(Exclusive free story – from the DD Newsletter)

Aaron shook his head in disgust at his front lawn. He’d barely dropped his bags in the front foyer after returning from his vacation before going back outside, turning on the water and picking up the hose.

Early in the season, his care and the rains had painted his yard a lush green. But now that the summer sun had burned hot day in and day out while he’d been lying alone on Caribbean sands, the weak spots showed through. The spring’s golf course-perfect carpet was now marred by the dead brown circles; spots where either Aaron had dropped too much fertilizer or where his neighbor’s dog had relieved itself.

“Damn dog,” Aaron grumbled, pointing the hose at the nearest of the circles. “No matter how you try to keep things nice, somebody always comes and shits all over it.”

He sprayed the dead spots – circumscribed in accentuating rings of deep green – with the hose over and over, and then moved around the side of the house to water the backyard. His wife Celine had always ragged on him about keeping the grass looking good, driving him out to water before the sprinkler curfews at 7 a.m., and pushing him to spread fertilizer at night after work, before he could sit down to dinner. While she was no longer with him, since she’d seen fit to shack up with someone else, he still felt strangely obliged to continue the work, just as he’d felt obliged to use the plane tickets they’d bought together for St. Thomas.

“Bitch was good for nothing but fertilizer,” he mumbled. “Don’t know what that asshole ever saw in her; all she ever did was lie there.”

The spray of water suddenly sputtered and coughed, and Aaron threw down the nozzle in disgust. “Damnit!” he cursed, and stomped to unkink the hose from where it had caught between the brick and the gutter downspout at the corner of the house.

Yanking it free and dragging the excess loops of green rubber around the house, he again picked up the nozzle to begin watering the lawn at the back of the house. It was then that he noticed the new spot of brown. A spot much larger than the dead circles in the front of the house. While most of the grass leading from his patio to the back fence still retained a healthy sheen of chlorophyll, at the back corner of the yard a browning blemish extended fully five feet in length and two in width.

Aaron’s mouth dropped open at the sight. An image sprang to mind; it was late at night, the cold chill of a spring breeze coaxed goosebumps from his bare skin – skin that gleamed in the moonlight with a sheen of sweat. He’d tried to forget the scene while drinking it up on the beach, but now the dead grass brought it all back to him in a flash. He was digging a hole in the back corner of the yard, and with the dull orange light of the flash, he peered down to see its bottom. Celine’s sea-green eyes stared up at him from the dirt, but she did not see him. Nor did the thin carmine line of her lips betray a word. “Just lie there, like you always do,” he’d said as he lifted the shovel again.

Shrugging away the image of dirt scattering across her still face, Aaron focused his hose on the brown patch in his grass.

“You always were a piece of shit, Celine,” he whispered. “This just proves it. You don’t even make good fertilizer.”

He sprayed and sprayed at the spreading evidence of his wife’s grave, until the dark cracks in the gray dirt drowned in the glut of water that seeped all the way down to her cheating heart and the dead, burnt grass swam like a hula skirt cast aside to the depths of the ocean.

-END-

(John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Covenant, Sacrifice, The 13th and Siren, and the short story collections Deadly Nightlusts, Creeptych, Needles & Sins, Vigilantes of Love and Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions. He’s also a regular contributor to Dark Discoveries magazine (Look for a new story from him in issue #19 – the Extreme Horror special). For information on his fiction, art and music, visit John Everson: Dark Arts at http://www.johneverson.com)