Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’ve been waiting for a reply since April and it’s damn near Halloween. I draw both hands down my face, contemplating social murder—of myself. Right, that’s suicide. Maybe that’s the reason they haven’t accepted my piece. I’ve tarred myself, waiting for them to add the feathers. And why would they want to be complicit in my murd—suicide.
I need sheep.
Easing around towards the window, I stare into Harry’s (my once rancid rat of a neighbor’s) yard unabashed. Harry’s long since departed, rest his grizzly old hide. But his house has been on the market for years, so it’s still Harry’s to me. As it is, it’s close to three a.m, who’d think I’m still up playing voyeur?
But here I am, damning myself to death and pondering the length of his grass. It’s dead. No, it’s worse than dead. His realtor mowed it seven times over this week—it’s mutilated. With a scoff, I press my laptop shut, preparing for the long trek to my room.
Blinking back my confusion, I hazard a second glance at the wilted stalks. Now I’m seeing things. Add that to my list of defects, and I just might never receive the attention I conceitedly believe I deserve. Yeah. I’m not getting it anyway, so what does it matter.
I tuck my computer under one arm, lifting my empty coffee mug from the desk with my other hand. To glorious sleep. After the shuffle of my movements dies, I hear ringing—not of the ears. No, it’s a jingle—a cell phone. Who’s outside our houses answering suspiciously late calls? Ah, curiosity, the wedged blade in my sternum. Just one peek.
Nothing. From Judy’s to the Marrison’s, nothing. But then Harry’s. The flash wasn’t my sleep deprivation-induced brain fog. Hidden in the illuminated grass, I can see a phone playing the most dastardly merry tune. His realtor must’ve dropped it earlier today. A fine story that almost made for my next script. I snort.
All this intrigue has me famished, but the exhaustion is overwhelming any other bodily needs. I maneuver one last time towards the lure of my flannel sheets before pausing. Is that—? Not five feet from the phone there’s now a shadow of a man—sort of. In the depths of my mind, I bark a panic-driven explanation: nyctophile! He’s just as much a nyctophile as I am. That’s it.
But the way he moves is…downright inhuman. Sheep, the word maunders through next. Yeah, sleep. I need that. But I’m melded to the floor now, drawn into his animalistic motions. He kneels over the phone, dangles it in confusion, and then shatters it in his miraculously pointy fingers. Even I have pointy fingers, they’re called fingernails.
He’s just a man. Just a—
My skin about loosens itself free from my bones. Well, that confirms their answer—they really went for the feathers. I’m dead before I’m even known. Bittersweet irony leave me be. But really. What idiot is beating down my door at three a.m? I should be warier, but two days of insomnia have me several stripes short of a full candy corn.
I cross the hall to the door, not a speck of fear in sight—save for the trembling in my knees, the sweat perspiring on my temples, and the now headless sheep singing Sweeney Todd on my frontal lobe. Fear? Scriptwriters don’t have fear, just exhaustion. So I whip my front door open, only to be met with a flood of liquid.
It douses me. Is this…silver?
“Okay, thanks.” My glare travels from my clothes to the man standing across from me, fumbling to hide a vial in his jacket pocket. Leather Oxfords one size too big followed by a 1940s pinstripe suit and knee-length trench coat, he’s walking history. And his transatlantic accent laces up his look neatly.
“I apologize. My friend just moved in here”-he lifts his phone, pointing at it-“but he was…unavailable.” Or had extremely long nails. “And I wasn’t positive which house was his so I’ve been asking—”
“—Here’s a clue. Next door, you fuck-all,” I snarl, jabbing a thumb toward Harry’s. I am tired. And drenched. And from Sweeney Todd, I now have the ting of the Halloween theme. It’s not wrong. This guy is creepy, he must delect in deformed candy corn the same as me. Okay, I admit I’m a tad unfriendly. But look at the time—and what I’ve been enduring for seven months. Six. Seven? Six.
He doesn’t answer nor does he move. His head twitches slightly like he’s got an itch he’s dying to scratch. There’s a distinct vibration to the action; his neck must be stiff. With a sickening snap, he stops, looking almost relieved. And then a thin smile spreads over his unnaturally red lips. Is this man wearing lipstick? I squint at him, against my better judgment. As soon as I pass the threshold with a single bunny-slippered toe, he snatches me forward.
My mug shatters, my laptop hits the porch with a thud, and I scream.
His heavy breath moistens the skin of my neck as he drags me into him. I thrash against his strength, kick at his ankles. But he doesn’t budge. He draws his tongue along his bottom lip until it’s replaced by two protruding points that sink into the scarlet flesh. In the dim glow of my motion light, Walking History—W.H—could be no more enticing. Nor frightening.
My body jerks back and W.H with it. I expect him to cry out or fall to the ground bleeding. But he just sighs, patting at the hole now ripped through the breast pocket of his suit. There’s nothing. No blood, no ooze, no stain.
“Expensive injury,” he announces, tossing me to the grass. Free, I scramble. I don’t care who he’s talking to, I’m getting the hell out of here. Dashing back onto my porch, I slam through my front door and fumble to lock it.
Nope, I’m not looking.
“Son of a bitch! You flea-bitten mutt!” W.H’s shout is loud; I can hear him perfectly. Murderous curiosity tugs at my collar. And only grows as another voice finally answers him.
“If only I were.” Deep, gravelly, steady—perhaps the owner of two hands worth of finely manicured fingernails? I’m not looking. Taking several steps away from the door, I try to will myself not to turn around. But I bear this wedged blade in my chest for a reason. Spinning on my heel, I face the door just as the glass shatters in at me.
W.H meets my shins. And the man hulking over him is—is…
I dance backward. My fear is consuming my voice. I can’t shriek. I can’t even think. But my tired legs wobble beneath me, so I plummet to the hardwood floor. The sheep aren’t singing anymore. The bleating in my head is a panicked-rendition of Run, Rabbit, Run. But it’s soon drowned out.
W.H wails. Then there’s tearing. A muffled whimper. Stretching fabric, stretching flesh.
“I’ll teach you to kill my brothers.” Like heavy boots crunching over gravel, leaving deep indents. Gravel—G.
“Please, please.” W.H’s voice is gargled. Nope, that’s not blood in his voice. I haven’t heard that sound a million times in films. I drag myself across the floor until it feels safe to stand and then I half throw myself to my feet. The kitchen’s just a few feet away. A spoon, a fork, anything.
And then he laughs.
“I know you like when I beg.”
My hand meets the countertop. Then drawer—towels—after drawer—placemats—after drawer—napkins. What was I thinking? When did I rearrange my kitchen to be baby proof?! I don’t even like children. There’s a grunt from behind me. A cry. A gasp. And then I feel moisture spray over my shoulders. Please don’t be blood. Please don’t be blood.
My stomach turns. And with it, my head. W.H is ripping into G., tearing at his fur-covered flesh. His fangs gleam. Anything. My hand fumbles over the counter, latching onto the first thing it feels, and I brandish it. I get about two feet forward. W.H meets me the rest of the way, welcoming me into his embrace. So I stab him.
Protruding from his throat is an AA battery. Damnit.
“Run, G.!” the exclamation leaves my lips before I know what I’m doing. The sheep are crescendoing, now there’s a tap dance. Run, rabbit! Run, run, run! The men won’t even know who I’m talking to.
“No.” Four thick claws dig into W.H’s forehead. I watch the skin split. It peels upward with the movement of G.’s…paw. And then they’re twisting. The battle is unreal. From the oven to the table. They wreck, they crumble, they destroy my house. My curiosity will no longer allow me to run.
So I watch; the early morning voyeur that I am.
My hand grazes the silverware drawer. I want G. to come out victorious. But if he does so only to betray me…I’ll be ready. I lift my silver salad fork. From the reflection on the surface, I can see the men struggling. They’re fumbling for higher ground. G.’s blood is coating my floor.
He bursts through my kitchen window. And this time, I can’t help but yelp. His pearly teeth peel back in a wicked grin. And his soulless eyes swallow me. My brandished fork will do nothing.
“I will kill you!” I roar at the top of my lungs. But who would believe me? My hands are quivering. There’s a distinct shiver present in my breath. I’m a pitiable scriptwriter waiting to be noticed.
And I’m human.
He lunges. I heave myself out of the kitchen. But his teeth still graze my ankles. With a whimper, I throw a slipper. I can get new slippers, not new legs. Those massive teeth clamp down on the furry little bunny head, and then he squeals it dead. Air hisses from within.
Is that a demonstration? Is that my fate? The bunny slaps against the wall, flopping helplessly to the floor. His teeth are now free. They’ll shred through me faster than the sheep in my head can chant. With lumbering strides, he corners me. There’s not even a small chance I can fight him. He knows that. He’s just enjoying my fear.
Even so, I lift my fork in both hands.
I rake it down as his mouth closes around my ankle. It barely grazes his cheek. But his teeth rip through my pant leg. Gnawing. Chewing. Mangling. Don’t think about it. I can’t take my own advice. I just hope the agony that soils my plea for help is enough to startle the other two.
“Please,” I gasp. “I don’t…know him.”
My body slides along the wood floor. He’s drawing me closer, slashing through my leg. The desperate kicking of my other is nothing to him. I’m about to pass out. I’m about to surrender myself. But then I hear a crack. His jaws release. Where his teeth leave, my skin is burning.
“Down.” G.’s order is loud, clear. He’s standing right over me. “Tend to the pale one.”
Gentle, human fingers trace down my knee. “Not too deep. You’ll heal,” he promises. Is he out of his mind? My hand swings the silver fork with all my remaining energy. But he catches my wrist with his other hand. Blinking my eyes open, I meet his. The sheep have long since forgotten their tapdancing, reliving a tribal drum dance instead.
It’s the only thing holding in my bawling. I take back wanting a story tonight, I’d rather have the boring. Let this scriptwriter live.
“You got an e-mail.” He holds up my phone, but the words are so foreign, I barely comprehend them. What? I’m bleeding to death, and he’s reading my emails? “Sorry. We read through your submission carefully, but we decided to go with another project. Thank you for your interest and best of luck submitting with another company.”
“I think I hate you,” I mutter in response.
“Sorry to hear that”—he pats a hand down on my head—“neighbor.”