This is chapter three in the story Fires from the Dark.
“Ah!” Andrew exclaimed as he sat back in his plastic rocking chair.
Iced tea in his hand, Sven chose the swing, hewn from what appeared to be birch, opposite of Andrew.
The two men were sitting on Sholzer’s backyard patio. A glass table with a pitcher of iced tea atop it sat between the two of them.
Sven traced a crack in the light-gray concrete floor to a small hole in the wall behind him, providing excellent housing for a lucky rodent, before he spoke.
“So…what’s been going on? I haven’t seen you for about a couple weeks. Anything new and exciting?”
Andrew took a sip of his drink, his gaze sweeping over his yard: small but filled with lavish décor- several pieces of art varying in size, shape, color, and sculptor. He had a taste for the “desirables”, as he labeled them. Though Andrew claimed he sculpted the majority of these himself, Sven was still skeptical, regardless of how many others were convinced.
He took another swig.
“Oh, I’ve just been tending to things around the household. Sculpting some more. I’ve even started doing shrubs-“ he pointed to a line of pine bushes, neatly trimmed into odd shapes, planted along the wooden fence, providing a border for he and his neighbor’s yards “-and some other plants. Although, I’d have to say that the bushes are turning out best.” He nodded his head toward some small fern plants in pots next to the swing Sven was sitting on. He noted that they were horridly disfigured.
Sven thought of bringing up his nightmare once more to his friend, but hesitated, thinking back to how quick Andrew blew it off. He couldn’t muster if it was plain incredulity, or if he wanted to forget the entire incident all together.
However, before he had the chance to bring himself out of thought, it was done for him.
“So, how’ve you been?” Andrew asked.
Now it was Sven’s turn to look out across the yard. He squinted at the glare of the midday sun, and spoke.
“Hm…Well, the usual. Doing things around the house. Driving into town with Lori. Nothing special on my part, either.”
“That’s all? I’d figured that you would have done something a little more…engaging?”
“Besides cleaning up “kitty messes”, nothing.” Sven muttered.
“Not quite what I was implying, but, alright.” Andrew said, a glint in his sleek, stylish glasses.
Sven threw him a look. Andrew smirked.
Shaking the front of his gray T-shirt, he said, “It’s rather hot, don’t you think? It being springtime, I figured it’d be a bit cooler. Heh, it must be Global Warming.”
He threw a smile at Sven, and the two chuckled.
Andrew ran his hand through his dirty-blond hair, and sighed.
It seemed to Sven that something was on his friend’s mind, and so he tossed aside the idea of bringing up the nightmare once more.
He watched as Andrew got up from his seat and stepped off his patio to shoo away a small group of birds - three or four – that had chosen to rest on his bushes.
"Ah, to hell with them. They’re always perching on my artwork. I’ve had to scrape droppings off my prized statue-“ he pointed to a stone sculpting of Aristotle “-more times than I can recall.” He grumbled.
As his friend walked back up the pebbled path leading from the patio throughout the sculptures, Sven stood up.
“You mind if I use your bathroom?”
“Andrew looked up at him as he took a small step up onto the cement.
“Hm? Sure. Up the stairs, second on the left.” He answered.
When Sven returned, Andrew was still in his seat, gawking at his “desirables”.
“Hmmm…Ten past noon…Would you like something to eat?” Andrew asked Sven as he sat down, glancing at his wristwatch.
“Maybe.” He said, rocking the swing. He watched more birds land on his friend’s elegant, neatly trimmed bushes, and watched him shoo them away.
As he walked back, he told Sven to come with him inside his house.
Sven did as instructed.
The back door led into the living room. Simplistic furnishings and carpeting, plain blue wallpapers with carvings at the bottommost borders. Several eloquent paintings hung on nails on the walls.
Sven, insisted upon by Andrew, flopped down in a fluffy recliner, the color of cotton.
“Well, if you’re hungry, I suppose I can fish something out.” Andrew said.
“If you want to, I’ll eat.”
Andrew clapped his large hands together. “Wonderful.” He said, leaving the room.
After a series of beeps, he returned with two plates of steaming food.
“Leftover spaghetti. I hope you like it- it’s the only thing left that doesn’t take over an hour to make.” He said, handing Sven a plate and fork. He sat down on a couch beside Sven.
Flicking the television set on, he sat back and began to eat.
A news station was reporting some “breaking news”.
“Turn it up.” Said Sven, peering tentatively at the television.
“M-hm…hald an.” Andrew said, his mouth stuffed with noodles. He leaned forward to grab the remote control off a large glass coffee table in front of him. Increasing the volume, the news reporter could be heard.
“…here at downtown Cincinnati, another homoc-“ she was cut off, Andrew speaking.
“Feh. Must just be another-“ this time Andrew was cut off.
“Shh.” Sven hushed him.
Andrew looked away in silence, and continued eating.
“The body of sixteen year-old Marcus Hayes was found just a few hours ago.”
“Andrew…look. In the background- it’s the Scripps Center…That’s on Ridgeway…That’s just a few minutes away from here!” Sven exclaimed.
Sholzer, quiet, continued on with consuming his meal.
“Like other frighteningly similar cases, the young man’s body showed no signs of any - oomph!” The reporter was knocked aside by an old woman wearing a ragged old green coat.
“No! No! I know! It…it wasn’t anything form this world! It leaped from the roofs! Oh, dear God, dear God…The thing…It devoured the child’s soul! I saw it!” she ranted.
Sven leaned forward in his chair, taken in by her story, hanging in suspense. Andrew sat, finishing his pasta.
“Ma’am, please, we’re doing a-“ the reporter was shoved aside once more by the woman.
“Listen, listen! Don’t believe these lies!” she turned to the reporter lady. “You saw it! You saw it!” she began to sob.
“Please, ma’am, I understand you are shaken by this-“ she made a hand motion to the cameraman to do something; he shrugged. “But, please, you must rela-“
“I have a photo! Proof of your lies!” she screamed, half anger, half utter fear.
She shoved a picture of a mutilated body in front of the camera lens. His body was dripping with blood. On closer inspection, another detail of importance could be noted.
His eyes were gouged out.
“That’s quite enough!” Andrew half-shouted, and clicked the TV off with the remote.
He sat back down.
Sven, horrified, sat still. Then he hunched over, pulled his plate under his head, and vomited.
Andrew, once more, sat in silence.