In The Dark

After reading this, you’ll have a chance to answer questions about the story to earn a free “Fiction Fan” NFT. 

He wasn’t sure what called him into the bushes, but something pulled him in, tugged at him, and whispered promises of escape. Escape from what, he wasn’t sure, but escape at all sounded promising. His wife and children were asleep on the second story of their McMansion, and any escape would be better than being sucked back into the doldrums of suburban living. His wife had kicked him out of the bed again, for reasons he wasn’t clear on, and that’s when the night called. 

It started as a rapping on their kitchen window, and when he investigated, found it was nothing more than an untrimmed tree branch swaying in the breeze. Then, the holly bush whispered. 

Multiple times a year he had to spend more time than he wanted outside trimming the stupid thing, usually while his kids ran around inside complaining about something, and his wife was out running errands. He took his anger out on the holly bush. At times, he may have overtrimmed, but it was still better than ripping the damn thing out, which he had to force himself from doing every time he set his eyes on it.

Tonight though, in the light of the moon, it seemed peaceful, as if it had never done anyone any harm. It sat there, whispering to him, something he couldn’t quite hear, but needed to hear. It was a mystery, much like his wife kicking him out, but at least he could solve this one.

In his flannel pajama pants and short-sleeved shirt, he stepped out onto the manicured grass. It was cool, but in the middle of May, not terribly so. He never took his eye off the bush, tucked away in the corner of the yard. He tiptoed around kids toys that they had, of course, left out and expected someone else to pick up. He kicked a plastic dump truck and it bounced off a sprinkler head. Composing himself, he kept heading for the bush.

A breeze swept across the lawn, and a few leaves on the bush parted. He swore he saw yellow, glowing eyes.

He froze.

After another breeze came through, and he didn’t see eyes, he rubbed his own. He looked back at the dark house. 

Am I crazy? What am I doing?

By day he was an accountant for a construction firm, by night he was, apparently, a crazy person traipsing across their lawn hunting for some mysterious voice coming from their bushes. He realized now he might be the crazy neighbor, but something kept tugging, kept calling him. The whisper softened, but he could hear it; he was sure of that.

He took a step closer and kept his gaze where he had seen the eyes, or hadn’t seen them. Nothing exciting ever happened to him, maybe that’s why he was waltzing barefoot through the grass. Maybe he wanted to be in a horror movie where something just killed him randomly. Maybe it was all a dream and he was actually sleeping on the couch. Whatever it was, he couldn’t put it out of his mind. He was on a mission now, like at work when he had to find receipts from 4 years ago that nobody filed. He liked a good mystery, but this one at least had some excitement.

He was within arms reach now of the bush, and cursed at himself from 3 years ago when he decided to put in bricks as a nice surround to separate the grass from the mulch of the garden. He dropped his foot onto the cold stone and held his breath; it wasn’t as bad as he was expecting. His wife wanted to leave it as more of a natural divide, and just this once, he would admit that would have been better. He plopped his other foot down and leaned forward. He stretched his hand out and parted the bush, peering toward the base. The whispering grew louder again.


He squirmed, grabbed more branches, and leaned in further, almost off balance. All he could see was mulch, dirt, and a forgotten tennis ball.

“Warmer still.”

The words were clear, but now he questioned if he heard anything at all. He glanced around the bottom of the bush one more time, sticking his head past leaves, but still saw nothing. He snapped back and muttered “Bullshit” under his breath. He wiped his hands on his pants and sighed. Standing straight on the stone now, he peered at the other houses in the neighborhood. For the first time tonight, he realized all the lights were out in the neighborhood. 

“That’s odd,” he said. He glanced back to his own house. He wasn’t sure what he expected, since the lights hadn’t been on anyway. There was no change to when he had left it.

He stepped back into the cool grass and walked back to the basement door. He closed the door softly, wiped off his feet, and bounded up the stairs, careful to step around the squeaky boards. The door to the master bedroom was cracked, and he inched it open far enough to peer inside. His wife slept with a sound machine, and as little light as possible. For the second time tonight, he stood on his tiptoes and walked around the room, to his wife’s side of the bed. He stopped a foot away and leaned toward the bed. His wife was breathing heavy, but as far as he could tell, was just as she usually was. 

About to walk away, he paused, and faced the bed again, watching his wife’s body bob up and down as she breathed. Something about it though, wasn’t normal. It wasn’t rhythmic. He leaned in again and whispered, “Kathy?”

The breathing stopped.

The sound machine abruptly cut out.

The lights flashed.

The thing in bed pounced.

Question 1

What was he looking for when he first went outside? (Answer should be 1 word)

Question 2

Does he have kids? (Answer should be 1 word)

Question 3

What type of bush did he investigate? (Answer should be 1 word)

To access, enter the answers to the questions above, combined, lowercase, and without spaces

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