Evil Neighbours (Part I)
An intriguing tale
I flatten my potato nose against the cold glass. The old lady across the street stands like a stone figure, her piercing gaze drilling into me like she can see through my soul. A chill runs down my spine as she raises her arm and points in my direction. I hold my breath, knowing that if I move, she can spot me. It must be because of my left ear, leaning forward like a pig. Everybody hates it. The old woman is scheming with Jim Carlson, who lives next door. He’s an ex-football player who doesn’t do shit. I saw them exchange secretive glances and knew something was up.
“Dr. Klopp, what’s your opinion?” I say, keeping my face on the glass.
“Everybody wants to see you dead,” a rasping voice says. “No one will show any mercy.”
His words come like a curse. They chill my blood.
“Your ear, Sebastian… your ear.”
A dim light flickers in a house next to mine. Its glow makes the darkness alive like Christmas had come early.
“So, these must be the newcomers?” Dr. Klopp says.
“They took over for the cursed family.”
Dr. Klopp murmurs in disappointment. “Those who reported you to the police?”
“I was fulfilling my duty... the good citizen, spying on them.”
“You did it well, Sebastian.”
“Their teenage sons laughed at your ear.”
“They were plotting against me.”
I glance at the wall clock. Its numerals glow in a red hue against the backdrop of darkening twilight. The hands are creeping towards five o’clock, and I know I must hurry. It’s getting late. I say goodbye to Dr. Klopp and wrap myself in my beloved green jacket adorned with the Celtics emblem. Then I take to the street, scurrying my short legs in corduroy pants and sneakers. The chill of winter brushes against my bald head, prompting me to don a wool cap. It’s black and blends into the night. I don’t want to be seen. I don’t want my neighbors to catch me and cut my throat. Neighbors kill like it’s nothing.
A familiar figure catches my eye as I round the corner onto the street that leads to the supermarket. Mrs. Sinclair, the retired lady from behind my house, always wears a ruby shawl and walks her poodle. A chill runs through me as her icy gaze locks onto mine. She might be armed, and if I cross her, she might stick a dagger into my back. I hurry to the opposite sidewalk. My heart pounds, and every second feels like an eternity. When I glance back, the woman has already turned the corner.
I must lock my house, or someone will slit my throat while sleeping.
I tremble as I approach the supermarket. The clock in the supermarket reads 5.12 PM. Dr. Kropp says waiting until five is the safest hour for shopping. At least my closest neighbors never come after five.
The cashier glares at me with his brows furrowed, and his teeth grit as he runs my items through the scanner. I know he hates my ear. Without surveillance cameras, he’d have been on me in seconds. I picture him pushing me against the shelves and pressing his beefy hands into my neck.
I bought frozen noodles to prevent food poisoning. The ice is too hard to inject anything harmful.
I tremble, gazing at the floor.
What if the cashier shoots me? Do salesclerks have guns? Oh my god!
“Seventeen dollars and twenty-five cents,” the cashier says, a slight smirk on his face.
My heart skips a beat at the thought of what he could mean with those numbers. Seventeen times twenty-five bullets? Four hundred twenty-five bullets? He keeps drumming his thick fingers, and I’m helpless.
Should I pay or run?
The tension is thick in the air. I search for answers, but all I find is chaos. I pull a crisp twenty-dollar bill from my pocket and slam it on the counter. I don’t even wait for the change and take off running. With all the money Mom and Dad left me, survival isn’t a problem. I retrace the road, hastening because my instinct says I’ll meet someone. My hunch always gets it right, alas. A station wagon is creeping into my new neighbors’ garage. I walk past it, but it backs out. It does it with such speed that it bumps into my shoulder, and I fall. The shopping bag I’m carrying rips open. The packet of noodles with garlic-chili seasoning inside it rolls under the back wheel of the car. I hear a crunching sound as the wheel comes down on it.
Someone says, “Oh my god!”Someone tries to help me up. Then more people gather around. I stand up and see a young woman in her early twenties with blonde hair and tears in her eyes. A man with a thick black mustache stands behind her. Next to him is a woman in her forties. She looks like an older version of the younger woman. Beside her, a boy around thirteen is biting his lip.
“I’m such a bad driver, so sorry,” the young woman stutters. “I wanted to move forward, but my foot slipped.”
Did she try to kill me or what?
I lost my cap, so I keep my hand on my crooked ear. If they see it, they’ll kill me.
“The wheel smashed your food,” the older woman says.
“I bet it was your dinner,” says the man, waving toward the remnants of my noodles.
I glance at him and nod, but my mind is racing with worry.
“Would you like to join us for dinner?” the older woman says.
If they invite me to dinner, what could be their next step? Poisoning me? And where would they hide my body?
“I’m feeling quite uneasy about trusting others,” I tell them.
The man stares at me and chuckles. The other members of his family gaze at me with a combination of astonishment and skepticism. The man tames his chuckling. “You must be a joker.”
“Please,” the older woman insists. “We would be delighted.”
“We moved in yesterday,” the man says. “We can’t wait to meet our neighbors.”
“Did the car hit your ear?” the young woman asks.
Oh-ho. They suspect me.
I shake my head, but my hand doesn’t move from my ear. I’m about to head back to my house when the man suddenly grabs me and steers me toward his house.
“Hey, come on! Don’t turn me down. I want you to say yes.”
I can’t disengage. He might hide a blade under his sweater sleeve and slit my throat. I must keep a cool head.
I find myself in the dining room. The young woman is adding another seat.
“Do you want me to look at your ear?” the older woman asks.
“Why?” I ask her in alarm.
“I see you holding it in your hand.”
“No, no, thank you.”
“Need to use the restroom?” the man asks.
He directs me toward the stairs. “It’s upstairs. Last door on the left.”
I hasten up, thinking of how to escape through the window.
I’ll fall on the hedge dividing our houses.
I enter the bathroom. But the view outside the window scares me because of the height. I can’t help but observe that the hedge is situated a couple of feet away, not below.
I can’t jump, or I’ll hurt myself on the pavement. So I’ll flood the bathroom. Then the family will come, and they’ll check it out. And while they’re distracted, I’ll flee from the main door.
I plug the hole in the tub with a towel and turn on the water. Then I start down the corridor. I hear whispers from downstairs when I’m about to step on the stairs.
“The accident must have shocked him,” the young woman says.
“Be more cautious,” says the man.
“But Dad... he suddenly came out....”
It doesn’t seem like they’re planning my murder. Did I exaggerate? Are they nice people?
But the man says, “Give me the big knife, and I’ll cut the beast into slices.”
Argh! There you go. They want to kill me.
“How do you kill a pig?” the boy asks.
“You start with its ears,” the man says.
“Why from there?”
“Because they’re crooked.”
I back away in panic. I’m in a house of killers.
I run into a room to check on its window—too high. There are dolls on a shelf. I need to remove their heads. The family may have used the dolls for magic. So I take one and snap its head. I repeat the process with the others until thirteen heads are on the ground. Afterward, I move to another room filled with robots and superhero posters. I pick up a comic book on the bed and flip through its pages. I come across some curious phrases that Spiderman uses while talking to a criminal. Like, “I’m gonna give you a little tug on the ear….”I tear up the page and put it in my pocket. It’s evidence. As I reach into my pocket, I feel the texture of wool. It’s the cap I had been wearing earlier on the street. I don’t know how it ended up in my pocket, but I probably dropped it during the accident. Absent-mindedly, I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Now that I think about it, the cap could conceal my deformed ears, and the family wouldn’t notice. I put on my cap and pull it down to cover my ears when suddenly I hear the man’s voice calling me from the stairs.
“Everything OK?” he says. Contd...