The pit monster's lair pt. 1
[director's commentary - on]

Hi, Sean here.  Thanks for joining me for the deleted scenes from our little film.

These shots of the dark woods, and the cave, were initially just to try to create more audience sympathy for the monster, show his home and, there, see that sad, lost look in his eyes as he comes into frame?  This just adds so much of the humanity and empathy I think we lost in the release.

Tess and Gavin after the first attack
[director's commentary - off]

Exterior, twilight, in the woods.  Tess and Gavin run into shot and stop in front of a big pine.

Tess (breathing hard)
I think we lost it.

But where are the others?  Melissa was right behind me.

God, did you hear that thing?  I thought it was going to tear your arms off.

I'm okay.  It was just a scratch.

Tess (leaning over)
Let me see.


Gavin and Melissa lost in the woods
[director's commentary - off]

Exterior, night, beside the stream, dense underbrush (the same place where Mike and Claire had sex earlier).  Gavin is sitting by the stream.  He hears a movement nearby.






Where's Tess?


The pit monster's lair pt. 2
[director's commentary - on]

Hi again.  Well this was a scene we decided to cut very late in the editing process.  It was a hard decision to make because again it reveals so much about the monster.  We really wanted to give that element of ambiguity and create more audience sympathy with the monster, but ultimately it slowed the action down too much.

There's the lair which we spent, I think, something like two weeks building and set-dressing.  We had these big smoke machines set up, pumping mist and smoke through the whole soundstage.

Oh, here's Billy as the monster, coming through the cave's entrance.  Billy did a great job, really brought so much character to the role, so it was unfortunate to have to cut.  Really one of his best sequences.

So, yeah, he comes in, steps into the bottom of the cave with Tess's body.  Suzie was awesome playing Tess in this scene.  You know, like, she's already dead, so she had to be limp and unmoving and Billy's just tossing her onto the rocks like that ... there you go.  Ow.  I think in one of the early takes she flinched, but after that she nailed it.  Oh, not real rocks, Styrofoam.

Then, oh yeah, this is the bit that really took the whole thing to a different level.  The monster kneels and seems to pray, as if giving thanks for his prey.  I wanted to linger on this, the lighting was great, the whole atmosphere worked.  Worked well.

Now watch, watch here.  There, see Billy lift his head a little, towards the cave mouth?  He can hear the others, the kids.  They're nearby.  But then he turns back to look at Suzie.  So subtle, but conveying so much.  He's going to devour her, but he's not as bestial as they all think.

To me this brings quite a different aspect to the movie, I'm a little sorry we had to lose it.


Gavin's arm
[director's commentary - off]

Exterior, night, slow pan from the cottage to Gavin and Melissa.  Gavin is lying on the ground.

We need to put a tourniquet on that.


Tess's confession
[director's commentary - on]

Okay, listen to Suzie's lines here ...

I didn't mean ...

At this stage in the edits, Tess had already been killed off so it made no sense, but we couldn't slot it in any earlier either.  Suzie gave such an amazing performance though that it was a pity we couldn't keep it in.

... and Melissa.


What happened to the car
[director's commentary - on]

Well, this was an obvious scene to leave on the cutting room floor.  In the storyboard stage it fitted, but didn't work for the release.  Okay, there's Gavin's old Taurus, parked at the road edge.  The pit monster stumbling around and injured now ... there's Billy ... and he bumps it.  The brake fails and the car rolls away through ... there it goes ... bounces through the trees.  I did like how we had a camera inside looking forwards ... then over the edge and ... there's the water.  Smack.  Right into the lair.  It sinks.  I'm glad we cut that, it just slowed the story down.  But thanks to DVD extras we can show you how we wrecked a perfectly good car.


Alternate ending
[director's commentary - on]

Ah, so this is the gruesome ending we would have had, the one that set things up for a sequel more seamlessly.  Okay, here are Gavin and Melissa ...

Just over the rise.

I can hear people.  We're nearly at the mall-

And there's the pit monster.  This is where we really would have lost that PG rating.  Swing, swing with those claws and ...

Melissa (screaming)
No, no.

Run I-

I like this moment though.  The monster slices Gavin apart and howls at the sky ... then turns as if he's heard those other people.  Sequel here we come.  Roll credits.


Return to main menu

"Deleted Scenes"

Copyright: © 2010 Sean Monaghan

Sean Monaghan's films have appeared frequently in his dreams and been described to bored listeners.  Sean's stories have appeared online and in print in The New Flesh, Deep Space Terror and Flashes in the Dark, among others.  More information at his website www.venusvulture.com

Downtown Walla Walla was teeming; you couldn’t squeeze a rubber chicken between the people crammed shoulder to shoulder, hustling and bustling up and down the sidewalks.  Amidst a symphony of beeps and honks, cars darted around busses and trucks that thrummed at high speeds through the city streets.  On the corner of Premise Road and Conclusion Avenue, two men bumped into each other and shook hands with delight.
“Ray, you son of a motherless whore!” Buford Picklefeather said, “How in heck are ya!”  Behind Buford’s oversized polka dot bow tie, his Adam’s apple bobbled up and down.  His wide buck teeth hung out of a wider grin.
“Couldn’t be better, Buford, you mincing fairy, you!” Raymond Luxury-Yacht said.  His enormous nose supported thick, black spectacles with lenses thicker than storm windows.  His 56-waist trousers drooped about his knees, held up only by a pair of purple and green-striped suspenders.  The Walla Walla crowds brushed past them in an endless torrent.
“How have you been there, Buford?” Raymond said.
“Well, I gotta tell ya, Ray, not too swell.  I saw my psychiatrist today, and I says to him, I says, ‘Doc, ya gotta help me!  I’m a tee-pee, I’m a wig-wam!  I’m a tee-pee, I’m a wig-wam!’  So, he says to me, he says, ‘Your problem is you’re two tents!’”  A few polite chuckles emerged from the passing crowds, disappearing quickly as the traffic washed down the street.
“Har, har, har!” Raymond barked like an asthmatic collie, “Say, that reminds me of a little story: I asked my wife where she wanted to go on vacation.  She said she wanted to go someplace she’d never been before.  So I told her to try the kitchen!”  The crowds emitted chuckles and even a few guffaws.
Buford joined in with his own burbling giggle.  “Hyuck, hyuck!  Say, that’s something else.  Speaking of your wife, is anyone here from out of town?”  A smattering of applause.  “Hey, great!” Buford said, “I gotta tell ya, Ray, I was walking down the street today, and this bum comes up to me, and he says to me, he says, ‘I haven’t had a bite in three weeks!’  So I bit him!”
The laughter from the passers-by became strained.  Raymond felt obligated to offer his own, “Har, har, har!”
“Hyuck, hyuck!” Buford said, “Yeah, I bit him, and then he threw me down and stole my wallet!”  
The noise of traffic was drowned out by the laughter of all within earshot.
Raymond grimaced, running his thumbs under his suspenders.  “Uh, har, har.  Um, so, yeah, speaking of wallets, I saw my doctor today, and he told me I was out of shape.  I told him I wanted a second opinion.  So he punched me in the face!”  
The pedestrians burst into uproarious laughter, holding their sides and slapping their knees.
Buford’s long fingers twiddled his bow tie.  “Er, uh, say, that’s something else.  Well, y’know, Ray, my wife is so fat...”
“How fat is she?” a voice called from the sea of people.
“My wife is so fat,” Buford said, “that, due to all the cholesterol in her diet, she suffered a massive heart attack that nearly killed her!”
Raymond’s eyes darted about the throngs of people whose heads were thrown back and howling with delight.  The accompanying applause was deafening.  Raymond chewed his lower lip.  “Um, so, uh, last night, Buford, I was at the movies, and I saw my teen-aged son, two rows down, making out with some girl.  So, when I saw him today, I says to him, I says, ‘Son, who was that lady I saw you with last night?’  And he says to me, he says, ‘That was no lady, that was my sister!’”
Cold sweat beaded on Buford’s forehead.  The crowd’s laughter thundered in his ears.  He swallowed with difficulty.  “Hey, Ray, uh...did you know...uh, what I mean to say is have you ever wondered why that ol’ chicken crossed the road?”
Confusion crossed Raymond’s face, but his smile held.  “Why, sure, Buford, who hasn’t?”
“Well, whaddaya say we find out?”  
Buford ran full-bore into Premise Road, where a taxi cab slammed into him and sent him flying.  The pedestrians actually halted their comings and goings, actually stood stock still and held their breath, as they watched Buford’s limp form sail through the air, his left leg broken and dangling at an unnatural angle.  Buford splatted against the side of a bus, fell, and was sent back into the air by a small pick-up truck.  One of his buck teeth broke off and spun through the air.  He bounced off the roof of another taxi, his vertebrae snapping like carrots, and hit the ground with a wet thump.  His broken and bloody corpse rolled to a stop in the gutter on the other side of the road.
The laughter and applause from the pedestrians gained in volume until Raymond’s innards vibrated.  The ovation lasted nearly ten minutes, hands clapping, feet stomping, hoots, hollers, cheers, whistles.  Then the applause began to ebb, the laughter died down, and the crowds of Walla Walla went back to plodding up and down the street.  A stray dog sniffed at Buford’s remains.
Raymond cleared his throat and pushed his glasses back up onto his nose.  “So,” he said in a shaky voice, “Is anyone here from out of town?”

"Stop Me If You've Heard This One"
Copyright: © 2010 Jimmy Callaway
Jimmy Callaway lives and works in San Diego, CA.  Please visit attentionchildren.blogspot.com for more wackiness.  Many obscene thanks to Garrett Cook for his help with this story.

His dick was the size of a racehorse. Not the size of a racehorse’s dick, but the size of an actual full-grown racehorse.
When Cleveland Cassidy was born, the first thing the doctor said was, “Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Cassidy. You have a son with a very large dick.”
The nurses in the room were all immediately flushed.
Mrs. Cassidy, covered in sweat, tears, placenta and feces, passed out when she saw the appendage.
Mr. Cassidy, a bit jealous, asked, “Is it normal for a baby to have a bigger dick than his dad?” His own dick, the size of a dog’s, felt like it shrunk inside of his pants at the sight.
“No, I assure you, this is far from normal,” the doctor said with admiration.
“Is there anything we should do?”
“Keep him away from porn.”
It had been a blessing at first. A great conversational piece, a great way to show up all the guys, a great way to drive all the ladies wild. It grew at the same rate as his body for the first few years, but once he hit puberty, it seemed to expand exponentially.
By the time it stopped growing, at the age of eighteen, Cleveland Cassidy’s dick was the size of Man O War. There was literally nothing he could do with it.
“Mr. Cassidy,” the doctor told him before he was old enough for such a title (although the size of his dick warranted such a name from the very beginning of his life), “you must never get an erection. You will die instantly.”
Prior to this warning, he had never even thought to get an erection. Nothing had quite been grand enough to warrant such a flow of blood.
“Is it even possible?” he asked the doctor.
The doctor pondered the question long after Cleveland left the office.
In school they watched a video on Elephantiasis. Cleveland began to feel like a freak. He went back to the doctor.
“Do I have Elephantiasis?”
“No, you just have a massive dick.”
“But there must be something wrong with me,” Cleveland insisted, his large genitalia staring at the doctor.
“Nope. You just have what all men wish for.”
“Do you wish you had a dick like this?” Cleveland tried to lift it as he spoke, but his arms were tired from carrying the member up the stairs to the doctor’s office.
“No, of course not. It looks quite inconvenient actually. I simply meant that you possess what all men dream of having, but they don’t really understand what they are dreaming about. There isn’t even the remote possibility that you could ever have sex. You’ll never even have an orgasm.”
As Cleveland drove home from the doctor, his dick riding shotgun, he vowed that he would have sex one day just to spite the doctor. Surely there was a vagina that could handle his racehorse dick.
To practice the hopeful moment when he would finally have sex, Cleveland spent hours staring at naked pictures of women on the computer. When the pictures did nothing to stir his dick, he tried some videos. He began with solo girls, then moved to girl-on-girl before finally graduating to videos of hardcore sex. He tried to imagine himself having sex with the girls, but all he could do was laugh at how small all of the dicks were. Staring at the tiny dicks that penetrated the women, he imagined how something that was equal to the size of his entire body would have a chance of fitting inside someone.
Years went by. Cleveland spent a little time each day watching porn hoping for even the slightest hint of an erection. Still nothing moved. When he had exhausted every possible outlet for sexual fantasies, he decided to give up. The good doctor was right. Cleveland decided to go about living a normal life as best he could, graduating from school and getting a job at an office. He was supplied with an extra large cubicle to accommodate his disability.
Many years later, at the ripe old age of sixty-seven, Cleveland Cassidy, a permanent bachelor, contemplated retiring from his job. Everyone had waited for this day with bated breath, hoping they could swoop in and get the large cubicle. “Aren’t you ever going to retire?” they would constantly hound him. He didn’t see any point. There was nothing waiting for him at home except for the empty promises of unsatisfying pornography.
As he approached his boss’s office, he noticed for the first time the gorgeous secretary that had directed the phone calls and filed the mail for so many years. Looking at her legs through her nude nylons, he began to feel a twinge that felt a little like going to the bathroom.
“Hi Cleveland,” she said with a smile as he wobbled uncomfortably past her with his full load in tow.
“Howdy, ma’m,” he responded with a nod of his head.
“How are you today?”
“Well, I’m just fine. I’m on my way to re…” He hesitated before finishing the sentence, thinking about what had just occurred. Looking at this woman had given him a feeling he had never quite had before. So long ago he had given up the dream of even achieving an erection, but here he was, a sixty-seven year old man long overdue for retirement, his massive dick held firmly in his hands. Perhaps he was making a mistake. Perhaps he had wound up at this office for thirty-nine years for some profound purpose.
“Would you like me to help you with that?” she said, pointing to the retirement letter he held sandwiched between his hand and his dick.
The moment was brief, but it brought him more joy than he had experienced in his sixty-seven years on Earth.
The life insurance check barely covered the cost of the two plots required for his burial.

"Cleveland Cassidy's Dick"
Copyright: © 2010 Nathaniel Tower

Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online literary magazine Bartleby Snopes (www.bartlebysnopes.com).

"You're a funny man," says Mr. Fantastic. He is an E70 robot from Westeria with twelve fingers and an addiction to battery acid. He enjoys loud music and men with good jokes but never tells any of his own. "Say it again."

"Fuck off," says Jim. "Get your feet off the couch.

Mr. Fantastic puts his pegs on the ground and sits up straight. He wonders what a White Russian tastes like but is afraid to ask. He watches the girls in the corner rolling their drunken skulls and shaking their hips and dreams of being a dancer. Loud 80's music shakes the walls.

"I'll be here all night long," says Jim to his human friends. He drools on the couch when no one is looking. His face pushes into the leather and he screams before falling onto his back against the cold wooden floor.

"Jim is intoxicated," says Mr. Fantastic.

All the guys laugh. They think the E70 is funny but only because Jim hates machines. A big fat human man hasn't spoken all night. "You think we should turn him over on his side?"

"Why?" says Mr. Fantastic.

"So he won't die."

Mr. Fantastic takes even steps over to his master and flips him onto his side. Jim pukes on the floor and the E70 cleans the remaining chucks from his master's face. Everyone leaves. The dancing girls and the laughing guys. The house is a mess but Mr. Fantastic only cleans what he is allowed to touch. He hasn't worked since he was replaced by the E74. They are the top dogs in technology. Most importantly they are capable of adolescent transportation (although terrible party-goers).

Jim wakes up with a hangover. Mr. Fantastic gives him a fresh bucket every two vomits and a moist towel and a glass of water. "I'm detecting fascinating levels of Adrenocorticotropics in your blood. What's wrong?"

"I was supposed to be somewhere today," says Jim. "Wait here while I get my coat." He stammers out of the stinking living room into the area of the house where machines are never allowed.

Mr. Fantastic looks around at the scene left over from the night before. Everything is broken and disturbed. The room reminds him of home. Nobody wanted him there. They said he was useless. He hears a bash on the back of his metal head but feels nothing at all. He falls on the floor and turns around. Jim is standing over him with a baseball bat.

"This is not very human of you," says Mr. Fantastic.

Jim breaks open the E70's cranium and steals its eyes. They go into his coat pocket but the rest of Mr. Fantastic goes to the backyard. To the dirt. With the other animals. One was hit by a car. The other was killed by a man who could not afford to feed it.

"Mr. Fantastic"
Copyright: © 2010 Garrett Ashley
Garrett Ashley has appeared in Inwood Indiana, Short Fast and Deadly, and is forthcoming in Twisted Dreams Magazine. He lives in Brookhaven, Mississippi and in his spare time enjoys watching squirrels fall out of trees.

Those incessant, goddamn horrible thoughts. Pounding away in my brain. Never going away, never ever leaving me alone. Reminding me, taunting me, making me sick to my goddamn stomach. Distorting reality. False thoughts, false memories. Sleep in the bathroom tonight. It's the cleanest part of the house. You know. Like the dog's mouth. The special palace. Where you won't be seen. Where you can't be seen. Where you can scrub your hands—your whole body, for that matter—rawly.


“Jared. It's me. Tim.”

"Hey.” I said real friendly-sounding over sounds of the wash basin faucet.

“Oh shit Jared. Not now. Not again. For shit's sake, man. I have an interview today. I need to shower and shave and look presentable.”

“Can't you shower at Claudia's?”

“She's thirty miles away. Jared. I need that goddamn bathroom"

Any second now he will use those massive fists of his to rip the door off its hinges. And I still have more to scrub. It doesn't feel right. I scrubbed my feet and hands harder. There's some blood. But it is not finished. If I go out now the doubt will kill positively kill me.

“Jared. Open the door or I am calling Dr. Grossman.”

“Tim. I want to open the door. Really. I do,” I said, scrubbing more leisurely and less determinedly. “But I need more time. You know—just until everything feels right. I stopped scrubbing altogether a nanosecond to think. “As I recall, Tim--”

“Goddamn it, man.” Tim shouted sad, not mad. “You really need help. And now you're--”

“Before the move-in I ran things by you. I told you about me.” I paused a second to make sure I made sense. “About my perfectionism, my eccentricities.”

“Eccentric. Hell. You are beyond eccentric. You're flipped.”

“Yes. Well. It's me Tim. I'd apologize but I can't. It's me"

“You're impossible,” he said. Almost it sounded like he'd been laughing. I couldn't help smile at the silliness of it either.

“Tell you what, Bub,” he yelled over the sounds of the dualing water faucets in the shower and wash basin. You've till tonight. Than after that no more excess bathroom time. Got it?”

“I'll see what I can do,” I yelled politely.

He leaves.

I don't want to leave. I can't leave. It just is not humanely possible to. Not now. This room is my space, my oasis from everything going on out there in the world. Every vile deed. From every doublecross. Lie. Cheat. And back-stab. I have it in here. All. TV. Blankets, sheets. My Manuscript. Files. My desk. Ten cans of chicken soup. I don't want to leave. I can't.

The room is filled with steam. Been a long time since I've seen my self. I scrub the mirror and look at my face. Pale. Hawk nose. Curly hair. Pencil thin mustache. Lifeless green eyes. Look into them. They dilate. They grow. Those scream. Now those are eyes. Of no character, no personality. I stare at my face long enough until I ask myself, What is this thing? Where'd it come from? Why does he/she/it exist?

I yawn. I--I know! Tim will stay at Claudia's tonight. And I can stay here. Yes. I must. I prefer to.

It is safe here.

Copyright: © 2010 Jack Bristow

Langdon Farm. The thistles grow wild in the grass around the gate. A few barren trees hang loose in the wind. Local sheep graze around the area. The farm is an old one. It has seen renaissance and decadence of tradition many times over. The stone walled main house is attached to the pig pen, and there remains a small stable for a horse, though the horses are long dead. There is wilderness on all sides. Before Scott, this was horrid, unlovable, drenched Scottish mess. Since Scott, this is what you would call unspoilt, unwavering, lovely Scottish atmosphere. Either way, it was wet. The rain fell slowly and the mist hung around your feet like the midges which hung lovingly around open skin. Such was life, at Langdon Farm.

Down in the outskirts of Langdon Farm is the spot where the old farmer Williams dropped dead of fright. Why it happened is only a superstition by now, the actual event had occurred some twenty years before I was even born. I tend to the farm now, and although it is not nearly as successful as it once was thanks in no small part to the “Foot and Mouth” crisis, we still remain in business thanks to the success of our thriving pig population. Yes, we live on sending animals to the slaughterhouse, but then, everything has its place on the food chain.

But you do not care about the pig business today (and shame!) Quite clearly you are only interested in what happened to that old farmer so long ago.

This farm is the old farmer’s legacy. Frank Williams bought the acres of land when he was twenty-two years of age, and sought about creating the most successful pig farm in the area.

And he farmed many Pigs. And felt nothing as gave them away to the slaughter. Until Pi came along.

The old man felt differently for Pi, for Pi was not your normal pig. Even, as a piglet he was different: the kid had a sort of spiritual aura about him. Williams often recalled how in giving birth Pi’s mother delivered him breathless, and how the little thing came to life in his hands, eyes widened, snout piercing and full of gratitude. From that moment on, Pi became the farm favourite. The old man treated him as a pet, he would look into the innocent creatures’ eyes and all the burdens in the world would lift off his ageing shoulders. Not for sale was this pig, you can get sausages from any one, but a Pi was priceless. As Pi grew older, the farmer took to feeding the pig in the house and taking it on walks around the farm. Everyone knew Farmer Williams and Pi, the old man and the pig who had formed such a strong bond.

But then came the market boom, hitting directly after another Foot and Mouth outbreak. Pi was lucky, he had stayed free of the disease, a lot of his brothers were not so lucky. Lucky, until the man from the abattoir came.
“You know the rules, we need ten pigs and you don’t even have eight! It’s the end of the line for your business!”

Pi trotted into the room.

“What’s that?” said the abattoir man.

“It’s Pi” said the farmer.

“I’ll tell you what.” Said the man, “If you let us have that pig I’ll cut my losses on the tenth.”

The farmer looked in horror at the suggestion. “No, not Pi, take anyone but Pi.”

“We need pigs; your family sheep won’t help the bacon demand! It’s that pig or your livelihood.”

The farmer’s heart sank as he looked at the little pig, its tail slipping on the floor and its snout smelling the new man curiously.

“Take him then” said Williams.

The man picked up Pi, who screamed in surprise and fought against the arm but the abattoir man was too strong. Pi screamed and screamed the very confines of Hell out: he knew where this man was going; he could smell the blood on his overalls. The old farmer tried to look away, but caught Pi’s eye. The small pig gave him a pitiful look, which swiftly turned into a grotesque facsimile of a grimace etched upon his tiny face, his snout ridged and his eyes blood red. Williams knew that Pi knew he had been betrayed, and what's worse, the pig’s eyes were angry and unforgiving. And then the abattoir man left, and Pi was gone.

And then one day Farmer Williams died. It is said that he had a heart attack, brought upon by an ignorance of angina in those days and his own stubbornness. This is far from the case. The man died of fright! Right in the North end he was, moving towards the farm, when a roar like nothing out of heaven or hell stopped him in his tracks. Turning, he caught a glimpse of the sight that would bring him to an end. The raging furious beast with eyes of flame and speed of vengeance, riding towards him across the field. Its essence screaming with the agony of a thousand pigs put to death; this was no mere little piggy. It was Pi, back to exact retribution on the master who betrayed him. And as the pig ran into Williams, the old man’s heart gave out, hurt by the very pet he had hurt in turn.

It never stopped me. I still farm the pigs. It is a way to survive. But my favourite one is the only one I have ever grown attached to. Here he is, scowling away in the corner, terrified. He doesn’t like people. He doesn’t like me, do you, Williams? Look at him, scurrying away into the shadows. Unlike me, however, he knows that this time will be no betrayal, for I look on him not as a pet but as a service. And one day, one day when you least expect it, you’ll be taking the same trip I took down the road, to the abattoir, my little piggy. Enjoy this second chance at life, pig. God knows I certainly am.

Yes, we live on sending animals to the slaughterhouse, but then again, everything has its place on the food chain. Eventually.

"The Old Man and the Pig"
Copyright: © 2010 Michael S. Collins
Michael S. Collins is a member of GSFWC (the Glasgow Strange-Fiction Writers Circle). He has been published in several countries (including Literature E-zine websites, ad writing for Bob Furnell) and does book review for magazines such as The Fortean Times.

His short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Aesthetica, Clockwise Cat, The Short Humour Site, MicroHorror, TBD, and was included in the DemonMinds anthology in 2008.

Stepping outside Saturday morning at nine, Paul Bruin surveyed the pool of discarded color stretching out across his back lawn.

Fall cleanup was a weekly necessity on a property huddled up against a forest, but Paul didn’t mind. With raking leaves, the rules were wonderfully clear: no management issues to deal with, no conflicts to sidestep, and certainly no political hierarchy to navigate. It was just straightforward, honest-to-god work.

What made the effort even more enjoyable was that when it came to raking leaves, he was miles ahead of The Dick.

From the moment Richard Clomper (a.k.a. Dick, a.k.a. The Dick) moved in next door, he embodied the type of person Paul was predisposed to want to punch in the face. Barely 30 and practicing corporate law, he drove the latest Beamer, golfed in California, and looked like he modeled for Harry Rosen. As a final kick in the slats, his wife Janice was drop dead gorgeous, and a sweetheart to boot.

So, while staying ahead with the leaf raking wasn’t much, at least it was something.

Paul stretched under the eighth straight day of streaming sunshine.
Today, he thought, I’m going to make the work last.

Glancing next door, a contented smile slipped from his face.

The Dick was raking his lawn, and--judging by a wall of leaves piled high on the property’s edge--had been for a while.

Keep it together, Paul thought, panicked. The Dick's moving slowly. There's still a chance to beat him. But he had to move.
Grabbing the rake like a weapon, he plunged it into the first cluster of leaves squashed against the back steps, and hurled them across the yard. Working fast, he drove waves of them forward, slamming at splashes of color. Thoughts of gloves were dismissed, and the handle chafed his hands raw.

He chanced another look next door, and Dick was gone. The leaves were abandoned, and—looking absurdly vulnerable--so was his rake.
Paul doubled his efforts, revitalized. The twang of the rake’s prongs and the swish of the leaves were the only sounds in the autumn air. Cramps stitched his middle-aged muscles, but he ignored them. Victory was in sight.

Through the sting of sweat, he saw The Dick returning in a slow shuffle, a large red plastic container clutched in one hand. A red plastic gas container. The shape was as familiar as anything in Paul’s garage, something used to feed his lawnmower and weed whacker.

But there was nothing to feed on Dick’s lawn--just plenty to burn.

Paul’s eyes jerked towards the forest--towers of dry lumber over rivers of parched leaves, all lining the borders of a hundred neighboring homes. Swept by escalating winds, a blaze would be unstoppable.

Paul threw the rake down. “Dick!” he screamed.

Dick’s head turned like a robot’s. A huge toothy grin broke across his face, and he started to pour. Gas drenched the leaves and grass, slopping over his shirt and jeans.

Paul began to walk towards him. “Hey!”

Still smiling, Dick pulled a cigar from a shirt pocket.

Paul was now running. He heaved himself over the backyard’s fence as Dick flipped a matchbook open. The stink of gasoline clogged the air, poisoning it. A match sparked, lighting the cigar.

Paul came to a stumbling halt, taking in new details.

Dick’s hair was a tangled mess, his cheeks slathered with stubble, his clothes striped with grime. Welts crisscrossed his bare feet, and dirt stained his toes. The worst though, were his eyes--glazed stones nested in bruised hollows.

“Uh, Dick?” Paul said, his voice shaky.

With the match burned out against his fingers, Dick took the cigar from his mouth. Tendrils of smoke drifted lazily from his lips, as if from his brain cooking in his skull.

“Dick?” Paul repeated.

Dick’s head cocked like a dog’s. “Yes?” It was as if he was trying to do an impression of himself--and was failing miserably. A lump of ash broke from his cigar, and flakes dusted the grass.
Paul flinched. “How about we go in the house?”

Dick’s face flickered with recognition.

“Finish the cigar where it’s warm,” Paul continued. He walked backwards and Dick followed his legs as stiff as the trees.

“You’re doing great,” said Paul. Speaking as if to a pet, he had a sudden, crazy urge slap one knee. “Nice and easy.”

“Easy,” repeated Richard. His mouth twisted, as if he didn’t
recognize the word’s taste.

“Good,” Paul said, wondering where the hell Paul’s wife was. “We’ll just go inside. See what Janice is doing.”

Dick stopped dead. “Janice?” he said, and lurched back around.

Overhead, branches cracked and snapped against one another.

“Wait!” Paul yelled, but Dick was gone—a zombie on a mission.
So it was Janice, Paul realized as he rushed after him. Of course. She’d wised up, left him, and the guy had short-circuited.

Beside the leaves already, Dick held the smoldering cigar above them.


Paul darted forward, knocking it airborne. Ash scattered as it dropped end-over-end, sparks flying. Yelping, he stamped it into dry ground. “God damn it,” he gasped. “Don’t you know what you’re doing?”

“Yes,” Dick said. “I do.”

At that moment, Paul knew, too.

Reaching from under the pile of leaves was a woman’s hand--a white scar of frozen fingers against the flurry of autumn color. Cuticles were ringed with dirt, the index fingernail tacky with blood. Paul imagined what he couldn’t see--Janice’s stiff limbs bruised and broken, dead mouth choked with leaves, eyes struck with terror forever.

The smell of gas was a living, heaving thing that curdled the air, churning Paul’s guts.

Dick plucked the matchbook from his pocket, and a new flame flared.
“No,” Paul pleaded. “You’ll burn everything.”

Dick’s eyes caught Paul’s, really seeing him for the first time.

“God willing,” he said, and dropped the match.

As the flames fed, Dick collapsed into the fire--and the winds came screaming through the woods.

"Yard Work"
Copyright: © 2010 Stephen Hill

Stephen Hill's fiction has appeared on such eZines as The Broken Pencil, Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers, The
Oddville Press, Flashes in the Dark and MicroHorror. More recently, his work has appeared in the anthology Night Terrors, as well as 6 Sentences: It's All About Love.