She figured out that the creature was a she that liked her animal paintings the most, she even gave it one of her paintings that disappeared into the forest. Once the creature brought her children and a few others to watch her work. The artist in her wanted to paint these loving, illusive creatures in their natural state, but she couldn’t do that without exposing them to the world.

Popping the top on her beer she flopped onto the couch and opened her laptop to search for ways to mix cement to patch her driveway. She couldn’t live with that hole anymore, and lacking funds to hire a contractor she decided to do it herself.  Carefully typing in the words, “how to mix cement at home,” she hit the enter button and took a swig of her beer.

“Son of a Bitch!” she shouted as her screen filled with pictures, the same picture over and over again. “Great, just what I need, a new freakin’ virus!”

Closing the browser she did a restart, rehashing her day as the computer did it’s thing. Landscaping was hard enough without spoiled rich women griping about the noise from her mower or the color of the mulch. Taking another drink she grinned, the work was hard, and some of her customers were unlikable, but she would stay the course. Her ultimate goal was to start her own landscape design business, so she kissed butt and cultivated her client list for the future.

“Finally,” she mumbled when the computer sprung to life.

Settling into the cushions she resumed her search, growling when the same set of images filled her screen.

“Damn it! I don’t need this crap!”

Then she noticed the images were slightly different. The first time the face of the woman was completely blank, only her dark-blond hair was visible. This time you could see her hair and the outline of her face. Powering off she decided to let it go until the morning, if it was still acting up then she would call Mitzy, her computer nerd friend for advice. Settling on cold pizza and another beer she finished her late dinner and headed to bed.

At six a.m. her eyes popped open right on schedule, she never needed an alarm clock, instead she told her mind when she had to wake, and she just did. She grabbed her morning caffeine from the twelve pack in the fridge and took a long swig of the Pepsi before checking her schedule, groaning when she realized she had to return to the residence of Mrs. Horace VanWert, the biggest pain in the ass this side of the Mississippi. Muffster, as she was known to her friends and family, decided to buy the old sawmill perched at the end of the town, planning to turn it into a fashionable and chic Bed and Breakfast.

After putting all of the local contractors through her version of hell on earth, she had turned her attention to the landscaping, setting her sights on Jan’s fledgling business. She was expected to turn the grounds into a twisted version of an old English garden that would blend with the hulking wooden mill. Muffster whined, complained and prowled through her life on a daily basis, making her rue the day she agreed to take the job. On the other hand, if she could satisfy this woman, her reputation in town would be set and her business would benefit.

Noticing her laptop on the coffee table the memory of her virus trouble returned.

“Crap, I almost forgot about that,” she grumbled as she flipped the lid open to hit the power button. If she was going to bug Mitzy with her trouble, she wanted to make sure the trouble still existed. Grabbing a stale muffin to go with her Pepsi she flopped on the couch and opened her browser. So far so good, her familiar home page waited for her attention. Moving to the search bar she typed in “how to mix concrete” and waited for the results.

“Dammit!” she yelled when multiple images of the blonde woman filled her screen. Only this time, the images showed a pair of gold-flecked, hazel eyes that seemed to bore into her soul.

“What kind of sick virus is this?” she grumbled, “some people need to get a life!” she said, yanking the power cord from the socket. Storming to her truck she tossed the computer on the passenger seat and headed to Mitzy’s. She left a brief explanation of her trouble before heading on site to report to Muffster, girding her loins for a day of abuse.

Her morning went as expected, the Muffster was already on site, hands on hip, waiting for her. Before she could grab her set of plans the woman attacked her with her concerns. Answering her questions and addressing her complaints with as much decorum as she could muster she breathed a sigh of relief when the demanding woman set her sites on the poor boy painting the trim on the ancient building.

Heading for the mill, she intended to check out a report by a contractor of tree roots invading the building. If there was a tree pushing its way into the foundation, that could disrupt her plans. It would be futile to install expensive plants if a crew had to come in and take down a tree.

Pulling a flashlight from her kit she descended the unfinished stairs into the bowels of the mill. Once filled with large steam engines, pipes, moving belts and coal, the now empty space felt eerily dead. Making her way around spools of cable and power tools she found the wall the contractor mentioned. She poured over the entire surface, feeling it with her hands as she looked for decay or evidence of encroaching roots, but the damp wall seemed intact to her.

“Hello,” she shouted, turning her light on the room. “Who’s there?” Met by silence, she felt her skin crawl.

Deciding it was time to leave, she found the stairs and quickened her steps. Someone had called her name, she heard it as plain as day, but she was obviously alone. Not willing to wait for an unwelcome surprise she pulled herself up the first step.

“Don’t leave,” whispered a voice.

Spinning on the step she flashed her light over the basement. Still alone and terrified she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her. Tearing up the stairs she took a minute to compose her thoughts before reporting to Muffster.

Once everyone agreed that the cellar wall was intact, she pulled out her tools to ready the ground for planting. Ten hours later she was pleased with her progress. Washing her hands with some bottled water she dried them on her jeans and headed for Mitzy’s to see if her computer was fixed.

“Hi Mitz,” she said with more energy than she felt as she entered the kitchen without knocking. Her and Mitzy were like family, knocking was for strangers.

“You look like hell,” Mitzy said over the rim of her glasses.

“Thanks, love you too,” she grinned.

Moving to the fridge Mitzy grabbed a can of Pepsi and popped the top before placing it before her friend.

“So, what’s wrong with my computer?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Mitzy replied.

“Don’t tell me nothing! Every time I do a search all I get is a page full of thumbnails, all of a blonde women with a high, white lace collar.”

“Look, here is your home page, and here is what I get when I do a search for say, pizza.” Sure enough, a list of local pizza parlor filled the screen. I ran virus scans, I crawled over your hard drive looking for worms, trojans, adware, spyware and anything else I could think of. This unit is clean girl.”

“You never saw any pictures of the blonde woman?” she asked, not sure she wanted an answer.

“Nope.”

After some small talk Jan grabbed her computer and headed for the door.

“Are you ok?” Mitzy asked.

“Yea, I guess this job, and “the Muffster,” have me stressed more than I realized. A good nights sleep should help. Thank Mitz, I appreciate you checking this out.”

“No prob, that’s what friends do,” she smiled as Jan headed to the truck.

Tossing her computer on the coffee table she locked her doors, washed her face, stripped and fell into bed. Her aching muscles thanked her as she curled into her sleep spot.

The voice was so soft at first it integrated into her dreams. As it grew insistently louder it tugged at her eyelids, forcing her to rejoin the waking world. Wide-eyed with fear she scanned her room, looking for the intruder. Grabbing a lamp, the only weapon she could find at hand, she tossed her legs over the edge of the bed and inched her way over the room, wincing as the cord pulled free of the socket to bang into the nightstand. Peering around the door jamb she noticed the soft glow of the computers screen. It was then her blood turned to ice. She had tossed the computer on the table, but hadn’t plugged it in, or opened the lid.

Figuring she must be having a bad dream, she decided to go back to bed, but the computer had other ideas.

“Please Jan, I need you,” it whispered.

“No, no you don’t!” she yelled.

“You have to find me, you have to make him pay for what he did before I am lost,” the voice cried.

Moving to the couch she punched the power button, trying to silence the machine, but it wouldn’t respond.
When a decaying skull filled the screen with a bloodcurdling scream she jumped, dropping the lamp.

“Leave me alone!” she screamed.

“I need you Jan, you have to help me,” the voice crooned as images of the blonde woman filled her screen.

“Why me? I don’t know you, I don’t even know who you are. Hell, I don’t even know if you are real,” she moaned.

“I am real, or at least I was. Now I am somewhere dark, somewhere cold and I can’t get out. I reached out to many of you visiting the mill but you were the only one who could hear me.”

“Oh, yeah me,” she said in disbelief. “What do you want?”

“I can’t move on until you find me and make my husband pay for what he did. I want to leave here, you have to help me!”

“I don’t understand all this. Are you dead? What do you have to do with the mill? How can I help you?” she asked.

“My husband owned the wood mill. He was a greedy man who ruled the town and used cruelty to deal with his workers. I was promised to him when I was a child by my father and we married when I was fourteen. The last thing I remember of that life was taking a basket lunch to his office, where I found him in a compromising situation with his secretary. All is black after that.

“I hear you, but I don’t know what you expect from me,” she said, heading to the fridge for a beer.

“Please, you are all I have,” the voice croaked.

“I don’t want to be “all you have,” she groused, “I want you to go away and leave me alone!”

“You have to find me, make him admit what he did, and pay for it.”

“Find you? Do you know how insane that sounds? You could be anywhere.”

“No, I know I’m close. Someone saw the roots of a tree I projected on a wall today. I thought if I could delay your work someone would find me. I don’t know why I projected roots, I asked for a way to get your attention and the roots appeared,” the picture sobbed.

“That was on the north wall,” she said excitedly. “I was down there once but it felt creepy so I left.”

“That was me, I was trying to reach you. Please stop the work, find me and make him pay!”

Racing for the backdoor she grabbed her keys, made sure she had her tools and fired up her truck. The site felt eerie after hours, but she didn’t let that phase her. Grabbing a pick axe and a flashlight she headed to the basement of the ancient mill. Reaching the north wall she moved from side to side, feeling the smooth sides until a silent signal told her she had found the right spot. She swung the axe like a weapon, chipping away at the wall. Debris piled up around her feet as she worked and sweat ran into her eyes, but she kept swinging.

When she felt a thud unlike stone she put down the pickaxe and studied the wall, finding a layer of ancient bricks. Excitement mounted as she resumed her hammering, shattering bricks as she worked. She had been unprepared for what she would find. The smooth white skull and slender vertebrae she found took her breath away.

“Who are you?” she croaked

“Elizabeth, Elizabeth Smythe. My husband killed me and nobody knew.” the voice whispered.

“They will now,” she smiled, dialing 911.

After an intense investigation, the aging Mr. Smythe was more than happy to get his crime off his chest. He was arrested and detained in a prison wing for aging prisoners. The work at the mill was finished, the Muffster was happy and Jan had more job offers than she could handle. Best of all, Elizabeth was finally at rest.

Pulling into her favorite parking spot for her lunch break, she cut the engine, grateful that she was the only human in sight. Sliding the seat into a comfortable position, she released the seat belt and pulled her twelve-inch sub from the bag, placed her fries on the console and shoved the straw into her drink. Typing her pass code into her Ipod she pulled up her relaxation music and opened the book she was reading. Between bites she gazed at the lake, smiling at the geese and ducks caring for their young.

Treasuring solitude, she shunned contact with her fellow humans. She hadn’t always felt this way, but the day she lost her husband, who choked on a Tic Tac while paying tennis, had changed her in profound ways. She didn’t want to “get on with her life,” or listen to well-meaning friends telling her she would get over it. She didn’t want to date, or be happy if she thought about it.  They were supposed to be happy together, he had no business leaving her alone.

Three years had passed since she stood next to his grave, placing a single red rose on his coffin before letting her friends lead her to a long black car. The rest of the day was lost to her. She knew people hugged her while murmuring words of comfort, but she couldn’t pull up the details.

Wiping her eyes, she glanced in the rear view mirror to make sure she was still alone.  Finding a pair of eyes staring back at her from the mirror she swiveled in her seat as her forgotten sandwich slid to the floor.Finding the backseat empty she grabbed the mirror, moving it from side to side to find the intruder. Something about those eyes left her unsettled.  Melting into the back of the seat she chastised herself for being such a baby.

Feeling something cold on her foot she realized her lunch was on the floor.

“Crap, now I have to go hungry all day!” she growled, putting the decimated sandwich in the bag.

She dumped her trash in a nearby can and returned to the car. Putting the car in reverse she craned her neck to make sure it was safe to back onto the road. A flash of light caught her eye, drawing her attention to the rear view mirror. She forgot to breath as her spine sent shivers through her body when she noticed the face peering back at her. Slamming the car into park she kept her gaze on the mirror, gasping when she recognized the eyes.

“No, NO!” she shouted, beating the steering wheel. “I buried you! You are dead! You left me alone!” she wailed.

“Stop, you are going to hurt yourself!” the apparition shouted.

Stomping on the brake she grabbed her head.

“Oh man, I knew I was whacked, but hearing voices is bad,” she wailed.

“It’s me Jen, calm down.”

Turning in her seat she noticed she was alone, yet when she looked in the mirror she could see her dead husbands face.

“Clay?” she squeaked.

“Yes dear, tis me.”

She knew it was him, he was the only person she knew who ever said “Tis me.”

“How, why,” she whispered.

“You can’t live like this Jen, you have to embrace people and find love,” he urged.

“Find love? Are you nuts? You are my love,” she yelled through her tears.

“I was your love, but I left your world. You have to find love in this world. I can’t move on until I know you are ok,” he said as his ghostly hand tried to stroke her hair.

“I can’t just hop off and have fun, date and love on a whim. I can’t cheat on you!” she shouted.

“Cheat on me? That’s funny, you can’t cheat on me because I no longer exist. You need to embrace people, date and use your life for all it is worth! I wasn’t lucky enough to be the one you lived with for years, but I wouldn’t trade the time we had together for anything. You need to stop the pity party, make friends, date and find happiness. That young guy who works on the computers is smitten with you and I think you should give him some thought. He will treat you like a queen. Do it Jen, let me go. I love you and I miss you, but I can’t rest until you live your life to the fullest.

“How can I do that?” she asked, glancing in the mirror.

Sadness washed over her soul when she found the mirror empty. Putting the car in reverse she realized nobody would believe that she talked to her dead husband. She also realized that her actions would dictate the fate of her mates soul. He never left her hanging when he was alive, and he had no intention of doing it after his death.

Perhaps she would say “yes” the next time the computer tech guy asked her out for coffee.