Sarah felt comfortable surrounded by nature. The trees didn’t judge her, and no one was around to talk to her (or down to her).
“Hey Sarah, over here!” Antonio called from the street.
Sarah sighed…realizing the moonage daydream she’d been living in had cracked, allowing for trinkets of natural sunlight to flood in and sweep her away.
“We should try talking to some of the neighbours.”
“Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?” Sarah asked.
“Well, yeah. But we’ve been out here twenty minutes and you haven’t moved from that spot.”
“I-I’m sorry. I just had a case of the chills…so I sat down here to try and calm my nerves.”
“You okay now?”
“Not really,” Sarah replied. Sarah’s body shook. She didn’t understand why she felt so cold in the middle of a hot July summer. Looking at Antonio, she started to wonder if he thought she looked like a junkie itching for a quick fix.
“How about you stay here, and I’ll go talk to the first house,” Antonio said.
“S-sounds good,” Sarah turned around, and quickly perched herself on the log she’d been daydreaming on.
Immediately, her chills subsided. She was transported back to her happy place.
Antonio nearly tripped up the stone steps toward the first home on the neighbouring street. The first home had decrepit wood panelling; white paint chipping off the structure, and in some places just hanging on for dear life.
Antonio continued to see silhouettes passing back and forth in the dimly lit manor. He wondered if he was catching on to some sort of twisted town theme. He tried to remember if he had read the town entry sign on the way in.
WELCOME TO PAINTER – HOME OF ANGRY SPIRITS AND SPOOKY HOMES. OUTSIDERS WILL BE TORMENTED ON SIGHT!
Antonio took two more steps toward the front door, grabbing the golden knob and knocking on the moldy wooden door three times. The knob looked like the McDonalds golden arches.
Suddenly, the door swung open. A pasty-looking Indian woman stood in the doorway. She looked to be in her mid-to-late 60s, and missing half of her hair. Her two front teeth seemed to have been replaced by talons.
“Hi, miss. I was wondering if you’ve seen this man?” Antonio flashed a quick photo of Collin on his cell phone.
The woman swiped the phone out of his hands. Her skin felt wet and scaly to the touch. She snorted back phlegm, wiping the top of her brow with her palm before proceeding to insert her finger deep into her eardrum.
“Nope,” she said, handing the phone back to Antonio.
“A-are you sur-”
“Yes,” she said, and quickly slammed the door in Antonio’s face.
Antonio wiped his phone with his shirt, removing any slime that had built up around the case from her palm.
Antonio turned to leave when he was caught off guard by a tall man in a dark trench coat.
“Are you bothering Ms. Kaur?” the man asked.
“N-No, I was just asking if-”
“What do you want?”
“I’m trying to find my friend,” Antonio pulled out his phone, showing the man the photo of Collin. “Have you seen him?”
The man stared at the screen with boundless intensity Antonio had never seen before. The man’s nose seemed to twitch. The veins in his forehead seemed to be shifting down his face.
The man removed his hat and licked his lips; his eyes stayed fixed in place. He looked as if he was waiting for the photo to move.
“Have you seen him?” Antonio asked again.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” the man placed his hat back on his head, and turned back toward the street.
The man’s long, dark trenchcoat gave him the look of a druid floating across the hot pavement down the street corner.
“Where are you going? Hello? Can you answer me?” Antonio followed the man.
The man moved fast. Antonio accelerated to a light jog. He was close enough to look into his eyes, and that’s when his jaw dropped.
The man’s once rough, bristly exterior appeared hollow and cold. Sunken eyes and pasty skin revealing even thinner cheekbones. The man appeared to be missing his two front teeth as well.
‘What the hell?”
The man finally stopped. Antonio peered around the man, and saw Sarah coming up the street toward them.
“They’re watching you. All of them,” the man whispered. His lips had shriveled up, revealing a wall of infected gums barely containing grey teeth.
“Who’s watching me?”
“I can’t say…because they’re watching me too.”
“What are you talking about?” Antonio was losing his patience, but at the same time, he felt the same cold chill that he’d felt back at the cottage when he thought he was drowning above water.
Antonio peered off in the distance, as the faint silhouettes that sped fast like the wind had stopped to watch the confrontation.
Antonio followed the line of silhouettes that seemed to surround him. He pivoted on his heels; all he saw, at every corner, was dark shadows.
He could not see their faces, or any distinguishable features other than the outline of bodies, or what he thought were bodies. It may have been his imagination manifesting itself.
“Why are they watching us-” Antonio turned back and jumped when, realizing Sarah was standing in the spot where he had just seen the man.
“Who are you talking to?” Sarah asked.
Antonio peered around, squinting at the houses and trees along the street. The silhouettes had all vanished. The darkness had cleared.
No one was watching him anyone.
“You didn’t see the man?”
“What man? I just saw you stop in the middle of the street, and then do a full 360 degree turn, and then ask why THEY are watching us,” Sarah explained. She had her hands on her hips now.
“That’s freaky,” Antonio wiped his brow, which had begun to release sweat.
“Can we go? We should continue asking around,” Sarah said. Her chills seemed to have disappeared completely.
“O-Okay,” Antonio said.
He felt his body begin to quiver. He wasn’t alone…he knew he wasn’t.
Antonio begun to consider this moment as his slow descent into madness.