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The Cricket

The Cricket

Estimated reading time — 10 minutes

It was her platinum blonde hair with silver highlights that stood out most in his memory. And that she was pale, thin and amazingly beautiful.

He backtracked his thoughts.

No not pale. Milky white.

Her name was Eleanor, but she went by Nellie. Or Nell. He called her Nellie and she seemed to be ok with it. She called him Will and it took him years to get the image of her last, gasping breath out of his head just long enough to be able to remember her the way she was before. When he first met her. Her icy warm blue eyes.

He sat motionless, except for his mind, with a cigarette dangling from the fingers of his right hand and a bottle of gin resting on the cement floor between his feet. He stared at the inside of the large, white garage door. The garage was his escape with its disarray and unsightly, bare hollow block walls that looked more like a jail cell than a comfortable hermatage. But he was comfortable here in his lawn chair sipping gin and staring. Listening to the October wind.

Just to left of the garage door, against the small portion of the bricks that formed the corner, was a metal cabinet, rusting in places and faded yellow, that housed a variety of designated garage items. Paint cans, grease, an abundance of loose screws and nails, a few tools. Yet among all the clutter was an eight- foot length of rope in a green nylon bag. He thought about the rope, as he had many times, then raised his gaze slowly, sloppily, and picked a nice clear spot in the steel garage door track.

Then he shook his head. He was a coward and he knew that living with the shame, the guilt, the herd of locusts that ate at his sanity was easier than stepping off that chair with a noose around his neck.

Maybe after a touch more gin.

A year earlier his wife had left him and took with her their only daughter, who he had fought to name Nellie, but lost. Her name was Patricia. He hadn’t seen either of them since and wasn’t interested in trying. He never even thought about it. When they left it was like nothing had changed from one day to the next. In his warped sense of reality they were never really there anyway.

His life would have been better, a lot better, if he could have just gotten Nellie out of his head.

But it was no use. As years went on the headaches got worse, the nightmares more lucid and he lost himself into a shadow of the past, of sunsets that would never be. His reality was a dream and his dreams were a fog of demons breath. The obsession festered and burst like an infected boil.

He reached down and scooped up the bottle from between his feet and stared into the the neck. Deep remorse swirled through his arteries like gothic circus music, fueled by gin and desperation. He hadn’t intended to get away with Nellie’s murder. He just did. No one ever asked him if he knew anything or even looked in his direction.

And he had waited, convinced they would come for him eventually. From inside his room he watched out of the window, peeking through the curtains at every noise he heard, every car that drove by. For three weeks he didn’t sleep. He just waited for the cops or some detective to come ask him if he knew who may have killed Nellie. He was prepared to confess to it all. If they had come and asked. But they never did. Will took a long sip of gin and swallowed hard.

He would have confessed to it all.

But to the cops, he assumed, he was just as invisible as he was in the eyes of Nellie. Just a shadow brought on by a thin stick planted in the earth. Passing time.

And he couldn’t turn himself in. That was never an option. Just couldn’t do it.

The wind outside kicked up which made the lights flicker and cast a strange shadow for an instant on the garage door. It brought up the memory of the night he and Nellie painted gargoyles on canvases stretched over wooden frames. They sat back to back so they couldn’t see what the other was paining. He remembered the ecstasy of having her body against his. He loved how he could feel her shoulder blades move as she painted and her torso expand with every breath.

When they were finished they traded canvases for the other to critique.

Hers was astoundingly better than he could have ever possibly dreamed. It had the external twisting of darkness he’d imagined but couldn’t quite capture. She expressed it perfectly as she mixed in the shadows with charcoal and grey. Nellie. He wanted to hold her one more time and never let go. He wanted to feel her breath and kiss her and tell her he was infinitely sorry. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, adored her. Worshiped her. But there was no chance. Not anymore.

It was his love that killed her. He wrote her the letter. The letter confessing his undying love, affection and loyalty accompanied with a single red rose. She never responded to the letter and she put the rose in a glass of water. The rose began to wilt and die. And she just let it.
Memory rewind. Infinite loop. He’d tried for so many years to stop the replay in his mind of the night he couldn’t take it anymore. He had to confront her about the letter. He paced in his room hoping the momentum would wind up his courage to talk to her. To ask her why she hadn’t responded to his letter. Why she let the rose die without even attending to it. She could have pressed it into a book or something, anything. But like the letter she paid no attention to it. It didn’t matter to her.

Two pills and a pint of gin later he came out of a blackout with his hands around her neck, his knees on her chest. Her icy blue eyes starting up at him, losing life, glazing over. Her breath was gone. An obsession lost forever…


A soft knock came on the small “person” door to the right of the garage door. Will assumed his neighbor saw the light on and wanted to bitch about the overgrown tree dropping leaves all Autumn in his perfect little yard disrupting his perfect life with his perfect little family. Will wished a black widow spider would bite him on the eye as he slept. Twice.

He ignored it. He wasn’t in the mood to hear it. He was about to take another sip when the next knock came. This time louder, more rapid. He was caught and he knew it.

He stood up still clutching the gin bottle, perhaps for security or maybe a preemptive strike, and put on an irritated expression then headed for the door. When he got there, he paused for a moment, waiting to catch his tree hating neighbor mid knock so he could fling the door open and surprise the hell out of him.

Nothing happened.

He started back to his chair when the knock came again, harder, louder. He spun back angrily, clutched the knob and pulled open the door ready to smash his gin bottle against this guys head.

Only a darker shade of darkness.

Convinced someone was playing a prank, he stuck his head out, but kept his free hand on the knob for safety. He squinted and scanned but saw no sign of life anywhere. Two dried, brown leaves, merciless to the breeze, skated by him, scraping the driveway.

Only this and nothing more.

“Keep messing around and I’ll call the cops!” he hollered into the darkness.

There was no reply, not that he was expecting one. The light from the garage gave very little illumination between him and the street. However, the driveway looked clear. He had to admit, though, the tree branches hung too low.

He pulled his head back in and closed the door, then twisted the meager lock in the center of the knob. It was all that stood between him and whatever was prowling around outside. But he was satisfied and started back to his lawn chair.

He made it about half way when a cricket, solid black and about the size of his thumbnail, appeared from nowhere and hopped into his line of sight. It stopped by a cigarette butt, turned toward him then hopped again halting just before his shoe.

“What the hell do you want?” Will said to the cricket.

The cricket didn’t move. Out of pure malice, Will raised his foot, steadied and brought it down hard on the cement. So hard it stung his big toe through the thick sole of his sneaker. When he lifted to see the horror of it all, there was nothing.


He scanned left then right and found the little bastard about a yard away right in front of his lawn chair. It seemed to be — looking at him. He watched it. Scrutinized it. Became absorbed. Drawn into the crickets stare. He heard a bead of sweat form on his scalp. The cricket’s heat beat. Then again. He watched as the cricket gingerly raise its wings. It chirped.


Will snapped out of his gaze.

“What the f— What did you just say?”

The cricket didn’t move.

Will chuckled at what he heard —or thought he heard — and assigned it to the further infestation of his personal insanity.

“Cricket,” he said aloud, “ I don’t know who the hell you are or what demon you came to represent but leave me to my misery.”

The air became still and the noise from the wind outside ceased. He felt more alone than ever.

Again the cricket chirped with abundant felicity.


Will ran a hand down his face and scraped against a week old beard.

“I’m drunk,” he announced to himself. “I’m stone drunk and insane.”


He took two step forward and the cricket dashed left and out of sight. Will calmly resumed his position in the lawnchair, set his bottle of gin down, then extended his right leg to pull out his smokes and lighter.

“Knocking doors, chirping crickets and talking to myself.”

He fumbled out a cigarette and screwed it into his lips, but before he could light it the cricket appeared again dead center in front of him. Facing him. Taunting him.

There was a silence as the two stared at each other. Then the silence was cracked by the cricket chirp.

“She—sleeps! She—sleeps!”

“Get the hell out of here!” Will screamed as he jumped up. The cricket shot to the left. Will clamored after it, knocking over the lawn chair, taking long strides to stomp him again and again. The lights dimmed and flickered and a crackle of electricity popped above his head.
The cricket jumped toward the shelter provided by shelving along the wall. Will chased it, crashing into the shelving, collapsing it and all its contents to the floor. He threw whatever was in his way to the left and right, digging through an array of garage debris.

The cricket chirped on from somewhere:
“She—sleeps! She—sleeps!”

Rage choked him. Frantically he searched for the cricket. Under every upturned box and broken piece of glass. Just as he tossed an old picture frame out of the way he heard the cricket chirp behind him.

Will spun around and dashed in the opposite direction. Before he got midway across the garage floor, the lights went out and flashed back on. He stopped short, almost stumbeling.
Right in front of him written on the wall, ingrained in the brick and in red letters.
“I sleep”

Fear bubbles popped all through his stomach and leaked acid into his arteries. His chest tightened.

Her platinum blonde hair.

The cricket chirped again from all around him:

“She—sleeps! She—sleeps!”

The air took on a red-orange hue. The cricket chirping over and over. His mind screamed and begged for mercy from this insanity.

“She—sleeps! She—sleeps!”

It was behind him. He glanced back and saw the cricket coming after him now. Chirping louder and louder. He tried to run toward the door. His legs were shackled to the air. He dragged a foot. Then another. After two labored steps he was hit with a thick pale grey mist, like the color of wet cement.

“She—sleeps! She—sleeps!”

Will coughed. Hard to breathe. The lights flickered again. The cricket’s chirp rippled off the walls. He clasped his ears.

“Shut up shut up shut uppp!!”

He struggled his way to the center of the garage, trudging through the mist. Thin, silky fibers clung to his face like spider webs.

He made it to his overturned lawn chair. The mist began to clear. He saw the gin bottle had spilled and next to it, there on the garage floor was a faded and yellowing envelope just like the one he had given Nellie.

But this one had his name written across it.

The air went quiet again. Eerily still like the whisper of a crypt. The cricket hopped over by the envelope. It waited.

His limbs were free. His legs felt light and loose. He didn’t know why he didn’t at that moment just run. He was sure he could have made it to the door. The envelope with his name on it stared back at him. The cricket dared him. Will took two steps forward, bent down and picked it up.


His hand shook as opened it. The paper inside was old, but clean. He unfolded it gently. It was a drawing. A drawing in black and grey shadows. A drawing of the rose he gave Nellie as it drooped and the leaves began to blacken. A gothic tale of what once was in a glory of red splendor, dying and in that death she sketched an amazing beauty. Her rose had the external darkness he’d imagined and she captured. It was perfect.

And under it she had written “I love you too”

Will felt the plasma drain from his brain into his stomach. It boiled like green lava.

He saw it all now in a vision in front of him. He was too blinded by impatience before. She let the flower die to draw it. She knew the way he liked it. She was making it perfect — for him.

He killed her out of rage and she died out of love.

He held the paper tight, his mouth gaping open. Twenty years of guilt and madness exploded from his eyes. He stared into the picture through the streaming tears, studied every line, every stroke…

He was startled out of his blank meditation by a noiseless shadow that moved quickly across the garage door. To fast to catch. When he looked back at the paper he saw a tiny speck in the center of the page that flashed like silver glitter. Then the rest of the drawing began to change. The speck of glitter expanded and swirled then turned a shocking icy blue. The lines that encased the rose transformed. In an instant more, he was staring at—

Her eyes!

He crumpled the paper and screamed to the air. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know!”

A shockwave of terror ripped through him as the door flung open and another cricket hoped in — then another — then in waves, hopping over each other all chirping:
“She—sleeps! She—sleeps!”

Will’s screams were eclipsed by the deafening chirps of a thousand crickets. He spun around and around, surrounded by black crickets chirping like a hoard of demons. Screeching. His chest tightened again.

“Have mercy please stop! I’m sorry! I love you!”

The crickets reached his feet and were throwing themselves against his ankles.
“Nellie! Please, Nellie, make it stop! Nellie!”

It was the first time he’d said her name out loud since that night. It left a bitter taste in his mouth. He screamed her name over and over again with such fierceness the veins in his neck bulged and turned a deep violet. His vision blurred; his head felt light. He thought about his daughter, but just for a moment. He collapsed into a haze.

Will opened his eyes and felt the bruises on his face tightening from where he hit the ground.

The crickets were gone. The air was cold and still.

The moist chill from the cement floor felt good against his cheek. The headache was gone. A shadow began to form around the perimeter of his sight as he stared at the back of the garage door. He smelled the gin and tasted metal in his mouth.

He wanted to get up, but he couldn’t.

Then from seemingly nowhere, the cricket hopped silently in front of him and stopped about a half a yard from his face. Then two tiny hops closer. Will’s eyelids felt heavy.

The cricket raised its wings.

“Please don’t — no more.”

“She — sleeps!”

Credit: Jeff Thompson

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