He always ran at night, though his calves ached and his chest constricted. He pushed himself through the cool night air because it gave him something to do that was productive and healthy. He had a tendency to fall into sloth, and the running kept him elevated from a life of obsessively watching Netflix and gluttonously eating Cheetos.
The neighborhood was large, and the lawns were only one shade of green. Any deviation from that one shade gave the residents’ pause, and led them frantically to the home improvement store for seed and feed and lawn grow. The smell of those spring and summer chemicals settling on fresh cut grass, and the smell of fabric softener blowing through dryer vents, is what filled his nostrils as his breaths grew labored from the exertion of running.
It was on one of those perfect emerald lawns that he saw her: petite but curvy, plump legs glowing with an earl summer tan from under a white sundress, small hands and fingers digging in a bed of pansies and pulling out onion grass out by the bulb. She threw the stalks into a large pile of yard debris, and smelled her fingers. He stopped running and watched her.
She smiled at him when she saw him. Her teeth were pointier than he expected, and her eyes were slightly upturned at the corners, large, glassy, and black. He walked toward her, a magnetic pull pulsing and leading him forward. She turned away from him and walked toward her house, looking prettily over her bare shoulder, and made sure he was following.
He hadn’t noticed her house before, which bemused him. Most of the homes on this street were low-slung sixties ranches: flat and sprawling with big windows that reflected back the wide green lawns and fuchsia azaleas. Hers was small, made of stone, with a thatched roof and a stone path leading to the back. He felt his breathing slow, loosened now, and he followed her in.
The house was dark except for a few small lamps and candles, and his eyes didn’t adjust well to the dim light. He blamed his blurred, dulled vision for what he saw when she led him into her bedroom. When she peeled off her sundress she grew, her legs and arms engulfed in smoke and flame, and her lips peeled back, revealing a tongue as pink as cotton candy and as forked as a serpent.
He felt his limbs being ingested into the red heat that poured from her and filled the room and his lungs. He tried to cough but drifted away in a faint before any sound escaped. The last thing he remembered was the smell of burning hair and fabric softener, and the overwhelming odor of pulled wild onions.
When he woke he was back on his bed, his running shoes still on his feet, his legs coated with dirt and sweat. He tried to get up but his muscles were stiff; he tried to call out for help but his throat was parched and cracked. He groped around his bed for his phone but instead found his remote. He turned the television on, and took off his running shoes.