The boy was sitting on the wooden porch steps watching his father dig a hole for a fence post in the backyard when he heard a sound like a thousand worker ants running in a tight, frenzied circle; each of them compelled solely by a staggering sense of misplaced purpose. The mysterious noise continued in a steady, but urgent cadence. The boy looked at his father, but the man didn't seem to notice the sound; he just kept shoveling at the same mechanical rhythm, pausing only to take long, desperate drags on the cigarette protruding from his beard-covered face. The sound stopped as abruptly as it had begun and his father looked up at him and smiled knowingly.
"Don't worry about it, bud. That one's not for you," his father said, returning his attention to his work. Looking up again, the boy's father added: "You'll know what I mean in a minute."
As if his father had divined it to happen: the sound suddenly broke out again, startling the boy. Looking around, the boy saw nothing that could be making this terrible din and, trying his best to ignore it, he went back to watching his father who had somehow aged significantly in the few moments since he'd looked away. His skin sagged with resignation, his once brilliant blue eyes had paled, and his beard was now gray with only one defiant, black patch on the right side of his face, like a man who had fallen asleep mid-letter and awoke to find his letter ruined and his face stained. The low, rumbling clamor continued, as did his father's shoveling. The former still reporting of dubious alarm; the latter now slower and dispirited, like a man bored, but nevertheless biding his time against inevitability.
The sight of his withering father was inexplicably familiar, but overwhelming and lachrymose, so the boy looked away and went back to searching for what might be causing the sound. Surveying the sloping, lethargically undulating yard, the boy found nothing and, with fixed, pedantic eyes, he scanned the horse's meager pasture and the dog's trampled patch of dead earth; he studied the fallow garden his mother had attempted summers ago, and, finally, he looked as deeply as would let himself into the forest surrounding the house's periphery, rampant with banshees and werewolves and other horrors his sister had imbued in its darkness. But still he found nothing. Giving up, he asked his father what he should do. The man looked at him from behind a thin, bluish veil of smoke and paternal amusement and replied: "Wake up and go to work."