Moving into a new place is always daunting. You never know what kind of people you’ll meet, the community you’ll be sharing with those same people, what daily life’s gonna be like, and most importantly, if you’re truly safe. Fortunately, for the most part, my neighbours in the quaint little town I had moved to were all friendly and receptive, but one caught my eye the most.
His name was David, and he seemed to be the most jovial person you’d met. He helped to unpack, made great jokes, and left me his phone number, telling me if there was anything I needed, to just give him a ring. Strangely, before he left, he gave a quick scan of the area, and then repeated the same thing, putting emphasis on the word ‘anything’.
Funnily enough, it was my birthday the next day, and the neighbourhood had decided to come together and throw a barbecue outside my house. I didn’t question how they knew at the time, and just rolled with it uneasily, approaching David who was already chatting away with the community leader, a man called Peter. He always struck me as a little off, with his beady eyes and twitching fingers, but I made nothing of it. We made light talk for a while, but I could tell the conversation was going stale, so I thought of something to break the ice.
‘So, David, why were you acting so weird yesterday?’
David stopped, staring at me. Peter looked at him, and then at me.
‘How so?’ he asked, ‘He hasn’t been bothering you, has he?’
I denied that, wondering how he’d come to that conclusion. I noticed that the party had gone quiet, as if all ears were now listening in.
‘Good, good.’ Peter whispered, smiling. David had gone white as a sheet. ‘Well, happy birthday anyways, and welcome to our happy neighbourhood.’
With that, he disappeared into the crowd, and they began to talk again, filling the air with sound once more.
I tried talking to David, but he hastily made an exit, claiming he had work the next day so couldn’t stay long. The party continued otherwise, and I mingled with my other neighbours, but the mood had soured and I found it difficult to socialise. The day finally came to a close with a somewhat rushed cake that had my name horribly misspelt, but the thought was there. Before entering my house, I noticed that Peter was watching, even as the community was busy packing up, those eyes of him boring into my back.
The next day, there were an awful lot of fireworks going off in the evening. Specifically, they came from David’s house, a myriad of colours and bangs whizzing off in the night sky. I was glad he had recovered his spirits, and decided to go over to see what the occasion was.
There was no response when I knocked at the door. Instead, it opened inwards, creaking as it went. The house was completely empty, with no furniture, no pictures, and no sign of anyone having lived there. There was the sound of an engine revving from the basement, and I warily made my way down.
I had seen it for only half a second, but that was all I needed. Five men, all in hazmat suits, armed with chainsaws, hacking away at David, or at least what was David. I opened my mouth to scream, but there was a padding of footsteps behind me, a sharp pain, and then nothingness.
I awoke on the cold floor of my kitchen, head throbbing. Everything was gone. On a post-it-note, next to me, the words –
‘Welcome to Our happy neighbourhood.’