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Suspense Drama Funny

The first thing that struck Charles was the sound.


Thump. Thump. Thump.


Charles strained his ears. Was he sleeping? Dreaming? Thoughts swirled around his head in a groggy haze. His eyelids weighed a million pounds.


Thump. Thump. Thump.


He twitched, his mind struggling to catch up with his ears.


Thump. Thump. Thump.


Then the noise began to change.


Thu-dump. Thu-dump. Thu-dump.


Charles groaned. Was it...getting faster? Louder? 


THU-DUMP. THU-DUMP. THU-DUMP. 


What hit Charles next was the feel of dirt cocooned around his body. He shifted and the dirt tightened, strangling him like a python.


He snapped his eyes open and realized two things at once: the noise was coming from his own chest, and he needed to get out. Now.


THU-DUMP. THU-DUMP. THU-DUMP.


Charles shoveled his arms down as if paddling to the surface of a deep lake; his long, sharp claws sliced through the dirt like butter. Instinct told him where to dig. Gasping, he broke through the surface of hard ground and was met with a cold, powdery substance lying around him.


Snow! Charles laughed as he stretched, his limbs popping. The sky was a bright, cloudless blue, the snow sparkling like diamonds in the sun. To the west, white-topped mountains stretched to the sky. To the east, a village of houses and barns dotted the vast, treeless plains.


The village. Charles grinned, imagining the delicacies beginning to sprout in the gardens. He loved nibbling on the fluffy tops of carrots. Lucy had a fondness for tomatoes. 


Charles breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of cold. Cold. It was only then that he shivered, realizing how quickly his body temperature was rising, fighting the frozen sleep that had encompassed him for three months. His heart, too, burst into a sprint as if wanting to make up for all the lost beats. 


THU-DUMP. THU-DUMP. THU-DUMP.


“Do you think he saw it?”


“Shh!”


Charles squeaked and spun around. There was a long, low fence close by, stretching to the houses and barns, with a dirt road behind it. Two humans--a boy and a girl--stood at the fence, watching him from the other side. The smaller one, the boy, wore blue snow boots, a puffy coat, and earmuffs. The girl sported white mittens and a matching hat. Their noses were pink and their breath puffed out of their mouths in clouds of white fog.


Charles tilted his head at the humans. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen one. He stared at their curious faces and wrinkled his nose at their scent. 


“Hey, little guy,” piped the boy in a slow voice. He shuffled forward, his boots crunching in the snow, and leaned over the fence.


“Shh, you’ll scare him!” said the girl. 


Charles rolled his eyes. It was not his favorite way to start a new year, seeing humans. He turned around, determined to ignore them, and looked out across the field, hoping to catch a friend or two. Lucy had burrowed close to him. He scanned for her mound of dirt, thinking of their last encounter and softening. She had nestled her soft head against his neck that night.


“I’ll see you in three months.”


“I’ll be waiting.”


She’d hurried to her den, calling something out before disappearing into the darkness. Charles struggled to remember what she’d said. Something tickled the back of his brain. Something that caused him to suddenly stand on his back legs, his fur prickling as he strained to identify the sudden lurch of dread in his stomach. 


Thu-dump. Thu-dump. Thu-dump.


“Is that it?” he heard the boy whisper behind him.


“Not yet.”


“Well, how do we know when it’s time?”


“You’ll see. Just wait, it’ll be any minute now.”


“But it’s cold.”


“Then go home, I’ll watch.”


The boy grumbled something that Charles couldn’t hear. He turned back to the humans and bared his long front teeth, then looked pointedly at the houses and barns down the road.


“He’s so cute,” the girl gushed.


Charles almost lunged to bite her, but then he saw it.


The Thing.


Ice sliced through his veins, colder than the snow under his feet. He choked on the sudden dryness in his throat. The pounding from his heart screamed louder than ever.


THU-DUMP. THU-DUMP. THU-DUMP.


The Thing was the color of death, soft at the edges, hard in the middle. A shapeless, bodiless horror against the pure snow. It stood in front of him, daring him to make the first move. Charles didn’t need to be told twice.


He squeaked, backing toward the opening of his den. The Thing slinked after him; it kept up with his stumbling with a terrible gracefulness. That’s what Lucy told him scared her the most, that ease of movement, that creeping, slinking exactness.


The Thing never failed to catch up, because it was always there, lurking around every corner.


“Be careful when you wake up, Charles!” Lucy had called out before disappearing into the night. “Be careful, you hear? Don’t forget about The Thing!


There were only two defences, and as the sun in the sky foiled the first, Charles only had one other choice.


He sunk back into his den, mourning his short-lived moment of warm sunlight, perfect snow, and fresh air. He burrowed deep enough so just a light layer of dirt covered him, cloaking him in darkness. He yearned for night to come and slay the beast. He listened--fruitlessly, he knew, as The Thing’s silence was absolute. Terrifying and absolute.


All he heard were the groans of the humans, muffled by the dirt in his ears.


“Damn rodent.”


“Don’t swear, Holt, or I’ll tell Mama.”


“But I hate winter.”


“Well, tough, because we’re getting six more weeks of it. Come on, let’s go tell everyone.”


Charles listened to their sharp voices and the crunch of their footsteps fade away toward the village. He wasn’t sure what that was about, but he suddenly missed the humans. Lucy would get a kick out of that, Charles missing humans. He imagined her giggling and almost jumped out of the hole again, aching to see her. But Lucy wasn’t there.


It was just him now. Him and The Thing.


Thu-dump. Thu-dump. Thu-dump.

March 24, 2021 23:14

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8 comments

Claire Lindsey
01:41 Mar 25, 2021

How did you make Groundhog Day so intense?! I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what The Thing is and then I realized... lol I love Charles and his blasé outlook on humanity. If groundhogs had an attitude, I’d imagine it would be something like his haha. And the side plot with Lucy adds an extra bit of drama that’s so intriguing. As always, your stories make me smile :)

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Lani Lane
18:44 Mar 25, 2021

Thank you so much Claire!! This one was fun to write. :) I'm going to catch up on your two new stories soon, can't wait!!

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A.Dot Ram
05:54 Mar 25, 2021

It's interesting that some of the language and images you used about the physical experience of coming out of hybernation are similar to what I'm cooking up (still not posted). I enjoyed this.

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Lani Lane
18:45 Mar 25, 2021

Thank you, I'm looking forward to reading your story about this! I really enjoyed this prompt - I might have to explore with the "metaphorical hibernation" for a prompt in the future. :)

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A.Dot Ram
18:49 Mar 25, 2021

Yes, metaphorical hibernation is interesting. I've been thinking about it in terms of starting to return to some normal activities after a year of laying pandemic-level low. That's not where I went, though. You're going to see more of Hazia, waking up in the 2050s. Scout Tahoe has an interesting metaphorical hibernation story. I still have lots of catch up reading...

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Lani Lane
03:10 Mar 30, 2021

I read your story before I saw this comment... just such a fantastic piece!! Hazia's story would be a great book. :)

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Lani Lane
23:17 Mar 24, 2021

This story is in no way related to John Carpenter's "The Thing," despite it being one of my favorite horror movies. :) I enjoyed writing this one. I only did some light Googling, so if any groundhog experts notice any groundhog discrepancies, please don't hesitate to let me know!

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Kyler Mattoon
20:29 Dec 21, 2021

Oh this was SO clever and I love it so much!!!!

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