“Jimmy, shut the chickens in would you? Their coop door is still open.” shouted Jimmy’s mother from three rooms away, while he sat in front of the TV in the living room like a vegetable.
“That’s dad’s chore!” he hollered back, just as his mother came into the room, looking disappointed at his lazy appearance.
“Well, he’s coming home late tonight, with his big project and all. Can you just go do it, please?” Jimmy groaned and turned off the television. “What were you watching?”
“Just my show, this new comedy, it’s on at 8 on Thursdays.”
“Ok, weirdo,” she said, giving him an odd look, then glancing at the shut-off TV. A look of concernment overtook her face. “Go put it in the chickens, there’s coyotes and others critters out there, y’know.”
“Yeah I know,” he said, heading out the door.
Swallowed by the darkness, he headed back inside, grabbed a flashlight, and returned into the backyard. It was about a one hundred yard stretch to the barn, within which was the chicken coop.
Jimmy hated the walk through the yard, he kept his eyes down, focusing on the beam of the flashlight, illuminating the dead grass, crunching under his feet. He approached the barn, hearing a bit of scuffling — it was nothing. His father had to build a tight coop for 15 chickens, they would make sounds, after all, scratching the walls and squawking at each other.
The setup of the barn was quite strange — there was the red barn with the big sliding door, and within it was the coop, built into the corner. It was built like that so that building the walls would be easier for his father, and storing the chicken feed would be more efficient. Jimmy remembered helping him put up wire and wood, but it was years ago, and he didn’t really care about the chickens like he did a normal pet, like a dog or a cat. He saw them in the garden and every once in a while had to let them out in the mornings, but he never had to put them away, and he wasn’t purposely invested in them.
He entered the barn, waving his flashlight about, trying to get a good view of the place. He hadn’t been down to the place in a while and didn’t want to trip over anything. He approached the coop slowly, avoiding any loose boards on the floor, and looked at one of the chickens. It looked him straight in the eye. Jimmy stood there for what felt like a minute, contemplating what to do next. Jimmy always convinced himself there was something behind me, even when he knew there wasn’t, but this time, maybe there was.
“Who’s there?” he shouted, doing a 180 and flashing his flashlight behind him. Suddenly, his sweaty hand lost grip of the light, and it tumbled onto the ground, rolling into the crevice of one of the floorboards. “Oh no,” he muttered, disappointed in himself for making a decision this dumb.
He sighed, kicked the coop door closed behind him, and crept up to the floorboard, leaning over and feeling around for his flashlight. He grabbed it and tried to reilluminate it. It stalled for a moment, flickering on and off, before turning on and flashing at the barn entrance, where the door rapidly shut.
Jimmy took a minute to catch his breath and took in what had just happened. In his shadow — Jimmy didn’t see himself, but a crippling figure, moving back and forth as if it was laughing.
“Stuh-stay back!” Jimmy yelled, to his shadow, but the barn door slowly opened, casting the shadow away.
Without a word, Jimmy sprinted out of the barn and back into his house, panting and sweating like a runner after a race.
His mother waited at the kitchen door with a worried countenance sprinkled with anger. She turned off the faucet over the dishes and took a deep breath. Jimmy could see when his mother was about to lecture him from a mile away.
“What has gotten into you, Jimmy? Is there something wrong? You take forever to put the chickens away, it’s been 15 minutes, I hear laughter coming from the barn, and you were watching static on the TV. Clearly, there’s something you need to tell me.”