"s 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Keep Off the Lawn "

Submitted by Irene Vallone

I woke up early to make breakfast before my husband went to work.  There was something on the lawn.

It was a flabby skin-pinkish lump, like a very fat child.  Its skin was hairless and slick.  It was featureless except for a tiny thumbed flipper on its right side, like a little deformed hand, that sat as limp and immobile in the grass as the rest of it.

“What are you looking at?” said my husband, coming down the stairs and seeing me staring out the living room window.

“There’s something on our lawn.”

“No there isn’t,” he said, going into the kitchen, not even looking.

“Come see, there’s something out there.”

“There’s nothing out there,” he insisted.  “Did you make breakfast yet?”

“We’re out of eggs,” I lied.  I toasted a bagel for him.

Before he left for work, I kissed him goodbye on the cheek.  I watched him head down the front walk to his car.  He didn’t notice the thing on the lawn.

After he drove away, I went out and inspected the thing.  It jiggled helplessly at random moments.  It smelled like dried saliva.  A clear fluid pooled on the grass around it.

I walked onto the grass to get a closer look.  The thing opened a single bulging eye with an audible wet noise.

“Keep off the lawn,” it said, with some invisible mouth.

I was taken aback.  I leaned back and forth, looking for the place it had spoken from.

“Keep off the lawn,” it repeated, more firmly.

I backed up onto the front walk.

“And stay off,” it said.

“Sorry,” I said as I retreated into the house.

“And stay off,” it said again.  I closed the door.

I tried to forget about the thing on the lawn.  I cleaned for a while.  I fed our baby son.  I went out twice – once to lunch, once to the store – making sure to stay on the front walk as I went to my car.  The thing didn’t talk again, but t kept its eye open, sliding it across its flabby surface to watch me as I left and returned.

My husband came home in the evening.  I saw him walk up to the house from the corner of my eye as I stared at the thing through the living room window.  It maintained eye contact with me.  It didn’t look at him at all.

He stepped through the front door and said “What, have you been standing there all day?”

“No.  How was work?”

“Fine.”  He sat down at the kitchen table.  “What’s for dinner?”

After we ate, chewing in silence, I went back to the window.  There was a second thing on the lawn, much smaller than the first.  Both things stared at me.

I shut the blinds.

The next morning, there were three things on the lawn, and the elder two had grown significantly.  That evening, when my husband came back from work, there were four.  I tried to ignore them, and didn’t look out the window as often, but I couldn’t avoid thinking about them.  I couldn’t pretend they weren’t there, like my husband did, as he nonchalantly brushed me off every time I told him to look, as he refused to get annoyed or angry with me no matter how frequently or insistently I begged.  His placidness frustrated me, made me desperate.

There were ten things on the lawn.  The biggest had the size and attitude of walruses lounging on the beach.  All of them watched me no matter where I was – upstairs, in the basement, at the store.  They spoke to me as I walked to and from the house.  “Keep off the lawn!” they repeated.  “Keep off the lawn!”

My husband kept leaving things lying around the house for me to pick up when he went to work.  I laundered his rumpled work shirts.  I put away his left-open laptop, never reading his emails.  I kept my mouth shut.

There were dozens of things on the lawn, their bodies swollen and pinched and bubbled into disgusting shapes, covered in lumps and flaps of loose skin.  I watched my husband walk to his car, gingerly stepping over the flippers and pseudopods that spilled over onto the front walk as he refused to look in any direction but straight ahead, and I hate him, quietly, privately.  I walked outside and listened to the things scream at me, their angry voices driving me back into the house: “Keep off the lawn!  Keep off the lawn!”

“Stop pretending they aren’t there,” I said to my husband over dinner.

“What aren’t there?” he asked, and shoved more food into his mouth.

One day I woke up and my husband had packed up most of his things and taken them with him to work.  I headed downstairs and looked around.  The house was bare of his things.  The walls creaked.  I decided to make us breakfast.  I cracked some eggs into the pan and listened to them sizzle.  The house groaned and sagged.  I ignored the noise.  Everything would be fine.  I felt hundreds of eyes staring into my back.  My husband would come home in the evening.  If I ignored them, they would go away.  The baby monitor was quiet.  Our son slept upstairs, peaceful and oblivious, ignoring the voices coming through the walls, the roof the floor, whining and shouting, keep off the lawn, keep off the lawn.