Shovels and Knives

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Write about a mysterious figure in one’s neighborhood.... view prompt

55 comments

Fiction Horror

I found you digging holes again the other day. What it is you’re digging for is beyond me. A lot of things you say and do are beyond me. Things like the time you renamed the cat after seven years of Snowflake. He’s still learning to respond to that. Another time you threw a glass at the floor when I forgot to substitute pinto for black beans in the dinner I was making. You renamed me, then, too. An awful, ugly name that had me bending low to catch the acid before it fell out of my throat.

The holes you dig are deep. And wide. And just big enough that I consider searching your things. What would I find if I went through all those boxes in the basement? Some poor girl’s silver charm bracelet with three charms missing? The collectable shot glasses you assure me can’t fit with the others?

The holes are deep and wide and deeper still every time I glance out the window. I half consider checking the shed for things you might be burying. I say things because once the soul has left the body it is considered inanimate. Inanimate meaning lacking animation. Animation meaning life. I am nearly inanimate.

When you come back into the house for your periodic water breaks, I check your shoes for red or black or silt that’s not from your dirt piles. Unless you’ve learned to turn the dial on the washing machine. Which is improbable. You’d have to ask me for instructions- unless you’ve somehow overcome your paralyzing fear of all things Outsider.

When you fill your water glass at the tap, I take advantage of your stance and move my full body to the window. I can see almost all of your holes from there. They are deep and wide and wider than when I last saw them. Perhaps I should take a trip to the shed. I wonder if I would ever come back. I can picture what might be my hole: five feet and three inches wide, six feet deep in the earth. The window reminds me that it might already be dug. Perhaps you’re not digging for anything.

When you leave again by the back door, I clear my throat and wring my limp hands. Piano hands, my mother called them. Not dishwashing hands, bedmaking hands, or hole-digging hands. I wring them on a towel with black and white stripes. The air is thick and moist with humidity. I am breathing hard through a tube of lip gloss. It has become a game to see how many breaths I can hold without meeting the floor from lack of oxygen.

My piano hands itch to submerse themselves in something other than water. The holes are deeper, wider. Wider, deeper; deeper still. What are you hiding? What have you lost?

A fly trills in my left ear and I hear Mozart singing to me with his hands that are just like mine. The towel is a set of piano keys, glossy with unuse, singing to me of their own accord. My head snaps back to the window when I hear a shout. It is time for me to refill your water glass.

The glass shimmers in my hand where it meets the sun from the window, sparkling when the tap water hits it. I think of your gold teeth and how many times you’ve had to change a white one for something you could pawn later. The collectable shot-glasses are still in the basement. The tiny glasses that couldn’t fit in with the three big ones. The tiny glasses you’ve bandaged together in a box half the size of the basement.

My piano hands itch from the hot water because that is the only way you will drink it. I’ve thought about disabling the heater before, knowing it is improbable you would ever know. The glass shimmers in my hand and I turn it over easily in my palm, running my finger over its smooth surface. It wouldn’t hurt very much under my foot. If it were broken it wouldn’t hurt. My piano fingers press harder against the rim, admiring its diamond planes. You refuse to touch anything plastic. Perhaps it is because you know it could never be used as a weapon. I smile as I fill your glass with water that burns my hands. I know it could never be used as a weapon.

I can see you digging still from the window. Your mouth is a slash of determination, your feet set apart as if you are digging the foundations for a bridge, a house. Your hole is three feet and five inches wide. Your shovel cowers when it encounters a rock, but you force it to dig deeper still. A lot of things you say and do are beyond me. 

Beethoven is singing with his two, deft hands and his two deaf ears. He is here, at my ear; here, in my mind. I can barely see the top of your head over the edge of the hole you’ve made. Perhaps you mean to bury me lengthwise. My hands drip over another glass as I wash it and think of all the beautiful quartz it would make if I were to break it. All the beautiful knives.

Your head has completely disappeared now. If I bent my legs and sprinted, I could reach the shed before it appeared again. My hand is an octopus snaking its slithering tentacles around the bottom of the glass. My hand is the head of Medusa making use of her unconventional hair. The glass dives toward the floor, and I admire the way its wings fold back; the way its talons grasp at nothing, preparing for its prey. It shatters beautifully. It is quartz and diamonds and knives.

The glass doesn’t hurt when I leave, carrying a few pieces with me in one pocket. I wrench open the back door, stumbling out of it like I’ve made use of the tiny glasses in the giant’s coffin. Your head begins to resurface, and I run, my nimble legs carrying me to the foliage surrounding the shed. There is a call for your glass to be refilled. You have drunk the water that burned my hands and still your head floats gracefully above the top of your hole. If I peered closely enough, I might see the cone-shaped protrusions forcing themselves out of your forehead; interrupting your hairline as they dig their own holes out of your skin.

The shed door is heavy, but my fingers are as nimble as my legs. Bach begs me not to dawdle in a throaty tone, hovering over the east set of keys with precision. I hear your shout again, and the latch on the door to the shed has all but disintegrated in my hands. I swing it open. I run inside. I am met with wood and metal and the smell of obsession.

There are shovels, all shapes and sizes, littering the room. My mouth falls open and all I can see is the top of your head coming up, out of your hole like a flower blooming. How much prettier it would be if I added color to your dirt-brown hair. What are you hiding? What have you lost?

Another shout and I’m grabbing the nearest blade, lunging for the door. Soon, you will come and find me. Soon, I will be found with metal and glass and quartz and diamonds and knives.

I can see the top of your head rising higher as I race toward you. There is your neck, there are your shoulders. There are your eyebrows, pulled low over your eyes like tiny twin cloaks. Here are your wide eyes as I stand over you, admiring the look on your face until I hear another sound.

There is a man at the fence, watching me watching you as I hold a blade over your head. He is clothed solely in black, his face covered by a hood, his features a mysterious swirl. I feel my own features frost over with fear as I see what it is he is holding.

You are smiling, gold teeth glinting. It is a shovel. 

July 12, 2021 00:24

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55 comments

Havilah Bail
15:24 Jul 12, 2021

This was amazing. And I'm totally feeling the mystery

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Amelia Bowen
15:59 Jul 12, 2021

Thank you! It was my first horror-ish story, so I'm glad you liked it!

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K. Antonio
22:32 Jul 16, 2021

Thank god I don't have a backyard. The first lines of this story really drew me in and I got curious about the story the more the narrator went on. Really solid writing and I adored the tension and details.

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Amelia Bowen
23:21 Jul 16, 2021

Thank you!

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Tamara Bowman
23:31 Jul 24, 2021

loved the imagery, mystery and vivid descriptions! The constant reference to digging holes and all the little details about the man portray him as extremely scary and senseless.I also loved the way you kept going back to the fact he was dangerous e.g "You refuse to touch anything plastic. Perhaps it is because you know it could never be used as a weapon."

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Amelia Bowen
00:45 Jul 25, 2021

Thank you!!

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Samantha Moore
19:13 Jul 21, 2021

This is amazing! I really enjoyed the references to musicians and the descriptions. I also really like the repeated parts (such as the diamonds, quartz, and knives as well as the repetition of what it was he was searching for), I think it added a lot of tension and mystery to the story! Well done!

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Amelia Bowen
19:17 Jul 21, 2021

thank you!

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Manan Suraiya
06:23 Jul 21, 2021

Hey Amelia! That was a lovely story! The writing style, descriptions(the glass ones were gorgeous) and especially the composer references made the scene setting very intense. Kudos. However, I didn't quite follow the ending. Could you explain it to me? By that, I can fully understand your story. P.S: I write horror and mystery myself, so I would be grateful if you left feedback on my stories as well. We could do swaps.

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Amelia Bowen
14:07 Jul 21, 2021

Hi! Thank you for your comment! This is the first of anything horror related that I've written, so I wasn't quite sure how to end it at first. The ending was originally going to be inspired by a poem I read about a man seeing the grim reaper in plain clothes. This, however, I decided wouldnt be easy to communicate but I needed to stick to the prompt so I knew there had to be someone. Given the story's propensity for shovels haha, I gave the stranger(grim reaper) one. The smiling at the end and the appearance of the stranger just as the prota...

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Natania Kurien
04:59 Jul 20, 2021

Wow, this is so good! My full attention was captured the entire time and I think through pacing and descriptions, you did a really great job of building up suspense and mystery. The flow of your writing is beautiful and I could feel what the character was feeling through it. Great job!

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Amelia Bowen
10:33 Jul 20, 2021

Thank you so much!:)

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Esther Stephen
05:58 Jul 15, 2021

Amazing story

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Amelia Bowen
14:30 Jul 15, 2021

Thank you very much:)

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Andrea Magee
08:59 Jul 12, 2021

Bravo!👏🏽 Great story!

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Amelia Bowen
14:05 Jul 12, 2021

thank you!

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Cookie Carla🍪
17:28 Aug 24, 2021

The first sentence of your story pulled me in immediately. I liked the fact that it had a poetic vibe to it, kinda like I was reading a very detailed movie script. Your emotions that you built up... that takes REAL SKILL!! I loved the plot twist at the end and it got me thinking, what's gonna happen next. Amazing job on this story; it was such a good read!!!

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Amelia Bowen
19:28 Aug 24, 2021

Thank you so much!

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A B
22:26 Jul 21, 2021

I loved this story! Very inspiring with lots of beautiful details and description. Well done! :)

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Amelia Bowen
01:45 Jul 22, 2021

thanks!:)

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01:38 Jul 20, 2021

Wow this story sent chills down my spine! Written beautifully with a surreal quality that I loved! Well done :)

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Amelia Bowen
04:17 Jul 20, 2021

Thank you very much:)

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Jane May
13:50 Jul 19, 2021

Enjoyed the tension build up, all in a single frame. The glass falling was especially beautiful. It was the perfect point to begin the action.

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Amelia Bowen
04:16 Jul 20, 2021

thank you for your feedback!

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Gabi Holland
23:28 Jul 18, 2021

Ohh, this is really good :)))

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Amelia Bowen
23:47 Jul 18, 2021

thanks!

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Fiery Red
19:01 Jul 18, 2021

Amazing story. The suspense and mystery had me on the edge!

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Amelia Bowen
20:24 Jul 18, 2021

thanks!

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Steve Uppendahl
18:06 Jul 18, 2021

Amazing, disturbing story. Very well done. The pace and description are fluid and fast. Not an easy thing to do with no dialogue. Excellent piece. Write on.

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Amelia Bowen
20:23 Jul 18, 2021

thank you:)

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C. Icarus
17:42 Jul 18, 2021

The incredible surrealism in this piece knocks me over, man. The atmosphere is absolutely terrifying, and the amount of things you leave unexplained really adds to it! Great story, excuse me while I go hide beneath my bed please.

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Amelia Bowen
20:23 Jul 18, 2021

Thank you! I tried by best to add a kind of dream-quality. Im glad you enjoyed it!

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S. Closson
03:36 Jul 18, 2021

This was a great story. The tension you managed to build was palpable, and the characters were fascinating. Two piano thumbs up!

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Amelia Bowen
03:52 Jul 18, 2021

Thank you sm:)

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Kendall Defoe
02:56 Jul 18, 2021

Yikes! Got my scare in for today... And have you read Louis Sacher?

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Amelia Bowen
03:02 Jul 18, 2021

I have not. Should I?

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Kendall Defoe
00:33 Jul 19, 2021

He wrote a book called 'Holes' that I had no idea was a work for YA readers when I picked it up. It is all about a group of kids forced to dig holes in the desert for an unknown reason. It stuck in my head as I read your story.

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Amelia Bowen
00:40 Jul 19, 2021

Ooh I've seen that movie! I'll have to read the book, as well:)

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Anneliya Lydia
23:07 Jul 14, 2021

So fluidly and and beautifully written! I love all the composer/piano references.

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Amelia Bowen
23:45 Jul 14, 2021

Thank u!!!

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Kendall Defoe
19:03 Jul 14, 2021

Well done... Now, excuse me, I think there's someone in my backyard...

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Amelia Bowen
22:26 Jul 14, 2021

haha thank you xD

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