Described as “The best writer of horror and thrillers at work today” by author Christopher Rice, and praised as one of the best writers of his generation by authors including Ed Gorman, Brian Keene and the legendary author of Six Days of the Condor, James Grady, among others, Greg F. Gifune is a best-selling, internationally-published author of several acclaimed novels, novellas, screenplays, and two short story collections.

Working predominantly in the horror and crime genres, Gifune’s work has been translated into several languages, has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and others, and is consistently praised by readers and critics alike. His novel The Bleeding Season, originally published in 2003, has been hailed as a classic in the horror/suspense genres, and is considered by many, including Famous Monsters of Filmland, to be one of the best horror novels of its kind ever written.

Gifune is also working on several film projects as both a writer and producer, consults on film and TV scripts, and helps punch-up projects for other authors, screenwriters and filmmakers. For film/TV he is represented by Paradigm Talent Agency in Hollywood.

Greg resides in Massachusetts with his wife and their dogs, and can be reached online at gfgauthor@verizon.net or on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.


by Greg F. Gifune

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”
—Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary


Unseen things began to move, slithering, growing and coming alive in ways he did not understand. Wrapping around him, they coiled like dozens of tiny snakes slowly tightening around his head and throat, over his eyes, across his nose and mouth, a jungle of them enveloping his face and body until they had come together to form a hideous cocoon. Though he attempted a scream and struggled to free himself, he knew it was all in vain. There was nothing he could do to shed this new skin, even as it blinded and choked him, and his body bucked with violent resistance. And as his final breath rasped free, barely audible beneath the network of vines, he wished for death. But he understood even then, as these things pierced his flesh and moved deeper inside him, that he was changing instead. He was becoming something else, something horrible and hideous, but something still profanely alive.

Ed awakened gasping for air, his hands fumbling at his throat. As he lay atop the sheets, the ceiling fan overhead spun furiously but did little to decrease the humidity in the bedroom. As he escaped sleep, his vision focusing and his head clearing, he listened a moment, but all he could hear was the steady hum of the ceiling fan. He was alone—his wife Hannah had evidently gotten up ahead of him, which was her custom—but the house seemed unnaturally still. Theirs was the last house on a rural road, so they got little traffic, and their neighbors were mostly elderly. Generally, the area was quiet. But this was different, as on this day, the normally peaceful silence of their neighborhood left Ed instinctually uneasy. Still bleary-eyed, he rolled from bed and headed downstairs to see where everyone was.

That summer was their dog Corky’s second, and although he was nearly two, he was a lab, and labs have notoriously long puppy-hoods. Perhaps because he’d been raised in a household with cats (they outnumbered him three-to-one), Corky had become much like his feline brother and sisters, a creature of habit, and so, he’d get up every morning a bit earlier than Ed, and accompany Hannah downstairs. She’d let him out to do his business while she put the coffee on. Once Corky was back inside, he’d sit in the kitchen with Hannah until she became sufficiently distracted then sneak away and creep back upstairs. While Ed slept (or sometimes only pretended to still be asleep), Corky would select one of his toys from the myriad littering their bedroom floor, and then furiously wagging not only his tail but his entire backend (a maneuver Ed had dubbed Corky’s ‘happy dance’), Corky would launch all eighty-five pounds of himself onto the bed and come crashing down on top of him. This had become the norm for Ed, to awaken to Corky wiggling about on top of him doing his happy dance.When he’d been a small puppy it was adorable, but the larger he got, the harder it became to survive unscathed. Eddidn’t mind though, as once he was fully awake, Corky would drop the toy, shower him with kisses then flop down next to him and stare at him with those big, dark, adoring eyes. It simply wasn’t possible to be upset or to wake up anything but happy when one’s day began with that level of unconditional love.

But there was no sign of Corky either.

Still suffering the ravages of vague but terrifying nightmares, as Ed stumbled down the stairs, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something horribly wrong.

The den was empty, as was the kitchen. The coffee pot beckoned from his peripheral vision, but he ignored it and shuffled over to the sliders overlooking the backyard instead. They’d had a fence installed around the entire yard when they got Corky, so they could let him out and he could run and play out back safely. Ed looked to the gate. It was closed, so he turned his attention beyond the deck to a modest raised-bed garden Hannah had planted earlier that year. She’d been laid off from her job several months before, and though she’d always been interested in gardening, until recently, she’d never had time to pursue it. In many ways her garden had become a saving grace, as it gave her something enjoyable to focus her time and energy onwhen she wasn’t searching the online job sites or going on interviews, neither of which had yet amounted to much.

When Ed stepped out onto the deck, the first thing he saw was Corky sitting a few feet from the garden. The dog seemed oddly docile, just sitting there and staring straight ahead. Nearby, Hannah stood gazing at the garden as well. Although he felt better the moment he saw them, Ed moved to the edge of the deck, and without saying anything, watched his wife and dog awhile, his eyes darting between them and the garden. What were they both staring at so intently?

“Honey?” he said.

“Morning,” Hannah said softly, without turning around.

Ed slowed his stride long enough to give Corky a quick pat on the head before sidling up next to Hannah. He slid an arm around her waist, leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. “Why are you guys staring at the garden?”

The word garden seemed to snap her out of her trance. Hannah blinked a few times, wiped away some perspiration from her forehead with the back of her hand then returned the kiss. “Trying to figure out what happened,” she finally said.

Ed knew nothing about gardening, and did his best to just stay out of Hannah’s way when it came to such things, but when she pointed to a specific area of her garden he saw that one section of large-leaf squash plants had all been yanked free and left flattened in the soil. They looked as if someone had pulled them up and stomped them.

“With the fence, some small critters can get through underneath—maybe a bunny or even a raccoon—but whatever did this had to have some weight behind it,” she explained. “It’d have to be something…big.”

“Was the gate locked when you got up?”

Hannah nodded, the perplexed look on her otherwise pretty face growing worse. “Yeah, so I can’t figure out how anything that size could’ve gotten into the yard.”

“I suppose some kids could’ve scaled the fence, maybe, but—”

“What kids? And why would kids take the time to climb a six-foot fence in the middle of the night just to pull up and stomp some squash plants? Besides, Corky would’ve heard them. He hears everything, especially at night.”

Not this time, Ed thought. “Are there any footprints?”

“Nope, and that’s bizarre too.”

“What do you think, pal?” Ed slapped his leg, which usually resulted in the dog bounding over to him joyfully. This time Corky slowly strode toward him and sat at Ed’s feet, but the dog’s eyes remained trained on the garden. “It wasn’t you was it, buddy?”

“No,” Hannah answered. “When I let him out before we went to bed last night I was out here with him and I checked on the garden. It was fine and Corky never went anywhere near it.”

Ed squatted down and petted the dog. “You feeling all right, puppy?”

“I think he’s a little spooked.” Hannah pushed her bottom lip out and blew a renegade strand of her short brown hair away from her eyes. “I am too.”

“I really don’t think it’s anything to be frightened of.”

“Someone came into our yard in the middle of the night and did this while we were sleeping, Ed.”

“Honey, I seriously doubt anybody came into the yard. It could’ve been raccoons, maybe a whole family or something. A bunch of good-sized ones could’ve tried to eat them by pulling them loose like that and trampled them in the process.”

She thought about it a moment. “It’s possible, but where are their prints then?”

“Who knows? Faded overnight, maybe, or—I don’t know—but doesn’t that seem more likely? Besides, why would anyone want to hurt your garden?”

“I don’t know.” Hannah shrugged her narrow shoulders. “I’m just pissed.”

But there was more to it than that. Ed could tell she felt something deeper because he felt it too, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on, an instinctual sensation that crawled up the back of his neck and whispered in his ear that despite what common sense dictated, there was more to this than raccoons or other critters. He’d felt it even before he knew about the vegetable garden. Memories of his nightmare flickered through his mind in blinking segments. Still, Ed forced a smile and did his best to mask his own feelings, to calm Hannah and to defuse the situation as best he could. “Let’s go in and have some breakfast,” he said.

Together, they strolled back toward the house.

Corky remained where he was, watching the garden. After a moment, there emanated from deep within him, a barely audible sound somewhere between a growl and a whimper.


That afternoon, Hannah pulled the ruined plants from the garden and planted new ones. She figured it was early enough in the season where if she got them into the ground now they’d still be ripe and ready to be picked at some point late in the summer. But as she worked beneath a brilliant sun, down in the dirt of her garden on her hands and knees, she couldn’t seem to stop running various scenarios in her head. What could’ve done this? She wondered.

The work done, she sat back on her heels, wiped some sweat from her brow then looked around. Behind the garden was fence. To the right was open yard, to the left a series of wild plants growing along the fence. Mostly weeds and a few leafy plants, but they were all fine. Beyond them were several birdfeeders and a cement birdbath. Hannah stood and inspected the area to see if any additional damage had been done. Though the birdbath needed to be filled, otherwise, far as she could tell, nothing else had been disturbed or looked in any way out of the ordinary. She plucked a bottle of water from the pocket of her shorts and took a long drink. As she screwed the plastic cap back on the bottle she suddenly felt lightheaded. The world swayed a bit, tilting one way then the next, until she nearly fell.

Corky must’ve sensed something was wrong, because he vaulted from his step on the deck and ran to her immediately, placing himself between Hannah and the garden and nuzzling her thigh with his nose in an attempt to push her back toward the deck and away from…Away fromwhat, she wondered, the garden?

“It’s okay, boy,” she said, suddenly breathless. Nausea had joined the wooziness. She carefully lowered herself onto the grass and sat there a moment. After a few deep breaths the feeling left her, but the dog continued to gently push his nose into the side of her shoulder.
Corky, stop, baby, I’m fine,” Hannah told him. “I think I just got overheated. I should really wear a hat if I’m going to be out here in direct sunlight so long. Mommy should know better.”

Corky moved directly in front of her, blocking her view of the garden. Though his tail wagged, his face continued to register not only concern, but anxiety.

Hannah looked to the garden. Was she missing something?

A dark blur slipped quickly along the very edge of her peripheral vision.

She snapped her head in that direction, but the black form she could’ve sworn had just glided right by her was nowhere in sight. “Christ,” she said softly, running a hand over her forehead and across her hair. “What the hell’s going on?”

Again, Corky’s nose pressed into her shoulder, this time harder than before.

“You don’t want me anywhere near that garden, do you, Cork?”

He gave a single high-pitched bark, as if to say, “Duh!” then ran toward the deck and looked back, expecting her to follow.

Strange, she thought. Even the dog senses something’s not right.

Hannah struggled to her feet. Her tank top was stuck to her like a second skin, matted down against her body with sweat. As she and Corky went inside, she tried to convince herself that it was simply the sun that had gotten to her just then.

She failed.


That night, heavy summer winds blew in off the nearby Atlantic, bringing with them torrential rains that soaked everything down and lashed the house with a steady drumming sound. Ed lay awake in bed, watching the ceiling fan spin through the darkness overhead. He wanted to sleep, had every intention of it when he and Hannah had gone to bed earlier, but so far it had eluded him. Instead, he lay there wondering about the garden, about the strange way he’d felt since that morning, and how oddly Hannah and Corky had behaved since. Something was wrong. He knew this—knew it on an instinctual level—but he had no idea what. Earlier, while Hannah had taken a quick shower, he and Corky went outside. Ed walked the garden, inspecting it and searching for…for what? He still wasn’t sure. The dog had kept his distance, refusing to accompany Ed beyond a certain point. That had never happened before. None of this made any sense. Hannah had removed the damaged plants and planted new ones. Nothing else in the garden had changed or seemed out of the ordinary. Ed even went so far as to check the wild lilac bushes along the fence nearby and behind the garden. All were in place and undisturbed. But not long after he’d started back for the house he’d found himself lightheaded and nauseous to the point that he had to sit down for a spell.

Now, hours later, those symptoms had left him, but he still felt…strange…unsure of himself and his surroundings. He reached over for Hannah, his hand coming to rest against her bare thigh. She was sound asleep, partially wrapped in a sheet.

Ed swung his feet around to the floor. The window next to their bed was open, the screen soaked with rain. Beyond, nothing but a stormy night…

Why then did he have an overwhelming feeling that he and his wife were not alone?

A glance to the foot of the bed revealed Corky, asleep and quietly snoring. Odd, he always came awake whenever Ed or Hannah did. In fact, Ed could not recall a time when he’d gotten up and Corky hadn’t awakened as well.

He rose from the bed, padded quietly in his bare feet across the carpeted floor and to the stairs. Hesitating, he looked back at the bed. Neither Hannah nor Corky had moved. Something’s wrong, a voice in his head whispered. There’s someone or something here. Not in the house but…close…nearby…

Ed started down the stairs, thunder growling in the distance, barely audible above the relentless rain. “The garden,” he whispered to himself. “There’s something in the garden.”

Even as he moved through the house, stumbling a few times in the darkness and shaking with nervous energy, Ed felt ridiculous. But he was alsogripped with fear the level of which he had never before experienced.

As he reached the sliders, he flipped the outside light on and leaned close to the glass.The light illuminated most of the deck while rain and darkness conspired to make visibility beyond it essentially nonexistent. Still, Ed strained his eyes and continued staring into the night, the sounds of the storm clamoring all around him, so close and violent on the other side of those doors. Such a thin separation, he thought, such a flimsy barrier. If someone or something wanted in, would it be so hard to smash through these doors or perhaps a window? Since many of the windows were open, a screen could simply be torn free and that which separated out there from in here would be no more.

And then he saw it.

Something separated from the darkness. It was too dark to make out, but Ed could’ve sworn he’d seen movement within the rain, a dark form slinking through the storm in the direction of the garden.

“What are you doing?”

“Jesus Christ!” he gasped. Hannah stood a few feet away. Behind her, halfway down the stairs, Corky watched through the balusters. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“Is something out there?” she asked, taking up position at the sliders.

“I don’t know.” Ed tried to calm down but couldn’t stop trembling. Was this a dream? Why did everything feel so wrong? “Am I asleep?”

“You’re awake,” she told him.

“Are you sure?”

She hugged herself against the gooseflesh rising along her skin. “Yes, I—of course—we’re both standing here talking. It’s storming outside and you—tell me what you saw out there, Ed.”

“I’m not sure. I thought I saw something move across the yard but—”

“I’m calling the police.” Hannah spun and headed for the phone.

Why was she moving with such a strange gait, as if drunk?

“Wait, I can’t be sure. I just…”

“You just what?” she snapped. “Ed, it’s the middle of the night. If there’s someone walking around our yard we need to call the police.”

“I can’t be sure I saw anyone.”

“Are you sure you didn’t?”

“No, but—”

“Then I’m calling the cops.”

“It was probably the storm playing tricks on me. I looked out through the sliders and I thought I saw something but…” He swallowed, cleared his throat. “I just don’t…Hannah, do you feel all right?”

“Do you?”

“No, I don’t feel like myself.”

“Were you sleepwalking?”

“I’ve never sleepwalked in my life.” A chill gripped him. “Why?”

“Because you just asked me if you were asleep.” The troubled look on her face grew deeper with concern. “And you don’t remember going outside, do you?”

“I didn’t go outside. I just looked out the sliders.”

“Ed,” she said softly, “you’re drenched.”

“What are you talking about? I just got out of bed and…”

The rest of the sentence died in his throat as he looked down and saw a small puddle on the floor slowly forming a halo around his bare, mud-caked feet.


Though it took a while, Hannah eventually convinced Ed he’d simply had a bad dream and sleepwalked. Once he changed into dry clothes, she got him to bed, but it was nearly four in the morning when he finally fell back to sleep. Hannah, on the other hand, was up for the night. She returned downstairs with Corky, made sure the back light was on then went and got their video camera from the front hall closet.They’d purchased it a couple years before but rarely used it. The battery would give six hours of continued use, so if she set it up just before they went to bed the following evening, it would record throughout the majority of the night.

As the sun came up, Hannah ventured out onto the deck. Corky ran off into the yard to do his business while she checked on the garden. The rain had stopped an hour or so before, but the ground was still soft and wet. A series of footprints led from just beyond the deck to the garden then back again. Further proof that Ed had sleepwalked out there in the storm, and yet…

More plants had been pulled up out of the ground and left trampled in the garden again. Even sleepwalking, why would Ed damage the garden? It made no sense.

Hannah crouched down. Ed’s footprints appeared to stop about four feet from the garden. Had he jumped the rest of the way and come crashing down? It would certainly explain how two tomato plants had been ruined. A closer look around the smashed plants revealed no footprints—same as before—but the soil was so disrupted by the rain and mud and damage, it was impossible to know for sure if the storm had simply masked them.

Though the mystery had likely been solved, Hannah still wasn’t buying it, not completely anyway. She still felt there was something more to this than a sudden case of destructive sleepwalking. Besides, why was her husband suddenly sleepwalking in the first place? He’d never exhibited such behavior. And why was he ruining the garden? Had he developed a subconscious dislike for vegetables? The entire thing was so ridiculous it might’ve been humorous, had it not been so oddly terrifying.

With the video camera slung around her neck, Hannah began to pull the ruined plants from the garden. By the time she returned to the house, she’d again begun to feel frightened and uneasy, certain someone or something was watching her.

Later, she’d set the camera up to record from the edge of the deck, and she’d leave the back light on all night.

Then, she thought, we’ll know for sure what’s happening out here after dark.


“I think I should make an appointment with the doctor while I’m still on vacation,” Ed said. “If I’m sleepwalking there must be treatment for it.”

Hannah nodded, but she wasn’t really listening, she was too preoccupied with the camera, positioning it just right on the edge of the deck so it would be sure to record the garden once night had fallen. “What I don’t understand is how something could trample the plants like that and not leave a footprint. The rain left the ground soft, there should’ve been footprints—I mean—there’d almost have to be, right?”

“Did you hear what I said? Why are you preoccupied with filming the garden tonight? Obviously I’m the culprit and didn’t even realize it.”

“You would’ve left footprints,” she said, continuing to fiddle with the camcorder.

“Hannah, this is serious. I’m concerned about my health, not the garden.”

“In fact, you did leave footprints all around the garden and leading up to the garden, but not in the garden itself, where the plants were destroyed. It’s as if something dropped down from above the plants and did it without touching the ground.”

Ed sighed. “Do you hear yourself?”

“But that’s not possible, because there’s nothing there for something to hang from. No trees, nothing. Even if they could, it doesn’t explain the plants being trampled. Unless…could we be misinterpreting what we’ve seen somehow?” Apparently satisfied with her positioning of the camera, she stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Tonight we’ll know for sure what’s going on. The camera won’t lie.”

“It’s going to show me sleepwalking and trampling your garden.”

“Fine, if it does, we’ll get you to a doctor pronto. But I think there’s more to it. I can feel it. Can’t you?”

He could but didn’t want to admit it. “I don’t feel like myself. I haven’t since this began.”

“Same here,” she said. “Even Corky hasn’t been himself these last few days.”

Let her do her experiment, he thought. The night would reveal the truth.

Ed gazed out across the yard. The heat was rising, blurring the landscape. Even their uneventful little neighborhood seemed ominous now, as if just behind the curtain they’d mistaken for reality, a predator was slowly crawling free, slinking closer…and closer still.


Beneath dark and starless skies, Ed slept. Though he somehow knew he was asleep and dreaming, the fear coursing through him was real. He struggled to move, but unseen things held him tight, coiling, tightening around his limbs and torso, his throat, across his face and mouth and forehead, pulling, dragging and choking him with impossible strength. He tasted dirt and grit. It gagged him, but even as he attempted to thrash about, he knew these things were also entering him, piercing his flesh and slithering deep inside his body. He could feel them scurrying through him, beneath his skin. His eyes were wide with terror, but he could just barely see, and his attempted screams were little more than gurgling groans trapped in the base of his throat. And yet he knew he wasn’t dying. He was still alive. Alive…but not the same...

He’d become something new.


In the morning, Ed found Hannah at the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee, the recorder before her. For the first time in recent memory, she was smiling broadly and looked completely at ease. Corky lay at her feet sleeping. “Have a seat,” she said, patting the chair next to her. “You need to see this.”

He shuffled over to the table and plopped down next to her as she turned the viewer toward them and hit PLAY. “Watch,” she said, “and you’ll see we’ve solved the mystery of the garden.”

The light from the deck behind the camera gave off enough illumination to clearly see the garden and fence behind it. Ed watched awhile but saw nothing unusual.

“There,” Hannah said, pointing to a section of fence directly behind the garden.

After a few seconds, something moved. Atop a red stem growing along the fence, a white-petal flower with a purple center and outer edges slowly came into full bloom. “Is that the wild lilac bush?”

“We thought that’s what was growing along the fence.” She hit PAUSE. “But it’s not. I’ve been on the Internet checking it out. You’re not going to believe this, but it’s a nocturnal strain of a plant known as the Devil’s Trumpet. It’s a highly toxic plant. Every part of it is poisonous. Even smelling it can affect you. It’s a goddamn hallucinogen. Even indirect interaction with it can cause disorientation, blurred vision, dry mouth, severe hallucinations and paranoia. It has affects similar to LSD. That’s why we kept seeing strange things and having all those odd feelings. It’s why you were wandering around out in the storm the other night without any memory of having done so.”

Ed rubbed his eyes and tried to absorb everything she’d told him. “What’s something so toxic doing in our yard?”

“That’s what I wanted to know. A little more research revealed that its seeds are sometimes found in wild birdseed—like the kind we buy for the feeders—only it takes a long time to germinate, and oftentimes it never even blooms.”

He stared at the flower on the screen, so white and solitary in the surrounding darkness. It seemed hard to believe something so beautiful could’ve caused such havoc. “So all this time we’ve just been drugged?”

“Higher than kites,” she giggled. “It’s all been a bad drug trip. We’re not crazy, we’re not sick, and there’s nothing coming into the yard at night pulling up our garden.”

“Are there any lasting effects? Should we still see a doctor?”

“Nope, the reactions wear off in a matter of hours. Problem was we kept poisoning ourselves every time we went anywhere near the damn thing so we never had a chance to recover unless we were asleep.”

That would explain the nightmares, he thought. “We have to get rid of it.”

“Already took care of it. Put on a pair of gloves, covered my nose and mouth with a bandana, and cut the thing down. I walked it out into the woods and buried it.”

Ed glanced down at Corky. He’d come awake. His tail thumped the floor as if in joyful agreement. “So that’s it, huh, Cork?” he said before leaning over and planting a kiss on Hannah’s lips. “Good job, babe.”

As they hugged, Ed couldn’t help but look beyond her to the sliders and the deck and garden beyond. He shuddered.

“What’s wrong?” Hannah asked.

“The whole thing’s just so damn creepy.”

“But it’s over now,” she said through a wide smile. “It’s all over.”


Ed sat on the deck, watching the birds fly about from feeder to feeder, while others hopped in the birdbath, or searched the ground for fallen seed. The sun was high in the sky and beating down on him mercilessly, but he remained where he was, sipping iced tea and listening to the birds sing. It wouldn’t be long before vacation was over and he’d return to work, so despite the heat, Ed intended to enjoy the weather as best he could. But his mind kept returning to the Devil’s Trumpet. He pulled his sunglasses down onto the bridge of his nose and looked out across the yard to the garden. Craziest thing I’ve ever heard, he thought, and although he now knew the reasons for their strange behavior, thoughts and nightmares, and the previous symptoms he’d suffered were no longer evident, there was still something about that garden that gave him the creeps. He rose from his chair and stepped down onto the lawn. Hannah and Corky were inside, and a part of him wished they were out there with him, as just then, he didn’t feel entirely comfortable being alone. Even though Hannah had said the effects didn’t last, maybe some were still lingering within him.

He felt it necessary to approach the garden, almost as if it were beckoning him, drawing him closer to something he could not quite comprehend. His chest tightened as pieces of the nightmare flashed in his head—living things coursing through him, vines tangling and sliding around and within him, dragging him down beneath the dirt—so he drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. No, he thought, I will not let this get the better of me. The mystery is solved. What the hell are you afraid of?

He returned his gaze to the garden. What was I really doing out there at night?

Ed moved across the yard, stopping just prior to the raised bed. He crouched down and inspected the garden. No more damaged plants, everything looked fine. He looked over at the bird feeders and bath. Strange, the birds were suddenly gone and the area had grown deathly quiet, much the way it did when a hawk or other predator was nearby. Shielding his eyes from the sun with a hand, he looked to the sky, expecting to see a large bird of prey circling overhead.

The sky was clear.

His eyes panned back to the garden, slowly considering each plant. In a drugged state had he really pulled them up and walked all over them without realizing it? Had Hannah? It seemed they had, yet despite the evidence, deep down he wasn’t sure he bought it. And he had no idea why.

Hannah’s words echoed in his mind.

What I don’t understand is how someone or something could trample the plants like that and not leave a footprint.

Sliding forward onto his knees, he dropped a hand to the loose soil and pushed it around a bit.

It’s almost as if someone dropped down from above.

Ed’s finger brushed something foreign.

But that’s not possible, because there’s nothing there for someone or something to hang from. No trees or anything.

Using both hands now, Ed pushed more dirt aside, digging a bit deeper into the garden with his fingers.

Unless we’ve misinterpreted what we’ve seen somehow?

His fingers touched something soft but also solid. What the hell—

And then it hit him. What if the plants hadn’t been trampled at all? What if it only appeared that way? Not because someone above had pulled them up, but because something below had pushed them out.

Frantically clearing the dirt, Ed stopped as quickly as he’d begun, paralyzed with horror so terrifying he could feel his entire body shutting down. What appeared to be a human face was buried in the garden. His face—dirty and tangled in weeds and vines, eyes wild, mouth open like a hungry baby bird—and something resembling human hands not quite finished, rising up through the dirt, through the garden floor to clamp onto his wrists.

As his mind shattered, he tried to scream, but even as he slammed forward into the dirt and felt whatever had a hold of him squeezing and pulling him down, he knew it would do no good.


Corky sat in front of the sliders, growling.

“What’s the matter?” Hannah asked from somewhere behind him.

The dog cocked his head, confused and trying to understand not only what he’d just witnessed, but what he was now seeing.

“What’s Daddy doing? Do you see Daddy?”

No. Not Daddy. Something like Daddy...but not Daddy.

Not anymore.

Something finishing…growing…becoming…but not Daddy.

As Hannah reached for the sliders, Corky barked, jumped up and tried to block her from going outside.

“Down boy!” she scolded, grabbing his collar.

Reluctantly, and with a whimper, the dog sat down.

“Stay. Be a good boy and stop it now, it’s just Daddy.”

No…NOT Daddy

Hannah opened the sliders and moved out onto the deck to find Ed coming up the steps. He was filthy and disheveled. “What the hell have you been doing, rolling around on the ground? You’re scaring the dog.”

“Come with me.” Coughing, he wiped dirt from his lips and took her hand. “I want to show you something.”

His hand felt odd. “Why,” she asked, “what’s up?”

“There’s something you need to see,” he said, “something in the garden.”

As he led her across the yard, Corky hurled himself against the sliders, growling and barking with furious violence.

Not Daddy!

And there, just beneath the dirt…slowly emerging…growing impossibly from the garden soil…

Not Mommy.

©2012/2023 by Greg F. Gifune / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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midnight bridge