The morning after Maggie and Evan moved into their clapboard home in the woods, they unpackaged a new 55 inch flatscreen TV and set it up on the stand in the livingroom. The house, formerly a rental, had been sitting on the market empty for ten years. Some kind of misfortune took place, the real estate agent said, a missing child or such, and no one wanted to live there, least of all the bereaved mother. But Maggie didn't believe in ghosts and thus hadn't minded. Instead, she and her husband jumped on the chance to buy their first home for a fraction of its worth.
After successfully connecting the TV to the Internet through a device she'd bought online, a little black box, Maggie went about unpacking books and figurines while Evan went upstairs to work; the occasional sound of his footsteps shuffling above reminding her of his presence. A faint blue light blinked in and out on the device—Bluetooth she supposed—though she hadn't connected it to anything besides the TV.
After a few minutes a screensaver switched on, presumably from the device, and an image filled the screen, drawing her attention: A grainy photograph of a girl doll sitting in a green wheelbarrow, a cluster of wildflowers at its side, and overgrown shrubs in the background.
How quaint, she thought. And sucky quality too.
Retrieving the remote, Maggie fiddled around until she found the screensaver settings and picked out something else—a crisp, high quality mountain scene. She shut off the TV.
But seeing a wheelbarrow had reminded her of something.
"Evan," she called up to her husband from the base of the staircase. "I forgot to ask, did the lawyer give you a key for the back shed?"
"No," he called down, "didn't have one. We're going to have to break the lock."
Later on that evening, after a busy day of unpacking, Maggie and Evan watched a couple of TV shows together before heading to bed. At one point they paused to make a snack and when they returned to the room, the screensaver was on. But it wasn't the mountains anymore. The doll scene was back.
"What kind of crap picture is that?" Evan said with a laugh. "It's blurry, like a phone picture blown up too big."
"Yeah, odd, eh? Wasn't me." She picked up the remote and changed the picture back to the mountainscape. "It lets me change the picture no problem, but I can't find the actual file to delete it. Must be some kind of manufacturer's default setting . . . "
"But if default, why such low resolution?"
She shrugged and put their show back on.
The next morning she turned the TV on to view her favorite cooking program while preparing a grocery list, and forgot to turn it off when she went to the store. Evan had gone to work and wouldn't be back until dinner. An overcast day, it was drizzling by the time she got home and the house seemed unusually dark for a summer afternoon. It took a few trips to unload the car but she soon had all the grocery bags piled together on the old-fashioned hardwood flooring in the sun room. Kicking off her sandals, she carried the first load inside and stopped in the hallway. Through the opening to her left, the TV screen illumed the shadowy living room like a muted lamp might do.
Maggie set down the bags and approached it.
The wheelbarrow scene again.
Up until now she'd barely focused on the image, not caring enough to take in the specific details. This time she examined it intently, feeling a tad uneasy. She'd seen that type of doll before, come to think of it, years ago. Bangs, curly platinum hair, gray irises, dusty rose lips. What had its name been again? She couldn't remember.
YOU ARE READING
Mother's Angel, and other short storiesShort Story
A collection of short stories. Various genres. Paranormal, Speculative, Fantasy, Historical, Coming-of-Age. Read one or read em' all. ;) Special Interests: The Jaguar is an LGBTQ fable. Howard Reed's Brain is a vegan tale about factory farms.