Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The New Neighbors

Years ago my family used to go to a lake house for the weekends during the summer. It sounds impressive, but it wasn't all that. It was a bunch of small and old houses ringing a small lake. There were a few trees around and the lake was nice, but pretty small. We would go Friday night after mom and dad got off work, and then come back Sunday evening. For the most part we had a nice time.

One summer one of our next door neighbors put their cottage up for sale. Within just a few days of the for sale sign going up in the front yard, it came back down. The place sold quickly. The whole family was fairly interested in our new neighbors and were happy to see on Friday evening a moving truck in front of the house and a group men unloading it. At first we thought the four men unloading the truck were from a moving company, but after a little while the men took a break, and began drinking beer. 

My family had kept an occasional eye on the activity and when my dad saw the men taking a break a drinking a beer, he decided to walk over and introduce himself, and see if he could figure out which of the men was going to be our new neighbors. I watch from my bedroom window on the second floor of our cottage as my dad walks over to the men. I can see them staring at him as he crosses from our yard into theirs. They don't smile or return his friendly wave. Dad stops a good ten to fifteen feet away from the group of men, and though my window is open, I can't quite hear their short exchange, but it's brief.

Within a minute of walking over, dad's walking back to our place. I go downstairs to see what he learned about the new neighbors. When he enters the house, the rest of the family, mom, my self and my sister, are all waiting for him. As soon as he shuts the door he says, and I remember it word for word, "No one talks to the new neighbors. No one goes near them. If the new neighbors try to talk to you, you find the nearest adult you know and ask them to call the police."

We asked dad why, but he wouldn't tell us. I'm sure he told mom when us kids weren't in the room, but he wouldn't give us any reason why the new neighbors were off limits.

My sister and I quickly figure out that all four of the men unloading the moving truck were living at the house. Over the next several weekends, we see strange groups of people entering and leaving the house at all hours of the day. I was old enough, twelve, to realize this was strange activity, but I couldn't figure out what was going on over there. I'd watch from my bedroom window as men and women, almost always dressed entirely in black clothing, would enter or leave the house at all hours of the day and night. I started off fascinated by the new neighbors, and my fascination soon turned to a sort of compulsion. I had to know what was going on with the new neighbors.

One evening, near dusk, I watched all four the men who seemed to be the only permanent residents of the cottage, get into a car and leave. This was especially strange because in the several weeks I've spent watching them, I've never seen the house entirely empty. Always there was at least one of the men there. As I watched the taillights fade away, I thought, this is my chance. I was going to sneak over to their cottage and peak in the windows, see what I could. 

So, I go downstairs and see mom and dad out on the back deck, enjoying the sunset, and my sister in in front of the television watching Full House. I make my escape. I go out our front door, and then make my way from tree to tree, trying to stay in the shadows of the nearly set sun. I arrive at the neighbors back side window, but am too short to see in. I move around to the back of the cottage, and climb up on the deck railing, looking back to check on my parents, who are still sitting out by the lake. I peak in a window and am looking in on the kitchen. It's a normal kitchen, though messy as though they hadn't cleaned in weeks. Dirty dishes, and overflowing ashtrays.

I move around to the front of the house, taking a quick look along the length of street running in front of the cottages, checking for cars. I climb up the front porch steps and peak in the front windows. I'm looking in on the living room and it's also a mess. Then I notice the crosses. On each wall there are crosses hanging upside down. I knew that was strange, but I didn't understand the significance at the time. Then I see the woman. She's naked and covered in tattoos. She's lying on a blanket on the floor. Her eyes are open, and she seems to be staring at the ceiling. She didn't move the few seconds I looked at her. 

Suddenly hands grab me around the waist and pick me up off the ground. I slip a short scream before a  hand clamps over my mouth. 

"Meghan!" a voice whispers harshly. "It's me." I recognize my dad's voice. He sets me down and grabs my hand, pulling me across the yard and back toward our cottage.

We get to our cottage, and go inside, and my dad rips into me, just yelling like I've never heard him yell before. 

Dad never told me what he knew about those neighbors, even when I became an adult. Mom says she didn't know what was going on over at their cottage, but just that she got a bad vibe from the men. I think she's not telling me the entire truth either. All I know is a couple of weeks after I had looked in their windows the neighbors left. In the middle of the night I awoke one Friday and saw the same moving truck parked in front of the neighbors cottage and the four men moving everything out of the house.

A few days later, during a weekday while my family was back at our normal house, the neighbors cottage burned to the ground. 

I still want to know what was going on with those neighbors. Were they in some kind of cult? Child molesters, rapists, or killers? Only my dad knows and he's not talking. 

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