The Neighbor

It was a Friday at some god awful hour in the morning, when I heard a terrible crash that shook me out of a dead sleep. I sat up in bed and tossed the sheets aside. There was a hurricane making its way through the New England town of East Providence. An evacuation wasn’t necessary and even if it were, I doubt I would have left. Too many years the local weather cried wolf, and it hadn’t left much faith with me.

I reached over for the lamp on my desk, but it was dead. There was no power. If it were any other time, I would have rolled over and gone back to sleep, but I had no idea where that crash came from and it needed to be addressed. Groaning at the misery of having to get up, I reached for my flashlight and set off to investigate.

I have to be honest, I was rather amazed at how I could have possibly slept through such an aggressive hurricane. The sheer power of wind shook my little colonial and branches from my walnut tree scratched against my window, like fingernails to a chalk board. The flashlight’s shine flickered on and off, dimming each time as it struggled to light my way. I was completely unprepared for that storm, but rather than admit it, I ventured on.

At the end of the hall I could feel the distinct sensation of wind blowing against my cheeks. I stepped forward and could see (with what little I actually could see), a tree blocking my way. I cursed and kicked the branches out of frustration, feeling sick at the thought of how much this was going to cost. I composed myself, taking in a long, deep breath and came to the realization that I could no longer stay there. It dawned on me that there was no way out of town and most of my neighbors had evacuated just on the off chance that the weather station was actually right. I cringed at the thought of having to bear this alone. And then it hit me, that there would be one other idiot, someone just as stupid – stupid enough to sit through that storm like me. It was a neighbor whose house faced south of my own. I had completely avoided him and up to that point, put little to no thought into him or his well-being. He was an odd one, sticking to himself and avoiding the rest of the neighborhood as if we where the plague. I’d seen him throw rocks at cars and yell at pigeons. I supposed it would be fitting to introduce myself as the girl whose tree fell on her house. It couldn’t get much weirder than that.

I cursed some more and went to retrieve my raincoat, reluctantly dragging myself out through the hole where my door use to be. The rain was pouring down harder than I’d ever seen it pour before. My useless flashlight was at its wits’ end and the darkness had already overtaken most of my view, as the wind’s force held me back from moving any further.

In the distance I could see him, the stupid fool, standing in the middle of the yard without a jacket and with no umbrella. He stood there stiff as a board, gripping a hose in one hand. The water was running from the hose over the already soaked grass. I watched as the rain poured over his shoulders, his hair drenched and the beads of rain dripping from his chin. He stood frozen, watering his grass with attentive purpose.

“Hello,” I called out, but my voice fell on deaf ears. The rain’s strength was overwhelming, consuming me within its raw power.

“Hello!” I called out again, this time much louder, but still got no response.

I braced myself as I tried to step forward. The wind’s strength felt like sharp glass against my cheek. The man continued to water his grass, disregarding any signs of the hurricane that raged on around him.

“Help me,” I cried, “please help me! A tree fell on my house!”

His gaze slowly lifted, revealing black, vacant eyes. He opened his mouth wider and wider until his face was overtaken by the massive hole that was his mouth.

Feeling pretty sure I pissed myself, I turned and ran through the darkness, the rain slashing across my face like razors. I lost my footing and tumbled over the muddy terrain. It took a moment to compose myself, but reluctantly I turned and saw him running towards me, flapping his arms as if they were made of rubber. His all-consuming hole of a mouth was shouting, but I heard nothing through the pounding rain.

My knees where bleeding and I was scuffed up, but hell if I cared. I forced myself up and ran like Jesus on water. I tried to not look back, but the combination of fear and curiosity were just too much for me. My pace slowed as I turned, that, and the fact that I was out of shape and couldn’t run any farther. He was still coming, with his rubber arms slapping against trees and fences as he grew closer. His mouth was so large that I couldn’t even see his eyes anymore.

Fear worked its way through me like ice and I could no longer move. To make my predicament even more dire, I heard a growling sound, so loud it drowned out the storm.

Turning, I saw a dog creeping out of the bushes. He didn’t look right with parts of his fur red and a foam like residue that drooled out of his mouth. Thankfully, my clearly disturbed neighbor and all his flailing glory made such a commotion that the dog went after him instead of me. I watched, assuming it would all be over until my neighbor clasped his rubber arms around that dog, picked him up with ease and swallowed him whole. His mouth was so big that he just kept pushing that dog through until there was nothing left of it. He made a grunting sound, jerking his head and neck forward, as if he where struggling to fully swallow.

I somehow managed to find myself in the mud again, gawking up at my neighbor, too terrified to scream. He seemed distracted, bobbing his head like a chicken. I took that opportunity to jump up and run like hell, making my way back towards my house. I figured I could barricade myself in my bedroom or hide in a closet, not that it would do any good. So, I wasn’t exactly thinking straight as the rain came pouring down, turning my street into a raging river. I crossed it, my body half submerged, and made my way home. I turned back and could see him still flailing his arms, as he sprinted across the river behind me, water splashing everywhere. In any other scenario I would have believed he was drowning or maybe even getting torn apart by a shark. No such luck though as he caught up to me at lightening speed.

I managed to reach the side of my house, but it was too late. He was already at arms’ reach. He came for me and just as his gaping hole of a mouth reached me, I ducked, dashing just out of the way. His face smashed against the side of the house, the siding crumbling on impact. My neighbor pulled back and slowly turned his gaze in my direction. All I could see was that mouth, its void limitless in darkness. He breathed out a sigh and the smell of rotting meat made me almost vomit. I waited for him to lunge for me, too tired and terrified to fight any longer, but just when I thought it was over, he purposely smashed his face against the siding. He did it repeatedly, his head caving in on impact. Blood gushed from his mouth, spraying me in the process. I screamed at the intimacy of how close he had come to me, trying to shake off his blood as bits of jagged teeth pelted my skin with each smash. His arms, still flailing, slapped against my shoulder and knocked me over in the mud. I felt dizzy as I stared up at my neighbor, who bobbed what was left of his head before collapsing beside me.

I awoke to the sound of birds chirping and warm razes of light that only shine so brightly after a New England summer storm. The hurricane had passed, leaving one hell of a mess. I shifted my gaze, too weak to move, and found myself alone amongst the hurricane’s aftermath. My neighbor was gone without a trace. People assumed he was lost to the storm, but I knew better. He went home, back to whatever dark corner of hell he crawled up from.

— Jade Sisti

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