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HUGEPOP!!!Bedtime StoriesOne Man's WorldThe Mispronouncer

Spigot Spike

                 The shelves in Curio Village were crowded with things that Sage wanted to examine and admire, but every time she stopped to do so, Grant leaned forward in the stroller and grabbed at items on the lower shelves which he would certainly break if he were able to get a hold of them. So in order to keep from having to pay for a bunch of broken stuff that she didn’t want, Sage had to keep the stroller moving up and down the aisles. This kept Grant content to just sit back in his stroller and watch the merchandise roll by.

                Sage had never been to Curio Village before. She hadn’t even known it was there despite the fact that she must have walked past it dozens or hundreds of times. Sage had only come in to Curio Village today because it had been the nearest door to her when she’d seen Tia, her former best friend, headed toward her on the sidewalk. Sage knew she couldn’t handle an interaction with Tia today. Especially since she had Grant with her. Tia was terrible with kids. Just terrible. Terrible.

                When Sage had pushed Grant’s stroller into the shop, a woman about Sage’s age – late 20s or early 30s – had stood up from a chair behind the front counter and said, “Can I help you?” in a voice that suggested that she preferred not to.

                “Is this place new?” Sage had asked.

                “No,” the woman had said as she sat back down.

She and Sage had not spoken again since this initial, curt exchange, but every time Sage maneuvered the stroller around the end of one of the aisles at the front of the store and passed through the woman’s field of vision, she felt her eyes, both bored and annoyed, upon her. Sage didn’t get the impression that the woman was specifically annoyed because of Grant and the stroller. It felt more like the woman was annoyed that anyone was in the store at all.

Many of the items in Curio Village were dusty, especially in the back of the store where, removed from the reach of the natural light coming in through the front windows, everything was dim and shadowy. It was on one of these dusty, shadowy back shelves that Sage caught sight of something for which she had to stop. She left Grant unattended in his stroller in the middle of the aisle where he couldn’t reach anything while she stepped over to an eye-level shelf and picked up the thing that had arrested her attention. It was a spike. A thin, shiny spike of five or six inches. It was copper-colored but didn’t look or feel as if it were made of copper. At the top of the spike was a sort of handle shaped to look like a spigot one might see protruding from the side of a house with a hose attached to it for watering plants, but the spigot-shaped handle on the spike was smaller than an actual spigot. The spike had a pleasing weight and a pleasing balance. What was it for? It didn’t have a price tag attached to it. Sage felt that there was something mysterious about this spike. Why did she feel so drawn to it? She was no collector of spikes. In fact, she didn’t own a single spike, as far as she knew. She’d never been interested in spikes before. But this one spoke to her. Was it the spigot-shaped handle? No, she didn’t think so. Over the course of her life, she’d probably shown even less interest in spigots than she had shown in spikes. Should she be concerned that she found this spike so stimulating, so alluring? Well, there was no harm in asking how much it cost, although Sage knew that was the exact kind of thing people think when they’ve already fallen under the spell of something insidious.

Sage pushed Grant’s stroller to Curio Village’s front counter and brought the spike with her. “Excuse me,” she said.

The woman again rose from her chair and stepped up to the cash register. “Are you going to ask why it’s called Curio Village and not Curio City? It’s because my mom wanted to name it Curio City, but when she looked that name up on the internet ten years ago when she was about to open, she saw that there were already several places called that. So she just abandoned the play on words altogether and went with an unsatisfying synonym for ‘city.’ And now I’m stuck with it and I don’t like the name, the place itself, any of the things I sell, or anything else about it. I hate this place.”

“I was actually going to ask how much this spike costs,” said Sage. Grant kicked his feet arhythmically against the front counter. Sage adjusted the angle of the stroller so that he couldn’t reach the counter with his feet anymore, which made him angry.

“I’ll take ten dollars for it,” said the woman. “But I should warn you…”

“Uh oh,” said Sage, pretending as if the necessity of this warning was giving her pause about purchasing the spike even as she continued to fish around inside of her purse for the stray ten-dollar-bill that she knew was in there.

“I should warn you that I can’t break anything larger than a twenty,” said the woman. “Or, rather, I won’t.”

“Oh,” said Sage, producing the ten and handing it to the woman. “So there’s no warning about the spike in particular?”

“What?” asked the woman. “The spike? No. I mean, just don’t let him play with it.” She pointed at Grant.

“Of course I won’t,” said Sage, insulted. “I meant, like, do you have any warnings about where it came from? The fate of its previous owner? Anything like that?”

“No,” said the woman.

“Do you know how old it is?” asked Sage. “What country it was made in? What kind of metal it’s made out of? Are there others like it or is it one of a kind?”

“Eww,” said the woman. “I hate that kind of stuff. You sound like my mom. And basically every other curio-shopper I’ve ever met.” She put the spike in a small, white paper bag and handed it to Sage.

“Why don’t you just sell this store, then?” asked Sage. “If you hate curios so much.”

“Keeping the store going is a condition of my inheritance,” said the woman. “I won’t bore you with the details. And trust me, the details are very boring.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” said Sage. She put the white bag containing the spike into her purse and pushed Grant in his stroller out the front door of Curio Village, forgetting to first check to make sure that Tia was gone from the area. She was gone, though, so Sage had avoided that awkward conversation and acquired this curio that she felt she was somehow meant to have, so her split-second decision had been a success on multiple levels. But would she come to regret bringing the spike home with her? Would she end up cursing the moment she ever saw the spike? Only time would tell. Only time.


When she got home, Sage felt compelled to keep her new spike hidden from Carter, her husband. She was worried that he would wonder why she’d bought the spike, that he would sense that something about it wasn’t quite normal, that he would misunderstand the spike and fear it. Not that Sage understood the spike. And not that she didn’t fear it. But she didn’t know if the spike would affect her husband the same way it affected her, and if it didn’t, she was afraid he would exhort her to get rid of it, or that he might throw it out himself.

But when Sage set her purse down on the couch to wrestle Grant out of his stroller, it tipped over for no reason and the white Curio Village bag fell to the floor, sending the spigot-topped spike bouncing across the carpet. Carter, who was standing mid-way between the couch and the wall-mounted TV using the remote to cycle through menus, saw the spike roll past his foot and said, “What’s that?”

                “Um,” said Sage, depositing Grant in his playpen. “It’s just an antique thing I got at Curio Village.” She crouched and picked up the spike.

                “What’s Curio Village?” asked Carter.

                “It’s a little shop,” said Sage. “It’s just downtown.”

                “Downtown in Multioak?” asked Carter. “Here?”


                “Is it new?”

                “No,” said Sage. “It’s been there for a while, I guess. I don’t think it makes much money. I talked to the owner.” She held the spike with both hands, concealing most of it from view.

                But Carter had no interest in the spike. He had a few more questions about Curio Village which led into a general conversation about the shops in downtown Multioak: new shops, shops that had been there for a while, and shops that used to be there but were now gone. This turned into general reminiscing, and all the while, he cycled through menus on the TV, option after option, casually changing default settings as if there were no such thing as consequences. He never returned the conversation to the spike. He did not seem to have been moved at all by the spike, neither for it nor against it. Carter’s lack of interest in the spike emboldened Sage to put it in a place of semi-prominence on the far left end of the mantle over the never-used fireplace. That spot would be its home now unless a better idea occurred to Sage or she received a clear sign that the spike was a malign influence in her life, realized that she should separate herself from it, and managed to find the strength to do so.


                That night, Sage slept soundly, but when she woke up in the morning, she did not feel very rested. But she had gotten over seven hours of sleep, which was above average for her. So what was going on? She went downstairs in her pajamas and looked at the spike on the far left end of the mantle over the never-used fireplace. Was that where she had put it the day before? Generally speaking, yes, it was, but was it exactly where she had put it? She couldn’t say for sure. She walked over to it and looked at it very closely. Was it resting at the same angle as when she’d set it down? She couldn’t say for sure, but her gut said that no, it wasn’t resting at the same angle, it had either moved or been moved. Maybe that just meant Carter had picked it up or nudged it, but on the other hand, he hadn’t seemed curious about it when he first saw it. So maybe there was another explanation. A more mysterious explanation.

                Sage was about to go get Grant out of his crib in his room where she could hear him babbling to himself to kill time until she came for him when someone knocked on the front door. She looked down at herself to determine if her pajamas were decent enough to answer the door in, decided that they were considering the hour, and answered the door. On her front porch and wearing pajamas weirdly similar to her own was Paolo, Sage’s middle-aged next-door neighbor to the East.

                “Hi, Sage,” said Paolo. He paused for a moment, also clearly taken aback by the similarity of Sage’s pajamas to his own.

                “Hey,” said Sage. “What’s going on?” Her skin began to tingle, especially on her shoulder blades and the back of her neck.

                “Well, I just went to water the plants in my flower bed and discovered that someone poked a bunch of tiny holes in my garden hose. When I turned it on at the spigot, water started coming out of all the little holes, all up and down my hose. So my hose is ruined. And I just wondered if you or Carter saw anyone doing anything to my hose, like, yesterday or last night or this morning.”

                “No,” said Sage, impressed with herself at how guiltless she sounded. “No, I didn’t see anything. Carter’s not here right now, but he didn’t mention seeing anything, and he probably would have if he had. He probably would have called you right away. So if you didn’t hear from him, I doubt he saw anything either.”

                “All right,” said Paolo. “Well, that’s what I figured, but I thought I’d check anyway.” He turned to go, paused, and then turned back and said, “Do you know what the condition of your hose is?”

                “No,” said Sage. “I don’t. We haven’t used it since a few days ago. At least.”

                “Do you mind if we check it?” asked Paolo. “Just to see if whoever did this got more than just me? I haven’t talked to anyone else around here. You’re the first.”

                “Sure,” said Sage. “We can check it out.” She came down the front steps in bare feet and walked across the lawn and around the side of the house where the hose lay coiled in a basement window well. It was attached to a spigot protruding at shin level from the house’s beige-colored siding. Sage knew the hose would be fine, but she said, “I really hope there are no holes in it. We just bought this hose a little over a month ago.”

                “Mine was new too,” said Paolo. “Did you get yours at the Pre-Fall Eden garden supply sale?”

                “We did!” said Sage. She picked up the nozzle end of the hose and pointed it at the grass. Then she knelt and turned on the water at the spigot. There was a gurgle, a low hiss, and Sage felt the sun-warmed hose swell in her hand. Then water came out of the nozzle in a sparkling arc, prettily catching the spring morning sun.

                “Well, I guess someone was just mad at me, then,” said Paolo.

                “Or maybe they chose you at random,” said Sage. “Maybe they’ll come after our hose tonight.”

                “True,” said Paolo. “Just to be safe, you might want to disconnect it and keep it in the garage.”

                “Oh, good idea,” said Sage, but she knew she wouldn’t bother. There was no need.

                “I’m gonna talk to some of the other neighbors,” said Paolo. “I’ll let you know if I find out anything more.”

                “OK,” said Sage. “Good luck!” But internally, she wished him bad luck. Not that she had anything against Paolo personally, and she wasn’t worried that anyone else would know anything about the hose-vandalism, but her allegiance had been determined the moment she had laid her eyes on the spike on that dusty shelf in Curio Village.


                That night at dinner, while Carter fed Grant baby food with a tiny, extra-safe spoon, Sage asked, “Did I wake you up last night?”

                “Wake me up?” asked Carter. “No. Why?” He deposited a tiny spoonful of baby food in Grant’s eager mouth.

                “I was having trouble sleeping,” said Sage, cutting meat away from the bone of her pork chop. “So I got up for a little bit in the middle of the night. I was just worried that I might have woken you up when I got out of bed or when I got back into bed.”

                “What time was it?” asked Carter.

                “I don’t know,” said Sage.

                “You didn’t look at the clock?” asked Carter. “It’s right by the bed. It’s on your side.”

                “I don’t remember,” said Sage. “I probably looked at it. I was kind of out of it.”

                “Well, if you got out of bed, you didn’t wake me,” said Carter, prodding Grant’s lips with yet another tiny spoonful of baby food.

                 “Oh,” said Sage, suppressing what would have been a sly smile had she not suppressed it. “Good.” She ate a bite of pork chop, chewing it thoroughly, which helped with the sly-smile suppression. Had the spigot-topped spike been visible from where she sat at the kitchen table, Sage would have shot it a conspiratorial look. Maybe even a wink if she felt sure that Carter wouldn’t see it.


                That night, Sage again slept soundly. In fact, she woke up 45 minutes later than usual in the morning. She tried to determine how rested she felt and decided that she again felt less rested than she would have expected based on how much sleep she’d gotten. Also, was it her imagination or were her feet colder than usual? Perhaps residual coldness from a night-time stroll over chilly lawns in bare feet? She went downstairs to investigate the positioning of the spike. It seemed to be in the same place, but then again, maybe the angle was slightly different? She took a picture of the spike’s current position with her phone. Then she went into Grant’s room and looked down at him lying on his back in his crib, blinking up at her, trying to read her facial expression, maybe. “Did you hear me last night?” she asked him. He was not old enough to answer.

                Two hours after breakfast, there was another knock on the front door. As Sage got up to answer it, she realized that she’d been anticipating it all morning. It was Paolo again. In their normal clothes, Sage and Paolo were no longer dressed similarly.

                “Hey, Sage,” said Paolo. “I was just going to give you an update on the hose situation.”

                “Oh, great,” said Sage. She said it calmly because she felt entirely calm. “What’s the update?”

                “Well, I talked to a lot of our neighbors yesterday and no one else had hose problems,” said Paolo. He paused significantly. Sage knew what he was going to say. Well, she knew what the gist would be. “But today Tony Krantz knocked on my door and told me that now his hose has a bunch of holes in it. Exactly like mine.”

                “Oh, no,” said Sage. She thought she sounded pretty convincing. “Do you think I should check my hose again?”

                “You didn’t put it in your garage last night?” asked Paolo.

                “No,” said Sage. “I forgot. Should we check it out?”

                “If you want to,” said Paolo. “It wouldn’t hurt. But I haven’t heard anything from anyone else, so he might just be doing one per night. Unless he got some people who haven’t discovered their hoses are ruined yet.”

                “He?” asked Sage as she came out onto the porch and down the front steps.

                “Yeah,” said Paolo, following her around the side of the house again. “The guy who’s stabbing holes in our hoses.”

                “So you think that’s what it is?” asked Sage. “Some guy deliberately vandalizing the hoses in this neighborhood with some, like, what? Some kind of…knife? Or needle? Like, an ice pick type thing?”

                “Yeah,” said Paolo. “Or a spike, maybe. A thin spike. It would need to be sturdier than a needle.”

“A spike?” asked Sage. “Really?” She turned on her hose. The water flowed from the nozzle exactly as it should. The hose had no extra holes in it. “Looks like ours is still fine,” she said.

“For now,” said Paolo. “Did you tell Carter about what happened to my hose?”

“Yes,” said Sage, lying. She thought about the spike with the spigot on top of it sitting on the mantle. Even as disinterested as Carter had been in the spike from the beginning, he would probably make the obvious connection if he heard about neighborhood hoses being stabbed full of little holes. Especially if he also recalled Sage’s inquiry about whether or not her getting up in the middle of the night had awoken him.

“And he didn’t want to move your hose into the garage?” asked Paolo, hands on his hips, mystified.

“Maybe he will now that it happened to someone else,” said Sage.

“You should just do it now,” said Paolo.

“I think it’ll be safe for now,” said Sage. “At least until Carter gets home.”

                “Suit yourself,” said Paolo. He walked back across the lawn toward his house while Sage turned off the water at the spigot and re-coiled the hose. Then she went inside and read books to Grant for a while, allowing herself only the occasional glance at her partner in crime on the mantle.


                As the week went on, Sage continued to have lengthy-but-not-very-restful sleeps, continued to not wake Carter during the night despite whatever activities in which she was unconsciously engaged, and the neighborhood hoses continued to be systematically punctured. Every morning, Sage scrutinized the spike’s position on the mantle to see if it had moved, but then it occurred to her that by taking pictures of its position, she might be giving her unconscious self a tool to use to make sure that she left the spike exactly as she found it. Paolo gave Sage a report on the latest hose to fall victim every morning. Sage stopped demonstrating that her hose was fine, but Paolo insisted that her turn was coming. He could not understand why she wouldn’t just move the hose to the garage.

                “Why hasn’t anyone else moved their hose to their garage?” asked Sage.

                “Some have!” said Paolo. “And their hoses are fine! Only the people who ignore my advice end up with ruined hoses.”

                “Well, Carter is sure it won’t happen to us,” said Sage. “I don’t know. I explained it all to him, but he seems confident.”

                Paolo considered this. “Does it seems like he knows something?”

                Sage realized her blunder. “What do you mean?”

                “I mean, how could he be sure?” asked Paolo. “Unless he knew something. Like, if he knew the guy who was doing it and knew the guy wouldn’t ruin your hose, then he would have reason to be confident that your hose is safe.”

                “No, he doesn’t know anything about it,” said Sage. “I’m sure of that.”

                “So he’s confident because he’s ignorant,” said Paolo. “You haven’t been communicating the problem to him properly. You haven’t explained the urgency.”

                “Yes, I have,” said Sage. “But, I mean, it’s just a hose.”

                “See?” said Paolo. “That’s the problem. Your casual attitude. Do you know that I’ve been staying up all night? I’ve been patrolling the neighborhood, trying to catch this guy in the act.”

                “But you haven’t seen anything?” asked Sage.

                “No,” said Paolo. “Nothing. But the hoses are still getting ruined. The guy who’s doing this is good. Very good. Sneaky, silent. Probably wearing some kind of camouflage.”

                “Wow,” said Sage. She was taking all of this as a compliment, even though the spike probably deserved most of the credit since Sage wasn’t conscious for any of it. She imagined herself darting from tree to tree in her pajamas, sticking to the shadows with her eyes closed and her lips parted, gripping the spike by its spigot-shaped topper, mindlessly following the commands of the curio, stalking, pouncing, repeatedly puncturing an unsuspecting hose and then returning to her home, returning the spike to its place on the mantle, and then going up the stairs and crawling back into bed. Theoretically, she would be none the wiser, a clueless pawn conscious only of a vague connection with the spike, but Sage had figured out what was really going on. Fortunately for the spike and its strange goals, Sage didn’t disapprove of the way it used her. In fact, she enjoyed it. She was honored that it had chosen her. She wished there were some way to communicate to the spike that she would like to be able to see what was going on as it controlled her, or would at least like to be able to remember it in the morning, or at least remember parts of it. Just the best parts would be fine. She knew the spike was probably used to controlling people who would turn against it if they ever found out what it was up to, but Sage wasn’t like those people. She just wanted the hose-slaying team to be more of a partnership. She didn’t mind sharing the responsibility if that meant she got to share in the fun parts too.

                That night as Carter and Sage were cleaning up dinner, there was a knock on the door. A familiar knock. Sage knew it was Paolo and felt a twinge of anxiety as Carter went to answer the door. She wondered if she should hide the spike or if its sudden unexplained absence from the mantle would draw more attention to it. She decided that staying in the kitchen and cleaning up Grant would give Carter the least cause for suspicion. She really hoped that Paolo wouldn’t use the word “spike.”

                After a long time, Carter came back to the kitchen where Sage was still cleaning up very slowly. She’d moved on from Grant to the table, the counter tops, the sink, even the cupboard doors. Everything was getting wiped.

                “Why didn’t you tell me about the hose stuff?” asked Carter.

                “I thought I did,” said Sage. “But anyway, it didn’t seem like a big deal.”

                “But what if the guy who’s doing it decides to move on from hoses?” asked Carter. “What if he decides he wants to poke holes in our car tires? What if he decides he wants to break into our house and poke holes in us?”

                “That’s not going to happen,” said Sage. “If a person is even responsible, then that person is clearly fixated on hoses.”

                “For now,” said Carter. He walked through the kitchen and into the rarely-used back room where he and Sage stored stuff they hoped they would one day find the will to throw away.

                “What are you doing?” called Sage. She took Grant out of his high chair. He was sick of it.

                “Looking for that camera,” said Carter.

                “What camera?”

                “That security camera your mom bought for us when we moved in,” said Carter.

                “What for?” asked Sage, her anxiety rising.

                “Paolo and I came up with a plan,” said Carter. “We’re gonna disconnect our new hose and then hook up his old hose to our spigot to use as bait, but I’m gonna stick the camera to the side of the house so if whoever’s ruining hoses comes for ours, we’ll see who it is without our new hose getting ruined.”

                “Don’t we have an old hose that we could use for bait?” asked Sage. “You know, one that’s ours? One that’s partially mine?” She had always assumed that it was her part-ownership of the hose that was protecting it from her spikings.

                “No,” said Carter. “I threw the old one out when we got the new one.”

                “I don’t think we still have that camera,” said Sage.

                “I just found it,” said Carter. He came out of the back room holding a small, white box. “It says it ‘easily connects to a laptop or mobile device.’ Perfect. And it only records when it senses movement. Just needs batteries. But your mom rubber-banded a package to the box.” He held up the package of batteries.

                “Won’t it ruin the siding?” asked Sage.

                “Nope,” said Carter. “‘Residue-free adhesive.’” Whistling to himself, he left the kitchen and a moment later, Sage heard the front door open and close.

                “Shh,” said Sage, bouncing Grant. “Shh, shh.”

                Grant looked at her like she was crazy. He hadn’t made a noise in minutes.


                It took Sage a long time to fall asleep. She thought maybe that was a sign that the spike knew there was trouble brewing. But Sage thought that it could also just be that she knew trouble was brewing, which made it hard for her to sleep. She wasn’t worried about getting caught stabbing the hose. She figured that if the spike chose the bait-hose as tonight’s target since it was convenient and didn’t belong to Sage, she’d probably look pretty weird on camera. Carter would probably be able to tell that she was sleepwalking or in some kind of trance. He would assume that this was not behavior in which Sage would voluntarily engage. But that would cause him to turn his attention to the spike. He would blame it. He would get rid of it. Sage was confident in the spike’s ability to take care of itself, but, well, it had ended up at Curio Village somehow. So it hadn’t managed to maintain its hold on its previous owner or owners forever. It had been found out, traded or pawned or donated, and ended up on a dusty shelf in an unloved downtown shop, waiting and waiting for a person with whom it could connect to happen upon it. Sage didn’t want her partnership with the spike to end already. She wanted time to earn its respect. But how could she do that? She didn’t know. Her only hope was that the spike would be smart enough to know to avoid the bait-hose hose. As long as it didn’t guide Sage near the camera, their partnership could stay active. She considered taking the camera or destroying it or something, but Sage knew that something like that would only strengthen Carter and Paolo’s resolve. They’d probably just buy more cameras. Their security measures would increase. No, the only hope for Sage and the spike was if Sage could find a way to communicate with it.

                And then a thought popped into Sage’s head. So clear and fully-formed that she wondered if it came straight from the spike. It was as if the spike were telling Sage exactly what she could do to prove herself trustworthy. And it made so much sense. She looked over at Carter and assured herself that he was asleep. Then she sat up in bed, carefully pushed the covers back, and stood up. She was creeping toward the door when Carter asked, “Where are you going?”

                “Uh, I thought I heard Grant,” said Sage.

                “Want me to check on him?” asked Carter.

                “No, no,” said Sage. “I’m already up. Go back to sleep.”

                “OK, OK,” muttered Carter. “Come back soon.” He rolled over.

                Sage watched him for a few seconds, then left the bedroom, closing the door behind her. Carter really was such a light sleeper. How did the spike get her out of bed every night without waking him? Maybe it had some means of keeping him unconscious too despite its lack of special connection with him. Sage really didn’t understand much about how the spike did its thing. But she wanted to learn! And what she was doing now was an important step on that journey. She would take the spike, fully conscious, and she would go outside into the neighborhood, fully conscious, and she would find an unprotected hose in someone’s flower bed, and she would, fully conscious, stab it full of holes with the spike. She would ruin one of her neighbor’s hoses of her own volition. And that would prove to the spike that she and it were on the same page, that they could be true partners, equals, friends.

                Sage crept downstairs, through the front hall, and across the living room to the never-used fireplace. There was the spike in its spot on the far left end of the mantle. She looked at the spike and felt the strength of her connection with it. Then she reached for it.



                She woke up in bed to the sound of Carter calling her name. She had no memory of anything that had happened after she had reached for the spike the night before, but she did not feel well-rested and her feet were definitely cold. A feeling of sadness came over her. Why hadn’t the spike trusted her? Why hadn’t it let her stay awake? Hadn’t letting her prove herself been its idea?”

                “Sage, come down here!”

                A knot formed in Sage’s stomach as she sat up in bed. She knew that Carter’s shouts must have something to do with whatever had happened the night before, whatever it was she and the spike had done. She assumed the worst. As she swung her legs out of bed, Sage froze and stared down at her feet. They were dirty. Bits of grass clung to them. This had never happened before. What was going on? What was different?


                She stood up and walked out of the bedroom, noticing the dirty marks on the carpet, the bits of grass in the upstairs hallway and on the stairs. In the living room, Sage’s eyes instinctively looked for the spike. It was in its spot on the far-left end of the mantle, but it was sitting at a completely different angle than usual. What was going on? Why had the spike been so careless with how it guided her last night as compared to the other nights? None of this boded well for Sage’s hope that the spike had been canny enough to avoid Carter’s camera, or at least take steps to conceal Sage’s identity.

                Carter was in the den. His laptop was open on the desk. He wore only boxer shorts and a white t-shirt. The expression on his face was a mixture of terror, wonder, disbelief, and Sage didn’t know what else. When he saw her standing in the doorway, Carter said, “Come here and see this, Sage. You have to see this. Look. Look!” He did not seem angry at her.

                Sage crossed to the desk and stood looking over her husband’s shoulder at the laptop monitor. A grainy night-vision image of the yard and the side of the house filled the screen. The spigot and the window well were in the center of the frame. Carter had done a good job positioning the camera. He looked up at Sage and said, “Do you remember anything about last night. Anything after you left the room to check on Grant?”

                “No,” said Sage, mostly truthfully. Her memory really only lasted a minute or two beyond that.

                “Look,” said Carter. “Watch.” He clicked the spacebar and the video on the laptop began to play. At first, nothing happened. The video was indistinguishable from a still image. But then something appeared in the frame. Something hunched and dark and scuttling, something with indistinct dimensions, something that moved repulsively. Sage watched in disgust as the thing approached the flower bed, pausing every few feet as if to look around or sniff the air, although it was impossible to see its face, or to tell if it even had one. A horrible thought occurred to Sage: was this thing her? Was this what the spike did to her at night? Was this how it kept her from getting caught or recognized or noticed? It transformed her into this creature? Sage had not felt violated at the idea of being guided unconsciously around the neighborhood to poke holes in her neighbors’ hoses, but doing so as the thing she was now seeing on the laptop was too much. She would not be returning the spike to Curio Village. She would not be donating it to a thrift store or even throwing it in the garbage. Sage intended to bury it in the ground. Or she would throw it in a lake. Something to ensure that it would never be able to do this to another person.

                “Now watch,” said Carter. “Watch this.” There was a note of awe in his voice.

                On screen, the thing had almost reached the window well that contained the coiled hose. Sage watched as two appendages emerged from the thing’s shapeless form and reached down into the window well, clumsily pulling the hose out onto the grass loop by loop.

                “Watch,” said Carter. “Watch!”

                Sage didn’t know what she was supposed to be watching for. Soon, she assumed, the thing – which was her – would produce the spike and begin stabbing the hose. Was that what Carter was so excited for her to see? She was about to tell him she didn’t want to watch any more when another figure appeared on the screen. But this figure wasn’t a thing. It was a person, a woman in pajamas.

                “Is that me?” asked Sage.

                “Yes!” said Carter. “Look, you’re wearing the same pajamas right now that you’re wearing in the video. And you’re holding that stupid spike you got at that new shop downtown!”

                “It’s not new,” said Sage, but that’s not what she was focused on. She was focused on the video, on the footage of herself approaching the thing huddled over the hose. Her steps were slow and robotic and it didn’t appear as if the thing had noticed her yet. And then, suddenly, it noticed. It stiffened, then whirled to face her. Because, as it turned out, it did have a face. A hideous, white face clearly visible on the video. The upper half was dotted with black spots of varying sizes that Sage took for eyes. The lower half of the face was all mouth. The video had no audio, but even so, Sage felt as if she could hear the creature hissing as it opened that grotesque mouth and revealed a single, long, thin, sharp tooth protruding downward and outward from its upper gum. The tooth was very similar in shape and size to the spike, actually. And speaking of the spike, on the video, Sage now saw it in her hand, raised over her head. The hose-biting creature saw it too and shuffled backward, its many eyes blinking at different speeds, its mouth widening further as it pointed its tooth at Sage, who continued to approach at her steady, sleepwalky pace. Then, when she was just five yards away from the creature, Sage pounced with a speed and agility she would not have expected from herself. It took the creature by surprise too. It couldn’t get away in time. It toppled backward beneath Sage. In the den, watching the action on the computer, Sage clamped both hands over her mouth as she watched herself raise the spike over her head and plunge it straight into the creature’s face over and over again with a viciousness that could only have come from the spike itself. Sage knew that viciousness couldn’t have come from her. The stabbing went on for a while, even after it was clear to the awake Sage in the den that the creature was thoroughly vanquished. Eventually, the asleep Sage on the video was convinced that the creature was dead too. She got off of the creature’s body, turned, and sleepwalked back toward the front of the house and out of the frame.

                Carter stopped the video. “You don’t remember any of that?”

                “No,” said Sage. “None of it.” Her mystified tone was completely honest.

                “Well,” said Carter, turning and smiling up at her. He put his hand on her arm. “I’m a little freaked out, yeah, but you did it! You saved our hose! You killed that thing and you saved our hose! Not to mention the hoses of everyone else in this neighborhood. And the people who moved them into their garages to protect them can put them outside again, which will free up room in their garages!”

                Sage smiled, although it felt a bit forced. “Yeah,” she said. “I guess so.” She paused. “Is that thing’s body still in the yard?”

                “No,” said Carter. “I checked. The camera never turns on again, so there wasn’t any movement near it, but when I went out to look, there was nothing there. No sign of it except for the fact that the bait-hose was still lying in the yard.” He gave Sage a long look. “Are you OK? Did seeing that scare you?”

                “I’m fine,” said Sage. “I just…I thought I understood.”

                “Understood what?”

                “Our connection,” said Sage. “Not the connection between you and me, but the connection between me and the spike. But I totally misinterpreted it.” She felt her face flush. “I’m so embarrassed. I convinced myself I wasn’t getting good rest, that I was going out at night, that we were executing these secret missions together…but none of it was true. I was just sleeping in my bed like usual, and then waking up and mentally identifying with the very thing the spike is meant to destroy. I was so unworthy.” She took a deep breath. “But it made use of me anyway. And now that we killed that thing together, what’s going to happen? Is that the end? That was the sole purpose of our connection? That one moment? Really?”

                “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Carter. “But Paolo is going to want to see this video. Do you mind if I show him?”

                “No,” said Sage. She turned and left the den. On her way to get Grant out of his crib, Sage stopped in the living room and looked at the spike on the mantle. She felt nothing. The connection was broken, was spent. Now it was just a spike made of indeterminate metal with a miniature spigot-shaped topper on one end. And what use was that? Really, Sage could only think of one use for it. And after word of the video got out, there would be a lot of unprotected hoses in the neighborhood. And she would be the last person that anyone would suspect if some of those hoses were to end up stabbed full of holes.

Discussion Questions

  • Describe the similar pajamas worn by Sage and Paolo as you imagined them. In what ways were they similar? In what ways were they different?

  • What’s the most outrageous condition of your inheritance?

  • How important is it to protect one's garden hose?

  • What’s the strongest connection you’ve ever felt to a curio?

  • What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done on behalf of a spike?

  • How disappointed would you be in real life if you independently thought of the name “Curio City” for a store and then you looked it up online and discovered that several other people had already thought of it and used it badly?