Apart from doing interviews and writing articles, I also write fiction. Summary of this horror short story: Taking a year off to write a novel, should be a fun thing. But Marit’s time at home turns into a nightmare when her inspiration dries up and she starts suspecting her neighbours are dangerous psychopaths…
30th of October, 2021
Marica was not happy as she made her way down the stairs. My eastern European roommate had heard the doorbell ring for the third time. I was downstairs, but refused to open it.
“Don’t open the door!” I warned her, hiding in the kitchen.
“Why the heck not?” she snapped, intuitively knowing that whatever reason I had, she would not agree with it.
“I might have accidentally done something to piss our neighbour off…”
“Which one? The one you suspect might be a vampire or the one you call psycho killer?”
“Psycho killer…” I mumbled.
A loud sigh was followed by the sound of the door opening.
“Hi Gabriel,” I heard her say.
“Hello, is Marit there?”
“Yes, she is in the kitchen. Come in.”
My eyes grew wide, but I tried to keep calm and face the consequences of my actions. I was in my mid-twenties after all. I should be able to behave like a responsible adult.
“Hello neighbour,” I smiled sheepishly. “How can I help you?”
I knew damn well what he was here for.
“I noticed your car is parked the other way around…”
“Oh, is it?” I said in a higher tone of voice than my usual one.
I had a hard time remaining calm, with the man standing in front of me. Gabriel was in his early forties and looked like a rock star, with his messy, long, blonde hair, earrings and tattoos. He was friendly, but had this low-key menacing aura. And piercing blue eyes, that made it almost impossible to look away once his eyes had locked yours.
“I also noticed your car was parked close to mine in the supermarket parking lot.”
“Was it?” I asked innocently, not knowing how much longer I could keep the act up.
“Yes, and when I got back to my car, yours was gone and mine had a big dent on the side and some scratches.”
Marica’s eyes were shooting daggers at me.
“Yes. And your car is damaged on the back as well. I’m pretty sure you hit my car while pulling out of your parking space.”
There was an uncomfortable silence.
“Did I hit your car? I hadn’t noticed anything…”
He raised an eyebrow and turned around.
“Follow me,” he ordered with his finger.
I reluctantly followed him outside and looked at the back of my car and his car. It was clear to everyone that it’s impossible to have that much damage and not have noticed anything.
“Wow, that doesn’t look good…” I admitted. That applied to both the cars and my personal situation.
I was so glad Marica was here. Who knows what he would have done if there was nobody around. It was obvious how much he loved his Mercedes. He spent every Saturday over two hours cleaning the vehicle.
“No, it doesn’t,” he agreed with my observation. “That’s going to cost a lot to repair. Do you have insurance?”
I shook my head.
Another awkward silence followed.
“You know what?” he suddenly smiled at me. “Forget it, I can fix this myself. Maybe you can repay me some other way one day…”
I blinked a few times rapidly.
Was he hinting at sex to make up for the costs?
“You’re a writer, aren’t you? If your novel becomes a bestseller, you can give me a percentage of the profits.”
Gabriel winked at me and went back to his house.
“Have a good day, ladies.”
A few minutes later Marica decided to sit me down for a sort of intervention.
“Listen, Marit. This can’t go on for much longer. You quit your job almost nine months ago to write your novel. In the meantime you’ve been doing all kinds of things, but none of them have anything to do with writing.”
I looked down in shame. She was right, but it kinda hurt to hear it out loud.
After the first few weeks of intensive writing, I hit a rough spot. Writer’s block or something. I had no inspiration and felt worse with every passing week.
“You’ve been drinking more and more wine, you’re spying on the neighbours and you’re actually convinced Mr. Lucas is a vampire and Gabriel is a serial killer? What the hell, Marit.”
She sounded both annoyed and worried about me at the same time.
“In my defense… none of us have actually seen Mr. Lucas outside in broad daylight,” I retorted. “He often leaves the house in the middle of the night to do God knows what… I saw it with my own eyes… and he is pretty pale and tall and generally looks creepy.”
“And Gabriel? What has he done to earn the label ‘psycho killer’?” Marica folded her arms impatiently.
“I recently saw him head into his garden late at night with a shovel. There are also these weird chopping noises coming from the house sometimes,” I summed up. “And it’s just his whole demeanor. He freaks me out. He always looks at me like he wants to cut me into pieces.”
I shivered, remembering the way he gazed at me when we went outside to look at my car.
“I would have given you the same look if you damaged my car, drove off without leaving a note and then tried to hide the fact you did it…”
I rolled my eyes, but I knew she had a point. What I did was rude. I should get my act together.
“I’m sorry, I’ll try and do better.”
Trying and doing better lasted for eight hours and thirty-four minutes to be precise. I woke up around 2 am, after drinking a few glasses of wine too many. I went to the window, opened the curtains and looked outside to the house of Mr. Lucas. The man was probably in his late thirties but that was all I knew about him. Even after observing him for a few months, I had no idea what he did for a living or if he had any hobbies. On top of that I hadn’t seen him interact with anybody. He never had any visitors and kept to himself a lot. I was about to close the curtains, when I saw him in the living room. He put on his jacket and went to the front door.
My heart skipped a beat. This was my chance!
I had to know where he was going. I quickly changed into my jeans, sweater and sneakers and sprinted out the front door.
Ever since I was a child I had wanted to play detective and follow someone suspicious around. It always looked so exciting in movies. In reality, it sucked. Mr. Lucas was too fast and I had to be really quick and quiet to keep up with him, without being detected.
The streets of the small city were deserted. Of course they were. It was fricking two o’clock in the middle of the night. Who would be walking around at this hour?! Suspicious people and their paranoid neighbours apparently.
We had entered the part of town with a lot of office buildings. Not too many houses around. Why would he be going here?
It was in the next street that I almost had a heart attack. I hurried and crashed right into him. He was waiting for me right around the corner.
“What the…” I gasped as Mr. Lucas grabbed my wrists to prevent me from falling backwards. At least that’s what I thought he was doing. But it quickly became clear that it also prevented me from running off.
“I could ask you the same thing,” he quietly remarked.
This was the first time I was up close with him. With his brown hair and grey eyes, he actually looked quite intriguing. But in this particular situation I was more afraid of the man than attracted to him.
“Please, let me go,” I begged, trying to pull my arms free.
“Not until you tell me why you’re following me,” he coldly informed me.
I seriously had no good excuse.
“Well, you see, I’m writing a novel…” I hesitantly started.
“Go on…” he encouraged me. Yet sounding both extremely annoyed and unimpressed.
“And the main character is a detective. And… I just wanted to know what it felt like to follow someone…”
It sounded lame. I knew it, he knew it. But it was the best I could come up with.
“Right. You wanted to know what it feels like to follow someone.”
I nodded, hoping my little white lie was enough to get him to let me go.
“I’m sorry about all this, I’ll let you go on your way…” I muttered. I wanted to take a step back, but he still had a hold on me.
“I’d appreciate it if you kept your nose out of my business.”
“Yes, of course…” I quickly nodded.
He released my wrists and took a step back. I didn’t like the way he looked at me before turning around and walking off.
31st of October, 2021
You’d think an encounter like that would stop me. It didn’t. My stupidity surprised me as well, to be honest. Maybe the wine was partially to blame. The next evening I was sitting in the garden with Marica and we were having a good time. Talking about the fun times we had at the Italian restaurant we used to work at in our early twenties.
“You remember Patricia?” I asked. “You know, the colleague who was obsessed with our boss?”
“Yes, I do,” Marica laughed. “But you must admit our boss was a very fine looking man. He was the reason why there were always so many women coming for dinner.”
“I remember!” I giggled. “I was so surprised when I realized, like, three quarters of our guests were female. But Patricia made sure everyone thought Mr. Mancini was taken. She kept calling him pet names and touching him every chance she got.”
“Well, you’re one to talk about obsessions…” Marica stuck out her tongue. “You are just as obsessed with our neighbours.”
“Yes, but not in a romantic way. By the way, speaking of neighbours, I just heard Mr. Lucas drive off,” I said, looking over at the house. “And notice how it’s dark outside? You never see him during the day. You must admit that’s weird.”
“Maybe he works night shifts?” Marica suggested, taking another sip of her drink.
“Every night of the week, for over six months straight? Yeah, right.”
“Well, let me humour you for once. Let’s say he actually is a vampire. He would have a coffin somewhere in the house, wouldn’t he?”
I got up and looked over the hedge. The back door was slightly open.
“Yes, but it’s not in the living room. It looks pretty normal from here. But it could be in the basement… and look, he left the back door open.”
I wiggled my eyebrows at Marica and drank the rest of my wine in one gulp.
“Oh no… Marit, seriously… Don’t.”
I shot her a grin.
“Don’t do what?”
“You’re not going to break into his house to find out if there is a coffin somewhere.”
“Relax, Marica,” I said in a soothing voice. “If I get caught I’ll just say I thought I heard someone scream and went to investigate…”
I carefully climbed across the hedge, which wasn’t that high, and jumped down on the other side in Mr. Lucas’s garden.
“Marit, you’re crazy! Come back here right now!” she hissed at me. I could tell she was angry. Her Slovenian accent became more noticable when she was upset.
“I’ll just be a minute…” I whispered back.
I could see her lift her hands in frustrated resignation. She had given up trying to reason with me.
I carefully stepped into the house. The first thing that caught my eye was his book shelf. I went over, expecting to see titles such as ‘Neck Biting 101’ or ‘How To Live Your Best Life Without Sunlight’. But I could only find cook books and philosophical novels. How disappointing.
Just as I was about to look into the magazines on the coffee table, I felt the hairs on my arm and neck stand up straight. There was someone in the room with me.
“There are two options I’m considering,” a calm and collected male voice informed me.
I slowly turned around and didn’t quite understand how he managed to come back inside without making a sound.
Mr. Lucas stood in the middle of the room, hands in the pockets of his jeans. His posture was relaxed. As if he expected to find me there.
“One, I call the police and have you arrested for breaking and entering…”
I instantly forgot about the possible excuses I could have made for being in his house and did my best not to cry.
“Or two,” he went on, looking straight at me, “I kill you right now and bury your body in the woods.”
What the heck?!
I took a step back, tripped over the rug and landed on the floor.
“I’m leaning towards the second option,” he said as he took a step towards me.
I started trembling and scooted backwards, until my back hit the couch.
“Mr. Lucas! Mr. Lucas!” Marica’s voice sounded from the garden, rushing over.
He casually stepped away from me and I sighed in relief.
“You’ll have to forgive her. My friend here thought she heard something from your house and went to see if you were alright.”
Marica never rambled on, but I glad she did now. It gave me the chance to get back to my feet and back away from him.
“She thought you were attacked or something. Too much imagination… she’s a writer, you see.”
“Oh now you’re acknowledging I’m a writer!” I blurted out.
She glared at me and took my arm.
“Anyway, we’re sorry to scare you like that. We’ll be off now. Have a good night!” She said in a hurried voice, smiling as kindly as she could muster, before dragging me back to our garden.
For some reason, he didn’t stop us. He just looked at me, with that weird, threatening look.
“Seriously, Marica. He stood there, out of the blue. Then he said he’d either call the cops or murder me and bury my body in the woods!”
“You’re out of your mind. He was probably just messing with you.”
“Didn’t you hear him threaten me?” I dramatically gestured in the general direction of our neighbour’s house.
“No, I didn’t. But even if he did, I’d understand him. After all, he was confronting a burglar in his own home,” Marica emphasized. “You’re lucky if he doesn’t press charges against you. Seriously, Marit, it’s time to grow up. Our neighbours aren’t dangerous or supernatural. They’re just slightly eccentric and they’ve been nothing but friendly to us.”
I gave up.
That night I tried to hold back my tears. Marica was right. My life was a mess. No job, no novel or book deal and apparently no sanity left either. It was time for me to get my life back together. No more wine from now on.
Well, maybe a glass or two in the weekends…
I sighed, got up and walked towards the window. As I peaked through the windows, I could see that Mr. Lucas’s house was dark. Maybe he went for a walk again. A part of me was still frustrated that I hadn’t found out what he was up to. But maybe it was none of my business.
“Still nosy as always, aren’t you, Marit?” a voice whispered behind me.
For a moment I thought I was hallucinating. But the arm that closed around my neck a second later felt way too real to be a hallucination. Within a few moments I had passed out.
When I woke up, I felt restricted. Someone was quietly sobbing. As I opened my eyes I saw Marica, sitting on a kitchen chair a few feet away from me. She was tied up and her mouth was covered with duct tape.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God…” I kept whispering, for some reason not being able to scream or speak out loud.
I looked down and saw I was tied to a chair as well.
“Where is Mr. Lucas?” I managed to ask her, feeling tears stream down my cheeks.
Marica’s screams were muffled by the tape, as she looked at a point behind me. Someone placed their hands on my shoulders and my heart skipped a beat.
“At this hour? In his bed, probably.”
My eyes grew wide as someone whispered in my ear.
“Gabriel!” I gasped as our other neighbour stepped into view. He looked every bit the psycho killer I expected him to be. He carried a kitchen knife and had a roll of duct tape in his other hand.
I thought I would pass out again, but I didn’t. I quietly tried to keep from having a full blown panic attack, as Gabriel began to explain our situation to us.
“There are a few things I severely dislike,” he started, leaning against the kitchen counter. “Cowards, nosy people and alcoholics. And you, Marit, seem to tick each and every one of those boxes.”
I just stared at him, feeling weak all over.
This was all my fault. My friend shouldn’t have to suffer because of stupid things I did.
“Marica… why is she…”
“She just got in the way. I came here for you, but I happened to ran into her while she was on the way to the bathroom. Shame, really. But that’s life, I suppose.”
He shrugged and casually inspected his knife.
“Please, let us go. Let her go,” I softly pleaded.
“And let her go to the police? I don’t think so, darling. Anyway, I’m not that much of a talker. Let’s get down to business, ladies.”
He walked towards Marica, who frantically started to struggle to get away. I wanted to scream, but was just paralysed with fear.
“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you.”
I almost fell off my chair as Mr. Lucas walked past me, his eyes fixed on Gabriel.
“You’ve got guts coming in here, unarmed,” Gabriel sighed, not impressed, as he was the only one holding a weapon.
“Who says I’m unarmed?” Mr. Lucas replied, looking as relaxed as always.
“Well, you’re not carrying anything, are you?”
“No, but I have my weapons inside of me.”
Half a second later Mr. Lucas was behind Gabriel, fangs out, biting his neck.
Marica and I freaked out, both struggling so hard our chairs fell over. From the frying pan, into the fire.
Gabriel let out a scream and fell to the ground a few seconds later, completely lifeless. Mr. Lucas wiped his mouth and his fangs disappeared.
In the meantime, Marica and I were still madly squirming around on the floor.
“Don’t worry, ladies. I’ve had my fill for now.”
He walked towards me and started untangling the ropes. Then he did the same for Marica. We both clung to each other, waiting for our neighbour to do something.
“He killed way more people than me, you know.”
I didn’t know if that mattered. Or what was worse. Being the victim of a psycho killer or a vampire.
“I’ll take care of your neighbour. You just clean up this mess and go on with your lives. You don’t speak about this to anyone, you hear?”
We shook our heads.
“But, Mr. Lucas, How did you get in here?” I suddenly asked him. I was frightened, yet curious at the same time. “I thought vampires needed an invitation to enter the house…”
“While you were still sleeping, Gabriel grabbed Marica. She started screaming for help. She yelled out for me, because she probably figured I was the closest person in the vicinity. That way, granting me access to your house.”
“So now we have to move somewhere else or risk being killed by you?” Marica wiped her tears, feeling frustrated with this turn of events.
“No, don’t worry. I prefer men, so you’re safe. Although I might make an exception for your friend Marit here. She’s way too nosy for her own good…”
He shot me a menacing look.
I backed away from him, holding up my hands in defense.
“I’m done being nosy. I promise!”
“You’d better be, sweetheart, or I’ll have to pay you another visit… Nighty, night, ladies.”
And with that he vanished into the night.