A Little House from Hell

Why did I have to come out here today? Sarah thought as she pummeled through the rain, mud splashing on her boots as she ran along. There was a rundown shack at the edge of the field, just before the trees began, that she was running for. She just hoped the door would open–and that no animals had taken roost inside.

Sarah skidded in the mud and ran right into the door. It wobbled, and then she pushed it open. It swung inside with a loud creak that seemed louder than thunder, but the sound didn’t stop her, and when the door swung shut behind it, she was plunged into darkness.

Lightning flashed and for a moment the shack was filled with purple-blue light and she saw something move. She jumped back, banging into the door again.

“Hello?” she said. “Who’s there?”

“Just me,” said a voice. It was deep, a bit gruff, and Sarah felt her pulse quicken. “I’m John. What’s your name?”

“S-sarah,” she said. “Do you–do you have a light or anything?”

“I was working on a fire,” he said. “There’s some broken chairs here. The wood seems dry enough.” Lightning flashed again and sure enough, right beside the man–was he really so tall, or was it just a trick of the storm?–was a pile of broken wood. He bent down around it, his back towards her, and as thunder boomed, there was a spark. By the time John had stood up and turned around, the pile was a small blaze.

“How–?”

“What brings you out here?”

“I–I–” Sarah shook her head. Stay calm, she told herself. Maybe this isn’t as bad as it seems. “I was gathering wild flowers native to the region. I’m a botanist.”

John smiled, but his teeth looked…jagged? No, it couldn’t be. The flickering flames were just playing on her fears, tricking her into seeing something that wasn’t there.

“What about you?” she quickly added.

“Oh,” he said. “I was hunting in the trees.”

Sarah looked him over as lightning filled the room with purple-blue light again. He didn’t have on hunting gear, but thank god, he didn’t seem to have a gun either.

John walked over to the wall and leaned on it, but he was angled oddly. “What’s a woman like you doing out here all alone?”

“I’m not alone,” she blurted out, but bit her tongue as she said it. She was alone. Her partner was home with the flu, but she really, desperately needed those samples. Why hadn’t she waited?

“Is that right?” he said, twisting slightly at his waist. “Then I guess I’ll have to be quick.” He pushed off the wall and sprung at her.

Sarah twisted around, grabbing the first thing she saw, and swung it at him. The wooden two-by-four knocked him off his feet, but she didn’t plan to stay long enough to see him stand again. She turned around, throwing open the door as wind and rain showered in upon her, and then plunged into the nefarious weather.

But even through the rain she could see across the field. If she was going to escape him, she realized in an instant as thunder shook her bones, she’d have to take to the trees.

Excerpted from Show and Tell

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