Samuel leaned back, wiped a dollop of blood on his hand onto his pant leg, and took a sip of tea. The steady creaking of the porch swing, coupled with his favorite nighttime beverage, soothed his mind. He’d had a rough day tending to his crops, among other things, and now he wanted nothing more than to sit on his front porch, watch the moon, and soak up the sounds of the night.
He set his cup of tea down on the warped armrest of the swing and leaned forward, closing his weary eyes.
Then he listened.
There was no sound except for a light, monotonous drone that seemed to be coming from the sky.
Samuel ran a hand over his weathered face. He was puzzled and confused, and a little bit frightened. In all his years on the farm he’d never heard anything like it.
He picked up his cup of tea and took another sip. The warm liquid cascaded down his throat, soothing as it went.
And then the cup fell from his hand, bounced off his lap, and crashed on the floor. Tea splattered across the porch and over his boots. He pulled himself up off the swing and stood, open-mouthed, staring at the sky.
The bright dot in the heavens was hovering. It dangled there in the cool black sheet of the evening, a puzzling testament to the mysteries that dotted the Earth.
Samuel stared at it. It wasn’t moving. It was like a blob of white paint on a black canvas. He wondered what it was, where it came from, and if it was dangerous.
The incessant drone continued in his ears, and before too long started to hurt his head. He covered his ears, but the protective gesture did little to block out the noise.
A light came on inside the house.
“Samuel? Are you still out there? What’s the matter? I heard something break.”
Samuel’s wife Nessa stepped out onto the porch. The boards creaked and groaned under her weight. She was a mild-mannered woman, still pretty even after years of hard living on a farm.
Samuel turned to face her. “It’s nothing,” he lied. “My cup of tea fell, that’s all.” He smiled at her. “You can go back to bed. I’ll be in shortly.”
Nessa smiled at him and sauntered back into the house.
Samuel turned his attention back to the sky. The dot was still there, but slightly larger. It was growing in size as it drew nearer.
“What are you?” he said. “What do you want?”
Clouds drifted in front of the moon, severely diminishing the light cast down on the house.
Samuel didn’t notice however. His gaze was locked on the light in the sky.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Nessa called out from the bedroom. “Why don’t you come to bed?”
Samuel ignored her. He couldn’t go to bed. He had to find out what the light in the sky was.
“Samuel? Come to bed.”
The bedroom light clicked on.
Samuel froze. He heard his wife calling out to him, but couldn’t believe it.
It isn’t really her, it can’t be.
When Nessa had talked with him earlier he played along with the game. He reasoned that it was his imagination playing tricks on him.
But this time he knew better.
It can’t be her. She’s dead. I killed her. I opened her head with an ax.
Samuel’s mind raced. He desperately tried to think of an explanation, anything that would help him understand what was happening.
He hoped to God that she wouldn’t walk out of the house again. If she did, if he seen her again, standing in front of him on the porch, then it would be that much harder to dismiss it as his imagination.
The bedroom light stayed on.
“Come to bed.”
Another light in the house turned on.
And then another.
Samuel heard footsteps, soft gentle steps plodding through the house, coming closer, so much closer.
Another light came on, this one in the living room.
Samuel felt every heartbeat in his chest.
The light in the sky was growing in size. The noises increased, gradually ramping up to a maddening level. They poked and prodded at his sanity.
“Samuel? I’m coming out there. I want to sit on the porch like we used to.”
Samuel bolted into the front yard. He stumbled more than once, but managed to regain his footing. He wasn’t as young as he used to be, and in his panicked mind, wondered if that was why she had cheated on him.
He turned a corner and ran into the backyard, and then into his crops. Stalks of corn towered over him as he frantically searched for the raised mound of freshly-turned soil. He had hastily buried Nessa and her lover there only a few hours earlier, but was now having trouble remembering where they were.
He heard Nessa calling out to him from the house.
He spun around and saw his dead wife standing on the back porch. Her head was cleaved down the middle, revealing God’s intricate workings.
Samuel panicked. He scrambled through the crops in a frenzied effort to find the grave. His ears rang with Nessa’s taunts and the incessant noise from the sky.
At last he found the grave. Nessa was coming for him (he could hear her voice drawing closer to where he was), and he knew if he didn’t hurry she would be upon him. He had to open the grave and see if the bodies were still there.
If Nessa was, then he knew he was imagining it. If she wasn’t…
“Samuel? I’m coming for you. I can see you in the fields. Why are you hiding from me?”
Samuel was torn between digging his bare hands into the grave, looking over his shoulder for Nessa, and watching the light in the sky. His ears hurt from the sounds coming from the light, which coupled with Nessa’s taunts, created terror that he hadn’t known existed.
A foot and a half down, Samuel felt something. He immediately knew what it was, and without hesitating, wrapped his fingers around the object and began to pull it out of the ground.
A man’s dirt-encrusted foot rose from the soil.
Samuel felt relief, but not completely. Nessa’s lover was still in the grave, but he knew that she wasn’t. She was stumbling through the yard, eager to reach him.
The light in the sky was hovering just above the house. The buzzing was steady, piercing the night with its maddening sound. It continued to etch away at his sanity.
And then the foot in Samuel’s hand twitched. Loose flaps of skin wiggled in the air before falling to the ground in wet, bloody clumps.
Samuel immediately dropped it and crawled backward on his rear end. He watched as the limb twisted this way and that before dissipating into nothingness. Dirt then flowed over the opening in the grave like so much water, smoothing it out to look as it did before.
“Samuel? I’m coming. I can see you.”
Samuel heard something rustling through the cornstalks to his right. Somebody was rapidly making their way through the field to where he was.
He fumbled to get on his feet but wasn’t fast enough.
In a flash, two pairs of dead hands reached for him, one from behind and one from his right, and pried the terrified life from his frail body.
And in the sky, the light stopped humming. It hovered for a few moments, silent as the moonlight, before spiraling up out of sight. The ship was moving on to its next target area: a more densely populated location where the dead could be revived in far greater numbers, thus eliminating more resistance to the invasion.
Rick McQuiston is a forty-eight year old father of two who loves anything horror-related. He’s had well over 350 publications, and written five novels, nine anthologies, one book of novellas, and edited an anthology of Michigan authors. He’s also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School. Currently, he’s working on his sixth novel.
Tim Bougger is an artist living in Des Moines, IA. See his artwork at www.virtualtim.com.