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Grab a Tire Iron

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I've been living in a townhouse with my parents for the last couple of summers and before that for a couple of years in high school. For some ill-fated reason, we've always had terrible neighbors. When we first moved in, we had a woman and her teenage daughter who regularly sold heroin out of her room, then a family with what seemed was the loudest, angriest chihuahua in the world. For those unfamiliar with townhouses, it's like having a regular house with all the noises of an apartment building. The reason we've stayed for so long is my dad became friends with the owner and apparently we get fantastic rent.

Anyway, right before I came back from college one summer, my old neighbors (a middle-aged Mexican couple and their kid) left and some new tenants came in. I usually don't keep up with who's living next to us unless they're extremely fucking annoying or they park on our side of the driveway.

So the first night back, I decide I'm gonna smoke a little weed and listen to some music. My room happens to be adjacent to an identical one on the other side, so when I open the window, I can see there's light spilling out from that window onto their patio. It's around 3am, so I wonder why they're up so late or if they just left the light on, but I decide I really don't give a fuck so I go through my backpack and look for my pipe. It's not there.

Without my piece, I resort to survival-style methods of getting high and decide to make myself a nice apple pipe. I go downstairs to the kitchen, get all the shit, come back upstairs and I realize my window is closed. I look outside my room, down the hall at my parent's room, and it's closed, they're sleeping so it couldn't be them. I decide getting high is more important than investigating so I go open the window and realize the light next door is now off. As I move from the window to my computer, I hear my window shut hard, and my blinds fall, all simultaneously. I turn around, scared as all fuck, but nothing is there.

The next thing I hear is my parents door opening and my mom coming into my room. She looks pissed, but then the color drains from her face when she sees me looking very, very afraid. Looking afraid as fuck is not the usual me, so she's immediately worried. I explain what happened, but she dismisses it as me being a dumbfuck and trying to scare her. She tells me it's not funny and to knock it the fuck off and goes back to bed. Eventually, my will to get high is stronger than my fear, so I smoke a bowl and go to bed.

Nothing out of the ordinary happens for a few weeks, so I chalk it up to some strong wind, but I can't really explain everything so I try to keep it out of my head. Come July, I'm usually out of the house all day, but that day is slow so I decide to take it easy and lurk around on my laptop for a bit. It's all a bit boring, so I decide to call a friend over. As I reach for my phone, I hear this ripping noise behind me and when I look, there is a hole in my window screen and the edges are jutting out towards me, meaning something fucking punched it from the outside, except..my room is on the second story.

My first thought was, “Holy shit, a ghost just tried to Falcon Punch its way into my room,” then to, “Holy shit, a bird just busted through my window.” I spend an hour looking for a bird corpse inside my room and out on my patio, which my window is overlooking. I look up at my room and realize two things.

1) My window is now closed and I'm the only one in the house.

2) The window of the room next to mine is not only open, but has no screen. And the light is on.

I rush back inside and when I get upstairs to my room, the window is open again, except this time, the window screen is fucking gone. As in, it's not on the floor and it's not outside, somebody/something stole my fucking window screen. For some reason, the first thing I do is angrily march over next door to yell at the tenants next door for stealing my shit, but it's not until I'm outside I realize that's not even possible, the distance from one window to other is way too far. I go back in, and decide I'm not going back upstairs until my parents get home. They eventually get back, but I don't bother to explain, even though they might get suspicious about the missing window screen. I reluctantly climb back upstairs and fortunately, everything is the way I left it, window closed, blinds up. I move to close the blinds and notice that once again, the light is on next door.

The light is spilling onto the patio when I detect movement outside. Somebody is casting a shadow onto the patio from the window. I pay attention to the shadow. It's pretty clear it's a person standing there. But that's the thing that bothered me. They were just standing there. As if they were intently focused on something and refused to move. Then, the light quickly blinks off, then on again, but now, the shadow is gone.

I start panicking. Nothing moves that fucking fast; it was literally in the blink of an eye. I close the blinds and sleep with the lights on that night. Just like before, no activity for a couple of weeks.

Around the end of July is when my parents announce they're going to vacation in Mexico. They want me to stay at the house and take care of it and in exchange, I can throw a party or two as long as I don't overdo it. I'm fucking ecstatic just thinking of all the shit I'm gonna do for a week-and-a-half with an empty house, and I'm not even thinking of all the paranormal shit that happened.

Days later, I drop them off at the airport and I pick up my friend, Karen, deciding to christen my temporary bachelor pad with a smoking session. As soon as we come in, we both realize it is freezing. By the time I get to the thermostat in the living room, she's shivering and rubbing her arms even though she's wearing a hoodie. I look at the thermostat, it's thermometer is reading 45 degrees, but it's set to 80.

Karen says something like, “Your heating is fucked up,” but she's interrupted by a crash upstairs. She says, “Aren't we alone?”

Feeling like I wasn't going to let this shit ruin my plans I tell her, “If we're not, we're gonna be.”

We rush upstairs, finding my bookcase and my desk on the ground, my books and pretty much all my stuff all over the floor. She helps me clean up as I explain the last two incidents. Karen doesn't really believe in anything paranormal, so the two of us discuss some reasonable explanations for what's been happening. We both conclude that most likely, it's the neighbors. They've been getting into the house somehow, and they're possibly using the window as a way to distract me. She convinces me they've taken this shit way too far, so we decide I should confront them and tell them I've had enough.

As we walk outside in the little light that's still left, I notice there's no car in their driveway. That's when it hits me. I've never seen their car. I've never seen them leave. And except for that shadow, I've actually never seen them at all. I stagger and eventually stop as I come to this realization. Noticing me lag behind, Karen asks me if something's wrong. I respond, “Karen... I've never seen them.”

“Well, now you'll meet them. It's probably a good idea to get to know your neighbors, even if they sneak into your house to wreck your shit”

“No, I mean, there's a possibility nobody's gonna answer, because no one lives there.”

She makes a confused face, looks over to the house, then back to me and says, “What are you talking about, somebody has to live there. Haven't you asked your parents about the neighbors at least once?”

I explain to her that I've never cared as most of the tenants move in for a couple of months, then move out when, I assumed, the owner got tired of their shit. Usually it was for falling behind on the rent or because they trashed the place. My parents even told me that on two separate occasions the police had asked them if they had heard any fighting or yelling next door, as apparently they had been called on a possible domestic violence situation.

Looking increasingly concerned, she muttered, “Maybe it wasn't domestic violence...? What if whatever is next door has been bothering the tenants, scaring them until they move out. Now that no one's there, it's trying to kick you out.”

Taking in that possibility, my emotions turn from fear to anger. I could understand getting spooked every once-in-a-while, but kicking me out from my house? Absolutely fucking not. My newly uncovered anger affords me some confidence and I find myself pounding heavily on the door, Karen behind me. Nobody answers. We couldn't look through the window, as the blinds were closed and the glass was covered in smudges left by fingerprints. The rest of the house was surrounded by a fence, so I decided I'd see if I could take a look inside from the patio. From there I could see that the window was closed, but that the light in the room was on.

As I turned to Karen, I saw through my own window that the door to my room was opening, slowly. My heart pounded as I simultaneously pointed at the door and signaled Karen to look. We both stood in silence as the door opened ever so slowly, as if whatever was behind it was having great difficulty with its weight. Ajar enough for a person to fit through, the door suddenly stops and into my room walks somebody or something, but at that instant, the lights in the room fucking explode, shrouding everything into darkness. We shield our eyes from the flash, and when we look back up, the blinds have been closed. But in that instant right before the lights blew, we managed to catch a glimpse of it. It definitely had a human shape, but as for the rest, I believe Karen put it best: “It looked fucking dead.”

In that brief moment, I saw its gray skin, mottled with bruises, its drenched hair fallen onto its shoulders, sticking to its chest with moisture. The purple-stained neck lead to its disfigured face, like the victim of a savage beating, contorting its face into a permanent expression of anguish. What Karen noticed was the yellow eyes, decaying, the pupils now flattened like a goat's due to the rot. It was some fucked up shit. Any anger or confidence or rationale that we previously possessed has dissipated. We are balls-to-the-wall scared.

We stand in the patio, paralyzed, for what seems like hours. Karen finally speaks up, “We've got to call the cops, we can at least make them go through the house.”

I call the police and tell them there's an intruder in my house. A squad car shows up and two cops search the entire house. Nothing. I ask them if they can search the one next door, but they say they're not allowed without a warrant. Eventually, they leave.

We decide that since the cops have gone through it, it must be somewhat safe. We go to my room to find the window once again wide open and the blinds up. I go to close them, but I find that either are impossible. The window simply won't move, and if I had strained more to lower the blinds, I would have broken the string. Karen and I clean the glass from the busted lights.

Exhausted and concerned, I fall onto my bed and Karen sits in my computer chair. I tell her I'm out of ideas besides breaking into the house next door with a fucking tire iron. She says that maybe that's not such a bad idea. That's when I notice it.

In front of my room is the attic door, and it's been slid open. I move quickly to shut my door and lock it. Karen looks panicked.

“Karen, do you think they searched the attic?” I ask desperately hoping for a yes.

“Probably not,” she says.

I look around the room, seeking bludgeoning weapons. I pick up one of those heavy marble-base trophies. She picks up a disused lava lamp. I swing the door open only to find the attic door is now sealed.

We run downstairs, but instead of running out the door, I run into the garage, where I pick up a fucking tire iron and a big wrench. I toss Karen the tire iron. She's asks me if I'm high. I say no, and tell her if she doesn't want to come, she can sit in the car. She refuses and takes a few practice swings with the tire iron. We march upstairs.

I turn on the attic light and using a stool we gradually climb into the attic. Despite the summer weather, it's extremely cold in there. I spot what confirms my suspicions. Opposite our attic door, is the door from the other house, partially hidden under a pile of insulation. Wondering why anyone would want to share attic space like that, we approach the door, hesitant to go in.

I lift the door slowly and peek out my head into the hallway. All the doors are closed. Karen hands me the stool and we drop down into the hallway as silently as we can, weapons ready to smash into anything. I decide the first thing I want to see is the room opposite mine.

I try the handle, and sure enough, it's unlocked. I open the door swiftly with the wrench raised, but the room is empty. Devoid of anything. The room is completely white, except for a black stain on the carpet in front of the window. We approach it. It's actually two stains close together, in the shape of human feet. They're black and shiny, as if somebody had purposely dipped their feet in tar and set their feet there.

As we're looking, the door slams behind us and we hear somebody descending the stairs in a rush. Alarmed, we both raise our weapons and rush into the hallway to find the master bedroom door ajar. We decide to check it out before we go downstairs.

As we approach the door, we notice a smell emanating from the room. It's a horrible stench and we both reel back and hold our noses. I stick out my arm and slowly push the door in.

The stench did not in any way compare to what we saw. A fucking nest. The outside was made of newspaper, molded like paper mâché into a roughly circular shape. Then in the middle was a ring of leaves and I shit you not, matted hair. I looked to Karen, but her eyes were on the walls. I looked up to see the nailed corpses of several neighborhood cats and dogs. The smell was unbearable, but the sights finally got to us. Karen vomited and I quickly followed.

I insisted on find out more so I go closer to nest, immediately regretting it. Nestled in the middle were several bowls brimming with unidentifiable liquids, some of them were watery and red, some of them had what I recognized as the black substance we found in the other room. Karen got closer as well. She was the one who noticed that the bowls were actually skullcaps. We decide we are way in over our heads and begin to leave the room.

Once in the hallway, we realize, the stool is gone. We search the other room unsuccessfully, comprehending we are now in deep shit. Both the stool and the other exits our below us, so no matter what, we're fucking going downstairs. We grip our weapons firmly and descend slowly into the pitch-black annex. I fumble for a light switch, and surprisingly, I find one.

The light is dim to the point of almost being useless, so we walk slowly into the living room. As we get closer, we see a brighter light coming from the corner. It's a small television, turned on its side, playing static. Karen whispers, “Now they're not even trying...”

We step into the middle of the living room. There's a small overturned couch facing the wall. I focus my eyes, trying to distinguish between shades of black. Way in the corner is something a little darker than the rest. I can tell by the way Karen grips her tire iron that she sees it too.

I whisper, “Our best bet is to just fucking kill, right here, right now. If it's in the corner it's because it's afraid of us, right?”

Karen nods.

That's when it fucking jumps at us, making the most horrible fucking sound, it was like hearing a death rattle backwards through a shortwave radio. We both swing, and we swing fucking hard. I could tell I made impact because I thought I had broken my hand. The thing squealed, tumbled over and ran/staggered into the kitchen. We trailed it, but it moved way too fast. The last thing we saw was it bursting through the front window as we turned around the corner.

According to official police report, “a group of homeless men inhabited the premises for an uncertain amount of time.” And that's all as well, since we told the police all we heard was the window crash next door. After I dropped Karen off, I came back to my room find my window screen, hole and all, lying against the wall. Next to it was a black, tarry hand print.

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