On a wide cliff by the seaside lies a peaceful village. Its inhabitants make their residence mostly in wood cottages. The ground is barren; no plants grow upon it, despite its moist, spongy texture. The village is very old, and some of the logs that comprise the cottages have inherited the same spongy texture. Nevertheless, nobody’s home has collapsed from decomposition for at least one hundred years, so I am at peace.
You see, I live here. I have grown up here, I have grown old here, and I plan to one day grow dead here. This is my home. My life has carried itself on, bereft of family companionship, and some may therefore presume I am lonely. But I have my neighbors. They seem thoroughly convinced that I’m senile, but nevertheless, for many years, my neighbors have been my greatest friends, and I theirs, and one another their own. This is a village united by trust.
Correction: it was a village united by trust.
Recently, folks have started to move out. Pete left last Saturday, and George and his wife Ingrid, with whom I used to play bingo every Tuesday night, left a day later without a word. People have been high-tailing it out of this village left and right. I don’t know where they thought they were going or why, but they must have been in a hurry; every single one of them left the lights on, the front door open, and all of their belongings behind. I did notice one particular oddity: every day that someone left, they’d spent the day before just standing in the middle of their living room. They wouldn’t turn. They wouldn’t walk around or sit down to eat or go to bed. They just stood there.
And just like that, they’d be gone the next morning. Their windows would be scratched and filthy, and precisely where they stood, the floor would be ripped apart and bent up, the hole’s edges contorting outward. But it wouldn’t look like they’d just decided to tear the floorboards out and take them as mementos. The job would be far too messy to be a human’s work, and beyond the hole in the floor always sat a deep tunnel into the ground, as though something had burrowed up through the floor from underneath.
I know we have somewhat of a gopher problem here, but these holes are far too wide to be from a gopher. Maybe they’re bobcat holes. Do bobcats burrow?
Sitting in my armchair and reading a book, I hear the tap of rain upon my window. I decide that I shall venture outside and gaze upon the indubitably turbulent evening sea. As I rise from my armchair and open my closet to retrieve my raincoat, I turn to look out the window.
The sun is out. There’s not a cloud in the sky.
As I turn back to the closet, I see George staring back at me, clad entirely in black, grinning. Just as I am about to ask him what he is doing in my closet, the black outfit falls away. Beneath it is not a body, but a long, contorted chain of faces. Ingrid. Pete. Henry. Everyone. All smiling.
I shriek and slam the closet door as hard as I can. Trembling, I back away slowly.
I turn around to look downward. The floor made a noise.
Tap. Tap. Skritttt.
My feet carry me to the dark spot in the living room floor. As I kneel down to examine it, the bulge in the floor thumps out larger. I blink.
The moment my eyes close, on the backs of my eyelids I see George's face again. It disappears, revealing itself as but a mask to another face. A sinister face, and a body along with it. The hands have long, filthy fingernails practically suited for digging. The face’s teeth are born and drip with blood, and its eyes are wide, not in terror, not in jollity, but in something in-between, something I can’t explain.
It’s my face.
Pete’s voice calls out to me. “Sir.”
My eyes open again. Tall buildings surround me. I turn my head against the cement ground, searching. There is not a single wood cabin to be found.
“Mr. Neighbor, sir. Are you okay?” Pete’s young face hovers over mine. This time it’s attached to a body. Thank God.
“The village,” I sputter. “The village. Is the village okay?”
“Village?” Pete looks down at me with pity in his eyes. “Sir, this is a city. We live in Manhattan."Template:Sort