“It’s HUGE,” Macy said.
Jack affected a nod. Looking at their new home, all he could remember were the old salesman’s words: "It’s a great house, but with one catch - Never, ever, go to the east side of the grounds in the afternoon. Morning, evening, even night’s fine, but not afternoon. Not until the sun’s set.”
Weird advice, but which seemed to have been adhered to by the previous residents. The east side of the compound was a jungle. Jack doubted it had started out that way, but now . . . House-high themselves, the grass and bushes grew in such profusion that they looked like part of the Amazon. All it lacked was a river and some anaconda. Looking at it however, Jack was uncertain it lacked anaconda.
“Ugh, we’ll need to clear the bushes,” Macy said.
The oddest thing about the house were the animal statues. The statues, all of jungle carnivores, were, arranged in two rows between the house and its ‘jungle’, on pedestals higher than the building; stands staggered so no beast blocked another from view. Macy observed this the second day after they’d moved in, while staring down from their bedroom window. She called Jack’s attention to it.
“It’s creepy,” she said with a shiver, pointing.
He looked, saw what she meant. The afternoon’s sun’s rays had thrown the animal statue shadows on the ‘jungle’, arranging them in a line, like they were walking across the top the grass. In addition, the sun’s warming the air was making the shadows ripple as though they were alive.
“We need to clear the bushes,” Macy said.
Jack began clearing the bushes on the house’s East side two days later. Macy was insistent it had to go, and he’d discovered he’d no alternative.
To his surprise, all six gardening companies he’d called had declined the job once he gave them his address; two hadn’t even bothered to wait and hear what he wanted. Finally he’d called Mr. Macking, the housing agent.
“It’s what I was trying to explain when I sold it to you, Mr. Macking said. “There’s an old superstition that the place
is bad luck.”
“But that’s silly!”
“Maybe so, but still, no-one’s dared clear the bushes since -” Macking’s voice lapsed into silence.
“Okay it’s more than superstition. The last owner was found half-eaten on the edge of the uncleared patch . . .”
“Neighbors heard him screaming at three in the afternoon. He’d ignored the instructions not to go there then, see?”
Jack was stumped. “I don’t get it, the police . . .”
“Won’t go near there.”
“The zoo then.”
“Let me try to get this straight: There’s a wild animal living in the grounds of this building, which for some reason no one’s willing to track down and kill, and you sold it to me. You didn’t even fence that part off. I’m going to sue . . .”
“You’ll lose the case,” the estate agent interrupted him, his tone indicating his patience had worn thin. “Listen Mr. Baker, there’s absolutely no danger to you or anyone else in the house . . .”
“I consider a wild animal . . .”
Macking’s voice was cold. “. . . as long as you don’t go into that patch in the afternoon. Have a nice day, Mr. Baker.”
Jack found himself listening to the dial tone.
He narrated the conversation to Macy. “We’re moving,” he said finally, “Just as soon as . . .”
“I like this place,” she interrupted him sweetly. “Can’t you clear away the weeds yourself?”
“That, Jack said, pointing out-window at the offensive patch of vegetation, the hot afternoon sun once again etching shifting animal shadows on its surface, “Is a jungle. How . . . where do you expect me to begin?”
“At that edge.” Macy pointed. “If you’re scared, work in the mornings.”
Jack felt like he’d been stabbed.
Macy smiled a saccharine smile, knowing she had him. “Well it is creepy dearest: the superstitions, the shadows . . .”
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
Saturday morning Jack began work, with a pair of machetes and a lawn mower. The grass reached well over his head, and to his surprise, he discovered that once inside the bushy patch, he was unable to see the animal statues lining it at all.
It was a cool day. He worked till eleven in the morning, forced to stop when he came on a patch of bamboo which had no business being there. He examined it cautiously, almost expecting to see monkeys chattering atop the longer stems.
He sat down, back against a bamboo stem, to rest. He’d so far cleared a fifty-meter-square patch, about an eighth of the offending vegetation. Working at his current rate he’d be done in seven days.
Macy brought Jack a glass of lemonade, went back into the house. Jack drank it down, made himself comfortable, dozed off.
He was wakened by a growl. He opened his eyes, scanned the sky. The sun was well past its zenith. It had to be about two o’clock now.
Damn, he’d slept into the forbidden afternoon hours.
Then he noticed the first oddity.
The cut grass had regrown itself completely around the edge of the patch, fencing him in.
He started, then noticed something else.
There was a shadow facing him. He blinked, wiped his eyes. It was a shadow, that of a lion. The only problem was that it was standing upright, out of the ground.
He watched in horror as it ‘thickened’.
As Jack stared back towards the animal statues by the house, now understanding the reason for the warnings he’d been given, other wild-animal-shadows walked out of the bush to join the lion.
‘Thickening’ as they came, they advanced on Jack, with hunger in their eyes and bared shadow teeth . . .
"The East Side of the House"
Copyright: © 2010 Wol-vriey
Copyright: © 2010 Wol-vriey
Wol-vriey is Nigerian, and quite tall. He believes that there actually are things that go bump in the night.