Granite Statues and Marble Things
by Ethan D. Perritt
Silence at the Owens household ended with a bang. It came from outside and
shook the foundations of the wooden home. Marigold was playing when it
happened, her hands whisking dolls into the air, twirling them—a puppet
master—and dropped them. They clattered.
"Daddy?" she asked, "What was that?"
"I don't know," Brandon said as he stepped toward the window. Did the
Soviets finally drop a bomb? No. It wasn't that loud.
He grasped the bottom, opened it, and felt the breeze of the cool summer's
evening. His eyes shot to a shiny, black object on the crest of the hill.
"Stay inside," he said, slamming the window shut. He told her he was going
to check it out. It was safer. He didn't know what was outside and it could
be dangerous and she should just play with her dolls. Keep playing with the
The grass was cool beneath his feet, covered in dew from the previous
night. And then he saw it. Clear and defined. Tall, sleek, black like the
night, an obelisk—looming over the hill.
What is it?
he thought, keeping an arm's length in distance. A twig snapped behind him.
He spun around, moving his hand to the knife on his belt. It was Marigold.
"I told you to stay inside," Brandon said.
"I wanted to see it."
"Go back and stay inside, I need to make sure it's safe."
"But I want to see it. It's so pretty," she reached her hand towards it.
Brandon smacked it away, "Don't touch it!"
There should have been tears welling in her eyes.
He put his hands on Marigold's shoulders, "I just don't want you to get
hurt. This thing could be dangerous. Look, it could fall on you or
something. Now go back inside. We can keep playing that game when I get
She smiled, turned around, and skipped back to the house, her skirt flowing
in the wind.
What is this thing? How did it get here?
Brandon stood at the top of the hill. Was it magic? Was it kids playing a
trick? Was he finally going insane? It was tangible, but not something he
would touch. If he could just speak to Emelia. All he wanted was for his
wife to come home.
"Daddy?" Marigold said.
Brandon smiled and stirred the tomato sauce.
"Can we play with the dolls? I think one of the babies is getting sick. She
has black and yellow spots on her."
Brandon smiled. "I think that might be mold. Did you leave her outside last
night? It rained."
"No," she said, swaying from side to side and looking at the tile floor,
"Mommy told me not to. So I don't."
"Okay, Marigold. Okay."
Brandon brought dinner to the table. Spaghetti and meatballs, a family
classic. It sat there, steaming as he sat down and looked at his wife and
"Shall we say grace?" he said, lifting his hand out towards both of them.
They accepted. "Dear Lord, we thank you for this meal and ask that it be
used to nourish our bodies. We ask that you help the poor and heal the
sick. We ask this in Jesus Christ's name. Amen."
Emelia smiled and turned to eat her food.
Later that night, when the dishes had been cleared and the soft hum of the
washer ran through the house, Brandon and Emelia sat in the living room.
Emelia sipped from a white mug, breathing in the scent of herbal tea.
"Emelia?" Brandon said. "There's something in the yard. I don't know how it
got there, but it's there and it's real."
"Well?" she said, "What is it?"
"Some sort of obelisk. I heard a bang, checked out the window and saw it.
Tall and black. Made of granite, I think. But it almost looks unreal. Like
a ghost. Somehow, I feel like it's see-through. But I went out there. I
told her to stay inside but Marigold almost touched—"
"You let her touch it?"
"No! Of course not," Brandon said, sweat pooling in his armpits. He tried
to wipe it away by rubbing his arms against his upper body, causing it to
trickle out more.
"What if it's from space? It could have diseases on it, Brandon. I read
about viruses and bacteria on asteroids."
"She didn't touch it." He clutched his knee.
"What should we do?" Emelia asked, "Could I see it?"
"Let's wait until morning. I don't think it's a good idea to go out right
now. It's dark and you won't be able to see it clearly anyway."
Brandon dreamt of the obelisk that night. He saw the garden, cloaked in
shadow. There were hundreds of those granite things, inching towards the
house. They moved without obstacles in their way, pushing over flowers and
The sun poured through the window and embraced the remains of breakfast.
"I love you," Emelia said, kissing Marigold on the forehead, "I'll see you
"See you then," Brandon said.
Emelia stepped out the door and closed it behind her. Brandon's eyes
lingered on the handle.
Brandon stared out the window. His eyes were dragged to the obelisk. It
stood on the hill, seeming to call his name.
he thought, Stay away from my family.
"Marigold?" Brandon said, "I need you to stay inside."
"But daddy, I want to play outside."
"It's just for a little while. How about fifteen minutes? Does that sound
good? It won't be long."
"I'll wait, promise."
"Just play inside for a while. I'll tell you when."
Brandon went into the basement to grab the closest and heaviest tool he
could find. They sat before him like fruit ripe for the picking. Shovels,
axes, rakes, and a sledgehammer. Its yellow handle glistened under the rays
of light coming through the holes in the ceiling. The floor was coated with
a layer of dust, only to be kicked up when Brandon walked over it. He
coughed. There was a stiff smell in the air. One of stale bread or rotten
meat. He wondered if the musty smell, mold, and mildew was here before.
Ignoring it, he grabbed the handle of the sledgehammer. He left the
basement, leaving the other tools behind. All he needed was the
"Marigold? Stay inside. This might be dangerous."
"What are you gonna do? Mommy said that thing is dangerous."
"What thing?" Brandon said.
"The big hammer."
"Oh, this?" He lifted the sledgehammer up, "It's dangerous for you, not for
Brandon walked to the door. The wooden thing stood before him, waiting.
There was a sense of possibility behind it. As if he could end this
scourge. Truthfully, he was scared. He trembled, gripping the yellow,
rubber hilt. He yanked the door open. Taking a deep breath, he felt the air
of a cool midsummer's morning. There it was. The obelisk. It stood atop the
hill, unwavering in the wind. Brandon started out the door and up the hill,
not stopping until he reached it. He felt an immense feeling of possibility
at the prospect of smashing the obelisk to bits. In his mind it was already
lying on the ground, in chunks, letting water seep down the now-rough
interior. But the deed hadn't been done yet. Brandon hadn't started to lift
the sledgehammer. He wished he did. He needed to. Soon his promise to
Marigold of fifteen minutes would be broken.
It started to rain. The bruised clouds rolled overhead. Brandon knew it
would storm soon, and he had to finish this. He raised his arms, bringing
the sledgehammer high into the air. It swung down, cracking the obelisk.
"It doesn't look right," he said, moving his arms up, "It doesn't look
The sledgehammer smacked into the granite statue again. Chunks of sleek,
black rock fell to the ground and revealed the coarse interior. He did not
When the war was over, Brandon took in a deep breath and sighed.
It's over. It's finally fuckin' over.
He headed back towards the house, rain pouring down his face and
sledgehammer in hand, knowing it was done.
"Daddy? "Why did you break it? It was so pretty." Marigold said, sitting on
the blue couch.
Brandon panted and grabbing a towel from the kitchen. He wiped it over his
face, "It could hurt you or your mom. I'm not gonna take that chance."
"How would it hurt us? It's so pretty and smooth."
"Marigold," he said, "Look. I love you and your mom. So when this thing
appeared here, I didn't, and still don't know what it was. It's gone now,
so we don't need to worry."
"Can I play outside now?" she said.
"Sure," he said, laughing, "But it's raining. You sure you want to go out?"
"I'm sure. I'll dry off quick."
"Okay. Just make sure you stay away from the pile of rocks. I need to get
rid of them tomorrow."
Marigold played outside, paying the rain no heed. She enjoyed it. The
feeling of cool water on her skin made her smile—more than the hot sun,
anyway. Her mother made her wear sunscreen when she went outside, and she
hated it. The slimy feeling was horrible. It was even worse when she got it
in her hair or, God forbid, her eyes. But Brandon didn't care as much. "A
little sun won't hurt her," he would say, knowing it wasn't true. Still,
when Emelia wasn't home, he let her go outside without it. Besides, did she
really need SPF 45?
Marigold wanted to listen to her dad, she really did, but curiosity got the
best of her. The granite slabs were ripe for the picking—just sitting on a
hill. Her dad was taking a shower. And what really were the chances she
would get hurt. They were just rocks. Harmless as they were coarse. Smooth,
She bolted up the hill, kicking up mud, caking herself in it, not caring.
Her mind was focused on the smashed obelisk. It was so pretty before
Brandon destroyed it. She didn't know if she could ever forgive him for
When she did reach it, her hands were attracted to the chunks like magnets.
She loved the feeling it gave her. They scratched the palms of her hands,
leaving them white, then red, but always covered in water. She scratched
her fingernails into the rough parts of the stones, grinding them down as
white flakes came off.
Her hands clasped one of the rocks, turning it over. She saw her face in
the smooth, black stone. It was untouched by the sledgehammer. Pristine.
She smiled, looking at her teeth. The mirror she now held had another face
in it. One that looked familiar. But Marigold couldn't tell who it was. It
was behind her, looking over her shoulder. As it came into view, it was
clear who it was: Her father. His hair was wet again, and Marigold knew he
"Marigold! I told you not to touch the rocks. Come back inside, now!"
She felt tears welling in her eyes as she walked back to the house. Brandon
loomed over her the whole time, stomping through the mud.
"I got rid of it, by the way, the statue."
"Oh," Emelia said, her mouth filled to the brim with steak, "That's good.
Marigold, dear, what did you do today?"
She sat there, staring at her food and twirling her fork around in a forest
of broccoli without saying a word.
That night, Brandon dreamt of the nearby lake. Its murky water was boiling,
bubbling like the breath of a sea serpent. His hand was stuck in the water,
burning away his flesh and only letting go once it was charred black,
decayed, and mummified like death.
Brandon woke to the sound of vomiting. Emelia was in the bathroom, curled
over the toilet, hacking her guts out. She wore the same white dress every
day, only now, its chest was colored a flavorful yellow. Brandon comforted
her, trying to forget his dream.
Marigold burst into the room, shouting, "Daddy! Daddy! The statue is back.
It's so pretty! Can I go see it?"
"What?" he said, looking at her, "You're joking, right? This isn't the time
to be making jokes. Your mother is sick."
"No, dad. It's back! I think it's because I prayed."
What the hell?
Brandon looked out the window, wondering how it was back. He knew he
destroyed it. The pieces were before him. Thoughts of witchcraft raced
through his mind yet they always led back to insanity.
Did I destroy it? Was that a dream? No. Marigold knows it was broken.
She touched the pieces. So how is it back?
When Emelia was done vomiting and finished cleaning herself up, she looked
out the window and saw the obelisk, standing on the hill.
"Brandon?" she said.
He looked up from his book. He looked through her, staring out at the hill.
"Yes?" he said, trying to remember what he just read. It eluded him. His
eyes had taken in the contents but his mind was elsewhere.
"Are you sure you destroyed it? It doesn't have a scratch on it."
"I'm sure," he said, turning back three pages. "I took the sledgehammer and
beat the hell out of it. There were chunks lying on the ground. I know I
did. Marigold saw me do it."
"So what do we do?" Emelia said.
"I have no idea. I could try to break it again. But what's the point? It'll
just piece itself back together."
"Well, maybe you dreamt it. It's hot out, you know how the mind can be."
"Marigold saw me break it. She cried when I did."
"So what if you don't break it? What if we just move it away. Put it in the
forest or in the lake."
"How?" he asked.
"Doesn't Dale have a forklift? Maybe he could lend it to us. Just for the
"Thanks, Dale. See ya in a bit." Brandon placed the phone back on the wall.
"Well?" Emelia said.
"He thinks I've lost my damn mind, but he'll pull through— should be here
in about an hour."
The mustard yellow forklift sat atop the hill, next to the obelisk, and
overlooked the house.
"Call me when it's done," Dale said, heading for his truck and leaving the
Owens house behind. Emelia stood next to Brandon, resting her hand on his
"I'll be inside," she said, "I still don't feel so good."
"No worries. Could you make Marigold some lunch? When you're feeling up it.
Don't rush yourself."
"Sure." She smiled, her now-mudstained dress flowing in the light wind and
twirling when she turned around, starting for the house.
I just want to read,
Brandon thought, putting on a pair of yellow gardening gloves. He pushed
the top of the obelisk as hard as he could. It fell over, revealing a black
patch of grass where its base once stood. The patch smelled of a charnel
stench, like a morgue or an open grave on a rainy afternoon, just after the
procession had left and the undertaker started throwing the dirt onto the
casket. He got into the forklift and shifted it into gear, pulling the
obelisk into the air. Its teeth wobbled under the weight as it moved
forward, rolling towards the lake.
Brandon grinned. The prospect of never seeing the obelisk again excited
him. He wished this would work. His fear was that it would appear again the
The forklift balanced on the edge of the lake, peering over the murky water
and all its inhabitants. Toads croaked and cicadas sang their song with no
end in sight. Brandon saw the reflection of the obelisk in the water and
saw his face in the obelisk. He pushed the lever forward, letting the
obelisk fall into the lake. Black water turned white as it geysered up,
then fell and settled. Bubbles dissipated as the obelisk began to sink deep
into the mud.
It's finally over,
he thought, knowing he believed it before.
But it wasn't, not really, anyway. The water turned from a bubbling to a
slow churning, then to a rolling boil. Steam clutched for the sky, hoping
to cool down.
"No," Brandon said, "You've got to be fucking kidding me!" He got out of
the forklift and fetched a nearby rock, throwing it at the obelisk in the
vain hope that it would stop. The water was clearing, boiling away,
revealing the body of the obelisk. Brandon saw his face in the water,
drenched in sweat and covered in mud.
Then it was done. The churning and boiling had stopped. No more steam tried
to escape and the lake was quiet. The toads croaked and the cicadas sang.
Brandon sighed as the obelisk sank out of view. The water was murky again,
holding the stone devil behind its bars. He drove away in the forklift. Its
muddy tires bounced and propelled him forward as the sun set behind the
trees, giving off a soft glow.
Marigold awoke before the sun was up. She felt cold all over. Had she been
older, she might have known it was a fever. She tried to shrug it off,
grabbing extra blankets and wrapping herself in a cocoon of warmth. The
ceiling fan was still running, so she turned it off. She didn't like the
cool air in her face, even during the summer. Her thoughts were with the
obelisk, smashed to bits and lying in the lake. They were with her mother
too. She covered her ears with the blankets; she hated the sound of
"Daddy, my stomach hurts and I'm so cold!" Marigold said, storming into her
Brandon closed the bathroom door, hiding Emelia from Marigold's sight. "Let
me get the thermometer. You're feverish."
Marigold nodded, then waited for him to return, sitting on their bed. There
were wine bottles on the floor, some with corks still in them. She wondered
if those were "the juice she wasn't supposed to drink," as her father put
it. Maybe she could try one before Brandon got back.
To her disappointment, he was already in the doorway before she could reach
for one of the bottles, thermometer in hand and a bottle of Tums in the
"Okay, sweetie. Here, eat one of these." He handed her a pink pill. "Then
put this in your mouth under your tongue." It was a glass rod with silvery
liquid inside. She watched the mercury expand, rising to 104 degrees
"Oh boy," Brandon said, "You've definitely got a fever. I guess you won't
be going to Katie's house today, will you."
"Daddy, my hand hurts, too," Marigold said.
"What? How does it hurt?"
"It burns. You know how mommy says to not stay in the sun for too long
'cause my skin will burn? That's what it's like."
"Were you in the sun for very long, yesterday?"
"No. I don't think so," she said.
"Then you should be fine. It'll pass. I need to help your mother now. Go
lay on the couch, I'll get you something to drink in a bit, okay?"
Brandon filled up a cup with cool water and placed it on the counter. He
opened the cabinet above him. In it were orange and white bottles of pills.
Ibuprofen. Sleeping pills. Antacids. Brandon grabbed the ibuprofen and
twisted the cap off. He wondered how much to give her. One pill? Two? Four?
He settled on one, hoping it would be effective but not enough to hurt her.
There was a knock on the door.
"One second!" Brandon said, heading for the living room. Marigold was
laying on the couch, staring at the crackling fire place. "Here, honey. Sit
up and drink this." He handed her the cup and the pill. "Make sure you
swallow this. Don't chew."
Knock. Knock. Knock.
"I'll be right there!" He left Marigold and started for the door. He opened
it. There was a newspaper on the muddy doormat. He wondered why they didn't
just leave it and go. Shrugging it off, he reached down and grabbed it,
wiping off a leaf stuck on the back. It was coiled into a baton-like shape,
ready to be used as a weapon. He closed the door and chucked the paper onto
a chair adjacent to Marigold.
"Daddy?" Marigold said, "Can you get me some ice? My hand really hurts."
"Sure." Brandon's palms were sweaty. He wiped them onto his jeans, staining
them with darkness.
The freezer opened and chilled the air. Brandon grabbed a handful of ice
and dumped it into a yellow bucket. He lifted the bucket up and into the
sink, filling it with the coldest water it would provide.
"Put your hand in this, just let it rest. If it gets too cold, take it out.
I don't want you to lose your hand because of frostbite or something." He
faked a smile for her. She smiled back.
Brandon sat in the chair across from her, picking up the paper and taking
the rubber band off of it. It unrolled. Splashes of black and white space
came into view. One headline caught his eye. All the others seemed
needless, superfluous. Chesterfield Man Murders Family In Cold Blood.
Sensationalism, he hoped. The sweat from his hands soaked the edges of the
"You did it," the paper said, "You did it." The entire article was the same
phrase repeating. This ceaseless taunting stabbed at his gut. His face went
white as he felt the blood drain to his feet. You did it. Every
article filled with the same three words. The other articles—once empty
drivel—were the same words again. Over and over. Brandon felt his heart
beat in his chest and his arms tingle. He knew what this was—fight or
flight. He shot out of his chair and threw the paper into the fire. The
flames roared and crackled as black smoke flew up the chimney.
"You did it."
He sat back in his chair, staring at the yellow-tinted flames.
"Daddy?" Marigold said, "Are you okay? You're talking to yourself. No one's
"I'm fine," he said, knowing it was a lie.
"My hand still hurts."
"Keep it in the water. I need to check on your mom but I'll be right back,
"Okay. Don't take too long."
"I won't. I promise."
The wooden stairs creaked under Brandon's footsteps. He had always hated
those types of stairs. The ones without the risers. They gave him the
feeling that something would grab him and pull him under, dragging him to
"Emelia?" He said. She retched in response. "There was some kind of
newspaper that—" He knew he shouldn't say it. "There was some kind of
murder." He saw the wine bottles on the floor. They were strewn around on
the ground and easy to trip over. He kicked them aside, knowing they both
needed to stop drinking. The door to the bathroom was closed. A sliver of
light peeked into the bedroom from underneath.
"Emelia?" He said, turning the doorknob and pushing the door open. She was
curled over the toilet, naked. "Why are you naked? Are you okay? Marigold
is sick, by the way. Do you want me to get you clothes?" She didn't
respond. "Here, let me hold your hair back."
Brandon's eyes shot to her shoulders. There were black veins writhing under
the skin, trying to get out. His mouth went dry and ears started ringing.
"Emelia?" She turned to him. Vomit ran down her cheeks, over her breasts.
Mascara was smeared from her forehead to her chin, her lipstick too. She
looked like a highschool girl after finding out her boyfriend was cheating
on her with the prom queen.
"Emelia, are you okay?"
She growled and ululated a sound like a goat bleating mixed with a snake
hissing as he she rose to her feet.
Brandon stumbled back as she began to shuffle towards him, one foot cocked
back and her arms twisted in ways they shouldn't.
Startled, Brandon reached for anything, landing on a bottle of wine. It was
"Get back, Emelia," Brandon said, "I don't want to hurt you."
She didn't hear him. Her feet scraped against the floor, making a
chalkboard-like grating noise.
Brandon raised the wine bottle. "Stay back."
She growled, then lunged and clutched at Brandon's throat.
The wine bottle smashed onto her head and she crumpled to the ground. Red
liquid, both blood and wine, spread across the floor, seeping into the
cracks between the tiles. Emelia's eyes were closed.
"Fuck!" Brandon lifted his hand to his mouth, biting it. "Why'd you make me
do that! God damnit, Emelia!"
His thoughts raced, wondering what to do. He knew he couldn't call the
police, they'd think he murdered her. But what if she wasn't dead? Of
course she was just knocked out. Asleep. She'd wake in an hour. Of course
she would. But then they'd make it a domestic abuse thing. But it wasn't.
He wondered what she'd dream of. Would she dream? Of course. Why wouldn't
Brandon carried Emelia to the attic, avoiding looking at her eyes, which
had black veins writhing around them, put a large padlock on the door, and
closed the viewing slit. He'd check on her in an hour. She'd be awake. He
knew she would be.
Brandon slept in an empty bed that night. Emelia hadn't awoken and he was
too afraid to let her sleep in bed with him. He dreamt of the obelisk,
staring at the house.
"Daddy?" Marigold said, "Where's Mommy?"
Brandon's face was covered in soot and dust. "She went to work early.
She'll be back later today." He stared out the window. The obelisk was back
like the killer in a slasher flick. Marigold kept her hand in the bucket,
wishing the burning would stop.
"I'll be right back, sweetie. Daddy has some business to take care of."
"Is it the statue? I saw it's back."
"No," he said, "No. Just some yard work."
Brandon went to the basement to get the sledgehammer. He wiped off its
head; there was still a piece of the obelisk stuck to it.
He marched outside on a mission from God, sledgehammer in hand and a pistol
strapped to his belt. Yard work. It was raining, making the muddy ground
even muddier. The dirt stuck to the sides of his boots gave way, returning
to the earth like suckling babes, reaching for their mother.
"Alright, listen here you monster. You stay the fuck away from my family!"
He pointed the sledgehammer at the obelisk, the yellow handle shining in
the sun. "You could've killed my wife!" He smashed the obelisk into bits,
hoping it would stay dead, knowing it wouldn't. It was done.
Brandon went back to the house with the sledgehammer in his hand and beads
of sweat rolling down his forehead.
"Daddy?" Marigold said, "What did you do?"
"Yard work." He checked out the window. The pile of rocks was gone and so
was the obelisk with them.
He went into the basement, sighing on the way down. Every muscle in his
body ached. The weight of his toolbelt didn't help, either. With a knife on
his left and a gun on the right, his jeans sagged. He thought of sleep.
Sweet sleep. Where the woes of the world disappear and one can fall into a
spiral of dreams, meet new people and live those wild fantasies. Or relive
your nightmares. The fear of loss.
The basement was flooded. Spiders and gnats floated about, clutching for
their final breath, then they were still. Brandon waded through the mucky
water towards the tool shelf. He felt it seep through his pants as he
started to place the sledgehammer on the shelf.
Something stopped him. A presence in the room. He snapped to the left,
spotting the obelisk. Ripples emanated from the bottom, rolling towards
Brandon. He chucked the sledgehammer at it.
"No!" he said. "You don't get to. You don't fucking get to!" Brandon dashed
for the stairs, water splashing up his legs and caking the walls.
"Daddy?" Marigold said, "I don't feel good."
Brandon panted, curling over and dropping his hands to his knees. "What is
"My hand burns and mommy won't stop hitting the ceiling." She pointed
"She's home?" His face went white. She finally woke up. But what would she
say? Brandon hoped she wouldn't remember being hit with the bottle.
"I think so. She keeps tapping and hitting the ceiling."
"What makes you think its her? I didn't see her come home. But I'll go
check. Don't worry." Brandon said. "You just stay down here. I don't want
you getting hurt."
"My hand still burns."
"I know. Just let me talk to your mom and I'll fix your hand, don't worry."
The stairs to the attic slid out of the ceiling and a string swayed back
and forth next to it. Those steps stretched up before him, reaching into
the darkness. He stared up into the blackness, knowing what was up there.
His wife. He hoped she wasn't dead—or worse, somehow resurrected and now
scratching on the floor like a beast clawing its way to prey.
"Emelia?" Brandon said, flashlight in hand. He wished he wouldn't have to
go up the stairs—that she would come down and greet him with open arms. But
he knew he had to. Even if she was alive, the door was locked.
Brandon started up the stairs, creaking with every step he took. His heart
pounded through his shirt as beads of sweat swelled on his forehead,
trickling down like the tears Emelia had cried in the bathroom. He saw the
door. No taller than him and no wider than a child. Certainly not meant for
storing a woman knocked out cold. Brandon saw the padlock and remembered
the combination. 21-05-73, Marigold's birthday. He fiddled with the
lock, putting in the code. He stopped before he could get to 73. His eyes
shot to the viewing slit. It was closed. He reached for the handle and
pulled the metal sheet to the side. Darkness.
"Emelia? You there? I'm really sorry for what I did—I really am—I only did
it out of self defense. But you're better now, right?" Nothing responded.
"Emelia? You're really scaring me, you know."
Something moved—a slump to the ground. Brandon heard it, then the sound of
a soft tapping from deep within the storage room. He clutched his
flashlight, turned it on, and brought it to eye-level. The cone of light
shone onto Emelia. She was laying on the ground. Her body was still and
pale, but something was off. Her eyes were closed—black makeup still
smeared across her face—yet there was movement under the blankets he had
wrapped around her. Her skin bubbled. Then stopped. Brandon's hands
Her chest burst open. Hundreds of shiny, jet black crab legs flailed about.
Blood and bits of guts belched onto the dark walls, making the dark room
take on a reddish hue. The crab legs smacked into the ceiling—some cracking
and letting out yellow steam. Veins dangled out from the stubs left behind,
reaching out in agony. Some of the pincers scratched her eyes, leaving
black streaks in her skin. Emelia didn't react—Brandon knew she was dead.
It was relieving in a way. He didn't have to face her after hitting her
with the bottle, but the sadness would come when the adrenaline wore off.
The forest of meter-long legs spread out like the leaves on a blossoming
tree and reached for him. They pushed for the viewing slit, reaching
through and clicking for Brandon's face. Brandon's heart started its
marathon sprint, rushing for the finish line. He slapped the viewing slit
shut. It clanged and rattled as the legs cracked between the metal sheet
and the wooden door. They fell to the floor and spasmed, grasping for his
ankles. Brandon leaped back, cringing at the sight. He smashed his foot on
them. Crack. They burst open, leaving a paste made of meat and veins
on the floor.
He sprinted down the stairs and slammed the attic stairs back into the
ceiling, locking away the pincers for good. There was no way he'd go back
now. And if he ever did, he'd bring a can of gasoline and a lighter.
Tears welled in his eyes. She was gone. The obelisk's influence had gotten
to her. The disease had spread to his family. Then another thought shot
into his head. Marigold. She was sick. Sick with the same thing that turned
Emelia into the horrid crab-like beast that now inhabited the attic,
dwelling like a cave monster.
Brandon heard tapping and scratching through the wooden planks above him.
He shuddered and wondered how long this would go on. Eventually she—it—had
to starve to death. He hoped it would come soon. The thought of those long
and lanky legs made him feel ill. He heard cries from the floor below him.
he thought, Marigold.
"Honey? Are you okay?" he cried out. The sound of her wailing echoed
through the house. "I'm coming. Don't worry." Brandon ran down the stairs.
His footsteps thudded through the floor.
"Daddy, it burns!" Marigold was screaming. Her hand was submerged in the
bucket. The water was bubbling, crawling over the rim.
"Take your hand out! Why is it boiling?" Brandon said, his voice trembling.
He feared the worst. The water bubbled like Emelia's skin had just minutes
ago. He turned to the window. The obelisk was back, staring at the house
and looking out over the hill. The green blades of grass swayed in the
light breeze. The sun was setting. Night was almost here.
Brandon's eyes shot back to Marigold. He saw her hand. Black like a
mummified corpse. And she screamed. The charred bone showed through where
holes had formed. Not a drop of blood was in sight. His stomach churned at
Not my girl,
he thought. Not Marigold.
The phone rang. Brandon tried to ignore it. He gave in, grabbing a towel
from the kitchen, wrapping her forearm, then picking up the phone and
putting it to his ear. "Owens' household," his voice trembled, "Who is it?"
"Yeah, it's Dale. Think I could pick up my forklift? You shoulda brought it
over a day or two ago."
"Sure, just come and get it. I'm dealing with some stuff right now."
"I bet." There was sarcasm in his voice. "Anyway, I'll be over in a few
hours. Wife's worried. You're done with it?"
"Yeah," Brandon hung the phone on the wall. Click. He
turned to Marigold. Tears streamed down her red face and onto her pink
Brandon saw the gap in between her teeth and remembered slipping a dollar
bill under her pillow. She had slept so quietly that night. Marigold always
was a deep sleeper. Even when he had tripped over her stuffed animal and
dropped his glass bottle, spilling beer on her carpet—she never woke. She
was so happy the next morning. "The Tooth-Fairy came!" she said.
Brandon smiled at her, half not remembering when he gave her the money. Was
it at two? Three? Four? It didn't matter. His head pounded.
But that was then. This was now. Marigold wailed for her mother. Brandon
could tell her about the mass of legs stalking just above them. But he
didn't. It was pointless.
Brandon clutched the gun on his belt. Tears welled in his eyes. He
couldn't. What if it wasn't instant? She'd be in so much pain. Even worse,
what if she would get better? No. Her hand was molten to the bone. He
turned to see her hand. Tears streamed down her face without relent.
Brandon knew what he had to do.
He went to the kitchen and opened the cabinet. Pill bottles stared him in
the face. He reached for the sleeping pills. Clack. The
ceiling creaked above him under the mass of legs. His heart pounded. He
needed to finish this. Now.
Brandon poured sleeping pills into his hand. He didn't care how many. And
later that night, Marigold slept. Her head lying against the pillow,
sinking into the cotton. Brandon wondered what she dreamt of. He hoped it
was good—of her mother, not him. He slid the pillow out from under her and
grasped it with two hands. The creases where her head had been stood out to
him. They sunk in like a crater. Tears spilled down his cheeks. He knew
what he had to do. Saliva gleamed off Marigold's face as it trickled to the
cushion. Brandon moved the pillow to cover her mouth and nose, absorbing
the spit into white cotton. His tears fell on the pillow, leaving small,
dark spots where they hit. He pushed harder, covering Marigold's whole
Brandon refused to look at her when he was done. He imagined a cold, pale
face—her eyes locked in an unending stare—and the absence of breathing. Red
eyes. That's all it was. Eyes staring from the pits of hell.
It was quiet for the first time in days. All Brandon heard was the buzzing
of cicadas. He slumped into the couch, pushing Marigold's feet aside. The
pillow was still on her face. He looked over, then away—she was gone.
But then Brandon remembered. Dale would be over soon. He looked at his
watch. 8:13. When had Dale called? At least an hour ago. Brandon looked to
Marigold again. What would happen if Dale saw the body?
Brandon thought, I've really fucked up now, haven't I?
Lights climbed up the side of the house and shone through the curtains.
Brandon ran his hands through running water in the kitchen. Dirt washed
away, slinking down the drain, greeting the pipe. He washed away his tear
stains, then dried his face. Dale was here.
Gravel cracked in the driveway and sweat fell down Brandon's forehead. He
heard the slam of a car door, then the clacking of shoes against ground.
Dale's hand pounded on the door and Brandon started for it. He took a deep
breath, hoping Dale would believe his lies.
Brandon opened the door. "Forklift's out back." He pointed to the door and
around the corner. "Over there."
Dale stared him in the eyes. They were black in the darkness, like two
obsidian marbles. "Just wondering if I could get a drink. Left mine at
home." His voice was gruff, hardened from old stories. "Wife'll want me
back soon, though."
"Yeah." Brandon scratched the back of his head. "Yeah don't worry. I'll get
you something." He went to the kitchen and rooted through the fridge.
"Water, Coke, beer?"
"Coke, if you will."
Brandon handed him the can.
"So Brandon," Dale said, "I can't help but notice that you got a pistol
strapped to your belt. Knife too." He cracked the can open. "You planning
on a break-in?"
"I was cleaning them. Let mud get into the gun and it dried."
"Yeah. Of course." Dale took a drink. "Anyway, you mind if I talk to
"She's out right now." Brandon looked up, hoping the crab-mass wouldn't
make any noise.
"Marigold? I'm sure she'd like to see ole Uncle Dale."
"She's with Emelia, too." Brandon shifted his stance, putting weight on his
right foot. He wondered what Dale was trying—what game he was playing. He'd
done nothing wrong, yet Dale played at detective.
"That so? I best get going then," Dale said. He looked down, turned away,
and said his goodbyes. But he didn't go home that night.
Brandon knew what Dale was doing—
When the door closed behind him, Dale glanced over his shoulder, sighed,
then quickly walked behind the house.
It was dark back there. Dale could smell the rotted swamp. Maybe something
else. The only light was the soft, yellow glow of lamps reach but a few
feet outside. The grass was yellow. Everything the light touched was
Dale stepped over the rusty shovel and tried to ignore it. Why was it
there. Deep down, he knew.
He felt the loose dirt beneath his feet and his stomach churned, then
dropped. A wave of horror flashed over his face. Someone was below him, not
breathing, not alive. He felt cold. It was a cold like no other, he
thought, he knew. Then it was hot. Anger, rage, clenched fists, and boiling
blood. He stormed back to the door and slammed it open, cracking the
And then Brandon's imagination turned to reality.
"You killed your wife. You killed Marigold. You sick fuck. Emelia told me
you'd hurt her one day, but this? This is a whole 'nother level. You ain't
even drunk—you're just evil."
"I did it to protect them. You don't understand!" Brandon clutched his head
with his free hand. His mind ached. "They turned into—things. Things that I
can't even describe."
"You've lost your mind, man. I'm calling the cops, they'll take you in,
it'll be over."
Brandon rested his hand on his gun. "I can't. You know I can't. I only did
it to protect them."
Dale picked up the phone and called the police.
"My friend killed his wife and child. No, this is not a prank. Send over a
squad car right fuckin' now." He looked up. Brandon pointed his gun at his
"Put the phone down, Dale. Hang it up right now." Brandon said. His eyes
were filled with vitriol.
"He's a mean drunk and I don't doubt he killed 'em. The address is 108
Benefit Street. You'll have to—"
"Put the phone down, Dale. Hang it up right now." Brandon held his gun
level with Dale's chest. The phone's cord dangled back and forth. He heard
the operator on the other side of the line. The voice was muffled and
"Look man. No one needs to get hurt. You just put the gun down and we all
go home. You go with the police and if you're innocent, then great, you get
to go home."
Brandon adjusted his hold on the pistol grip. He felt sweat oozing from his
palm and coating the cold crevices of steel. His finger rested on the
trigger. "You don't know what happened. Emelia tried to kill me!" Tears
welled in his eyes.
"Yeah?" Dale slammed the phone against his thigh, "Well you murdered your
fucking child! Did she do anything to you? Huh? What did Marigold do to
Brandon's hand was quaking, his gun shaking. "She was sick and I had to
help her. Her hand was burning. You would understand if you saw it! It was
black and burned to the bone. I only did it to stop her pain. I'm sorry.
I'm so sorry."
Dale raised the phone to his ear. "He's got a gun pointed at me." He was
shaking. "He's lost his mind!"
"Put the phone down, Dale."
"Sir, I'm sending a squad car your way," the operator said.
Brandon pulled the trigger. A flash! Blinding light seared into his vision
forever. Etched in his memories. Dale keeled over, clutching his stomach,
spitting up blood. The phone clattered to the floor and the operator called
for him. Brandon stared at it for a moment, then tilted his head. The black
handle ran red with blood as reams of revolting scarlet sunk into the
carpet. It was over. The sickness was gone! Brandon had done it. His
crusade to do nothing but cleanse the earth of this horrid blight had come
to its conclusion!
But what of the newspaper? That piece of literature standing in the
fireplace, burnt to a crisp and nothing more than ash. It was prophecy. Whoever—whatever—had created it was right.
And now more than ever. With nothing more to look towards, he sat down and
let the blood stain his pants. Marigold would suffer no more. The amorphous
crab-thing, Emelia, had silenced itself. Brandon supposed it was gone.
Where had it gone? That wasn't his problem now. The police would deal with
it. The Owens' household was quiet for the first moment of forever. What
could live here after such a heinous crime? What of the obelisk, crawling
back from the lake, inching towards the house like some kind of ravenous
beast? Did it think? Did it love? Did it hate?
"What was it?" Brandon said, knowing he would get no answer. Dissonant
horns sounded in reply. "Why was it here? And now that I think about it,
what had I to fear? This trembling in my voice. Caused by nothing but my
own choice. That's what it was—an unconscious beast. Now that it's gone, I
can start my infinite sleep."
Brandon Owens sat on a white bed in a white room with white curtains and
white clothes on his body. Twenty three days he had counted. Locked in
Pemsbruth for twenty three days. They used to do experiments here, someone
said. Someone told him they still do. Letters from the sanitorium revealed
something so long ago. He read it somewhere, maybe a newspaper? It didn't
matter. Those white sheets looked mighty fine right now. An infinite sleep,
coming to him. All he had to do was act! The doctor would not know. Much
like he would not know.
The obelisk came, and went as soon as it came. A ghost on the wind—not
there. An apparition. And what of the crab-thing inhabiting Emelia's
steaming corpse? The police never found it, of course. It wasn't there, they said. Brandon knew they were lying.
Someone set him up. They said she was dead in the bathroom,
beaten. And when asked about the obelisk itself, the police never saw it. There was no obelisk, they said.
But it was there. Brandon knew it. He knew it was there, waiting to come
again. And it marched. It marched at night like the fiend it was. Shuffle
forth. It came for him. He knew it was. It was coming. Right now! He heard
its cry from outside the window. A horrible shriek across the grass. A
"What drives you? What is it behind the smooth granite that allows you to be?"
Nothing answered. Brandon heard it.
"Ah. The mystery solved."
Someone walked through the hallway, coming to get him, he knew. He threw
the white covers over himself and pretended to be asleep. A door closed
"I know you know I'm here, beast. You won't get me. I hear you outside,
through the wall. You won't get me."
When the halls were silent, Brandon shot up in his bed. The sheets were
easy to tie together. One knot into the next to the other and soon it might
as well have been a rope. A white rope, sitting on a white bed. Then it was
simple. Wrap it around the throat. That was easy.
A clang broke the silence. And on that hot summer night, Brandon Owens
Copyright 2020, Ethan D. Perritt
Bio: Ethan D. Perritt lives in Virginia with his family—mother, stepfather,
brother, sister, dog, and crimson-bellied conure. When not writing, he
enjoys spending time in nature, painting, and reading. He attends Roanoke
College in Salem, VA. You can find him at @EthanDPerritt on Twitter.
Ethan D. Perritt
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