A creative group I belong to suggested that we use the prompt “It was a dark and stormy night” to come up with something for Halloween. As a child, I always loved “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. The stories were always eerie and a bit off-center. In homage to those wonderful shows, I give you “It Was A Dark And Stormy Night”. Happy Halloween.
It was a dark and stormy night , the perfect atmostphere for Halloween thought Susan as she pulled into her garage. She was exhausted. The drive home had been difficult, lots of branches down and power outages. The fact that the garage door had gone up was a good sign. It meant they still had power. She gathered her things from the car and climbed the steps to the kitchen door. The dogs were barking furiously in the basement. The storm must have spooked them. “Alright, alright. I’m coming. Calm down.”
She opened the kitchen door and reached over to switch on the overhead light. Nothing. “Shit,” she thought, “that stupid light over the island must have gone out.” She’d noticed it flickering over the weekend and asked her husband to check it but he must have forgot. She used the flashlight app on her phone to find her way over to the under cabinet light by the sink and flipped it on. It was little more than a night light but gave enough light to keep her from bumping into things. She dropped her purse and tote on the island and headed to the basement door to let the dogs up.
Something on the kitchen table caught her eye. “What the hell”, she thought. It looked like a huge, flat snake. Kevin. Her husband. The practical joker. He’d left for his business trip after her this morning. He must have thought this stupid thing would scare her. As she got closer, she noticed something strange about it. It was transparent and papery. It looked like a snake skin. She’d seen lots of them out in the garden before. But this one was big, very big. It was the whole length of the farm table, at least six feet. And it was completely in tact. She could even see where the eyes had been. It was beautiful and kind of creepy at the same time. She had to find out where Kevin had found this thing. She pulled her phone out of her back pocket and texted him.
”Hey, it didn’t work, you didn’t scare me. But I’ve got to know, where did you it?”
She continued to examine the strange thing while she waited and in a minute her phone pinged.
”What are you talking about? I didn’t try to scare you. What thing do you mean?”
”The snake skin. The giant snake skin on the kitchen table. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
”I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Susan snapped a photo and sent it to him.
”This. It was on the kitchen table when I got home.”
”I didn’t put it there. I swear.”
It was then that it registered with Susan that the dogs had gone silent. She stood still, listening intently. Then she heard it, a sound like rustling leaves or sandpaper on stone. It seemed to come from behind her near the garage door. She turned slowly to look but that part of the kitchen was still in darkness.
”Kevin,” she texted, “I think there is something in the house.”
”Where are the dogs? Let them out of the basement.”
”No. If something is here, they could get hurt.”
”Can you get out of the house?”
”No. The light in the kitchen is out. I think it might be by the garage door. I’m afraid to move.”
”OK. Stay still. I’ll call 911.”
Susan stood frozen, listening with every cell in her body. One of the dogs began to whimper and scratch at the basement door. When her phone pinged again, she let out a muffled scream.
”I reached the state trooper. He’ll be there in ten minutes. He told me that the fire they had last week on Waverly Road, where the barn burned down and the man died. He was keeping illegal reptiles. All sorts of dangerous and venomous snakes. Most of them were killed in the fire but the found a number of empty enclosures. They have no idea how many or what kind may have escaped. They have been quietly looking because they didn’t want to cause a panic. He told me that a snake that is shedding tends to be lethargic but can be aggressive if frightened. It may also be very hungry. So you should be as quite and still as possible.”
”OK. I will. I’ll text you when he gets here. I love you.”
”I love you too.”
The dogs had gone quite again. Susan took a deep breath and tried to slow the beating of her heart. She slowly looked around the room. In the pocket of darkness near the garage door, she was sure she saw an area that was blacker still. And in the middle she could barely make out something shining like two, cold, black eyes. She pressed the button on her phone to light it up. Eight more minutes. She tried to slow her breathing. She was afraid she would pass out. It was still raining outside, hard. She tried to think of song lyrics, nursery rhymes, anything to make the time go by faster. There was a crack of thunder and a sudden flash of light and this time, the power went out.
Susan stood in complete darkness. She pressed the button on her phone. The battery was almost dead. Six more minutes.