At the foot of the forest, where clouds settled on the leaves like linen sheets and the birds balanced on the tips of dying branches, a building – alone and pristine, was swallowed by the horror of it all. 

At night (it was always night) the intruders crept inside the home that smelled of bleach and ammonia. Nothing was stolen – not even the collection of black opal rings stored in the gold-leaf jewelry box beneath the vanity mirror. But the television was dashed to the floor – a rotting leg of lamb wrapped in fairy lights balanced on the TV stand, in its place. 

The police nosed about, dusted for prints and made a few phone calls. They tried to ignore the forest as it lurked outside like an army, but finally they faced the victims, saying, “I’m afraid we don’t know what this is. Maybe it’s a prank or just some loner trying to prove a point. I guess it could be art. Only the woods have the real answer. I suggest you just try and forget.” 

The owners tried to do just that: they drank giant mugs of black coffee with plenty of sugar and cream, went for runs on dirt tracks and slept deep into the afternoon – but the forest was hungry and full of ghosts. In its silence, it was loud, hidden in full view. It demanded to be explored, and one day when the neon nightmares of smashed TV screens had subsided, the owners would do just that.

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in Bourbon Penn, Eunoia Review, The Metaworker, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Menacing Hedge, Maudlin House and elsewhere. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal.

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