Donald Glass

The August Selected Writer is Donald Glass

Feel free to email Donald at: dglass1963@gmail.com


by Donald Glass

Dimming toward twilight, the sun slipped over the horizon. Soon it would disappear. The heat of the midsummer’s day would dissipate and lower the temperature to a comfortable degree. Until then, it would be as it had been all day, hot and humid.

Bobby followed his big sister, stumbling occasionally on the rocky ground. Dry grass brushed against his bare legs, and the occasional bug lighted on his face. He hated bugs and would have turned back if not for the balloons.

They shouldn’t be up here near the woods. His mother had told him many times not to go into the woods. He could get lost. But Becky wanted him to go on an adventure with her to find the balloons. He’d never been on an adventure before. So he followed her.

With sweat dripping into his eyes and gnats swarming his face, he was having second thoughts. Gnats were bugs, and bugs were insects, and insects were kind of like spiders. He was terrified of spiders.

“We shouldn’t be way up here, Becky.”

“Be quiet and don’t be a baby.”

“I’m not a baby,” he said, voice quavering.  

“You’re acting like one. Come on, it’s not much farther,” she said, leading the way.

Bobby wasn’t a baby in any way, except mentally. He looked like a perfectly normal eight-year-old. Suffering a blow to the head as an infant had left him mentally challenged and living in the world of a four-year-old…a world he would never grow out of.

He took the deep breath his mother had told him to take when he got upset, and followed his sister across the field and into the woods. He wanted to find the balloons his mother had gotten for him. She’d told him to be careful with them and he’d lost them. He didn’t want her to be angry with him.

“Where are we going, Becky?”

“We’re gonna get your balloons, and I have a surprise for you. You’ll like it.”

“Is it ice cream? Ice cream would be a good surprise.”

“Yeah, there will be lots of ice cream. Follow me,” she said and ducked down the path leading into the woods. “I saw the balloons float away, up here."


At age fifteen, Becky resented him even more than she did when she hit him on the head all those years ago. She’d been the first born, and spoiled rotten until Bobby came along. Her world suddenly changed, and it became the baby’s world…Bobby’s world; always Bobby.

The attention he received finally overwhelmed her. Two days after his first birthday, an extravagant affair that dwarfed her previous birthday, she took matters into he own hands. While he slept in his crib, she stood over him, watching him sleep, judging where the soft spot on his head might be. Feeling the weight of Bobby’s building block in her hand, she decided it was time to eliminate her competition.

The following day he seemed fine. She’d failed.

But as time progressed, Bobby’s development slowed and eventually stopped. At the age of four he began suffering seizures and required almost constant watch. The job fell on Becky to watch over him when their parents couldn’t, another insult taking even more of her time.

The act she desperately attempted had backfired, leaving her brother not gone but even more reliant on his parents and her to survive. Becky’s world grew smaller while Bobby’s inflated. He became the center of their universe, a universe full of medication, doctor's visits, and specialized equipment he needed on a daily basis.


“Come on, Bobby; you don’t want the Puffalump to get you,” she said in a sing-song voice as she led him into the woods. Moving faster than he could, she quickly outdistanced him.

The trees blocked out almost all of what little light remained. Streaks of sun broke through the dense forest, casting blades of light in random patterns, like knives stabbing into the earth.

Bobby froze in his tracks. A mere fifteen feet inside the darkness, he felt like he was in another world. Bobby was afraid of the dark. The dark belonged to the Puffalump and the spiders.

Puffalump had been a favorite toy. Fluffy and soft, he’d carried it everywhere and used it for a pillow when he took his naps, until the day Becky showed him the secret of the Puffalump.

She’d called him over to the porch and showed him something hanging under the steps. It was a white, egg-shaped sphere. Wrapped in silky thread, it hung suspended in a corner under the porch steps. Gently she reached out a finger and touched it, telling him it was a baby Puffalump. It would grow to be just like his someday.

“Pretty,” he said as he stroked its silky exterior.

“Watch this.” She picked up a stick and poked at it until it burst open.

Hundreds of baby spiders spilled onto the ground. They crawled frantically in all directions. Bobby screamed and ran.

That night he had a nightmare and slept with his parents. The next day, still not wanting to believe his sister, he pulled at the stitching on his Puffalump. His awkward fingers worked the thread for hours until it came loose. He pulled the seam apart.

Inside the Puffalump, he saw soft, silky, white stuffing. It looked just like what was underneath the porch. Screaming, he begged his mother to throw the Puffalump away.

Nightmares of the Puffalump became a regular occurrence, usually followed by a fit or tantrum. In his dreams, the toy became an evil creature. It stalked him in the darkness, dragging him away to a horrible place of blackness, a hole from which he knew, even in his slow mind, there was no escaping. He always woke screaming and covered in sweat.

Now, standing in the dimness of the woods, he imagined it as the place the Puffalump lived. The mention of the Puffalump combined with the surrounding darkness froze his blood. He stood in the woods his mother had told him never to go into, thinking of nothing but the Puffalump and spiders.

“Becky,” he whispered, terrified.


As soon as she outdistanced him, she slowed and silently crept deeper toward the spot she had recently discovered…the old well-shaft.


Dusk’s flickering light combined with the gentle swaying of the tree’s branches, causing the darkness to seemingly dance at the edge of his vision. He gripped the words his mother had said to him often when he was frightened.

“It’s all in my head,” he whispered, repeating his mother’s words, eyes flicking left and right.

Suddenly ahead of him, his sister appeared. “Run Billy! The Puffalump is behind you! He’s going to get you and cover you with spiders!”

Without turning to look, Billy ran toward the safety of his big sister. His squat legs carried him awkwardly across the uneven ground. All he could see was his sister and safety. For all meanness she displayed toward him, she was still his sister and he loved and trusted her.

The creeping shadows now seemed to narrow, threatening to cut off his path to her. Something moving caught the edge of his vision, something darker than the shadows. Beetles, bugs… and spiders, a specter of insects rippled across the foliage like waves of dark water.

It’s all in my head, all in my head.

Only a few feet from running into the safety of Becky’s arms, he tripped and fell. He hit the ground hard, his head striking a rock with a sickening crack.


Annoyed at his clumsiness, Becky walked over to him and used her foot to nudge his arm. Nothing.

Again she struck him with her foot, harder this time. Still no movement. She looked from his still body to the well; it was maybe twenty feet away. She would have to drag him, and then she would have to cover up the trail. It needed to look like an accident.

She rolled him over and saw the gash in his forehead, a twisted path of flesh open from his hairline to his right unblinking eye. She glanced at his left eye. It was open also and completely black, as if the pupil had expanded to fill the orb. Then she noticed the wound on his head had no blood on it. The cracking of his skull had been loud enough to make her cringe. There should be some blood.

She picked up a stick and gingerly poked the outer edge of the bloodless cut. His body twitched, causing her to jump. She poked the stick into the wound. Stringy white fluid oozed out and moved across his face and neck as with a mind of its own. Tendrils of the viscous fluid wrapped itself around his head and neck.

She screamed and stood up too fast. Losing her footing, she stumbled backwards and fell.

Bobby’s shrouded head swelled and pulsated, over and again until it tore open. Thousands of spiders pushed their way through the opening and spilled onto the ground.  The leafy underbrush became black as they swarmed toward her.

Feet and hands thrusting against the leafy underbrush, she pushed herself further away from her brother. Wildly she propelled herself backward as the spiders converged upon her legs, biting the flesh. Within seconds she was covered in spiders.  She tried to scream, but barely made a sound as they filled her mouth and swarmed down her throat.


Bobby woke to the sound of his mother’s voice, sounding far off and dreamy. His eyes focused on the stars, just coming out. He sat up and  saw his balloons floating above him.

His mother sprinted to him. “Bobby! Are you all right? You know you’re not supposed to wander out of the yard.” She hugged him, nearly crushing him in her embrace.

“I was getting my balloons. They floated away. The Puffalump found them for me,” he said, shaking his arm with the balloons tied to it and making them dance in the air.

“Now Bobby, what did we tell you about the Puffalump?” she asked gently.

“He’s not real.”

“No he’s not. He just something your sister uses to try and scare you. He’s all in your head.”

“All in my head,” he repeated and gently touched the faint scar on his forehead, already fading away.

She took his hand in hers and began leading him back to the house. “Your sister was supposed to be watching you. Have you seen her?”

“No,” he said softly and glanced over his shoulder toward the woods. “I don’t know where she is anymore.”

Donald Glass lives in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He writes mostly about the underside of life that dwells in every city…including yours. He’s had work published in all the usual places online including Shotgun Honey, Dead Guns Press, Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle, Spelk, Out of the Gutter, Thrills, Kills ‘n’ Chaos and has had two stories published in anthologies from the Dead Guns Press Crime Scene and Dames and Sin.