The Neighbors

by S.H. Roddey

Winston Julius Damascus, III and his lovely wife Isobel stood on their porch, glaring toward the street with disgust. Winston surveyed the gaudy, garish Halloween decorations adorning their neighbors’ houses, his lip curling to reveal perfect, bright-white teeth. It was tacky. Ugly. And wholly inappropriate in contrast to the affluence of the area.

He and Isobel both hated this time of year for this very reason…the decorations. The witches and pumpkins, the pathetic attempts at spirits and things that go bump in the night…they were juvenile. When they chose this neighborhood so many years ago, they’d done so with the hope that it would be a normal, civilized place to live.

“Darling,” Isobel said with a sigh and leaned against her husband’s side, “why is it that these dreadful people cannot show proper respect for the dead?”

“Because, mon Coeur,” Winston replied, “they have never been dead before.”

The house across the street particularly annoyed him with its giant spiderwebs and pitifully comical mannequins. The worst part, however, was the cleverly hidden, motion-activated Dracula statue. The ridiculous Bela Lugosi imitation voice made his skin crawl every time the absurd thing spoke. From out of nowhere a child ran down the street past the house, and the ghastly thing went off. The child did not so much as flinch. Winston huffed, his lip curling yet again.

“I know, love. It is absolutely atrocious,” Isobel continued with a delicate shudder.

Alvin Crawford, the owner of said atrocities, arrived home moments later, his shiny, new Mercedes sliding smoothly into the open garage bay. As he exited the car, he threw up a hand in greeting toward Winston and his wife. Winston returned the motion, though a bit more stiffly. He was long out of practice when it came to that thing called socializing. Though the friendly smile from the neighbor eased his anxiety somewhat…so long as he did not look at the crime scene that was the rest of the property.

“How long before the tiny beasts arrive?” Isobel asked.

“About thirty minutes, love.” He chuckled. “And they aren’t beasts. They are children.

“Dreadful things.” She turned her beautiful face up toward her husband, offering a gentle smile in penance for her distaste. “Are you thirsty?” she asked. Her long eyelashes fluttered against her alabaster cheeks, beckoning her husband closer. He touched a kiss to her lips.

“Come to think of it, I am a bit parched.”

“I have a fresh bottle of red.”

“Oh? From where have you procured this delicacy?”

Isobel’s coy giggle made him smile. “It’s an old batch. Well fermented. Eighteen-hundred virgin first flush.”

“My favorite.”

“Absolutely,” Isobel said. “Shall I chill it?”

“Darling, you know I prefer my drink warm.”

“Fair enough,” she replied, kissing his cheek gently before pulling away and returning to the house. In her absence, Winston leaned one shoulder against one of the porch’s tall pillars and surveyed the scene before him.

It isn’t the worst neighborhood, he thought as another neighbor down the street appeared from inside her home to reinflate the large, vinyl pumpkin lying flat in her yard. From November to September, it was manageable. The people were nice enough and kept to themselves. No one questioned him about his personal affairs, so caught up were they in their own. It was…peaceful.

“Here you are, my love,” Isobel said, her soft voice ringing through the quiet evening. “Fresh as can be and just as sweet as you remember.” Their glasses touched at the rim, just the slightest tinkle of sound. It was followed immediately by the first peal of youthful laughter. “Atrocious things,” she muttered against the lip of her glass as she took a sip. “Always out begging for candy. I will never understand why you feel the need to bait them so.”

“They’re children, my love. Candy is their favorite treat.” Winston pulled her against his side again. “It is Halloween and their innocence is refreshing.”

Isobel groaned against her glass.

Winston laughed. “Don’t be too hard on the humans, my dear.”

“Why not?” she asked with the sweetest, red-tinted pout. Winston laid his arm across his wife’s shoulders and kissed her forehead tenderly. “You would think by the way they act that they have never seen a vampire before.”

“Sweetness,” Winston replied, lifting his glass to his lips and draining the thick, metallic-tasting fluid in one smooth sip. It was indeed every bit as delectable as Isobel had promised. Finely aged and perfect to sate the burn growing at the back of his throat. When he smiled, the blood dripping from the tips of his bright white fangs glinted in the sallow orange light issuing from across the street. “Most of the poor fools do not realize that they have.”

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