Horror Drama American

Thud. Thud. Thud.

The sound of Henry’s ball bouncing against the wood floor in the half empty sitting room at the front of the house was pounding its way towards the kitchen in the back where I sat at the small wooden table with a cigarette in hand. My head was throbbing from the noise.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

“Henry? Why don’t you take that outside?”

“‘Cause, Mama. It smells funny outside.”

Thud. Thud. Thud.

“What is he talking about,” I mutter to myself.

As I stare out the kitchen window that looked to be vibrating from the sweltering August heat, all I could see were grassy fields cooked yellow from the sun, reminding me that this long drought we’ve had has doomed me to have another disappointing crop season. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, nothing out of the ordinary. Given that my 5-year-old son was blind, though, his sense of smell was far better than mine.

“It looks fine outside to me, maybe you smell the manure from the Henderson’s farm up the road,” I say of the neighbors’ cattle farm. In Kansas farm country, up the road meant 10 miles away; they were the nearest neighbors to us.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

He didn’t budge. Half the time I wondered if he’d also been born deaf for the amount of times he didn’t listen to me.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

While I bless the heavens for giving me a child, life sure had been testing me since his birth. His father, Billy, and I married in the summer of ’27 after meeting at a dance hall in my small hometown of Great Bend, Kansas, before he whisked me away to raise corn fields on the outskirts of the even smaller town of Abilene.

He promised me everything I ever wanted, and for a while, he seemed to deliver. Our farm was flourishing. He’d spend hours on end tending to the lush corn fields; crops we’d sell to production plants, stores, farmers’ markets, and so on. With the money we’d get, we’d often find ourselves traveling to Kansas City to shop, buying city-folk furniture and goods. He’d surprise me on occasion with new dresses and jewelry. But my favorite times were when we’d simply spend our evenings having dinner, dancing, and dreaming about what was next.

What came next? I got pregnant. As excited as I was, Billy seemed indifferent. That’s when I felt something shift in him, in our marriage. Soon after Henry was born, we learned of his blindness. Billy was not pleased. He blamed me for what plagued Henry, which caused a rift between us.

Then, as if it happened overnight, our crops had been hit with a series of droughts and pests that our income started drying up. We even had to sell some of the nice furniture and goods we’d bought just to make some ends meet.

Eventually, he spent less time in the fields and more time God only knows where, sometimes days on end. He took to the drink, often coming home from wherever he’d been with a bruise or two from fights he said never wanted to speak of.

Then one day he came home. I remember him being drenched from some rainstorm that caught him on the road. He had cuts and bruises all over, to which he insisted he was in car accident. He looked awful. As I tended to his wounds, he kept saying he wanted to make things right by us; sell the farm and move away. He seemed so frightened. He hugged me that night, I hadn’t been that close to him in years it felt like. We even made love. By the next morning, however, he was gone without a trace. That was last November, and he hasn’t been back since.


That wasn’t just Henry’s ball, that was the sound of rolling thunder clapping in the distance. Confused, I look further out the kitchen window into the horizon to see if a storm was out there. Nothing out west.

Thud. Thud.

The sound of thunder was getting closer.

“Henry, you hear that? Sounds like rain’s approaching.”

“Mama, it smells,” he reminded me, still bouncing that forsaken ball.

“That must be the rain, sweetie,” I say as I put out my cigarette in the ashtray and make my way down the front hall. Leaning against the frame of the front door, I peer out into the distance. Sure enough, a small but mighty looking rainstorm was approaching us from the east.

“The Lord’s answering my prayers, sweetie. We’re finally getting some rain.”

I look to Henry playing in the sitting room. He’s wearing linen shorts, no shirt, and is not at all concerned with the approaching storm.

As the thunder grew louder, the wind started picking up. A quick survey of grass, now swaying, drew my eye to the clothesline just off to the left side of the front porch.

“Damn,” I say under my breath.

“Damn what, Mama?”

“Nothing, just the laundry I hung up,” I say to him. “And mind your tongue, young man!” 

I grab the wicker basket that was sitting at the foot of the staircase by the door and head out to fetch the laundry.

As I begin to remove the clothes, I couldn’t help but notice the approaching storm had a funny smell to it.

I pause for a moment and look toward the approaching storm. It wasn’t like a rain smell at all, or a manure smell from the Henderson’s; it was a metallic smell of sorts. This must have been what Henry meant about the funny smell.

I notice something else strange occurring with the storm. From the looks of it, it wasn’t very big at all. Maybe a quarter mile wide at most. And everything else in the horizon still appeared to be blue skies. Then, something even stranger happened. The storm stopped for a moment a few hundred yards away from the house. If I had a wilder imagination, I would think that it was almost looking at me. I’d seen tornados and other terrible storms in my lifetime, but I’d never seen anything like this. 

Suddenly, the storm abruptly moved forward towards the house. It was approaching so fast that I grabbed the rest of the laundry as quickly as I could and dashed back to the front door.

I made it just in time as the rain swept the front porch. I set the basket down realizing I dropped a silk slip in the doorway that was getting soaked. I go to grab it with the intention of shutting the door, but then I felt the cool breeze come through.

“This feels quite nice actually,” I say to myself as I close my eyes and feel my skin cool off. “This storm ain’t so bad.”

I inhale a deep breath, trying to ignore the unusual metallic smell. As I exhale, I head back to the staircase to hang up my drenched slip when something catches my eye coming from the sitting room. It’s Henry, he’s standing at the bay window, focusing intently on something outside. It’s almost as if he sees something. Perhaps the smell and sound of the storm was overwhelming his senses.

“It’s quite something isn’t it, sweetie?”

He doesn’t answer me as he continues to stare blankly out the window.

“Maybe you’d like to go outside for a bit and feel the rain on your face?”

Still no answer.

I approach him at the window and caress his shoulder to ensure he knows I am trying to talk to him.

“Does that sound like fun? Splashing about in the rain for a bit?”

“No,” he said softly, “not while they are outside.”

What he says startles me a bit. I look outside and don’t see anything unusual.

“What do you mean they? Did you hear a critter…”

“No,” he interrupts me, “there are people in the rain.”

I fall silent. I approach the window to get a better look.

“No one’s out there. Did you hear someone?”

“I… I see them.”

My gaze shoots back to him. I drop the slip I was still carrying and put my hand to my mouth to cover a soft gasp.

“What do you mean you see them?”

“I… I can see people standing in the rain. They’re looking at us.”

A chill goes up and down my spine as I once again look outside and see no one. I was close enough that my breath was fogging the glass.

“Sweetie, I don’t see any…”

“Then there’s him,” Henry says. Without looking at my son I knew he was pointing at something.

“Him who?”

“The man in the window. He’s looking right at you.”

I jump back a bit at the thought, growing more terrified of what he was saying. This was unlike him. What kind of game was Henry playing? I turn to him and grab his arm.

“Now listen here young man, it’s not funny to tease your mother like this…”

Just then, his eyes started to widen as he backs away slowly from the window, tracing his line of sight to follow something on the outside of the house.

“He… he’s coming in,” he said.

I caress my hand over my rapidly beating heart as I try to follow his gaze.

“Henry, listen to me, I promise you, there’s no one…”

“Why didn’t you close the front door?” He asked.

I shoot my gaze to the front hall, unable to breathe. I was now caught in a battle between looking at Henry and at the thing he was supposedly staring at; something standing in the front hallway. Something my blind son could see, something invisible to me.

“Who is it, sweetie? You’re scaring me.”

When he didn’t answer me, I decided to play along.

“Who’s there?” I asked to the space before us. I move to stand in front of Henry, nudging him behind me for his protection.

“I beg of you to leave. This is a Godly house; we don’t want any trouble.”

I look around in all directions, fearing I must look foolish talking to someone who isn’t there. But then I felt it. That feeling you get when you know you’re not alone. The air in the house got cooler, and the skin on my arms turned to gooseflesh. There was a presence before me, I could feel it. It was looking right at me. Perhaps it was sudden curiosity that drowned out my fear, but in that moment, I slowly lifted my hand to see if I could connect with it.

“Who are you?” I whisper.

I felt a tug on my other hand down by my side. I look down to see Henry looking up at me, directly into my eyes; something he’d never done before. Lord have mercy, I thought, he was looking at me.

Then it all started coming together. I prayed for rain; it came. I’d been in a state of shock until now that I didn’t immediately realize the miraculous event of my son being able to see for the first time in his life, something I always prayed for.

Whatever was in this storm, in our home, had to have been some kind of miraculous gift sent to us. I felt tears forming in my eyes as I smile down at Henry’s angelic face.

But Henry’s expression wasn’t that of joy and happiness. There was some fear there.

“What is it, Henry?”

He just shakes his head no in response as if to say he didn’t want me to touch the presence. I didn’t want him to be frightened.

“There’s nothing to be scared of,” I say as I switch my focus back to the presence before me, “you can see for the first time in your life? The rain that came directly to us to end our drought?”

Further extending my hand, I finally make contact with the presence. My whole body feels electric.

“I have to believe God sent them to answer our prayers.”

I stroke the space before me as if I were stroking the cheek of an angel, or that of my Billy’s as if he finally come back to make things right.

My moment of joy was interrupted when I hear Henry whisper, “God didn’t send them.” I look down at him in disbelief for saying such a thing.

Just then, the presence tightened what felt like a powerful, calloused grip around my wrist and sliced my palm wide open diagonally from wrist to the bottom of my little finger with what felt to be a dull, jagged knife.

I scream in pain as I push Henry away from me to keep him at a distance.

“Let go of me,” I shout as blood drips from my hand to the floor. I can feel myself tugging, trying to pull away. When the presence finally lets me go, I fall to the floor shouting and crying hysterically in pain as I cradle my bloody hand to my chest.

“Leave! Get out of my house!”

I notice Henry, whose standing across from me, turns his sights from me on the floor to the very tall glooming presence. Oh no, I thought.

“Don’t you dare hurt my son…” I command.

But Henry seems to be listening to something the presence is saying. He mutters a few words in agreement, and then… he nods his head. 

“Henry, can you hear what it’s saying?”

“He says they’ll leave for now. But they’ll be back,” he says. 

“Why? What do they want?”

“To collect what’s owed, ‘cause…” he says, sounding so meek before trailing off.

“Damnit, cause what?”

“Cause daddy never held up his end of the deal.”

“End of the deal? What does daddy have to do with this?”

In that moment, the rain stopped and the clouds parted to let the sun shine once again. Before Henry could answer me, he convulsed slightly. He then looked around as he always did, behind blinded eyes, relying solely on his other senses. He crouches down to feel around the floor for his ball.

“Henry,” I shout as I crawl over to him, “what just happened? You tell me right now!”

“I think I lost my ball.”

“No, with those… people? Who were they?”

“What people, Mama?”

“Don’t tease me young man! What do they want with us?” I ask as I violently shake sense into him. “You said they were going to come back? Why? What does daddy have to do with it?”

“I… I don’t know…”

“You do know! Answer me?”

He starts to cry. “Mama, you’re hurting me.”

I reflect on how violent aggressive I was being with him, then feel my heart sink to the floor. He really didn’t know what was happening.

I let go of his shoulders and back away.

“I’m… I’m sorry, sweetie. Mama just injured herself and got scared for a moment.”

I caress his cheek letting him know everything was ok.

I get up from the blood-stained floor and feebly walk back towards the kitchen.

“Can I play ball again, Mama?”

“Sure,” I say defeatedly.

Back in the kitchen, I open the liquor cabinet Billy usually frequented and grabbed a bottle of bourbon. I remove the cap and set the bottle on the counter, knowing what I must do. 

I take the kitchen cloth hanging near the wood burning stove, wad it up and place it in my mouth. I bite down hard as I count backwards from five. When I reach one, I grab the bottle and pour the alcohol onto my sliced palm. I immediately cry out unholy words as the cloth muffles the sound. The pain nearly made me nauseous that I braced myself over the sink.

A minute later, I finally remove the cloth from my mouth and wrap it around my hand and watch as blood seeps through the fabric.

My breath starts to catch up with me as I pull away from the counter and sit back down at the kitchen table. I use my trembling, uninjured blood-stained hand to grab another cigarette from my case. As I put it to my lips, that same smell came back. The smell from the rain, what I thought was metallic. It was the smell of blood.

I quickly and nervously grab the match book and light my cigarette. I take a deep inhale, and as I exhale, I return my gaze out the kitchen window.

The grassy fields were once again yellow from the sun. There was no storm anywhere on the horizon. Not a single cloud in the sky. It was as if it never happened. But I knew it did.

I just didn’t know why, or what. Looking down at my injured hand resting on the table, I knew I was in a state of shock and confusion. Confusion as to how a storm could seemingly target us like that. Confusion as to what possessed Henry to suddenly see for the first time in his life, then say terrible things, then lose his sight again and act as though nothing happened? Why us?

Why could Henry see them and I couldn’t? What did he, or rather the presence, mean by collecting what was owed? Or that Billy played some kind of role in all this? Did that explain all those times he came home bloodied and bruised, sometimes soaked, and I assumed it had been cause of a fight? Did that explain his disappearance? 

More importantly, when would they be back? It was then I realized I never asked Henry exactly who they were, or how many of them were in the rain.

My breath picks up again as I grow terrified at what was to come. Just as everything was starting to go silent in my head, I could hear Henry, who found his ball again and started to bounce it once more.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

September 25, 2021 02:56

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Driss Boutat
14:34 Oct 08, 2021



Show 0 replies
Janet Morris
22:51 Sep 30, 2021

Great story! I'm definitely wanting to hear the rest.


Nicole Fowler
14:01 Oct 01, 2021

Thank you! I would definitely like to expand on it, but this prompt was a good start.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mark Wilhelm
12:27 Sep 30, 2021

OMG that was an awesome story!!! wow. Thanks for that. I run a little scary podcast and, I have had a lot of positive feed back on it. I would be honoured to be able to tell this tale. You can reach me at creepy@frighteningtales.com and if you want to see the sort of thing I do with the stories visit frighteningtales.com for more information. Thanks.


Nicole Fowler
22:20 Sep 30, 2021

Thank you so much! Happy I finally submitted a story, or at least a piece of a larger story that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’d love the opportunity to learn more about a performance. I’ll send you an email!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.