“Excuse me, Miss? I got a package here addressed to you. The mailman thought it was best it stayed with me since your house was vacant. I’m Mary, by the way. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“Thanks. I’m Victoria. Nice to meet you.”
Victoria took the package under her arm while they shook hands. She followed Mary’s smiling glance past her to the powder blue ranch-style home, where a sold sign swung in the breeze. The house sat pretty, with its navy-blue shutters and bold red door at the end of the cul-de-sac, the envy of the area.
“You moved into the old Casarosa house; I can smell the fresh coat of paint it got. There’s lots of history there, you know. I’m surprised it sold; we’ve tried to sell ours for some time now but can’t get a bite. Why is that?” Mary asked, examining Victoria from head to toe.
“Hmm. I’m sorry to hear that,” Victoria shrugged. “I wouldn’t presume to know why you’re unable to sell. I mean, I moved here. It can’t be so bad.”
“When the time comes,” Mary said, leaning in close. “Tell him to go away, so we can move on.”
“Tell what to go away? And what do you mean, history?” Victoria’s eyes widen, darting from her house to Mary.
“Don’t trouble yourself with this, dear. I’ve said too much already. I’ll be on my way.”
Mary turns away, her bunny slipper feet scraped the sidewalk, each step a struggle. Victoria set her package down and held the elderly woman’s arm.
“Wait, you said it. I want to know. I mean, I should know.”
As Mary found her balance, Victoria released her hands. “This is my home now. Wouldn’t you want to know what happened in yours? I’ve heard rumors around town that’s bothered me, and now you. I hope I didn’t get bamboozled with this sale.”
“Well, if you insist, I can tell you everything,” Mary sighed. “It was forty years ago when I moved here…”
“… My husband and I needed a bigger home to accommodate our three little boys, and I was two months into another pregnancy, so space was a big factor. Four months later, the Casarosa’s arrived. They were a handsome pair, young newlyweds, no kids, yet, but with the way I heard them go at it every night, it was only a matter of time. I used to watch them, especially the wife. She was a beautiful creature with this pin straight black hair down to her waist, olive brown skin, skinny. Big in all the right places. I was jealous and fat all over. My hair was falling out, surrounded by hyper kids and endless housework. Her life seemed perfect. I wanted that happiness back. I wanted her husband.” Mary laughed.
“Oh, he was a looker. He had some big position down at the base. But I felt Mr. Casarosa wanted to settle down and fill the other three rooms of that house up. He was always the first spouse in the cul-de-sac to get home from work, and the last to leave in the morning. You would think most offices opened around eight or nine, but he left for work around ten or eleven. One day he left for work only to come back two hours later. Next thing I knew, both Mr. and Mrs. Casarosa had loaded their car up with a bulging picnic basket, blanket for two, and a bottle of wine. Most men couldn’t wait to get away from home, not Mr. Casarosa.”
“Seems like they had a lot of fun, I take it?”
“Mm hmm, yes,” Mary’s eyes roll. “Although, I wasn’t sure how Mr. Casarosa would support a family with how rare he went to work.”
“Were you close with them?”
“No, no we weren’t.”
Victoria frowns. “What did his wife do for a living?”
“She was an artist. Painting, reading, banging on the typewriter. I saw it all with how often they kept their curtains open. She had a few other girlfriends over for brunch sometimes, or tea, and they always filled their dinner parties with laughter and joy.”
Mary shot her wistful eyes to the sky, lost in thought. A smile crept along her face and soured just as fast.
“One day, I got the most intense cravings I had traced back to their house. I knew Mrs. Casarosa made Apple Bran Muffins. I had to muster up the courage to go over and introduce myself, hoping to try one, and meet my neighbor. She didn’t answer. Next morning the tart apple scent returned, and you know how pregnant women’s cravings get. So, I went over again, no answer. This is when it got strange. When I got back to my house, the lime house there, right across from yours, I saw Mrs. Casarosa at her window, watching me watch her. Maybe she wanted to talk, I don’t know. I regret going back.”
“Why, what happened?” Victoria said.
“Well, I waddled back to her house and… I waved. Mrs. Casarosa didn’t move from the window. I knocked on it even, and she stood right there, standing, watching me through the glass as if I—I invaded her soul. Her hollow, wide black eyes looked me over, particularly at my belly. It’s easy to know when you’re not wanted, and I wasn’t sure what I did wrong, so I left. She spooked me. Even when I made it back home, I looked at her house again and she was there just watching.”
“She never said a word?”
“No. She stood at the window the entire time until her husband came home. Oddly late, mind you. It wasn’t like him. He turned my way, as if he knew I was watching him. I mean, I was, but I didn’t think he knew since it was so dark out. That eye contact though, even from across the way, his eyes were glowing red, just like your front door. Then I felt a—a sharp pain in my belly, like someone had dug a hot knife into my gut. The pain was—it was horrible. I shut the curtains so fast and struggled back upstairs. I sat in the bathroom all night wondering if I was about to lose my baby.”
“My goodness, were you and the baby okay?”
Mary ignored that. “Something told me to stay away, this little voice shouting in my head, don’t look again, don’t look, it said. I went back to the blinds, anyway.”
“What?” Victoria scoffed; the tale was absurd. “Why did you do that?”
“I couldn’t help myself; It drew me in. You’ll see when it comes to you, too.”
“When what comes?”
“Curiosity,” Mary whispered, rocking back and forth. Her arms brace against her chest, bound by an invisible rope. She continued, “the next day Mr. Casarosa left for work, right at nine o’clock. His wife was at the window again. Every time I pulled the curtains back, she was there. And that night, when the flashing red and blue lights danced across my dining room, I looked and saw Mrs. Casarosa wheeled out in a straitjacket. The entire time, her harsh, angry eyes never left me. I never knew what happened. I had the worst nightmares after that, and every night since. It’s the same for all of us, and it will be worse for you now that you’re in their house.”
“What do you mean, worse for me?”
“It’ll always be their house, the one you think you purchased. He’ll come for you just as he does for all of us… Mr. Casarosa. He’s coming… he’s coming… he’s coming…”
Mary continued to repeat herself and walked away. Victoria watched her go, confused. She picked her package up and went back inside.
That night, Victoria awoke from sleep with a thirst. She made her way downstairs where a shadowed figure stood gazing out her front room window. She gasped; her shaky hands cover her open mouth. Her heart bounces against her chest as the glass of water slips from her fingertips.
It doesn’t fall.
Victoria gripped the wall, watching the glass as it hovers onto the counter. He’s coming, he’s coming, he’s coming… Mary’s warning words echo in her mind.
“Don’t mind me, ma’am,” the shadow said. Its voice is deep, lined in mystery. “I’m here for my wife.”
Victoria took cautious steps forward, curious despite her fear. “… Y—Your wife isn’t here. I own this home now.”
It turns to her, a tall silhouette of a man void of any distinguishable features. A blank slate. “Don’t mind me. I’m here for my wife.”
“I said she’s not here. You need to leave!” Victoria wasn’t sure where she found the courage to raise her voice, but she had to do something.
“Not until death…” he said. Victoria followed his shadowed hand to Mary’s house across the street, where his black silhouette stands at the foot of her bed.
“She drove my wife insane. She interrupted her creative process at every turn and watched her every move. It didn’t help we failed to conceive. Seeing her pregnant belly was the last straw. Now I watch Mary, and all the rest, forever, until death do us part.”
The old woman lay there, frozen in fear. Heavy hands grip her body, forced down into the bed. The last Victoria saw was Mary’s frail, raised hand, dangling lifelessly in the air. It’s forced down, as well as the frilly pillows and flowery comforter tumbling on top of her. It’s all sucked down, suffocating her.
Victoria ran out her front door, spinning. Each house was cursed with standing silhouettes at the foot of their bed, each inhabitant forced inside their mattress, every night, from generation to generation.
Victoria ran back inside to find Mr. Casarosa, his hand still raised, pointed ahead.
“Don’t mind me, ma’am,” Mr. Casarosa began. “I’m here for my wife.”
“I understand now.” Victoria whispered to the devastated husband. “Do what you must.”
She got another glass of water and went back to sleep.
Featured Image: Canva
A collision of illuminated gold specks and lush green made up the intensity of his eyes, yet his facial expression bore a gloomier shade.
He was my morose classmate forever staring at the exit, desperate to leave.
I know, I sat beside him going through the same thing. Fate destined us to take the required history course and see it through until the bitter end, as boring as it was. It was comforting to find another classmate who shared the same disposition.
He was an unusual sort. He never took notes during lectures, never uttered a word. During group projects attempts to engage with him resulted in a glare built of stone and odd silence that spoke volumes.
Was he okay?
One day, however, he possessed an aura filled with the brightest light when we returned to class.
Affable, natural, happier. He must have received some good news, I thought, imagining a tar-like substance of dark weight slipping from his shoulders. I took his gleeful demeanor as a welcome signal for a friendly exchange. And while I can’t recall what I said, the memory of piercing golden rays dancing along his eyes as he laughed remained with me. Warm feelings of wholeness surrounded my heart — it all felt so familiar.
In the following days, the repeat occurrence of green found me. Traffic lights kept the color as a constant fixture which made my travels smooth. Teal, Mint, Lime, Fern, Forest, Sage and Olive foliage, signage, and structure captured my curiosity in every direction; accompanied by the golden hues of a fall sun, the sights were unforgettable. Appreciative of such beauty, my classmate came to mind.
He’s okay, I remember thinking to myself.
But the next time we returned to class he wasn’t there, and a strange sadness clouded my mood. Something was wrong. Our instructor stood by the door, stone faced and mute.
“He killed himself,” her words a jumbled whisper. Waves of silence ensued once we grasped the news.
I pictured his eyes then: shimmering green pools drained of its potential, sunlight laid to rest. Class dismissed early dealing with the news, departing through the same exit he always stared at.
Did he find his way?
The shock of his death remained with me. I felt he was someone I had to look after and failed. Perhaps another lifetime, another path. Maybe we would meet again, maybe not. Were we meant to? What was the point of our laughter? The thoughts drove me mad, although in time I took comfort when I remembered the vast array of luminous colors of green that found me.
And knew he was now, okay.
Featured Image: Canva
Their skin glittered beneath the throbbing sun. Beads of sweat filled their brows, freed with each splash and dunk of water. The somewhat secret lake cooled their senses in the summer heat; it was a nice getaway from the boredom of summer break.
“I don’t want it to end,” sister remarked to brother, glancing upward to the cerulean drenched sky.
It would, however, as a man in a tan hat spoke to their father along the shoreline. Afterward, father collected their belongings. It was time to go.
“We can’t swim over there, Summerthorn Lake is a private area like the tan hat said.” Father pointed out for the eleventh time in the days that followed. “We’ll just plan a trip to the beach…” While the children hated long car rides, an hour long drive to the beach sounded lousy. Why go so far when bliss awaited them down the road? They had swum there so many times without detection.
Before they could answer, a preview of the local news opened with a grim flash briefing:
Local man dead after swimming in Summerthorn Lake. A brain-eating amoeba is to blame. More at eleven.
“The beach sounds great Dad!”
Featured Image: Canva