by Eric Poirier
Bob Rongton walked down his new street, which ran through his new monotonous neighbourhood. He dug his hands deep within his pockets, unable to find what he was looking for. How can I be so dense? he thought repeatedly. For the last several days, things could not have been worse. It had only been a week since he moved into his new rental home and already he was being plagued with a series of self-created difficulties: he poorly ended his relationship with his girlfriend who did not want to leave the city with him; he let his car run out of gas on the highway; the driver of the moving company he chose had not yet arrived with his furniture due to his directions; and, now he had locked himself out of his new house, leaving his keys sitting on top of the kitchen counter. All was dandy! At least the blind date sucked. Thank you online dating service.
He slowly passed each house, carefully examining them with bloodshot eyes. Good thing I took a taxi home. He could not concentrate in his current stupor. What made it especially difficult to single out his house was the fact that all the buildings on his new cookie-cutter block were identical. Aside from the different layouts and colours of lawn ornaments, each bungalow was attached to a car garage and was painted white. They all had a green veranda due to every husband’s failed attempt at a summer painting project. The steps ended in a cement walkway that ran parallel to the house, directly to the driveway. Everything looked the same in this secluded neighbourhood which was surrounded by a large forest on the outskirts of Bob’s new town. No trace of personality or time to decorate. It was a quaint, dormant-like, subdued suburbia in which Bob could quietly write his novel.
He finally stopped and stood before two houses half way down the street. No lights were on inside either of them. Both were dismal because they had a lack of embellishment; the driveways were unoccupied (Bob’s vehicle was parked in his garage) and both dwellings did not have yard ornaments or even house numbers! Bob wanted to replace the falling numbers with a new digital counter that had taken his old neighbourhood by storm. But here, the burbs were still content with rusty digits. As usual, Bob was in the middle of his project, he took down the old numbers, and left the job to write a chapter in his book that had taken him by surprise. Why do I always think of the best passages when I am the farthest away from my laptop!? The novelist knew one of these abodes before him belonged to him, but he wasn’t sure. How drunk am I?
He cursed himself for not being able to choose. Was it the right one or the left one? The house numbers ran from 99 to 105 because the two homes before him remained numberless. Was it 101 or 103 the new address? How fucking stupid?
Bob saw the dilemma as punishment for having drowned the week’s problems in alcohol and now for running out on his date after the dreaded ‘No, pig!’ Things were flashier and easier in the city.
Left, right, left, right, left…he could not decide.
He then assumed that both houses were empty and came to the conclusion that it would not matter if he unlawfully entered the wrong residence. If it wasn’t his home, he would get out…simple enough. It would have to be a break-in anyway because his keys were laughing at him from on top of his counter. He could hear them laughing at him from the street but from which house!
After several minutes of contemplation, he strode across the lawn in zigzags to the veranda of one of the dark houses and carefully climbed the steps. He passed the front door and faced the living room window. He looked in. The curtain inside was drawn preventing any visual confirmation. Bob carefully pressed his palms against the glass and slowly pushed, hoping the latches were not sealed so that the window could slide open. The window slid open in its tracks. The sudden movement nearly sent Bob over the railing. He regained his composure. He now was curious as to why the window frame was so easy to move. When Bob moved in, he noticed how the window frames had been heavily painted over, making them impossible to move. First clue that this might not be his home. But still he wasn’t sure, and he was still too drunk to give his chain of thoughts any credit.
With much difficulty, due to his belly, he climbed into the house, lifting one leg over, then sending his body through. Unable to bring the other leg in, he gave one mighty heave which sent him to the floor after clearing his leg.
Inside, the darkness blanketed everything. He could see nothing in front of him. Only silhouettes of furniture. To Bob, this was odd because he could not remember if he had closed the drapes before leaving. It seemed unusually anal for him. Not one beam of moonlight illuminated the house’s contents. He was not able to determine if he was in his house.
As he moved about slowly, looking for a light switch, he could hear a faint tearing noise. In his mind he pictured a piece of meat being torn from a steak. His drunken train of thought was distracted the moment he stumbled onto what was probably a coffee table and knocking over an object. The tearing noise stopped. Furniture? He suddenly calculated that the movers hadn’t arrived yet. This was bad. But rather than retreating to the window he continued to move forward, finding a wall and feeling his way, looking for a light switch. Have to be absolutely sure. Maybe the movers delivered everything while I was out. “Hiccup!”
Finally, he felt a switch and turned on the living room lights to discover that he was definitely in the wrong house. This was very bad. Surely the cookie-cutter living room layout was similar to his cooker-cutter room layout, except it was occupied by an expensive leather sofa, a pine coffee table, a mahogany bookcase with exotic African tribal statuettes carefully placed between books. He immediately moved back to the window he had entered through and noticed something immediately. The screen had been removed and placed on the ground beneath the window. That’s right; all the windows have a screen. Now he realized that he wasn’t faced with the screen while illegally entering someone else’s house.
Suddenly, the tearing sound continued. Bob stopped dead in his tracks. He was still with curiosity. A curious habit of eating in the dark? Bob thought.
Bob remained motionless, ignorant of his next move. After several seconds, he slowly walked to the hallway and peered around, down to the opposite end. On the kitchen floor laid the limp, nearly disemboweled body of a figure clad in black. Bob was motionless with horror. Only the upper half of the corpse was visible; its lower half was hidden behind the wall. It was a sight Bob had only written about in his novels. He was unable to look away. The figure was definitely that of a man in black attire with a hood over its head. Its left arm had been chewed off and the stomach had been ripped open. Blood had pooled around the body. Suddenly, a deep growl broke the silence and the body was pulled out of sight behind the wall. This pushed the young novelist into frenzy. He let out a girlish scream, ran to the window and clumsily clambered through. As he struggled to get his leg across, Bob could hear what sounded like the claws hitting the hardwood floor as something walked down the hallway. Bob finally landed on the patio beneath the window, jumped the railing and bolted across the lawn to the second numberless house.
‘It’s the right one, the right one, right one,’ he mumbled.
He climbed over his railing onto his veranda of his dwelling and entered through his living room window in the same fashion, only this time twice as fast and in a cold sweat. The heavily painted window frames and screen did not slow him down.
Inside, he turned on all the lights, double checked the locks and the latches on all the doors and windows (his keys were now laughing even harder at him from the kitchen counter), carefully scanned every furniture-less room, threw up in his toilet, turned off the lights again, then jumped into the sleeping bag that was on the floor of his yet-to-be-furnished bedroom. He was sober now. After three long hours of lying awake, he finally fell asleep.
The next morning Bob was awaked by the annoying ring of his old fashioned telephone. One of the many home items he brought with him in his vehicle. He sat upright, half in his sleeping bag and looked around the room. The phone rang. Was it a dream? Did the alcohol make me hallucinate this morning? Oh wait…didn’t I shoot up before my date last night? The phone rang. He did consume a copious amount of red wine, much to his date’s chagrin last night. Beside him, his alarm clock sat on the floor next to the phone. It was 1:03 in the afternoon. The phone rang. Bob leaned over and answered the phone with a heavy head. On the other end of the line, the woman with whom he had the date and inappropriately groped, Beth, began talking.
‘Hi Bob. I might have been a little stand-offish last night. I was too pre-occupied with being your rebound rather than letting loose and having fun. I think I might be in need of something purely physical. I really don’t feel like going back to the pub tonight and starting all over with someone else. Do you mind if I come over? May I have your address?
‘Yea. Listen, I don’t think it’s a good idea. You see, I don’t have…’
‘AH NO!’ she interrupted. ‘I’m coming over. You can kick me out after if you don’t want me but all I need and want is one night. Come on guy! You are a guy aren’t you?’
‘Of course I am,’ he hesitated, remembering the girlish scream he may or may not have let out early this morning. With a heavy head he gave Beth his address and ended his sentence with ‘I think’.
‘Great! Be there later this afternoon.’ Beth hung up. Did I say 101 or 103? She’ll figure it out.
Bob placed the receiver on the phone and crawled out of his sleeping bag. He was still fully dressed and a terrible taste lingered in his mouth. The effects of last night were taking their toll. He walked through his living room and over to the front door, unlocked it and stepped out onto the veranda to take in some fresh air. The day was bright and beautiful. After several deep breaths and stretches, he looked over to his right and saw a short, skinny, bald fellow standing on the veranda of the house next door. The man stood quietly, staring at Bob with a wide smile. The young novelist turned his gaze away.
‘Buonas tardes, neighbour,’ the man called out. ‘Can I offer you some lunch…or breakfast?’ Bob looked back to see the man still staring and smiling. Last night had to have been a hallucination, he wondered. There’s no corpse. I was wasted! The man spoke again, ‘I make a killer steak.’
‘Sure, why not?’ Bob finally replied.
Moments later Bob was sitting in the man’s kitchen which had a certain stench. He was finishing his plate of steak and eggs. He thought it was an interesting combination for a lunch but the steak was to die for. The kitchen was decorated with the same African tribal motif as in the living room. The man introduced himself as Bentley Furous, a retired, unmarried, entrepreneur who had settled in this secluded neighbourhood to escape the fast life. He had very rough features, small brown eyes and thick black hair growing out of his ears, collar and sleeves. He was very polite and maintained himself in a rich manner.
‘Where are you from?’ Bentley asked.
‘Well, I am writer from the city. I have about a dozen books on the stands that have been declared bestsellers. I published my first book after university and I have been successful ever since. I moved here about a week ago. My work was starting to suffer because of too many interferences, so my publisher suggested I move somewhere quiet and remote. What about you? What did you do before you retired?’
The man sighed and looked down into his cup of coffee. ‘Nothing much. I have a very unfulfilled life. Some times I ask myself why I’m still here. Never had any kids. I don’t have any friends.’
Bob began to feel uneasy but made an effort not to display his discomfort.
Bentley continued: ‘It’s just me and my dog, Bentley Jr. He stays here when I go away. I leave this place a lot. Sometimes I don’t want to, but I do. I leave the house unlocked and let the dog roam around. It’s his domain when I’m gone. I know this is sick, but sometimes I wish for people to break in so that Bentley can get some much needed exercise. But, he’s getting old. He’s down below right now, sleeping. I think pretty soon it will be time to put the old boy to sleep. He’s had some good times but he’s uncontrollable now, even dangerous. Yep, I returned just last night and the old fellow was causing trouble. I’m leaving again tonight and I hope…oh, listen to me, I’m rambling on. Would you like to play cards? I have a deck in my closet. Would you mind grabbing it for me? The closet is right behind you.’
It took a long minute for Bob to gather his thoughts. Dog? After a while he snapped out of his daydream and turned in his chair to look at the closet behind him. It was directly behind him. He stood up and walked over to it. When he opened it, he jumped back and let out a yelp. The horrifying stench of decay filled his nostrils. A disemboweled black hooded figure hung upside down from ceiling with a rope that was tied around its ankles. Its remaining arm hung limply and its internal abdominal organs were clearly visible. Blood had pooled at the bottom of the closet. Bob held his mouth tightly in disgust.
Bentley was by his side now, speaking softly, ‘In my opinion, if they’re stupid enough to walk in uninvited, they deserve to die. What’s wrong with the world today, no respect, that’s what. This is old Bentley’s doing. Poor bastard never saw it coming. He’s not the first either. Listen, I like you, we’re friends now, so if ever you come in here when I’m not around, Bentley Jr. will surely attack.’ The man reached into the closet, behind the corpse and pulled out, what looked like, a hunting rifle. ‘It’s loaded and chambered. If ever you’re in here simply grab the rifle. Don’t be afraid to fire if he attacks you. You’ll be doing Bentley a favour. His time has come. But I can’t do it myself.’ He put the gun back in its place behind the corpse. Bob noticed that Bentley was almost asking him. But he didn’t wait around for an invitation to anything. He ran passed the old man and out of the house.
Immediately after reaching his home, Bob phoned the police and stated he had witnessed his neighbour murder someone. He didn’t know what else to say. Later that night, Bob observed the street through his living room window, waiting for the arrival of the police. Instead of a police cruiser, a white Ford Tempo pulled over to the side of the road in front of Bentley’s house. The driver side door opened and Beth stepped out of the car. She looked at both his house and at the old man’s, obviously contemplating which one was Bob’s. Damn, the numbers! Why were Bentley’s numbers off the house too?
Bob watched as she walked down the driveway and out of view. The night was quiet and he could hear her knocking on Bentley’s door. Soon the knocking stopped and then silence again.
Instead of calling out to her, he simply watched and made muffled squeaky noises. But he had to do something for he had more than likely sent someone to their death, and he might be made an accomplice. It was probable that one of his other neighbours had seen him talking with Bentley, and even enter the old man’s house.
Moments later, the novelist slowly entered Bentley’s house through the opened front door with a steak knife in hand. Very quietly he searched for a light switch. Despite the fact that it was not yet sunset, the curtains were drawn and the place was dark. His heart was pounding. In fact it had not stopped pounding since he opened the closet this morning. When he found a switch, the lights would not turn on. He tried it many times but with no luck. His heart and head were now pounding painfully. His breathing was deep and irregular. Though it was not as dark as before, Bob felt his way down the corridor with the knife ready to penetrate. He reached a door with an all too familiar stench. It was the closet. He felt furiously for the handle and opened the door. The stench of decay hit him like a punch. He felt around for the hunting rifle but instead, put his hand inside the corpse’s open stomach. He quickly pulled it away, trying not to yell or vomit. He tried again. This time the exasperated author grabbed the weapon and yanked it from the closet.
In doing so, the corpse fell from the ceiling. It made a loud thud as it hit the ground. While trying to control himself, the novelist could hear a deep growl approaching from behind. He turned very slowly only to be met with red glowing eyes of fire enveloped by a black silhouette that was bent over on all fours. Bob’s remaining shred of sanity faded. He stood and watched as the eyes got closer. Suddenly, a loud monstrous barking filled the darkness. In a quick, thoughtless motion, Bob brought the rifle to his shoulder as the eyes neared him and pulled the trigger which created a deafening sound, followed by a yelp…then silence. The eyes disappeared.
Faintly, Bob could hear police sirens as he compelled himself to regain stability. He then tried for another light switch by running his hands along the wall. When he found one, he flicked it upwards, illuminating the entire kitchen. From behind the kitchen counter, he could see Beth, on the floor, stomach gouged open, half her body hidden. Closer to him, Bob looked down at Bentley Furous lying naked on his side with a hole in his chest. Blood was pooling around his body. More blood and bits of flesh were around his mouth and hanging past his chin. The dying man looked up at Bob with red fire-like eyes. The old man lifted his head, opened his mouth and with much effort, said, ‘Thank you’. Very slowly, he rested his head on the floor, and then the eyes disappeared behind their lids forever.
Outside, police sirens were heard, followed by squealing tires, car doors then raving voices, ‘Which house is it?’
Bob Rongton stood above the body. Many things were running through his mind. As he pondered, he asked himself who or what this creature was. One thing was certain however…this would make one hell of a splatter story.
Copyright Eric Poirier 2013