Gail looked out at the trees, it was there, she could feel it watching her, lurking in the shadows. After a few minutes the feeling left, Gail turned and went into the house, “It’s getting bolder.”
“Well, what did you expect? Not as much food out there now, plus they tore down a good chunk of the forest for that mall over by Cresthill.”
“Do you think it’ll still leave us alone?”
“If we keep up our end of the bargain. It will be fine, I can’t imagine it will come into the house, never mind cross the backyard. Too open, too exposed.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry. I’m just a little nervous is all.”
“I know, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
Richard carried the bucket of meat into the garden, it wasn’t the best quality meat, but it was the quantity that was important. He moved closer to the trees, but not too close. Gail could always feel when that thing was watching, he couldn’t. As far as he was concerned the woods were completely normal when he first moved here. Gail knew though, she had grown up with it. As he moved closer to the trees he felt his stomach clenching a little, it seemed silly and childish but he couldn’t help but fear that it would burst from the woods and snatch him up. He had never actually seen it of course, Gail did when she was a girl, which she had only admitted one night while she was blackout drunk and it was all she would say, “I saw it once. When I was a girl. I see it in my dreams. Like it’s stalking me.”
Richard set the bucket down by the trees and slowly backed away. Gail had told him the best ways to do it, slow, careful movements, don’t turn your back and don’t run away.
As he entered the kitchen Gail smiled, he could see her relaxing, he hugged her to him. “Well at least it’s done for another two weeks.” Gail nodded against his chest. After a moment she pulled away and picked up her coffee, “Some days I wish we could just kill the damn thing, get rid of it forever.”
Richard shrugged, “We could if you want. I’m sure there’s something we could find that would work.”
Gail shook her head, “No, they tried that before. It doesn’t work, nothing will. What ever that thing is I don’t think it’s natural. Besides, if we try and we fail, it’ll punish us.”
Richard didn’t say anything, there was nothing to say. He didn’t want to push the issue. When he first moved here he thought it was just silly stories over some wild animal, but he could see the fear that it inspired. Gail didn’t like to talk about it too much, no one did, but from what Richard could piece together there had been multiple attempts to kill it. Soon after someone would always disappear, usually a child, gone in the night. Richard suspected it was why Gail had never wanted children.
Richard went out the next morning, the bucket was empty, as usual. He picked it up and returned inside. In the kitchen he cleaned out the bucket, as he did Gail came into the kitchen, “Morning, breakfast is in the oven.”
“Morning.” Gail picked up her mug of coffee from the table and gave Richard a quick kiss on the cheek, she stopped for a moment and looked out at the woods. “Everything ok?”
“Huh? Yeah. Sorry.”
“It’s there, isn’t it?”
Gail nodded, “Would it help if I put in a fence or something?”
“No. Fences never stopped it. I prefer to be able to see the trees, I think with a fence I’d just be terrified it was lurking around and I wouldn’t know.”
Richard rinsed the bucket and put it outside the backdoor, “we could always move.”
Gail looked at him, “I know, I know, but is it really worth it? Being afraid all the time? All those bad memories?”
Gail shrugged, “this is my home. It was my parents home and my grandparents. I’m not letting that thing scare me off.”
Richard nodded once, they had this argument many times before and it was too early to get into it.
“How are the eggs?”
“Perfect, thank you.”
Richard sat at the table across from her and took a sip of his tea.
“I’m just being silly. We’re fine as long as we keep leaving out the offering. It will keep us safe. We just have to uphold our end of the deal. Besides, I couldn’t sell this place to someone else, not with that thing. How would we even begin to explain it to buyers? If anything happened to someone I know it’d be my fault.”
Richard stood in the kitchen, looking out at the woods, it was in there, somewhere. The black cloud that hung over their lives. He turned away from the window, Gail was right, he just needed to put it out of his head.