by Dustin Pellegrini
The visitors came dressed for darkness.
Alfred watched from his bedroom window as they shuffled up the drive. If the moon hadn’t been so clouded over, he’d have sworn they were shadows.
Alfred and his mother lived alone out in the country, their nearest neighbors only swamps and trees. Their last visitor, the Dr., left only a few days before and they weren’t expecting anyone else. Yet here they came all the same.
They were getting closer.
Alfred saw now that each of them carried something, swung it as they walked. He picked out the head of a hammer, bigger than his own. The point of a pick, ragged from dirt and rocks. And there, in the faintest shard of moonlight, the glint of a shovel’s face.
He got up onto his step stool to follow them through the window. They were only a few steps from the front door now, he had to warn his mother.
Alfred pictured the shovel banging against the door. Could they pry it open?
He ran to his bedroom door, ready to shout for his mother, don’t let them in.
His mother let out a cry, wailing like he had never heard. He braced himself against his door, slowed his breath.
What could he do? There was no one to help, no one to call. Alfred slipped to the floor, tried to come up with a plan.
With his ear to the wood, he heard the tools crash downstairs. He heard the hammer drive nails that must have been longer than his fingers. Outside, he heard the pick and the shovel bite into fresh earth. And between every swing, his mother cried out with fresh howls of pain.
Alfred chewed through his lip and tried to shut out the sounds as his mother’s sobs grew weak.
When he could take no more, he ripped the door open and flung himself down the stairs, his eyes shut at the terror of finding his mother in pain.
The house was empty, but the front door stood open.
Alfred hurried outside and there his mother stood. There they all stood, forming a circle in the yard. The tools lay quiet on the grass and his mother shook as one of the visitors spoke under his breath.
Alfred approached, took his place next to his mother, and saw her pain.
There, in the fresh wooden box, in a freshly dug hole, he saw himself. His arms crossed, his eyes closed. Alfred watched his mother pass one last kiss from her lips to his, then took her hand as the men shut up the box and reached for their tools.