Surface Trap | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

Surface Trap

“SURFACE TRAP” By: Dallas G. Releford It was a cold morning for June but Angeline pulled her warm, red sweater tighter around her slim body and locked the door behind her. When she had walked down to the street, she found herself turning around to take another look at her new home. She could hardly believe that she had already been here for two days and it still seemed strange to her. There were so many things that she was unfamiliar with. An old home has many familiar things that we have become accustomed to but a new residence has many things that are strange and unusual to us, she thought. For the beautiful young woman, moving into the old mansion was a major decision she hoped she wouldn’t regret. Angeline sighed as she finally realized that she would just have to give herself time to get familiar with her new home. Her mind flashed back to the day the real estate agent had told her about the old house on Magnolia Street. She had scanned the newspapers, trade papers and advertisements searching for just this home. Mr. Burns was the real estate agent who had found it for her. It had all the things she thought she would want in a home, even if it had seen over a hundred summers. Mr. Burns had pointed out that the home was in excellent condition because the person who had owned it before had taken good care of it. She had decided to walk down to the local hardware store, hardly a block away on this cool day in June. She wanted to pick up some gardening tools and do some work in the back yard. She loved flowers, plants and all growing things in general. She knew there were a million things she should be doing in the house but she decided she would rather work in the garden and let the work in the house go until later. “Doing some gardening?” The clerk asked her as she was looking at some small shovels, forks and other implements. “What gave you the first clue?” Angeline said smiling. Her shoulder-length dark hair, hung down as she bent over selectively inspecting the tools. She stood up as the clerk walked up to her smiling pleasantly. “Most folks around here do that about this time of the year,” he told her extending his hand. “I’m the owner, Mr. Laker. Is there anything I can help you with? I know just a little about growing flowers, plants and those kinds of things.” “Yes I’m very sure you do and I can use some help,” she informed him. She noticed that he was an older man with a balding head, big blue eyes and he looked like he had seen too much sun. His head had been sunburned and the skin was peeling from his scalp. “Well, just let me know --- what kind of help did you need?” “I just wanted to plant some flowers in my backyard, maybe some Marigolds and maybe some wild flowers. Do you have some seeds for flowers like that?” “Why yes, right over here,” he said pointing to the next aisle. The clerk helped her find the flower seed she needed and put the items in a plastic bag for her. She selected a few tools she thought she would need and he escorted her to the counter. While she fumbled with her purse looking for her credit card, Mr. Laker took a good look at the young woman. His curiosity was getting the best of him. “Have you just moved into the neighborhood?” He asked as she finally found the card and handed it to him. “I mean, I haven’t seen you around here before and I know just about everyone in the general area.” “Yes,” she said, “I moved into the old Claiborne house just down the street.” She was surprised by the look on his face. She wasn’t sure but she thought his pleasant smile had turned to a frown and that confused her. “Oh, that place,” he replied handing the card back to her. “You’ll enjoy living there. I knew the last person that owned that property, Mr. Claiborne. He was a nice man. He died there, you know. Mr. Claiborne was in his seventies when he died, sure was.” “Oh,” Angeline said surprised. “I wonder what caused his death?” “Well, that’s another story,” he replied scratching his head, “they found him in the backyard one day near the deck. He must have had a stroke or something. He probably was working in the garden and got too hot. He had some strange large leaves in his hand but they never did determine where the leaves came from.” “That is interesting,” she agreed. “Well Mr. Laker, you have a great day. It’s been nice meeting you but I better get home and get to work. I have a lot to get done before the day is over.” “Yes, you have a great day too. Can you carry all that?” “Yes,” she assured him. “If I have to, I’ll make two trips.” As she struggled up the street with the load of tools, the comment Mr. Laker had made puzzled her. She wondered about it for a few moments and then put it out of her mind. Angeline felt lonely at times since her family was living far away and she didn’t have any friends in the new city. She hoped taking care of the plants would absorb her time and make her feel better. She didn’t mind when people looked at her walking up the street as many did. Many men found her to be extremely attractive at 27 years old. Her five-foot, one hundred and ten-pound frame was streamlined like a finely designed piece of art, which it was. She knew that she could get any male that she wanted but she was looking for someone special that could fulfill all her needs. Her beautiful brown eyes occasionally glanced to each side of the street at people standing on the sidewalk and moving about on their own personal business. It was those beautiful eyes, her brown hair and the light complexion, that had not been touched by too much sunlight that gave her such an appealing look. Angeline Pearson knew deep down in her heart that it was her choice that she was alone in the world. She was saving all that she was and hoped to be, for someone very special. She walked through the white, wooden gate and dumped the packages and tools on the ground by the back porch, which was really a small deck. Perhaps the man who had lived there before had built it? She could almost see him standing there now in the bright sunlight watching her. She shrugged her shoulders and convinced herself that she was just imagining things. She spent the next couple of hours breaking up the soft earth near the rear privacy fence. Obviously, someone had a garden there before and the ground had been broken before. For that she was grateful. She carefully tilled the fresh earth, planted the seeds where she wanted them and stood back and looked at her work. She would get some roses and set them out in a few days, she decided. They would look nice all along the wooden fence at the end of her property. All the time she was working she had the strangest feeling that she was not alone. She looked at the house several times but didn’t see anyone in the windows or anyone standing behind her. It was one of the conditions of being alone, she thought. Her unoccupied imagination was playing tricks on her. Every morning and in the evening for the next week she carefully and slowly inspected the ground where she had planted the seeds. She vigilantly watered the ground with the sprinkler making sure the droplets didn’t wash the seeds away. On the fourth day she noticed four small, round, pale green baby leaves pushing up through the ground. She didn’t recognize the plants but she attributed this to her lack of knowledge about some types of plants. She also knew they were so small that it was hard to tell what they were. Sunday of that week brought hotter temperatures and a downpour that lasted for hours. The loud roar of the thunder and brilliant lightning kept her in the house for most of the day. When she inspected the plants on Monday morning, she was really surprised to find the four plants had grown to a height of about eight inches. Their leaves had spread out and were soaking up the energy from the sun. The heat seemed to make them grow faster. The heat climbed into the low nineties on Tuesday. She was concerned that none of the other seeds had produced anything, although she thought it would be several weeks before they would peep up through the soil. By the end of the week, the plants had grown to over twelve feet high and had long, wide palm-like leaves that were a light green. Beneath the leaves were huge pods that resembled Cocoanuts with a green covering over them. She decided to care for the plants as best as she could but was sure they had come up from roots that had been there in the first place. As she worked with the plants on that Friday in the late afternoon, she heard someone clear their throat. It was just a little before dark. She had preferred to work in the garden when it was cool. Angeline was security conscious and the sudden sound frightened her. She looked all around her to only discover that a man stood on the other side of a four-foot privacy fence by the deck. “Hi,” the man addressed her as she walked over toward the fence, “I’m your neighbor, Ron Hanson. I suppose you just moved in since I’ve never seen you over here before?” “Yes, I moved in about three weeks ago,” Angeline said. “My name is Angeline Pearson.” “Hi Angeline --- you did say Angeline, did you not?” “Yes, that’s what they call me, sometimes.” “Well, real glad to make your acquaintance Angeline,” he said taking her hand and shaking it with enough pressure to almost break her fingers. She noticed he was a big man, in his late fifties and wore an old blue railroad hat and bib overalls. He wore a friendly smile that made her relax and feel comfortable around him. “I’m very glad to meet you also,” she replied gently pulling her hand away from his dominating grip. “Have you lived here very long?” “Why yes,” he said, “ --- I bought this house just after the war. My wife Jessie and myself lived here all these years. She passed away sometime ago and I’ve lived here by myself since then.” “Well, I’m sorry about your wife --- you must get lonely sometimes?” “Yes every now and then I think about her but I have my gardening and other things to keep me busy.” He seemed like he didn’t really want to talk about his past so she decided to change the subject. “Oh, do you like gardening too?” “Yes, I probably spend more time outside than I do inside,” he said smiling. “Oh yes, me too,” she told him. “I think we have a lot in common. Say, Mr. Hanson --- do you know what those big plants are over there? I mean, were they here when the previous owner had the place?” “Why yes,” he told her. “I always thought he had planted them but he told me one time they were here when he bought the house. He had lived here for almost four years so they have been around for a very long time. I don’t know what they are except they get big and they have those big pods on them. They only appear about every seven years though so you don’t have to worry about them too much. Other than that, I can’t tell you much about them.” “What about the previous owners before him? I mean --- did they plant them --- or maybe the plants have been here forever?” She was really getting curious and it was beginning to get dark and she still had lots of work to do. “Well, as far as I know there has been about four families that have owned this house since I moved here and I don’t know anything about the place before that.” She sensed that he was getting uncomfortable talking about the subject so she decided to let it rest. “Well, I really appreciate you talking to me Mr. Hanson,” she told him backing away from the fence. “I guess I had better get back to work before it gets too dark out here. I’ll talk to you later.” She walked away but glanced back over her shoulder to see Mr. Hanson continue doing something on the other side of the fence. She supposed he was potting some plants or something. She wondered why he had seemed so uncomfortable talking about the people who had owned the house in previous years. Maybe he had just been friends with them and missed their company or maybe the memories were too painful for him to recall? Whatever the problem was, she was sure that he was just a harmless person with sensitive feelings. After cleaning the weeds out of the flowerbeds and loosening up the soil around the plants that she had set out previously, she went into the house and washed her hands. She decided to sit on the rear deck and let the breeze cool her off. It suddenly occurred to her as she relaxed in the lawn chair that the plants had grown taller and the pods were much bigger than they were a few days ago. At some point she fell to sleep and didn’t awaken until sometime past midnight. Angeline realized that her slumber had been interrupted by some noise in the backyard. It was extremely dark on the deck since a huge Elm tree spread it’s wide branches above where she had slept. A pale moon and some bright stars provided enough light for her to see the backyard where her garden was located. She struggled to awaken and to focus her sleepy eyes on the garden area. As her eyes focused and adjusted to the lighting conditions, she could see a dark figure walk away from the garden with something under each arm. It was all bent over as if carrying a heavy load. She got up slowly and walking as quietly as a cat, grabbed the hoe from the side of the deck. Holding the tool like a soldier carrying a rifle ready for instant combat, she crept slowly toward the garden in time to see the figure open the gate and enter Mr. Hanson’s property. She wondered if Mr. Hanson had been in her garden for some reason? She became concerned that he might have seen her but decided that if it was Mr. Hanson, that he must have a good reason to be in her yard. She relaxed a little once she was satisfied that he wasn’t in her yard anymore. Her first intuition told her to check the plants. Why would anyone be messing around in her backyard she wondered? In the darkness, she inspected each of the plants like a mother religiously checking her young. As she carefully caressed each plant, she talked to them telling them not to worry because she was there to care for them now. She felt like the plants were part of her since she had given them so much care and protection. Her anger swelled in her when she discovered that two pods had been forcefully taken from one of the plants. How could anyone be so brazen and cruel as to steal from her very own plants? They were the only living things that she had to keep her company during her lonely days and nights. There was no husband, no kids and no family that she could call her own. It was like someone had kidnapped her very own children and that was something she could not let go. She would confront Mr. Hanson tomorrow and ask him what he knew about the missing pods. That’s exactly what she would have to do. She didn’t have any other choice. Not only had her space been intruded upon, her very own children had been violated too. At least, that was how she saw it. They were something she had nurtured, loved and watched grow to maturity. She didn’t sleep very well for the rest of the night. Angeline didn’t trust her neighbor so she slept on the deck on the lawn chair. She wanted to catch him red-handed if he came back for more of her pods. Did Mr. Hanson know something about the plants that she didn’t know? Did his previous neighbor’s tell him something about them that he found interesting enough for him to steal them? She had the feeling that Mr. Hanson didn’t want her around even though he tried to make her feel welcome? Women had that sixth sense that told them such things. Sometime during the night she fell asleep only to be awakened by the bright morning sun shining down on her face. She had overslept and it must be nearly noon. The sun was almost overhead. After a quick breakfast and a shower she decided to confront Mr. Hanson. He had a lot of explaining to do. She looked over the fence but didn’t see him in the yard. She nervously pulled on the gate and found that it wasn’t locked or chained. She walked cautiously through the gate and into the shaded yard. There were several tables with many pots and gardening tools on them. Beneath the tables were other gardening items such as bags of fertilizer, empty pots and bags of potting soil. Mr. Hanson seemed to be a full-time gardener. She wasn’t surprised to find the two pods on the ground in front of one of the huge, spreading Elm trees. The one thing that startled her was that the pods had opened up. Mr. Hanson had some more explaining to do. She walked to the front door and rang the doorbell. After about five minutes when nobody came to the front door she walked to the back door. In order to get to the back entrance, she had to enter the screened in porch. She opened the screen door and yelled but nobody answered. She knocked at the back door and didn’t receive an answer. She discovered that the back door was not locked. She carefully opened the door and yelled out but still nobody answered her. The house was extremely dark inside. The shades were drawn on the single kitchen window. The kitchen looked like it had been lived in. Dirty dishes from several meals filled the dirty old sink and flowed over onto the counter. Many open boxes of food and empty cans were on the old table with the white and red flowered tablecloth. Mr. Hanson was nowhere in sight. Carefully, like some kid exploring a deep, dark cave, she explored the living room and the single bedroom. She slowly climbed the old creaky stairs up to another bedroom on the floor above. There wasn’t anyone there. She knew he had to be there somewhere but he didn’t answer her calls. Neither was there anyone in the closets in the hallways. Something told her he was here and that she would eventually find him. He couldn’t hide from her no matter how hard he tried. She would find him. She was extremely confident of that. No thief could steal her pods and get away with it. He would pay the price just like everyone else had done. Satisfied that he wasn’t upstairs, she started back down the stairs listening intently for any sound that would give his presence away. She suddenly heard the slight murmuring sound she was listening for. Was it coming from the bedroom or the closet under the stairs? She listened with all her might. Yes, she was right. The sound was familiar and it was just what she had expected. It was coming from very close to her. She descended the last few steps and turned left. That course led her to the closet door. “You may as well come out now Mr. Hanson,” she warned, “don’t make it any worse than it already is. You don’t have anything to be afraid of. You just come on out now, you hear?” The door slowly opened and the human form stood in front of her. His eyes were not those of the man she had met last night. There was only a blank stare that looked not at her but off into space. It was the stare of an insane man. It was not a stare she was afraid of. In fact, it was expected. “Where is the other one?” She asked as she took his left hand and led him out of the house. “He left,” Mr. Hanson simply said and then repeated the statement as if he was afraid she hadn’t heard him. “He left.” “Yes,” Angeline said, “it’ll be alright. You must not worry about it. I’ll take care of everything.” She led him out into the backyard, through the creaky gate and over to her beloved garden. The sun was beating down hard on her bare shoulders but it felt good after being in the dark house for so long. Mr. Hanson stood silently behind her as she stooped down to inspect the huge plants. “Well, Mr. Hanson,” she quietly whispered, “you’ll require some training so you can understand our ways, you know.” “Yes,” he said, “I don’t remember much --- not much at all --- I’ll require some training.” “Don’t worry,” she assured him, “we have lots of time --- seven years until next time in fact --- that will suffice you know. You have a lot of time to learn and you have to help me teach the others Mr. Hanson. After all, Mr. Hanson, you’re just a baby.” “Yes,” he said as if he understood something that she hadn’t said. “You were just like all the others Mr. Hanson,” she whispered as she continued to massage the pods, one by one. “You were curious about our pods and you just had to open one. You didn’t realize nor could you possibly know that the pods contain our children. Yes, all of our children that have been born and growing on your planet for centuries in remote locations. It was unfortunate that one of our ancestors planted the pod plants here. But who could have guessed that they would build an entire city here? And just like one of our children took your body for a little while, so shall our children take other bodies in this city and many more like it all over the planet. Little could you guess, Mr. Hanson that I was born here many, many years ago. I returned to care for the plants because the last caretaker, Mr. Claiborne passed away.” She carefully massaged and petted the pods. The hot sun witnessed and stimulated the green plant and eventually the pods began to pop open. While she gleefully watched and cheered them on, tiny, dark skinned worms fell to the ground. Each lay there in the hot sun wiggling and squirming like a night crawler in the hot summer sand. Slowly but carefully, they bored their way deep into the moist earth. Angeline watched and made sure that each had found a sanctuary until the time was ripe for them to return from the earth in a mature state. When they were ready, they would return and find their own human hosts to carry them where they wanted to go and to help them to do all the things they wanted to do. When they were all born unto the earth, Angeline stood up and clapped her hands. She looked at Mr. Hanson. “Well Mr. Hanson, I think it’s time to start your education. After all, we will have a lot of children to take care of and you must be prepared. They will return soon and we have to be ready for them. We have to make a lot of friends in the neighborhood and prepare them for the occasion. You are ready to receive your education and to accept your responsibility aren’t your Mr. Hanson?” “Yes,” he said, “I’m learning a lot already.” “Good,” she said. She took his hand and walked with him toward the house. “We must get rid of the plants so that others with the same curiosity that you had won’t give us any trouble. They’ve done their job until next time.” “Yes --- we must,” he agreed. “We must make ready for the next arrival.” “You know Mr. Hanson that we all once lived deep in the earth but thanks to the plants that grew roots so deep down, we were able to find our way to the surface. We found our way to a trap on the service and now that we’re here, we’ll just have to make the best of it. We have learned to adjust and that is the most important thing. After all there are lots of opportunities here for us. Don’t you agree, Mr. Hanson?” “Yes, much more opportunity,” he said. They sat on the deck and talked about all the things they would have to do in order to prepare for the return. Angeline knew that she was only one of millions of her kind that would one day inherit the earth because they had been trapped on the surface. The End
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