Of Mice and Monsters

Josh Leichliter

Of Mice and Monsters

     Megan loved her new house. It was a modest but recently remodeled Victorian that she adored. Her new neighborhood was too good to be true: Her property faced a large, lush park with ponds and streams, trees, and playgrounds. Children played while their parents gossiped away the warm summer evenings.

     After an exhausting day of unpacking, Megan went to her porch and plunked down into a cozy wicker chair, rewarding herself with a frosty glass of Chardonnay. She had squirreled away cash for ten long years for this house. The scenery was breathtaking, especially compared to the ghetto she had just moved from. "Too good to be true," she confirmed aloud. Megan closed her eyes, settled in with a smile, and quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

     "Hey!"

     Megan awoke sluggishly to the sound of a man hollering. "Hey," he snapped again. His weirdly high-pitched voice jolted her awake. She sat up in her chair and blinked, her eyesight slowly coming to focus. It was dark now, but she could just make out the figure of a man standing in the shadows, near the sidewalk.

     "Uh, hi?" Megan answered, perplexed.

     "You're new."

     "Yeah, hi,” Megan said, carefully masking her uneasiness. “I'm Megan. I just moved in.”

     The man waited a few moments, then responded, sourly, "I know. I'm Walt. I live down the street. I'm watching you." His darkened face split into a spidery grin, followed by a snorting sort of laughter. "I'm the neighborhood watch, y'see. Bad things happen at night, ya know. Be safe. Bye-bye!" The last part he sang with tangible sarcasm, sending shivers up Megan’s spine. With that, he turned and slowly wandered off, remaining among the shadows of the towering spruces.

     Megan watched him go, startled by the whole encounter. After a dozen steps or so, he reached a pool of streetlight, stopped, and turned around. He stared back at her with that same spidery grin. She covered her mouth to suppress her gasp when his grotesque, leathery face came into focus. His skin was pale and blotchy, and his proportions were all wrong. He lazily lifted a bulbous, deformed arm and waved at her. With that, Megan rose quickly and stepped inside, locking the door behind her.

     The next evening, Megan was shopping at the local supermarket when she received a phone call.

     “Hello?”

     “Yer curtains are lovely, Megan. Look forward to seeing you!” Walt's overly cheerful, high pitched tone made her feel sick as she quickly hung up the phone. She hadn't given him her number, and she certainly didn’t want to see him again. His interest in her curtains was especially disturbing. She hurried home and unloaded the groceries as fast as she could. She didn't see him, but she felt like he was there, watching her from the shadows.

     Megan awoke on Tuesday to a loud banging sound outside. It was 6:33 in the morning. She drew back the curtains to see Walt going through her trash cans. He had knocked one over, and was digging through another. Enraged, Megan called the police. Walt was three houses down when they caught up with him, going through a neighbors' trash. He claimed he was looking for cans to recycle. The police found no cans, nor anything else suspicious on him, so they released him with a warning.

     Megan glared at him as he walked past her, presumably on his way home. He simply cracked his familiar arachnid smile, waved his flabby arm lazily, and said “Sorry 'bout that, Miss Megan. Won't happen again.”

     For the rest of the day, every little sound had Megan on edge. She half expected Walt to be lurking around every corner.

 

     Wednesday was a good day. Megan was settling into her new house, and she hadn’t heard a thing from Walt all day. It seemed his run-in with the police had scared him off, for now at least. His erratic, escalating behavior was beginning to scare her, and she was considering filing a restraining order against him. He had done nothing overtly wrong, though she was certain he was stalking her. He probably wanted to murder her, or God knows what else! She shuddered, and forced the morbid thoughts from her mind.

     Megan decided to focus on the positive. She loved her new house, and couldn't wait to show it off. She'd invited her best friend Rosalia over for girls' night, planning to indulge in liberal wine and some inebriated final-touch decorating. Megan hummed cheerfully as she tapped nails into the walls with her cute pink hammer. She hung pictures of her family and friends, and some of her favorite artwork.

     The doorbell rang, Rosalia was here early! Megan skipped to the door and threw it open with a smile. “Rosie!”

     Megan was shocked to discover Walt standing there instead. "Hi, Megan." He grinned menacingly.

     “Walt, what the hell are you…” She hadn't even finished her sentence when Walt suddenly thrust his hand into his tattered jacket. Megan caught a glint of metal and screamed. Her vision blurred as she reacted on instinct, lashing out like a cornered animal. With a sickening thump, Walt's head snapped back, and he collapsed to the porch, a blackish pool of blood ebbing from his broken skull like some carnal halo.

     Megan was completely confused as to what had just happened, when a sickly feeling began to swell in her stomach. She glanced at her hands and realized she was still holding her pink hammer, now red with gore.

     Megan threw her hand over her mouth, gasped, and dropped the hammer. She stared in horror at the convulsions of the ugly old man. His hands and legs thrashed as his damaged brain attempted to reboot. Megan saw the familiar flash of metal as he convulsed,. It wasn't a weapon, just a greeting card wrapped in garish silver foil, now creased and blotted with Walt's blood. Walt had welcomed her with a greeting card, and she had thanked him with a hammer to the head.

     Seconds ticked like hours. Dumbfounded she stood, trying to fully comprehend her situation. Megan's world began to crash down around her. In a fit of impunity she had attacked the old man, and now he lay on her porch, dying. Everything she had worked so hard for would be gone. She would spend the rest of her life in prison. “No, no…”

     Half-dazed, Megan sat down and calmly called Rosalia to cancel girls' night. Embarrassed, she apologized, rescheduled, and hung up. Then she went to the kitchen and put on a pair of rubber gloves.

     Dragging Walt's still twitching body to the kitchen was a considerable effort, but she eventually managed. Megan quietly shut the front door, covered her mouth, and raised her cute pink hammer. She would get messy tonight.