Content warning Child death

As the sun rose over the verdant landscape, the white-painted house reflected the sunlight like a beacon. This was Dorothy’s house. A ray of light fell through the bedroom window onto her face and she woke up, for the first time in the new house since the move yesterday. She smiled, got up, admired the view on the majestic garden through her bedroom window, got ready and headed downstairs to set the breakfast table.

The two kids were already awake, with Alan chasing Chris in one moment, and the other way around in the next, constructing a game somewhere between hide-and-seek and tag. The boys loved the new space, a distinct upgrade from the apartment in the city, where square meters came at a premium. Chris and Alan had their own rooms now, and there even were some rooms in the house that Dorothy hadn’t found a use for yet.

Dorothy was ecstatic to have snagged this gem of a house, cozy yet spacious, with a majestic garden. Oh, that garden! And all that for a very reasonable price.

What to do today? Dorothy decided not to plan in anything in particular. Enjoying the new place felt like the most important. Perhaps exploring the surroundings a bit. Probably get to unpacking the boxes, at least one box, maybe only half a box, just to make progress. But none of it was very important on this day, the first day of properly living in a wonderful place that she owned.

“Mom, can we play outside?” Chris asked, having gobbled up his breakfast in record time.

“Of course! Don’t go climbing in the trees though.”

The garden is what sealed the deal for Dorothy. It was huge: a lawn extending past the patio, a vegetable garden, an herb garden, a little sitting area with wooden chairs and a table under old trees providing plenty of shade, and, more towards the edge of the terrain, a forest that remained dark even during cloudless summer days. A few fruit trees were dotted around. The grounds were particularly well maintained, and Dorothy had already requested the old groundskeeper to continue his duties.

And so Dorothy and the children settled in, and the time they spent in and around the house felt like magic.

It was paradise — for the most part.

Dorothy couldn’t quite make connections with the people in the area. There weren’t any neighbors in the immediate vicinity, but there were a few houses further up the road. Dorothy attempted to get to know the people living there, but without luck. Some outright refused to speak to her, while others hid behind the curtains, peeking out as if Dorothy couldn’t see them. The most direct interaction she had was with an older gentleman who knocked on her front door. “This is not your house,” the gentleman said, and walked away without waiting for a response. She didn’t understand, and it had certainly made her uncomfortable, but she ignored the statement and resolved not to let anyone disturb the peace and quiet she had newly found in her life.

Alan had started a little project, with Chris’ help and Dorothy’s blessing: the kids would dig a pond, just a small one, near the sitting area with the chairs under the trees. Dorothy liked the idea: it could become a distinct focal point of the area as the only water feature on the grounds. But the primary reason why she said yes to this project was because she was enamored by the energy and initiative the kids showed. After all, if kids are driven, why say no?

The soil was favorable for a pond, too: the clay-like consistency would hold the water well, so there’d be no need to bring in ugly plastic lining. It could all remain natural, like everything else on the grounds.

The project made progress slowly, with Alan and Chris losing interest once in a while, only to pick it up later. It wasn’t a bother for Dorothy: she was just happy to have kids who were having fun, pond or no pond. Near the end of the summer, though, she prodded the boys to make headway. The rainy season is coming, she explained, which would make it tricky to keep on digging. So the boys grabbed their shovels from the shed and started digging, with the intention of not just expanding the pond, but deepening it as well.

The digging wasn’t always straightforward. The shape of the pond followed the trees around it, but the roots got in the way more than they would have wanted. There also were quite some rocks in the way, some that took quite some effort to dig out and pull up. In the process of digging the pond, the kids occasionally found a few lost objects: a glass bottle, unbroken, and a dagger, worn beyond repair, were the two most prized treasures they found. They kept digging, not just for the fun of digging, not just because they wanted a pond, but now also because they wanted to find more treasure.

Then, one day, Chris ran in from the outside, all excited.

“Mom! We put him back together!”

Chris took Dorothy outside, and what she found lying next to pond was a skeleton, its bones arranged crudely, resembling a human, though plenty of its bones weren’t in the right place and many were missing entirely. The shape was certainly humanoid, but not quite human. As Alan put one more bone he found into the skeleton, Dorothy found herself yelling “Stop it! Leave it! Don’t touch it!” She felt unsure how to explain it to the kids, but the thought of a buried corpse in her back yard was a little too much to bear.

That night, Dorothy could not sleep. With the windows open to keep out the summer heat, her sleep was disturbed by frequent sounds: the usual birds, the occasional cat or dog, and even the uncommon fox. One sound stood out in particular, however: a low, long-lasting, droning noise, deep and powerful — so powerful she thought it shook the house.

Dorothy woke up the next morning with the sunlight caressing her face. She got out of bed and glances out of the bedroom window into the garden. It was a day as gorgeous as yesterday. She yawned, a sign of the lack of sleep she’d been having. She considered going back to bed, with the curtains closed this time, but then her eye fell onto the pond.

It had been cleft open, as if an invisible force pulled apart the earth. The rift ran between the trees, which remarkably still stood upright. It ran about two meters in either direction from the still waterless pond, and most of the skeleton’s bones had fallen in.

Dorothy rushed to get her clothes on and ran outside. It felt surreal: it was just a coincidence, she reassured herself, that this would happen just the night after discovering that skeleton. She grabbed a shovel, pushed the skeleton fully into the rift, and began filling it in with the leftover dirt dug out earlier with all the energy she could spare.

“Mom?” Chris stood behind her, still in his pyjamas, worried and confused. “You’re filling in the pond?” His face showed disappointment — anger, even.

Dorothy stuck the shovel in the dirt. “Breakfast? Then we’ll talk about it. Go wake Alan!” She smiled, but couldn’t hide her sense of worry.

The three of them had breakfast but did not talk about what happened at the pond. Over the next few days, they avoided the pond, both physically and as a topic of conversation.

Until one evening, when Dorothy found Chris standing next to the pond, his hands filled with bones. She shrieked and, as if by instinct, slapped the bones out of his hands. Chris began to cry. Dorothy attempted to give him a hug, but he backed away. He did not understand.

“Chris, my dear Chris. These bones are not toys. They are not ours to anything with. They are dangerous, and I am just trying to protect you —  us.”

Chris ran into the house and his in his room for the rest of the day. Dorothy didn’t do much that day either, her mind being preoccupied and feeling sorry, so sorry for what she had done to Chris.

Dorothy slept in the day after, with the windows and curtain closed. When she woke up, she got ready and knocked on Chris’ bedroom door to wake him up before heading downstairs to set the breakfast table. She started eating by herself, and called out to Chris again. She went upstairs to check up on him, but found the bedroom empty. She checked the other rooms — nothing. A nagging feeling started to form, a feeling that pulled her outside, to the pond. The pond looked very different this morning.

The pond had grown a great deal, and resembled a pit more than a pond. The surrounding trees had partially fallen in, as if the hole in the ground had attempted to consume them. All around the sides of the pit laid bones, facing inwards, resembling teeth, and at the center laid Chris, his body contorted, clothes town, his unblinking eyes wide open staring up at nothing, his skin blue.

Dorothy fell to her knees in disbelief. She crawled into the pit and carried Chris out, putting him down on the wet morning grass a little further. On her knees, she caressed his hair.

“Chris, wake up.”

She laid down on the grass next to him, her arm wrapped around his lifeless body.



“Wake up.”

One morning near the end of winter, a blue sedan drove past the white-painted house. The car stopped a little further, then drove in reverse and halted right in in front of the “for sale” sign. A woman stepped out, and opened the passenger door to let her kid out. She rang the doorbell, but there was no response from within the empty house. She walked alongside the house, peering through the windows.

“Oh Jake, look at this! This place would be wonderful for us. And oh, the garden! You’d have so much space to play outside with your brother.”

A little further into the garden, she found herself on a barren bit of land. She wondered what had been there before, but then her face lit up.

“Jake, this is going to be amazing — right here is where we‘ll dig out the pool!”