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a short story by Lexi Summer Hale

It was evening and Sam Silver was painting a fence. It wasn't her fence, she wasn't rich enough to live somewhere she could have her own fence, but near as she could tell it wasn't anyone's fence and she didn't think anyone in the neighborhood would mind her giving the old eyesore a fresh coat of paint.

At first she figured it she'd slap on a coat of white and be done with it but her girlfriend complained that that was boring, so she picked out a beautiful shade of lime green. Tamika had been delighted.

It was half done, and her neighbors were already thanking her as they walked or biked by - nobody in this neighborhood could afford cars. And everybody hated the enormous, mouldering orange fence that walled off the old Emerson household.

Nobody really knew much about the Emersons. They were a quiet couple, reclusive, and nobody could agree on what they looked like, even when they were both looking at one of them together at the same time. Nobody could agree what their first names were, or what gender either Emerson was. The only thing everybody had agreed on about the Emersons was that they were old and distant and named Emerson.

Then one day they'd just stopped showing up. Someone eventually went and knocked on the front door, and nobody answered. On a dare, some of the neighborhood boys had smashed a window one night and gotten inside, and there wasn't any sign of the Emersons, but the boys were very quiet about what had happened that night and everybody had left the old place alone since then. One of them brought a briefcase back, and his father took one look in it and asked Father O'Malley to burn the thing.

Sam shrugged. One of life's little mysteries. She dipped the paintbrush again and painted a bright green stroke. It was dripping a little, but that was the good thing about green paint, nobody would notice it on the grass.

Some people said the house was haunted. Miss Hattie from down the street had proclaimed to anyone who would listen that the entire house turned itself right around one night while she was walking Lord Scruffles, and little Seanna Chahine had whispered to her mother one evening that she saw a man in a red suit outside, walking in place while his clothes floated slowly away from him.

But Miss Hattie had just probably gotten lost, and Seanna, well, who even knew with kids. Sam didn't believe in ghost stories. She finished the last post and stepped back, wiping her hands on the ratty old shirt she was wearing to admire her handiwork. The fence was downright vibrant. So vibrant the paint looked like it was floating out into space...

Then the entire coat of paint lurched sideways and Sam suddenly really didn't want to believe in ghost stories because the paint was hanging in midair, just hanging there, and sliding, and it just kept going, and the paintbrush was floating out of her hand, floating THROUGH her hand — Sam screamed — then the fence was just gone, like God had reached down out of heaven and given the world a stern smack with a wrench.

Sam stumbled back, and tried to take stock of what had happened. The paint was gone, the fence was gone, and her paintbrush — it had been a nice paintbrush, too — was gone.

She waited, breathing hard, almost afraid to move, but nothing happened. Whatever it was, it was over now. She felt her hand, and it felt as soft and solid as ever. It was over. The world had gone mad for a minute but it was okay, everything had snapped back to the way it should be.

When Tamika asked her what had happened, Sam just wordlessly shook her head and opened a bottle of vodka.

The next morning, Sam woke to the sound of screams. She stumbled out of bed and pulled back the blinds, not noticing the wood grain crawling down her wrist. She saw the sky.

It was a beautiful shade of lime green, and it was beginning to drip.