by

Thomas Gaffney

Eve had been dead for exactly 666 days when she climbed the steps and stood on the front porch.

It was home, despite the ostentatious changes. The third board still creaked underfoot, and the swinging bench still hung from the overhang where the porch ended at a weather-beaten railing. Its left-side chain was rusted from the rain that blew in, while the right side had nary a speck of red. The other rockers that lined the front of the house, however, were new. Not just recently bought, but of a bright, modern design. She hated them.

“Well, we must do something about that.”

It hurt to talk, and she coughed a large clod of dirt into her palm. She dropped it on the porch and wiped her calloused fingers across her favorite sapphire sundress. Its cleanliness no longer mattered. The formerly vibrant dress was filthy and torn, rotted away during her time in the ground, and hanging from her bony frame like sheets draped over a clothesline.

Eve looked at the front of the house she’d shared with her husband Robert, and the weight of memories nailed her feet to the porch. Even two decades after his passing, his loss still clung to her like a shadow containing all of her sorrow. She twisted the brass doorknob and pushed the door open with the familiar squeak of the hinges. Eve listened for any sign of Jordan, the man she hired to help care for the house when it became too much for her to manage herself. Silence. Nobody home.

She entered the parlor and was too taken back to even scream. The furniture she crafted by hand over the years—cabinets, bookshelves, chairs, and tables—were gone. Replaced with a garish leather sectional and a hideous table that matched the new porch rockers. The wall that once held Robert’s beloved fishing prints—in frames she made for him—was now bare, save for a mounted flat-screen television.

Anger propelled her across the floor, through the kitchen, and into the backyard where the state of her prized, beautiful garden hit her like a punch to the gut. If her heart were still beating, her blood pressure would have spiked. All her plants were dug up and tossed in the far corner of the yard, leaving her carefully crafted soil cratered like the surface of the moon. A large firepit had been bored in the center of her showy goldenrod plot. Wood and ashes littered the bottom, and Eve wondered what effect the heat had on the soil’s pH.

Rage motivated her to get to work. She didn’t see any of her gardening tools, so she moved her expensive dirt by the handfuls to fill the holes. The front door opened as Eve was replanting an aster she rescued from the discarded plants, and a voice called out, “What’s that smell?”

Jordan had returned. Eve stood as she heard approaching footsteps clop against the wood floor. “Is someone out there?” Jordan called. “This is private prop—”

He stepped into the sunlit yard and froze. All the color drained from his face, and his eyes comically widened. Not all the color—his eyes were still strikingly blue. Like Robert’s. They almost derailed her, but she persevered. “This is my home,” Eve growled. “How could you?”

She hadn’t wanted Jordan to see her cry, but tears flowed. Cold tears with a stench of formaldehyde, like those old lacquers she used when woodworking. He was still the spitting image of a young Robert—and a reflection of what their son might have looked like if Eve could have children.

She let him into her heart and her home, and she “adopted” him. Eve loved him, treating Jordan no differently than the child God wouldn’t give her. Every evening after dinner, she would carve little knickknacks for him while they sat on the front porch, talking, watching the sun go down. Now, she wondered if those gifts made up the pile of ashes at the bottom of the firepit.

“Y-You were dead,” Jordan sputtered. “I watched you die.”

“Watched me die? You killed me!” Her voice was guttural and earth that she chewed and clawed her way through to escape her grave spilled from her mouth.

“N-No,” Jordan said. “It was an accident!”

Eve wanted to scream, curse, call him a liar or a murderer. Instead, she asked, “Why?”

She’d done everything a mother would. Folded laundry, cooked meals, and when Jordan got into some financial trouble over old bets, Eve lent him money—lots of money. She willingly amended her will to leave everything to him.

She trusted him, too. So much that when Jordan told her she hadn’t taken her daily pills even though she felt certain she had, she believed him, assumed she must have forgotten, and took a second dose. When the double-dosage brought on a seizure, Jordan stood and watched as she convulsed in her cherished flowerbeds, foamed at the mouth, and died from the overdose.

As the memories bombarded her, Jordan turned and ran inside. Without an answer to her question of why, Eve’s anger rose, and she followed him. She found Jordan rummaging through a box—Robert’s tackle box—where the loveseat should’ve been. Sitting atop a mantle were two chestnut blocks she intended to carve into fancy dice. Jordan loved the casino, so she planned to surprise him with the dice on his birthday, but she never had a chance to start.

Just below the dice, a set of expensive-looking golf clubs leaned against the wall. Eve grabbed the one with the biggest head and brought it back over her shoulder. Just as Jordan turned from the box with Robert’s old fishing knife in hand—long, semi-serrated, and able to gut any fish in seconds—Eve swung.

The club connected with the side of Jordan’s head with a loud, sickening crack.


Eve had finished carving the dice and was polishing them until the wood glistened when Jordan screamed for help from his bedroom. She rose with a sigh and went to where Jordan lie, his limbs tied tight to the four-poster bed she constructed and carved with her own hands. “You know full well that the nearest house is five miles down the road,” Eve said. “Your voice won’t carry that far. Nobody’s coming to save you.”

“I can’t see!” Jordan shouted. “My eyes! It hurts, and I can’t see!”

“I couldn’t either, dear,” Eve mused. There was a sadness in her harsh, dead voice. “But your vision gets clearer when you’ve been in the ground with nothing but time.”

Jordan struggled to free himself, but the ropes were strong and the workmanship of Eve’s bed, stronger. “What did you do to me?”

“Come on now, son. You know I’m an expert woodworker. I sedated you and used my wood chisel to carve out your eyeballs and encase them in these fancy dice.”

Jordan let out a low moan. “Dice? Y-You’re crazy!”

“Shhhhh.” Eve rolled the wooden cubes around in her hand, and they clacked against each other. “Have you ever heard of cleromancy?”

“Clero-what? What are you talking about?” Jordan swung his head from side to side. “I don’t…”

“The casting of lots. The roll of the dice. And you love your dice games, Jordan, judging by the amount of money you owed people.” Eve sat on the far edge of the bed. “It’s believed to reveal the will of God or other… entities.”

“Entities?”

“Do you remember what I used to say about your eyes? They were the windows—”

“To the soul,” Jordan finished. His skin had gone so pale it was nearly translucent. “This can’t be real. This is all just a bad dream.”

Eve ignored him. “I need to know your soul.”

“H-How?” Jordan’s voice shook.

“Make a wish and hope your soul is pure.”

She never gave him a chance to wish aloud. Eve cast the dice and watched them bounce across the hardwood floor until they clattered to a stop.

“What do they say?” Jordan whined, his voice high-pitched and strained.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Snake eyes.” Eve was disappointed but not surprised. “I know little about dice games, dear, but I know that’s a bad roll.”


When the police cruiser pulled up to the quaint house with modern furniture out front, it was to conduct a welfare check on Jordan Amaru. When the patrol cop found the semi-buried corpse of Eve Devlin, last seen being lowered into her grave at Woodlawn Cemetery, he called for assistance.

Detectives and the Medical Examiner’s Office arrived. It looked to them as if Eve had buried herself, tucking herself into her garden under a soil duvet. They assumed the bereaved caretaker had dug her up and brought her home for burial, but they put that theory to rest when they found Jordan’s bloated, eyeless corpse bound to the bed inside the house.

As one detective examined Eve’s partially submerged corpse and tried to make sense of the situation, he discovered a pair of polished wooden dice clutched in her bony fist. They were heavier than he expected. He wasn’t a thief, but they couldn’t really be evidence, and he knew original Eve Devlin carvings fetched a pretty penny. Certainly, this bizarre scene would make national news and increase the value of her work substantially.

Against his better judgment, the detective pocketed the dice before anyone else saw them. Mrs. Devlin certainly wouldn’t miss them. Perhaps he would take them home and play with them tonight…

Thomas Gaffney (he/him) grew up in Philadelphia and started writing as a kid. He fell in love with horror while reading a beat-up copy of Stephen King’s IT. Much like Henry Bemis in the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last,” Gaffney considers himself “a bookish little man whose passion is the printed page” and has been reading and writing ever since. His first collection of short stories, Stranger Things Have Happened, was won numerous awards. Gaffney currently lives in Pittsburgh and is taking classes toward a Creative Writing degree at SNHU. He has recently joined the Horror Writers Association.

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