The Deepest Dark
THE DEEPEST DARK
The three dark figures moved quietly among the shadowy, rain-dripping birches, pines and alders toward the old farmhouse where amber lights glowed in the two lower windows. They crept with the stealth of foxes intent upon the chickens in the hen house, hungry and deadly, already tasting blood. And the Nichols’ actually did keep a few chickens of their own, mainly for the fresh eggs, but not altogether for that reason. They liked seeing them clucking and pecking about the yard; they were good company and cost only a bit of seed. Once, they had operated their own farm, and a fair sized one it was, too. These days they kept a small vegetable garden and Ethel Nichols tended the flowers that grew along the walkway and in her window boxes, mainly morning glories in heavenly blue and pansies in shades of lavender and sun-yellow.
In their early eighties now, and in relatively good health, they were enjoying the fruits of their labor in these latter years, including the big screen TV on which they were presently watching an old rerun of All in the Family, one of life’s pleasures that Hartley and Ethel shared. …
When the commercial came on, Ethel rose from the big stuffed chair across from her husband’s Lazy Boy. She was white-haired, ample of figure, and quick to smile. “Cup of tea, Hartley?”
He looked in her direction and grinned mischievously. Though his own hair had long gone and he walked with a limp, to Ethel he was as handsome as the first time she saw him walking into Mr. Biggar’s class in grade nine. She could still see him as he was then, tall and lean, with a thatch of fair hair fallen over his brow.
“Wouldn’t mind having just a tiny slice of that apple pie you baked to go with my tea.” An affectionate coaxing twinkled in blue eyes that had faded only a little over the years.
Looking at him, she mentally shook her head. He knew he had trouble getting to sleep if he ate after he’d had his supper. “Sure,” she said. And it will be tiny, Mister Nichols, you can bet on that. She had started for the kitchen when she stopped in the doorway between the living room and kitchen, thinking she’d heard a noise outside. She listened. Heard it again. A squeaking of the porch swing chain?
“Did you hear that?” she called into the living room.
“Hear what? Didn’t hear nothin’, Ethel.”
“I’m not sure. Sounded like... oh, I’m sure it’s nothing. The wind.”