The Seventh Day
Marcy sat huddled on the floor with her arms wrapped tightly around her daughter. She was looking around her living room at the boarded-up windows and the dining room table, which was now pushed up against the front door. Her husband, Logan, was nailing reinforcements over a window. She was trying to block out the cries coming from outside her home. She was trying not to think about what had happened to her little boy, Theo, many hours before.
Every Sunday morning since they had moved into the home, those darn religious zealots kept showing up at her door. They would ask her if she’d “been saved” or offer to teach her about the “savior.” She had always politely declined, saying, “No thank you. We’re atheists,” and quietly closed the door. They had always just turned around, walked back down the front step, down the walk, and gone away. This time had been different. This time they hadn’t taken “no” for an answer. This time, they wouldn’t go away.
Logan started nailing the boards up around noon after they had broken the window and snatched poor Theo from the house. She still couldn’t accept what happened to little Theo. Marcy wanted to close her eyes, but didn’t. She still saw the blood when she closed her eyes. She still couldn’t think of his screams.
“Ned, go in the basement and break the legs off the workbench.” Logan ordered his oldest, and now only, son. “This table isn’t going to hold them for long. I want to nail those legs across this door to brace it.”
“No, don’t.” Marcy said. “I’ll go. You’ve got your hands full and I haven’t been much help.” Marcy stood, and when her daughter, Sissy, moved to do the same her mother scolded her, “No, Sissy. You stay right there.”
“No, mommy. I’m afraid.” Sissy complained, almost in tears.
“It’s OK sweetheart, your brother is right over there. Everything will be fine.” Marcy didn’t really believe that everything would be fine, but her motherly instincts made her say whatever was necessary to appease the frightened little girl.
“Mommy, why do those people want to hurt us?”
“I don’t know, Sissy. I just don’t know...”
At that moment, the lock finally broke on the front door and it moved inward, moving the table about half a foot. A pale but bloody arm reached through the six-inch space between the door and the jamb. It clawed frantically trying to reach any living thing within. Logan leaned his weight on the edge of the table forcing the door closed on the anonymous arm and neatly snapping a bone. Marcy could hear a clean crack of splintering bone from across the room. She also heard the immediate and hideous scream from the thing on the other side.
Things are indeed what they were - or at least what they had become that morning when she had tried to turn them away. She now remembered vividly. She had said, “That’s very kind of you, but we’re not a religious family,” and began to close the door. The man had thrown his weight against the door, pushing it back open entirely and placing a nice bump on her forehead in the process. She had actually watched his features change. His lips pulled back from the usual smile, into a terrible grimace, and then pulled even further, exposing a mouthful of color - yellowed decaying teeth and blood-red gums. Out of this orifice came a bubbling cry, “Marcy! You should have gone to church today!” She was so distracted by this sight that she didn’t see the process by which his eyes became what they were - white orbs with no irises. Had they rolled back into his head? She didn’t know and didn’t take the time to think about it. She slammed the door, or at least tried to. The man/thing had stepped into the house just enough to block the door with his chest, which she could now see through the holes in his suit, the lines of his ribcage showing clearly beneath his pale skin. It seemed that within seconds, all of his bodily features had become more pronounced. It seemed he’d lost fifty pounds in the thirty seconds since they’d first met and now his cheekbones stood out fully, chin came to an awful point and the muscles in his neck formed web-like strands as he strained to push the door back open. Fortunately Logan was there - Logan is always there. With a single kick from a large work boot, Logan evicted the monster and locked the door.
“Hurry!” Logan screamed. Marcy was shaken from her reverie and the memory was gone - for now. “We need those boards, now!” He and Ned had forced the pale arm back through the space in the door and were now both doing a poor job of keeping the door closed against the things on the other side. Marcy ran for the basement door and hurried down the stairs. When she reached the bottom she heard them. “Maaaarrrrcy. You should have gone to church todaaaaay!” A chorus of terrible voices assaulted her from the darkness. Marcy froze. She froze in her tracks and her blood froze in her veins. As her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness she saw shadows moving slowly toward her from the recesses and damp corners of the basement. She spun and headed back toward the top of the stairs. The figures attacked. She heard above the sounds of her pounding steps on the stairs an army of running steps only yards behind her. She was only on the fifth stair when she heard their shoes hit the first. Two more stairs and she felt them tremble under the weight of the gang only four steps behind her. Marcy held her breath as she raced the last eight steps, feeling their hands on her back and smelling their rancid breath in her nose. At the top she skidded on the hardwood floor but was just able to slam the door shut on her pursuers. It locked. She recoiled at the crash of bodies as they met the other side. The door bowed inward but did not break. Ned was there in a moment to push the heavy oak china hutch in front of the door. “Maaarrrrcy! Have you been saaaaaaved?” came the hateful choir from the other side. “It’s time to meet your saaaaviour!” The song was unreal. Maniacal. “Say your prayerrrrs, Ned!” A high-pitched shriek, like a bulldozer rolling down a mountain made of concrete. “Maaaarrrrcy. You should have gone to church todaaaaay! Let us in and be saaaaaved!”
Marcy fell to her knees and melted in anxious sobs and shudders. The shrieks she had been listening to all day had finally reached inside her. They grabbed her spine and shook her apart. Her son caught her before she fell the rest of the way to the floor. His mother had finally let go of the final thread of sanity she had left. He dragged her back to the corner of the living room where her daughter now held and comforted her saying, “Everything’s going to be OK, mommy.”
Earlier that morning, after Logan had forced that thing back out the front door, they had each stood in front of a different window on the ground level of their home, staring in frightened fascination as these, transformed, people gathered and surrounded the house. They were awakened from this hypnosis by the sound of a breaking window. Marcy and Logan ran toward where the sound had come, the window next to the front door, where Theo was standing, transfixed by what was happening. They arrived in time to see a monster lean into the window, his torso completely entering the house. It was a different man/thing this time. It was tall, and large clumps of flesh and hair fell from him, like some advanced form of Leprosy had devastated his body. He seized little Theo, who did not fight but was simply frozen with fear, and yanked him, in one smooth motion, out through the broken window. Marcy covered the remaining distance to the window in two long strides. There, she stood and watched in horror as it pulled one limb, then another, from her boy’s wriggling body. His screams were unbearable as he died mercilessly in the man/thing’s hands. Logan, who was not in position to see the monster perform its sport, sensed what was happening. He turned his wife from the window and held her rigid figure as the tearing sounds continued outside. For a little while, the creatures would leave them alone.
Bedposts did a fairly adequate job of reinforcing the front and back doors. By removing the doors from the kitchen cabinets and closets, Logan was able to finish boarding up all the windows on the ground floor. The upstairs level didn’t seem to be an issue. There was no way he could see for them to reach the upper windows unless they could scale straight up the outside walls, and he doubted that. It didn’t matter anyway. He was out of materials. The carpentry part of their defense was now over.
They sat on the living room floor together like they had on the day they’d moved in, when the moving van hadn’t arrived yet. And, now, once again, they found themselves without furniture, and held each other in the middle of an empty sea of carpet.
Finally, Ned spoke. Despite the rampage going on outside the house, and despite the taunting screams and noisy struggles of things trying to gain entry -- despite all that, the family heard him clearly. But, they were only four softly-spoken words. It wasn’t the volume of the words, but what they contained – the gravity of what he said that made his words seem louder, “Perhaps we should pray.”
His father stared into space and then slowly turned to his son. His face was a question mark. He blinked, looked at the front door, the floor, and then back into space. His brow furrowed and eyes closed ever so slightly. The wrinkles, showing his age in the corner of his eyes, deepened. Logan looked like a game show contestant about to give his final answer and win the boat, the car, and all the cash that went with it. Logan squeezed his mouth tight and the blood left his lips, turning them white for a moment. In an instant, the quizzical look turned to one of great irritation. He leaned into Ned and asked the question on everyone’s mind. “What!”
“Not…” Ned looked through the window over his shoulder and lowered his voice, “Not for real. You know. Just fake it. Maybe if we give them what they want – if they think we’ve been saved they’ll go away and leave us alone.”
Marcy had been listening and regained her composure. “It’s a…” she cleared the tears from her throat, “It’s a good idea.”
Logan scowled. “OK, who’s going to lead this…”, he winced. It was clear he didn’t like this but was going to go along with it, “prayer?”
Ned smiled, “I can do this.” He winked at his dad who didn’t look any happier.
They all joined hands. There was a heavy pounding on the front door like a visit from a landlord who had come for three months rent and wasn’t going to take excuses anymore.
Ned took a deep breath, looked skyward and exposed two rows of perfectly white teeth. Logan knew at that moment that his son was going to ham it up as best he could for the unruly audience on the other side of the windows. Ned was actually going to enjoy this. “Lawed! We have seen the light!” Ned was doing his best impression of a gospel preacher and managed to throw in a southern drawl just for fun, apparently. Logan groaned in protest but no one heard. “You have sent your messengers and we have heard them.” All sound from outside the home ceased. Marcy squeezed Logan and Sissy’s hands and they all exchanged glances. The things from outside were listening. “We have seen the error in our ways and we give ourselves to you, oh Lawed!”
Now Logan smiled. He could see a silhouette between the window boards over Ned’s shoulder so they knew the things were still there, but they were really listening. It was working. They were a captive audience. “Go on!” he commanded his son, “Keep going!”
“We sit before you as humble servants and from this moment forward will carry the word and do your bidding. We bathe in your light and walk only in the footsteps of the Lawed!” The silhouette was gone. Logan let go of Ned and Marcy’s hands and raced to the window. Pressing his hands and face against the boards he peered through a space between them. The things were leaving. He saw figures walking across the lawn, down the walk, down the driveway, making their way back down the street. Ned’s idea had worked. They had fooled the invaders and had now been left in peace.
Monday morning sun came in through the window and warmed Marcy’s face. She lifted her head and looked around the room. The other half of her face was itchy from the carpet. The rest of the family minus one, Theo, were still there with her on the living room floor, sleeping. They had decided, just to be safe, to leave their defenses up for the rest of the day on Sunday, and that night, and stay together right there where they’d witnessed Ned’s performance. Marcy rose, went to the window and peered out. All clear. Not a sign of the army that had laid siege to their home the day before. She picked up the hammer beside the front door and went to work on the boards nailed there. Her family groaned in protest at the noise, but were silent once they got their wits about them and remembered where they were and why. Logan rose only to his elbow and watched her. Removing the last board, Marcy opened the door and stepped outside. It was an exceptional morning. Tranquil. The cement step was cool and coarse under her bare feet as she watched a robin bounce on the lawn in search of worms. She could hear leaves flutter in a slight breeze. Her foot bumped into something and she looked down. There, she saw a brown, leather-bound book with a cross embossed on the cover. Two golden words winked at her in the sunlight. She dropped the hammer, bent, and picked up the book. She ran her hands over the surface and let her fingers bump over the letters as if they were braille. The edges of the pages were gold and the book made a new-book cracking sound when she opened it, but from inside an odor whiffed up at her. This was not new-book smell, but the rancid thing she’d recognized from her encounter in the basement the day before. She slammed the book closed, went back in the house and threw it into an umbrella rack beside the door. The rack clanged against the wall, rocked back and forth for a moment and was still once again.
The following Sunday, Marcy sat on the sofa and used their new coffee table as a desk as she drew circles in the Real Estate section of some other town’s newspaper. Logan watched TV in the den and Ned and Sissy were upstairs. Her heart stopped at the sound of a fist striking her front door. It came again and again. Marcy went to the door and placed her hand on the knob. She released it, reached into the umbrella stand and retrieved the strange gift the family had received the previous Sunday. Clutching it to her side like a schoolgirl, she opened the door. There, she stood face to face with her son, Theo. He was smartly dressed -- a nice blue pinstriped suit, tie, and shiny patent leather shoes. His face was deadly serious. He held to his chest a book that matched hers. His eyes moved down to where she held her Bible and he smiled. “I see you’ve already heard the good news,” he said. Marcy nodded once. The boy turned, straightened his tie, and hopped off her step. Marcy stood and watched her son make his way back down her walk. She could hear his heels click and scrape on the concrete as he went. She took a step back and closed the door. Logan called from the other room with concern in his voice, “Marcy, who’s at the door?” Marcy turned the lock, and placed her back against the door. “Nobody.” Her voice wavered. “Just some kid selling magazine subscriptions.” She slid down until she was seated with her legs out in front of her. Marcy placed the book face down on her lap, covered her face with her hands, and wept.