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F is for Funghi
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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 chill washed down his spine and he almost turned away at that point. Almost, but he pushed on, crossing to the small front porch beneath an awning that shrouded the front door in 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.
To be continued!
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