House arrest just before the holidays. Jenny would have to make up some excuse as to why she wouldn’t be seeing the family at Thanksgiving or Christmas. She couldn’t tell them the truth. “Hi, no Mom, I’m not coming home this year. I’ve developed a bad habit of running fraudulent scams, and they caught me, again. No they wouldn’t give me probation again. Yes I have to wear this thing a whole year.” Jenny was allowed to leave for counseling. That’s it.
She worked from home. She shopped from home. She even started ordering delivered groceries. It was expensive, but it was better than swallowing her pride and asking someone to run errands for her. She hadn’t really been close with anyone since Renee anyhow. Glo and Kristin were more her friends, so after the breakup, Jenny turned into quite the recluse. Once she graduated, the hum drum buzz of cubicle filled offices was too much to accept. That’s when she started the scams.
It would have been smart to stop after she got caught the first time. Like so many, she believed she was invincible, and after a few switch ups and a little over a year’s break, she started her scams up again. Real work was too boring.
Not as boring as an entire year in the house.
A plus side to the debacle was that she discovered a whole world of ‘work from home’ jobs. She didn’t make near as much as she had illegally, but she had a steady income that wouldn’t land her in jail, and she didn’t have to suffer the cubicle sentence.
Jenny sat at her computer to compose her personal Thanksgiving menu, aka, order her groceries: a turkey, stuffing, fresh green beans, French’s onions, sugar, cranberries, a gallon of iced tea, and a whole pecan pie. Plus she needed eggs and butter. After approving the tacked on delivery fee, she thought she better check the mail. It had been a few days.
She ran down the sidewalk as quickly as she could without risking a stubbed toe. Cold stubbed toes were the worst. With her handful of junk mail, she started back for the porch.
A gust of wind swept across her path. She adjusted her sweater just in time to lose the grocery store ad to another sweeping wind. The contents scattered across her front yard.
Cool blades tickled her feet as she danced across the yard. Her toes were already ice, and she didn’t have any logs for the fire. She would have to hop in the shower when she got back inside to warm up.
A bug must have bitten her. She slapped the side of her foot out of instinct, then inspected the wound.
There was a decent chunk of skin missing. What the hell could have done that? Jenny hopped on her good foot for a couple steps when something bit her other foot. She dropped all the mail still clutched under her arm, then fell flat on her back. A small bite had been taken out of her other foot too. She decided to crawl back inside and figure out the bug problem later. Then all at once, it felt like her whole back was on fire.
She rolled over the get her hands beneath her, which instantly lit with pain. Her knees stung, her shins stung. Jenny pushed forward like a lunging sprinter, then slammed the door when she was finally back inside.
Bites covered her body. Blood ran down her legs and began to pool on the ground. Jenny parted the blinds with her fingers. She couldn’t see bugs in the grass, but she needed to figure out what bit her. That many bites from anything with venom would be bad, even if it wasn’t lethal. She looked herself over. Chunks were missing from her palms, fingers, knees, elbows, calves and shins, basically every part of her that came in contact with the ground. She parted the blinds again. If that many bugs had been in the grass, she would see some sign of them shuffling, unless they were subterranean…
When she cracked the front door, cool wind pushed through the opening and took away her breath. She pulled her now holey sweater tighter around her shoulders, then stepped back outside.
She hadn’t noticed before just how quiet things were. There wasn’t any car noise, none at all, and she hadn’t seen neighbors coming and going. Across the street, Cheryl, was the one to watch. If something big was going down, she would know about it. Her husband had been a storm chaser, though he passed a couple years prior. Her house was still equipped with antennae taller than the two story structure and three large satellites. As far as Jenny could see, there was no activity going on.
Kneeling on the sidewalk, she looked for any sign of bugs. There were no scuttle marks, no tunnels, there was just nothing. She used her less-hurt hand to shuffle the blades of grass, hoping to allow for a better view of the ground when she felt it again, simultaneous bites. She pulled her hand back just in time to see the grass swallow. The meaty meals they had taken from Jenny’s hand traveled down their grassy gullet never to be seen again. She jumped, shrieked, with fresh blood running down her fingers.
She didn’t think about the ankle cuff or her restrictions, Jenny took off down her sidewalk and collided with Cheryl’s door. She pounded, repeatedly, but no one came. She crawled on the brick wall that ran parallel to the house, very careful not to fall. She didn’t have much more skin to give if she fell. Had Cheryl’s grass been effected?
There was no sign of the homeowner anywhere, and she was going to throw one massive fit when she saw the blood Jenny left all over her property. This felt like a fitting occasion to lose some consideration for other’s feelings though. What was she supposed to do?
Jenny heard the sirens. That’s when she looked down to see her ankle cuff blinking faster than a strobe at a nightclub. Great. Unless she could prove something, they would most likely call this self harm and take her to a mental ward for the night. She decided it best to return to her own home and wait for the cops.
Cheryl’s massive oak creaked as Jenny descended the porch steps. She looked overhead to avoid any falling limbs. Cheryl told her this oak had been dying for years, but she couldn’t bring herself to cut down such a majestic being. ‘It’ll come down when it wants,’ had been her words. Jenny hoped it would just wait until she passed.
No such luck.
A long, thick branch came at her. She ran to evade its path, then screamed when it followed her. It hadn’t dawned on her that whatever was going on with the grass might have gotten to the trees too. She ran as hard as she could for the street. Just as she felt she was almost out of the tree’s reach, a hard twine circled her ankle. She lost a couple teeth when her face connected with the sidewalk. She screamed, but choked on blood.
The next time she opened her eyes, she was upside down. Blood gurgled, she spit, swallowed, flailed with every ounce of energy she had, hoping to earn back her freedom. When she saw the massive truck split and teeth present from behind barky lips, she crossed herself and said the Lord’s prayer until teeth tore through her middle and she lost consciousness.
Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.