It is hot in the basement. They are dizzy. The air is thick with the sermon. The lesson is everlasting; the food supply is not. The apples are rotting. The minister’s teeth bared, he shrieks about God’s hatred and wrath. He will not let them go. It is hot in the basement.
She sits at the picnic table in their backyard, chewing on a chicken leg. She knows her husband will not approve; he says she has been getting fat. There he is now, in the window. His eyes are bulging, and his pointy teeth are bared. She bares her teeth back at him, and resumes eating.
She remembers his shirt was red, like the paint on his canvas. He had offered to show her more of his work, wanting her opinion. Then nothing. Red behind her eyes. She awakened in a windowless cell. She tried scratching her way out. Now her fingertips were red. She wondered if he’d paint her.
She’s thirsty. Some water, to rid the taste of him in her mouth. She pauses, the cup halfway to her lips. A noise, under his snoring. She sees his arm, stretching impossibly long, coming from the bedroom. “Where are you?” “What are you doing?” Stretching around her, pulling tighter. And tighter. She drops the glass.
Dinner, the three of them. Mother asks her son-in-law if he ever feels guilty about his past, the mistakes he made, the surgeries when he lost patients. He says nothing but bites his thumb. She hears the crack of bone, sees the blood squirt onto her meatloaf. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Mother says.
In the hornet field green and blue are overwhelmed by brown and yellow. All is drone and bustle. In the hornet field eggs are dangerous. Hatchlings fight with deadly precision. I draw my sword and cross the threshold. I hum their tune and ready myself for battle. They’ll never take me alive.
Sally was awakened by Rene shouting. Frogs were congregating on the window seat. A dream? But Rene’s grip was pulling her out of bed. A giant frog hurtled toward them. She tried to push it away; her hand sank into hot gummy skin. The flesh on her hand melting, she realized this was no dream.
The fiend stands in the corner. Eyes glittering, it can’t be mistaken for an amalgamation of shadows. It comes every night, robbing her sleep, her good dreams, her peace in the daytime hours. She opens her mouth to banish it, but nothing passes her lips. It makes no move. Yet. The creature stares.
“Cut your wrists,” the demon says. “You’re better off dead.” It sounds plausible. He thinks of the loneliness, of how he hates himself, how he won’t be missed. The pain rises over him like an ocean, swallowing him whole. The blood flows; he realizes his mistake as the demon leaves him. But it’s too late.
She wakes to wet dripping on her forehead. Turning on the lamp she sees the brown stain on the ceiling. Though she had gone to bed alone, she feels a stirring next to her on the bed. Her neck cranes. As her eyes meet cold black orbs, she hears her daughter’s screams down the hall.