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A HOUSE, INVADED
By Melissa L. Webb
The night was darker than usual. The stars seemed faded, like marking left from an eraser. Just smudges of white against black.
James Conner peered out the window of his car at the street passing by. Darkness clung tightly to the things around him, hiding them in ways that made his skin crawl.
Sighing, he pulled his eyes from the shadows. What was wrong with him? He’d been jumpy ever since leaving work. He wasn’t the nervous type. However, as hard as he tried, he couldn’t shake the feeling that plagued him. Something was wrong.
Nearing his destination, he turned onto his street. The unnatural darkness seemed to have touched here as well. The houses lay dark along the road, drawn in on themselves, hiding from the world around them.
James glanced at the digital readout on his dashboard. It wasn’t even seven, yet the street looked ready for bed. Trying to push the thoughts from his mind he pulled into his driveway. Everything would be fine as soon as he was at the dinner table with his family.
Getting out of the car, James looked up at his house. It was dark as well, as if it too was telling him to go away. He shook his head. He was being silly. Grown men don’t have these kinds of thoughts. Or at least they shouldn’t. Hurrying to the front door, he turned his key in the lock. The sound was like a gun shot in the stillness of the night, causing him to jump.
Disgusted with himself, he stepped through the door. “I’m home,” he called. The house lay quiet around him as he took in the empty parlor. No one raced to greet him. No one welcomed him home.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as the feeling of wrongness swept over him once again. “Hello? Kaitlyn? Are you home?”
Silence continued as he waited for an answer. Stepping forward, he moved deeper into the parlor, past the dinning room table. A deep growling sounded from underneath it.
He leaned down and peered under the table. Two eyes shone in the darkness below. They gave another warning growl as he leaned closer. “Max? Is that you?”
The growling stopped and a shape slinked forward. A dog looked out, its rusty-colored fur standing straight up as his eyes darted around the room.
James looked at his normally happy-go-lucky retriever; at the fear it held in its body. “Max, what’s wrong, boy?” he said, reaching a hand out to comfort him.
The dog’s lips pulled back in a snarl. It lunged forward sinking its teeth into James’ flesh.
“Damn it, Max,” he cried , pulling his hand away. Crimson dots bulged on his hand, then trickled slowly from the punctures. “Bad dog.”
The dog with-drew back under the table, growling as he went.
Rising from his crouch, he quickly made his way into the kitchen, his hand dripping blood. What the hell had happened to his docile dog? Max had never done anything like that before. Not once in the five years of being a member of the family had he even growled at someone.
James realized something was wrong. He wasn’t imagining it. His heart pounded as he grabbed a dishtowel off the sink, wrapping in around his bloody hand. “Hello? Dammit, somebody answer me,” he said and paused, listening to the house. Silence lingered a few seconds longer, then a sob echoed through the house.
Time froze around him, as his heart slammed into his throat. That sob confirmed his darkest fears. Life at the Conner house had been drastically changed. No more family dinners. No more evening games. The laughter had been silenced forever.
He moved forward, blood dripping from the towel. He barely even noticed the crimson spots his shoes smeared across the floor. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except finding the source of that cry.
“Joey? Is that you?” he called, listening for that tiny sob once more.
“Daddy?” a voice called to him from the back of the house.
James raced forward, relief surging through his body. His son was alive. Whatever else happened in this house, his son was still alive. He tore through the house like a man possessed, his eyes covering all areas around him. “Joey? Where are you?” he called through tears. He needed his little boy in his arms. He feared his heart would stop if he didn’t have him soon.
“Daddy, please. I’m scared,” came his son’s desperate voice from somewhere ahead of him.
“I’m coming. Hang on, Daddy’s coming,” he yelled. Crying flooded through the house as the child realized he was no longer alone. His heart broke as he heard the sadness consuming him. He closed in on the sound, peering down between a dresser and the wall in his daughter’s bedroom. “Joey?” he called quietly into the space.
The crying quickly stopped as silence one again filled the house. His breath froze in his chest as he waited for some kind of movement from within the darkness. Fear ebbed at his mind. That’s not your son, it whispered to him. For a moment he was sure it was right. He had been lied to, and now he would pay with his life.
The darkness shifted between the wall and the dresser, moving with lighting-fast speed and Joey was in his arms, crying for his Daddy.
James let out a breath as raw emotion flowed through him. “I’ve got you, Joey,” he whispered, hugging his son closer. “Daddy’s got you.” The boy held tight to his father, his body pressed firmly to him as he carried him over to the bed. “What happened?” he asked, sitting on the edge. “Where’s Mommy?”
“I don’t know, Daddy,” the little boy sobbed into his father’s chest. “I don’t know.”
He watched the anguish dance behind his son’s eyes as he cried. Something horrible had happened at his home tonight. Something so tragic he was sure his five-year-old would never be the same again.
Rage welled up in his chest as he watched the boy shudder in his arms. How could anyone do this to a child? Was the world so dark that it loved to seek out innocence and squash it, watching it skitter away like a broken bug into the recesses of a traumatized mind?
He held his son closer, letting the tears fall. What had he done so wrong to deserve this? Leaning in, he kissed his son’s matted brown hair. “Joey. Please,” he whispered to him, trying once again to seek the answers he so desperately needed. “Where’s your mother?”
The child leaned back in his father’s arms staring up at him. The amount of pain in his eyes was heart wrenching. “They took her, Daddy,” he said softly. “They took Mommy and they took Lucy.”
James stared back at his son in stunned silence. He knew something had happened here tonight, but the fact that someone had violated his home, forcibly taking the women he loved, was unimaginable. A sob escape his parted lips as the reality of the situation sank in. He believed his son, There was no doubt in his mind he was telling the truth. But that only meant one thing.
His family was gone.
“Who, baby?” he whispered through tears, hugging Joey tighter against him. “Who took Mommy and Lucy?”
The boy’s brown eyes widened even more. “They came out of the walls, Daddy. They just appeared…and…took them. How did they do that?”
James sat there, clinging desperately to his son as the fear grew inside of him. He was drowning in the stuff. They came out of the walls? What the hell was going on here? “Who did? Who came out of the walls?”
The little boy glanced quickly around the room, his eyes no doubt searching for the things that had invaded their home. He looked back at his father; fairly certain it was safe to speak the name of these nightmares. “It was the Flamingos, Daddy. That’s who took them.”
© 2011 Melissa L. Webb
This is an excerpt from my upcoming horror novel, Flamingos. Available in ebook format in Fall 2011.