Something Nasty in the Woodwork

by R.S. Pyne

It was Tuesday, a fine summer morning in the park. Large red-tailed bumblebees buzzed lazily among the brightly colored flowers. Birds were singing, and small children tried to eat their own weight in fresh grass cuttings. The sunshine was pleasant, but one person had more interesting things to watch than bees. A girl stood, staring at the fat man in a gray raincoat and old-fashioned hat. He seemed nice enough, even if he wasn’t wearing any trousers.

“Come on, Sam.” Her mother sounded impatient. “Harry needs changing, and babies don’t wait.”

She still had not made up her mind about her new brother. Part of her loved him but part of her still felt jealous and hard done by. How dare he be born to usurp her position as the baby of the family? And then he smiled at her, and all was forgiven. It was hard to be cross with him for very long.

She looked again at the old tree stump. It had always frightened her, and now something nasty lived inside it. The strange man stood right in front of it, ignoring the cool breeze that raised goosebumps on his bare legs. He was not invisible, even if Mummy pretended not to see him at all. He waved, and then a look of sudden panic crossed his face. The gray fabric of his coat turned crimson, a fast-spreading stain, as a bone-like spike protruded from his chest. The panic gave way to pain, his lips forming words that bubbled with blood as he fell forward. He did not get up again.

Samantha closed her eyes and then opened them again. Nobody else had noticed. Nobody even heard the bones crack as the body was pulled over the gravel into the old dead tree. The noises that followed would stay with her forever: a slurping, gobble-crunching sound and then a deep belch of appreciation. “Tasty,” the thing said in a soft bubbly voice like rising marsh gas in a swamp.

A long arm with green scales and a three-fingered, clawed hand retrieved the man’s hat and briefcase. Both vanished into the hole before the silence resumed and the monster settled down to digest its meal.

“What is the matter, darling?” Her mother’s voice sounded far away and worried.

Samantha opened her mouth to tell the world about the monster in the stump but knew it was a waste of breath. They would never believe her. “Nothing,” she lied and did not look back.

She did not hear the ominous laughter that drifted out of the stump. The monster took careful note of her scent and decided to follow her home. It liked children and had not yet made any plans for dinner.


BIO: R.S. Pyne lives in rural West Wales. Previously published work (or inpress) has appeared in Scribble, Apollo’s Lyre, New Cauldron, Linkway, Delivered, Twisted Tongue, Albedo One, Countryside Tales, PenCambria, SALT, Stitches: Journal of Medical Humor, 55Fiction, FlashShots, and numerous others.

For broken links or other errors, contact Asher Black via his website.