“What in the heck…?” Calvin muttered, staring through the glass storm door at the scene beyond.
“What is it?” asked Rosa.
“OK, Mr. Funny Guy,” she replied, rolling her eyes. “I collect garden gnomes, I know. And, yes, I put some of the less valuable ones outside and you don’t like it and I don’t care. What’s making the NOISE?”
“That’s a terrible prank, Cal. It doesn’t even make sense.”
“No. I’m not –” stammered Calvin. “I’m being serious; there are literally dozens of garden gnomes all over the front lawn.”
“I only keep four out there at a time,” said Rosa, leaning against Calvin’s back and poking her head around his shoulder. “Did someone dig up the broken ones? How many did you break?!”
“Six, tops.” He shook his head. “I don’t think these are yours.”
“Oh my God,” gasped Rosa, eyes wide at the sight of the ceramic horde spreading from their doorstep all the way back to the sidewalk.
“Why are they all… broken?” asked Calvin.
“They – They’re moving.”
Rosa pointed toward the multitude of crumbling, pointy-hatted ornaments, the twitching, shuffling figures slowly but surely marching forward, their chipped and mold-covered arms outstretched. The twittering noise grew louder as the gnomes began crowding toward the door, inch by tiny inch, like a flock of tired, overweight birds around a grilled cheese sandwich.
“I saw that too,” Calvin mumbled. “I thought I was just really drunk.”
“You don’t drink.”
“I thought maybe I just drank so much I thought I didn’t drink.”
“That’s less comforting than you’d think.”
“I think they’re trying to get in,” said Rosa, shrinking behind her husband.
“I– I think they are.”
“Then close the door, Cal.”
As Calvin swung the door shut, Odie, the hairs on her back like upturned pins, leapt through the closing opening and pounced on the closest gnome, toppling it backwards into its clay brethren.
The door slammed shut behind the cat. Calvin’s brain took a moment to process the orange and white blur that had zipped past, and he began to turn the knob again, hoping to rescue his kitty.
Before he could do anything, though, he heard it: A horrific, blood-curdling screech, like a howler monkey being run through a wood chipper.
The unearthly squawking quit abruptly; the chittering noise rose to a jet engine-like roar.
And then the glass on the storm door shattered.
“That’s not good,” said the couple in unison.
There was a thud against the bottom of the inner door, then another, the knob in Calvin’s hand rattling. The thumping continued, faster and faster, until the entire door began to shudder. The lower hinge started to shake, its loosening screws farting wood dust through the seam and onto the floor. Calvin threw his shoulder against the door.
“Get a chair!” he barked.
“Screw that, I’m getting the dresser!” shouted Rosa, spinning around and bolting toward the rear of the house. “Where’s the dolly?”
“We don’t have time to look for a dolly!”
“You really think a chair’s going to help?” Boxes fell and storage bags ruffled as Rosa searched the guest room closet. “If I can move a chair, and you’re stronger than me, but they’re stronger than you, which is why you want the chair in the first place, why on God’s green earth are you expecting the chair to accomplish anything?!” She moved to the hallway closet. “If we can move it, they can move it. So we need something we CAN’T move, like that dresser Granny gave us.” Rosa slammed the closet shut. “Where is the frigging dolly?!”
“The garage!” gasped Calvin, his entire back now pressed against the front door. His socks struggled to give him useful leverage on the tiled entryway floor. “The dolly’s in the garage!”
The door to the garage opened.
The door to the garage closed.
“The gnome’s are in the garage!”
Rosa threw the deadbolt and rushed back to her husband. He was leaning awkwardly against the front door, his feet slipping, his hands clutching at the molding on either side for support. Behind his legs, the bottom of the door was starting to bulge inward, the animated ornaments thrusting furiously against the other side.
“The kitchen!” Rosa shouted, holding out her hand. Calvin grabbed it and followed her toward the other room.
The jackhammering flood of angry munchkins grew louder, an uncountable swarm of chipped ceramic and faded paint continued throwing itself against the couple’s front door, pounding and pounding against the splintering wood like a thousand-armed butcher tenderizing a beef flank.