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Image by Mario Heller
Evil Neighbours (Part II)
An intriguing tale

I briskly make my way through the corridor, trying my best not to draw any unwanted attention.

“Yep,” I say.

I head downstairs, and the man questions whether I’m feeling cold.

Why that question? They want to put me in the oven and cook me—cursed cannibals.

“Nope,” I say.

“Why don’t you take off your cap?”

“No, thanks. I’m fine.”

“If you say so....”

The woman approaches us. “Dinner’s ready. Please, this way.”

 

As we move to the table full of food, I can’t help but feel uneasy. The boy and the young woman are already seated. The man and his wife take the heads of the table. I sit at the side, facing their children. The man watches me with a wide grin, but when I look at his wife, her smile seems forced and apprehensive.

 

“My bad for not introducing myself earlier,” the man says. “My name’s George, and I’m a salesman.”

Bullshit. You’re a monster aiming to cut off my ear.

“I’m Laura,” the woman says. “I work as a physical therapist at St. John’s Hospital.”

Are you just putting on an act and pretending to live a normal life?

According to Dr. Kropp, the most dangerous beings often appear to be the most trustworthy.

“This is Anne,” she says, pointing to her daughter.

The girl pulls an embarrassed smile, showing her braces.

“Anne is studying to be a doctor.”

The boy makes a disgusted face.

 

“And that’s Ethan,” the woman says, pointing at the boy. “He wants to know about everything except studying.” The boy rolls his eyes.

Bullshit! I know what you want. But you won’t get my ear.

“And you?” George asks. “What’s your name?”

“Sebastian,” I say in a low voice.

“What a beautiful name,” Laura says, forcing a smile.

“I bet you work in an office?” George says.

“Why would he want to work in a boring old office?” Laura asks.

George watches me, and I nod.

“You see?” he says. “I have a sixth sense about things.”

You call them things; I call them ears.

“I bet you work in a department store,” George says, stroking his big black mustache.

I nod. I must humor them.

“What department?” Laura asks.

“Wait,” George says. “Let me guess.”

He squints and puts on a serious face like a fortune teller. But I can tell it’s all an act.

“I bet you work in the stationery department.”

I nod.

“In an office in the stationary department.”

I nod.

“In an office in a department store’s stationary department.”

What a drag!

I nod.

“See?” George says and chuckles.

 

Ethan glares at me. I gulp and sense the sweat trickling down my skin. But Anne smiles. George gets up, grabs a large knife, and I wince. I’m about to scream. But if I cry, the killers will know that I know. With an immense effort, I contain myself. The man plunges the knife into the roast and slices it.

“How long have you been living here, Sebastian?” Laura asks.

“Thirty-two years,” I say.

“Thirty-two?” she asks. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-two.”

“Ah... so you’ve lived here all your life?”

“Yes, but Dr. Kropp told me to keep things on the down low. Better safe than sorry, right?”

“Safe?” Laura asks.

“Who’s Dr. Kropp?” asks George.

 

Someone rings the doorbell.

Have they invited more cannibals? 

As everyone watches the door, I swiftly duck under the table to hide from view. Then I overhear a conversation between a woman and George before she leaves, and the door shuts.

“A woman got the wrong address,” George says. “Where’s Sebastian?”

“Oops,” Laura says. “Where is he?”

“He was here a moment ago,” says Anne.

I hear the noise of the chairs. They all stand up.

“Has he gone to the bathroom?” Laura asks.

They call my name. I hear footsteps heading upstairs moments later, followed by a scream. Though I should run, I hear Anne shouting from the bathroom, “Come over here!” prompting me to consider a different plan. Everyone’s in the bathroom. I’m gonna lock them inside so they don’t follow me home, and then I’ll have time to barricade myself.

 

I hurry upstairs and glance into the bathroom. I see the entire family soaking their feet by the tub filled to the brim with water. The tub is so full that it resembles a public fountain. I quickly remove the keys from the door and close it with a loud slam. Before anyone reaches the door, I lock it. Loud banging on the door and piercing screams fill the air.

“Hey!” George yells. “What are you doing?”

“Dr. Kropp says that an exceptional situation calls for exceptional measures,” I say.

“Who the hell is Dr. Kropp?” George roars.

“You’re a freak!” Anne says.

“Call the police,” says Laura.

Police? Not the police.

I must do something. I’m not the bad guy. They are monsters.

 

Setting fire to the house appeals to me. So I run downstairs and grab the oven lighter in the kitchen. I open a door and enter the garage. There are a couple of gallons of gasoline. I grab them. Then I return to the house and spill the gas in the living room. I leave a trail leading to the main door. Then I open it, set fire to the trail, shut it, and hurry to my house. But a voice orders me to stop. It says to raise my hands and not to move. Police officers, unaware of my ordeal, handcuff me.

 

“Call the firemen!” a policeman yells.

The flames engulf the house. When the firefighters arrive, I’m sure the cannibals burned to death.

But peering through the window of the police car, I see them. The cannibals are walking toward an ambulance wrapped in blankets.

 

As I glance toward the back window, I notice a group of neighbors standing a few feet away. They observe the situation. Some hold their arms crossed while others record on their phones. I spot Jim Carlson and the old woman. A journey to the police station follows. The officers don’t spare glares. Once we arrive, I find myself in a stifling room. A woman and a man face me. The woman questions me about my presence in the house that caught fire. I’m about to disclose the truth about the killers’ intentions when an officer interrupts. He whispers something in the woman’s ear. The woman looks at me with an embarrassed expression.

 

“You’re free to go,” she tells me. “The family confessed.”

“Confessed what?” her colleague asks.

“They confessed they murdered the family who lived in the house. They hid the corpses in the basement. Can you believe they were planning his assassination?” The woman points to me.

“Why?” the man asks.

“Sebastian’s ear has an anomaly.”

“How so?” 

“It faces forward.” 

She watches me with pitiful eyes.

“Isn’t that right, Sebastian?”

I nod.

“So?” the man asks.

“Looks like the family wasn’t OK with it.”

“That’s crazy!”

The woman turns to me. “You’re lucky, Sebastian. There are plenty of lunatics out there.”

 

I get up and follow a policeman who drives me home. Once inside, I make my way to the window. I must survey my neighbors. They want to kill me.

“The family wanted to bake me like a turkey,” I say.

“Be wary of accepting invitations from your neighbours,” warns Dr. Kropp.

His voice is low and raspy and echoes through the darkness.

Typing on a Laptop

Nicola Vallera is a certified English teacher with credentials from the University of Cambridge (Celta). He currently resides in Brazil and enjoys indulging in his hobbies of reading and writing. Vallera has published several short stories, including “The Endless City” (2019) in Deadman’s Tome and Datura, “The Beggar on the Bridge” (2023) in Fabula Argentea, “She Deserved to Die” (2023) in Adelaide Magazine, and “Tim” (2023) in both Modern Literature and Kathai Literary Journal.

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