It was the voices that first roused me, but it was the stench that kept me from just rolling over and going back to sleep.
I coughed and gagged. After a moment I used a pillow to cover my mouth and nose, then reluctantly stood and stumbled to my window.
The first thing I noticed was the smoke. A greasy brown sort of smoke. It was clear the sun was up, somewhere on the other side of my house, but I could hardly see outside. It genuinely looked like the smoke was causing my window to stain.
But I could see enough. Enough to make out a handful of people standing around. They were holding lit torches that billowed forth with still more smoke. One of them was walking down the road swinging what appeared to be an incense censer.
They were the ones shouting. Chanting, kind of. The one with the censer had apparently been making their way down the street and was just in front of my place now. The torchbearers were standing along the sides of the road. I shifted my angle, I think to see how many more were out there. Instead, I saw something else. I can only describe it as a giant leg. I had turned to see it at the exact moment it came stepping down on my lawn.
There was no booming footstep. If there was any sound at all, I remember it as a thick, sickening plop. The leg was oozing with slime. Or tar. It may have been made of tar for all I could tell. A second leg swung into place onto the lawn across the street. I had to press the pillow harder against my face to keep the smell at a tolerable level.
The leg before me stepped away. It seemed to move slowly, but also impossibly quickly for something so huge. As it went it brushed against my tree and in an instant whole branches were dissolved away. In spite of myself I tried to look up, to see what the leg was connected to. The smoke was too thick up there. The legs rose up into a miasma where nothing was visible.
The leg across the street followed the first leg and I did not bother to watch them go. Where the foot of the tar leg had been, my lawn was dead. Droplets of ooze still sizzled on the grass. The torchbearers were gone, but I couldn’t remember seeing where they’d went.
The chanting voices was already getting dimmer. I closed my curtains and sat on the foot of my bed for a time. My eyes were watering and I still wanted to wretch. When I gained my strength, I wandered to my washroom and ran the water. It was still a moment before I could remove the pillow to wash my face. And after that I caught myself unconsciously clutching at a bar of soap. I didn’t let go of it when I realized.
I never found out what that had all been about. It had been a weekend, so I’d stayed inside the rest of that day. When I went out to examine the lawn the next day, it was a mess. I saw brown grass all the way up and down the street. There was a dead bird near my driveway. A tree up the road seemed to have been entirely burned down. That sort of thing.
I never bothered to ask a neighbour about it. Nobody ever mentioned it to me. It is now a few months later and at least two families seem to have moved away. One who remained replaced their dead lawn with artificial grass. The others, I don’t know. It might be that they, like me, are just too confused or scared to talk about it. But what’s worrying me now is the several homes where it seems no attempt has been made to clean up the mess. I can’t help but feel maybe they actually do know what happened that morning. And maybe they were okay with it. After all, someone had been chanting.