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Authors: Kealan Patrick Burke

Tags: #Horror, #Short Stories, #+IPAD, #+UNCHECKED

Seldom Seen in August

BOOK: Seldom Seen in August
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Seldom Seen In

Kealan Patrick Burke


Smashwords Edition


Copyright 2010 by Kealan Patrick

Cover Photography by Adrienne

Cover Design by Kealan Patrick



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Sirens wailed three blocks

Garden railings and high wooden fences
whipped past Wade as he ran, his feet pumping the earth hard enough
to send bone-jarring jolts through his legs. Frantic, he cast
desperate glances at the houses whose backyards let out on either
side of him. Each one seemed to be a carbon copy of the other,
their windows visible over the fences like the eyes of mischievous
children. They all appeared new too, which made sense to Wade.
After all, he’d lived in this city his whole life, knew its
highways and byways as if the veins on the back of his hand were a
topographical map, and couldn’t remember ever seeing a street
called Seldom Seen Drive before. He figured it had materialized
while he was in jail. Good thing he didn’t give a shit about
preserving Harperville’s historical assets or he might have taken
offense at the audacity of the city’s planners, because if memory
served, an old cathedral had once occupied the space where now
stood about sixty cookie cutter homes. Whoever had purchased the
lot had apparently done so without fear of divine retribution, and
though Wade appreciated that kind of balls-to-the-wall confidence,
he had no time to ponder it.

As he ran, the gaps between the fences
made the neatly manicured lawns flicker like projections from a
vintage show reel. Here and there he saw brightly colored toys
scattered in the grass, or doghouses missing their dogs, the chains
snaking into the grass and ending in nothing, as if the animals had
burrowed down into the earth and died there.

Breath like fire in his lungs, he
picked up the pace, sweat running freely down his back, dripping
from beneath his arms, slithering into his eyes in an effort to
blind him. The midday sun was a helicopter spotlight roasting the
skin on the nape of his neck. In a body that felt like it was
cresting a thousand degrees, the only cool spot was at the base of
his spine, where his revolver was tucked snugly into the waistband
of his jeans.

All the gates appeared to be locked,
and all the locks looked the same. Wade wondered idly if the
community had a pre-approved list of merchants they dealt with for
such things, and thought he wouldn’t survive a minute in such an
anal-retentive neighborhood.

The alley between the rows of houses
seemed endless, but the sirens kept him moving. Sooner or later it
would open out onto a larger street—Kendrick Avenue, if he
remembered correctly—and then he’d be even more exposed. And that
was not good, not when the cops were so goddamn close. He had to
find a place to hide, if only for a little while, just long enough
for the cops to expand the radius of their search somewhere other
than right up his ass.

He was thinking clearly and that was
good, because the adrenaline was doing its best to disorientate
him, making him feel as if he was a cartoon character, fleeing for
miles past a looping, unchanging background.

Sirens wailed two blocks

. Rather than quicken his
pace, he slowed to a jog. This was getting him nowhere, because
although he had kept himself in shape over the years and could
easily run for another ten miles if he had to, the reality of the
situation was this: He was on foot, the cops were in cruisers. How
long did he think it would take them to catch up? The only reason
they hadn’t already done so was because he suspected they weren’t
entirely sure where he’d gone, so for a brief time, the advantage
had been his. But it wouldn’t take much looking to spot him, thus,
whatever he was going to do would have to be done fast.

You’ve got a gun, chief
, he told
Use it. You’re surrounded by houses. Houses with
in them. People who have cars and can be
to transfer ownership.

The jog became a trot that became
nothing. He stood still, the sirens sundering the hazy air around
him. He had maybe five minutes before those cruisers came tearing
through the alley. He looked at the nearest gate to his right.
Locked, just like the others. It also seemed that every single one
of the gates had a BEWARE OF DOG placard screwed onto it, as if
having a mutt was a requirement of occupancy here in Stepford. A
moment of scanning, however, revealed a gate a few houses down that
didn’t. Remembering the dog-less chains and vacant kennels, he
decided this was the safer bet. It wouldn’t do to break into a yard
and get mauled, a possibility that might still be realized if it
turned out the sign had simply fallen down, or been blown off. His
options scarce, he decided to take the chance and made his way
toward it.

He wasn’t surprised to see yet another

He reached for his gun then thought
better of it. The sound of the shot would be like a public
announcement, and besides, shooting locks only worked in the
movies. In real life, chances were if the bullet hit the hard steel
casing, it would bounce right back and put a hole in him. He
thought about using the butt of the gun as a hammer, but that
didn’t seem reasonable either. It would take too long and his hands
were so sweaty he didn’t have much faith in his ability to keep a
hold on the barrel.

Wade put a hand to the wood, craned his
neck to peer at the width of the slats and nodded one

To hell with it
. He positioned
himself squarely before the gate, drew back and delivered a solid
kick to the panel just beneath the padlock. The lock rattled,
stayed intact, but the panel itself swung in from the bottom like a
cat-flap. Another kick to the adjacent panel and he had a gap wide
enough to squeeze through, which he did without pausing to look for
splinters or jagged spars of wood that might cut his throat. Once
inside, he cast a quick look over the house for a sign that his
less-than-subtle entry had alerted someone, then, satisfied that
the eyes of the windows had developed no unwelcome pupils, he
quickly inspected the gate. The first panel was still attached,
albeit barely; the second had been blown out entirely. That
wouldn’t do. Leaving it as it was would be as good as erecting for
the cops a sign with an arrow pointing toward the house. He made a
hasty but serviceable job of setting the panels so they appeared
undamaged. Of course, all it would take would be a nudge and the
hole would reveal itself, but with any luck he’d be long gone from
here before anyone thought to try. Plucking the largest of the
splinters from the grass and pocketing them, he moved fast and low
toward the house, one hand behind his back, fingers pressed against
the butt of the gun.

A pair of garden gnomes, their bearded
faces split wide by identical smiles, regarded him without judgment
as he stepped onto the pristine patio and hurried into the cool
shadow thrown like a dirty rug at the foot of the house. To his
right was a koi pond, the colorful fish wavering lazily in an
artificial current among polished stones made rough by algae. A
stunted elm leaned over to gaze into the water. From one of its
palsied branches hung a quartet of fake robins spinning in eternal
circles, their route dictated by a motorized brass hoop. One of the
robins was missing a leg, which Wade found oddly amusing despite
the uncomfortable feeling of familiarity that came, he could only
assume, from seeing so many bloody yards and their inane

He was startled then by the screech of
tires and the staticky squawk of a radio from somewhere up the

. They were almost on top of
him, and he congratulated himself on having the sense to make the
gate appear unbroken. With one hand still behind his back, he
grabbed the gun, hefted it and hurried to the pair of sliding glass
doors directly ahead of him. Only darkness showed within. Cupping
his hands around his face he peered inside. He could just about
make out the hunched silhouettes of furniture, the dull gleam of a
mirror, but no movement, which didn’t mean that someone wasn’t in
there, just that he stood a better chance of gaining access before
anyone noticed.

Yeah, right

There were any number of flaws in his
plan, and though he tried not to think about them, they persisted,
driven by self-preservation to remind him of the risk.

The door might be alarmed.

Someone might be waiting inside, hidden
in the shadows with a gun aimed at where Wade now stood second
guessing himself.

One of the neighbors might be watching
him, a phone to their ear as they quickly related to the emergency
operator what they had seen, and were seeing still.

Paranoia brought upon him the
undeniable sensation of being watched. He felt it like lying like a
cape across his shoulders. The hair on the nape of his neck
prickled and he glanced back over his shoulder. There were windows
all around him, staring vapidly down from over a labyrinth of
privacy fences.

He shook his head. Flaws, or not, he
didn’t have a choice. It was hide or keep running and he could only
run so far before they wore him down. He reached out a hand, closed
his eyes for a moment, and gripped the cold metal handle on the
sliding door.
C’mon, you sonofabitch
, he thought, and
pulled. To his amazement, the door slid open with a soft

He paused on the threshold, listening,
heart hammering against his ribs.

There was no sound from

Wade smiled. Another furtive glance
over his shoulder, and he was inside.




The interior of the house offered no

Wade gently slid the door shut behind
him and locked it, then pulled the curtains.

He turned to inspect his surroundings,
but it was hard to make anything out in the gloom. What he could
tell was that beneath his feet was a carpet that had seen better
days and the air smelled faintly of furniture polish and pine air
freshener. He did not need to know what the room looked like, only
that he was the only one currently occupying it.

He felt a little better now that he was
off the street and hidden, though he remained intrinsically aware
that this did not constitute freedom. He was far from out of the
woods. Anything could still go wrong, and in cases like this,
usually did. Until he knew that he was alone in the house, he
wouldn’t let his guard down. Even then, he would remain on edge
until a viable long-term escape plan presented itself,
one presented itself and he wasn’t just dawdling here while a
juggernaut of doom bore steadily down upon him.

Goddamn you anyway, Cartwright
he thought, clenching his teeth in frustration. He remained where
he was, standing in the darkness by the drawn curtains,

The house was quiet as the

Not fool enough to take that as proof
that he was alone, Wade cocked the gun as quietly as he could,
which was not quiet at all, and slowly crossed the room, bound for
the door in the wall opposite. Twice he barked his shin against
furniture that had been lurking in the dark and had to restrain a
gasp of pain. At length, ankle throbbing, he found the door and
beside it a light switch he yearned to turn on, but resisted just
in case it gave him away should someone be waiting for him in the

Quietly, he opened the door.

A naked bulb cast sickly yellow light
down on the narrow hallway.

There were coats, children’s by the
look of them, hooked over the newel post at the bottom of a short
flight of carpeted stairs. A punctured football sat on one step
beside the naked head and torso of a baby doll. Its eyes were
closed as if sleeping. Wade gave it only the most cursory glance.
He hated dolls, and had ever since that movie he’d seen as a kid in
which one of them had opened its eyes in a darkened bedroom and
grinned at a terrified child. The stupid movie hadn’t even been
about dolls, he recalled, and shook his head as he edged into the

BOOK: Seldom Seen in August
3.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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