Brian Wettlaufer

The Neighbors

 

Luanne emerged three days after the event. Opening the front door just enough to poke her head out she sensed the change. The air was aroused and she breathed it deeply. It felt like an electric skin enveloped the world and her nerves sparked in the charged atmosphere.

She scanned up and down the block. Everything looked familiar yet was altered in some inexplicable way. The mystery reminded her how, as a child, she watched her reflection in a puddle change from serene to madness and would wonder, standing there under the sun’s day-long arc, where the other she went. Across the street in the O’Donnell yard that normally burst with annoying neighborhood toys and noise there was now only silence. And next door the lace curtains fluttered in Mrs. Feldner’s kitchen window but without her hidden, peeping face behind them. No cars drove slowly past; no taunting teens sang the “Loopy Lulu” song; no distrusting dogs snarled.

The veil split again in an onslaught of shattering sound and piercing light. It reignited her circuits and Luanne retreated inside. She drew the deadbolt lock more from habit than in defense and returned to the basement where she had gathered her family days before when the trouble first began. It seemed only natural to follow the ancient, imperative instinct to creep further back into the cave; to cower together, away from the menace.
Luanne improvised and invented what they needed down there. She rarely ventured upstairs and prevented others from doing so. When the children became alarmed she distracted them by browsing through boxes of forgotten castoffs, tattered photo albums and old dusty school books. She teased them with keepsakes and mementos of the past and allowed nothing of the present to interfere.

But the amusements wore thin. The burden returned. Time unfolded like the map of an unfamiliar land and each time Luanne tried to restore it to its original condition it only creased into disconnected sections of their lives. Hours bled into days and like a broken CD that jerks itself into a continuous repetition of the same moment it drove her further into darkness. Memories coiled and looped endlessly in her head. Dreams became indistinguishable from hallucinations and the voices rose in such cacophony that she could only hush them by lashing out.

Surrendering to the call Luanne finished her work. She ceremoniously swathed her children in blankets, gave each a cold kiss good-bye and buried them deep into the dirt floor. After scraping the dried blood and grime from under her nails she bathed, dressed in a fresh white robe and re-sharpened the razor. Freed to a greater calling only she could know but resolved to share it with others Luanne stepped out into the world in search of her neighbors.

 


Brian Wettlaufer keeps the wolves at bay by working as an Event Manager but dreams of the day when his writing and photography will float the boat. His past writing successes include various trade journal articles and a recent poetry award. He can be reached at bwettlaufer@wi.rr.com.
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