Wiping away the remaining grime from the gutters of the old house into a slop bucket, Brandon moved down the ladder towards his truck. He knew Chris was in the back draining the pool that’d sat for three years and that Desmond was busy priming the side of the house to get it ready for the new paint job. Stepping off the ladder, Brandon went over to a mulch pile and heaved the bucket onto the mound of slimy nastiness that he’d accumulated over the course of the afternoon.

Greens and browns sluiced together, juices intermingling to create a stench that seemed like a combination of bad milk and rotting fruit. The mound was nearly three feet tall, and six feet wide, with the odd broken board that they’d pulled from the side of the house (and replaced) sticking out in stained and splintered glory. Looking away from the mound, Brandon merely shook his head. Looking over at the hose leading from the backyard to the mulch pile pumping the undiluted sludge from the pool into the trash heap, Brandon could only wince at the thought of what the owner was going to do with the pile.

Mrs. Shipman, the old crone of a woman she was, had hired them to do this work for her house, specifically requesting that they create a mulch pile in this one spot in the yard. Brandon had shrugged and gone about his business, though Desmond had thought it curious that a mulch pile was being made on the side of a house, in plain view of the driveway, but in the end just shrugged and went about the task at hand.

“Desmond! Hey Desmond!” Brandon called out, marching around the house to where he knew his friend had started painting.

What he found was several cans of overturned white paint staining the cement and a roller brush that was snapped in half. Several long streaks of white were already on the boards, along with a spatter of red, slowly turning brown. Brandon walked up closer and dipped his finger into the red gunk before pulling it back and sniffing.

It smelled of copper and death, along with the faintest hint of rot.

“Blood,” Brandon wiped his glove onto his work shirt, looking around nervously. “Desmond! Desmond, where are you? Are you okay?”

All that answered him was the long call of the cicada and the long call of a whippoorwill. Deciding to get Chris so he could use his cell phone, he moved along the side of the house until he reached the back gate, which he quickly opened.

The backyard had been overgrown when they’d arrived, but after nearly five hours of work they’d restored order to the nightmarish overgrowth that had been choking the life from the five Poplar trees that had somehow persevered through the negligence their caretaker had shown them. The pool itself was beneath the shade of the largest tree, and was a downright mess when the three men had first begun work. Brackish green and dull red, with thick soupy chunks of matter bobbing up and down within, Chris had lost the coin toss to be the one to tackle the task of cleaning the pool.

“Chris!” Brandon called as he entered the backyard, looking around.

A wet vacuum sat at the edge of the pool, along with a long tube leading out and around the other side of the house to the mulch pile, steadily pumping chunky fluids through the ringed hose. The water level had lowered by several feet already revealing that the pool indeed had a deep end, where a thick coating of bubbling mud seemed to sit in a primordial state.

“Wait, why is that mud bubbling?” Brandon asked aloud, looking around in search of Chris. A small stain of red on dark cement next to the pools edge caught Brandon’s eye, along with the gleam of several shining rocks. Squatting down to see what they were, Brandon gasped as he picked up one of many bloody fragments of teeth, cracked and split on the concrete around them. Broken fingernails, raked across the cement, showed the Chris had been forcibly pulled into the pool.

Without a second thought, Brandon ran over to the side of the pool where a pool net was, set into a long metal pole. Taking the pole, he thrust it down into the mud, a soft splatter of gelatinous fat sluicing up from the strike. A ragged arm, pale as snow, reached up and grabbed the pole, followed by another. Lifting with all his strength, Brandon moved the pole out of the slime with his passenger in tow, revealing a tired and dirty Chris, his skin pale and blotchy as if he’d been suffering chemical burns.

“Chris! You’re okay!” Brandon called out, staring at the man as he desperately grappled with the pole in an attempt to stay afloat. “Just hold on, I’ll pull you out of there!”

Chris groaned his jaw clearly broken from the swelling as he scrabbled along the smooth metal of the pole. Suddenly, an arm of bone and vine-like slime burst from the muck, grabbing onto Chris’s matted hair in a solid grip. Emerging from the slime behind Chris was a skeleton, with bloody gelatin and mold forming muscle and fibrous tissue. The arm, stretching further than humanly possible due to the slimy covering, sank its sharpened fingers into Chris’s skull, causing him to scream in agony, letting go of the pole as both hands reached for his head to try and wrest it free.

Brandon could only watch in horror as another such skeleton emerged, this one with a slithering with a serpent along its mud and algae covered throat. The snake hissed as the skeleton reached out to grab at Chris, pulling him by one of his arms back into the muck. Looking up, the skeleton burped forth a mixture of bile and teeth as it spoke in a watery, thick as mud voice.

“He’s ours now. So is the other. Leave our resting place be or you will join us as well,” the skeleton groaned, before falling back into the muck with its fellow, dragging Chris under the cusp of the horrid mixture.

Brandon just stood there in shock, staring at what he’d seen. The pole felt far heavier in his hands than it should, and his heart thumped loudly within his throat. Looking around, he couldn’t find anything else that could help him save Chris without risking himself. A sudden realization of the fact that they had hammers in the truck, something that he could use to bash the skeletons apart, had him dropping the pole and running along the hose out of the backyard and around the side of the house.

Into a mound of rancid mulch that opened a toothy maw of broken boards and sharpened twigs to issue forth a gurgling roar as it lunged forward. Brandon, too surprised by the veritable wave of compost, fell beneath the weight of slimy yard waste, cursing as twigs and bits of thorny vine cut into him, wrapping around his arms from within the living ooze. Brandon fought to hold his breath, to claw his way to freedom, but his eyes suddenly saw only a bright light, before he slumped limply within the living rot, a mildew infested splintered board speared through his back, poking through the front of his work shirt, which was rapidly growing red from the blood gushing forth.

In the darkened, smothering bowels of the beast, Brandon slowly bled out, his lungs filling with blood, making it difficult for him to breathe. The hot, choking interior combined with his collapsed lung made it to where Brandon soon joined Desmond and Chris, their bodies joining up with the bodies of previous yard workers who had worked on the cursed lawn and pool of Mrs. Shipman.

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