Scythe

Week I: Mark Andrews

There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House, / As lately as Today-

Emily Dickinson

Mark half-registers the lightning in his dreams, but the thunder snaps him awake. He blinks in the dark room, the only light from the two flatscreen monitors on the desk in the corner. As he sits up, part of his mind wonders, was it the thunder that woke him, or something else?

The dog lifts its head and looks at him, and Mark can hear the low whine in the back of his throat.

“Watsamatter, boy? Thunder botherin’ you?” Mark lifts his head from his pillow, trying to focus bleary eyes on his beagle, Manny.

He stands up, tail wagging. Mark looks past him and realizes he left the window open. Wind blows rain inside – as he crosses to close it, he looks down and sees someone standing in the back yard of his neighbor’s house. Another flash of lightning, and he can see it is Ted Miller. Husband, CPA, father of two, regular church-goer, member of the Kiwanis. A pillar of the community.%

Standing unmoving in his back yard during a thunderstorm.

Mark frowns, tired brain trying to figure out what he’s doing. After a moment, he realizes he should ask. “Ted? You all right?” He tries to be loud and quiet at the same time.

Ted doesn’t move for a moment, and then looks up. Lightning flashes again. Is that blood on his shirt, or mud? Manny puts his front feet on the windowsill to look out, and whines again. Ted says something, but thunder drowns it out.

“Hold on,” Mark offers, then throws on a robe and slippers and head downstairs. He grabs an umbrella, tells Manny to stay, and goes out to the fence. “You all right?”

“No,” Ted answers simply. He looks down at his shirt, water pouring down his face. “None of us are.” Behind him, his back door is half-open. “None of us are.” His voice is one of despair.

“What’s going on?” Mark tries to say calmly. “What are you doing out here in the rain?”

“They’re dead.” He shakes his head. “They’re all dead.”

“What?!” Incredulity fills Mark’s voice, sure he must have heard him wrong.

“We’re all dead.” Ted sits on the ground, heedless of the rain. Then he starts to laugh.

A chill goes down Mark’s back and he goes back into his own house to call the police. The phone rings several times before someone picks up. “911. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“My next door neighbor is covered in blood and is claiming ‘they’re all dead.’ I think we need some police, maybe an ambulance here.”

The woman on the other end of the line confirms the address and tells Mark someone will be there as soon as possible. “Don’t try to intervene sir, for your own safety,” she cautions. She tells Mark she would stay on the line, but the storm has led to a lot of accidents, and she needs to keep as many lines free as possible. “I will try to call again in 5 minutes.”

Storyteller’s Note: This photograph used under Creative Commons license.

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