The Welcoming Committee

#31DaysOfHalloween: The locals prepare to welcome their new neighbors. But something is off about them…

It was our turn, and Shirley was thriving. She’d spent all day cleaning, mopping, dusting, cooking lots of delicious and nutritious, iron and protein-packed casseroles and finger food. You have to understand this was all quite difficult with the curtains closed.

But Castleway was a welcoming Street. A close-knit community, sure, but always welcome to fresh blood. The last time we had new neighbors, the Balshaw’s put on a pretty lavish welcoming party. A bit much, I thought. But that’s them. A bit much.

Shirley wasn’t competing, not exactly. But she just didn’t want it to appear toothless by comparison. And from what we had seen of our new neighbors so far, they seemed really lovely, genuine people.

And they had a little one, no older than twelve months old. Babies were the best, the smiles on the street always lit up. Even cynical old me after all these years, with my ‘ice cold heart’, felt a little warm feeling when those little cherubs smiled.

It got to quarter past eight and most of the old residents were already here and enjoying a nice glass of aged red that we’d been saving in the cellar for a special occasion.

The Balshaw’s were dressed in their Sunday best as usual. Mrs Edna from two doors down was checking for dust while she thought I wasn’t looking. Everything was pretty much going as expected.

The new neighbors arrived right on time, but without their little one, which was a little disappointing. With a babysitter, they said.

But it doesn’t matter. ‘Sam’ was a Biology Teacher at the University in the city center. ‘Beth’ was still on maternity leave after having a few medical complications after her pregnancy. Which was a little worrying, but she reassured us all she was much better now. All of this was drained out of her by Shirley, who never had an issue asking new neighbors questions. I always found it harder. I’m not socially anxious or anything, it’s just all so…false.

A facade.

They don’t really know us and never will.

We don’t really know them and never will.

That’s the true nature of neighbors. We find our perfect house on what looks like a perfect street but then there’s these other people and you’re kind of…stuck with them.

But Sam and Beth seemed nice. At first, at least.

They drank and ate and chatted and laughed at all our terrible jokes that I’d heard a hundred times before over the decades, but every now and then I noticed Sam looking at the exits. Looking people up and down while they weren’t looking. Whispering observations to Beth which made her frown. There was more under the surface with those two. And I wouldn’t have been bothered, but this was my house. And we didn’t know them. Everything they were telling us could’ve been a lie.

That’s the problem with neighbors. You never know their true intentions. What really goes on behind closed doors.

I felt uneasy.

Like the night was about to take a dark turn.

Like I’d invited dangerous people into our home.

I worried about Shirley. She looked so happy, so unaware.

But then the drinks began to kick in and Sam and Beth fell into the Balshaw’s arms. Luckily they’d finished their drinks and there was no spillage to clean.

Whatever concerns I had no longer mattered.

We carried them both to the cellar, strapped them to the draining tables, and began extracting their lovely blood.

As the hosts this time round, Shirley and I had the first taste. Sam was a little bitter, Beth was overly sweet. Their blood mixed made a great cocktail though.

But there was no time to savor it. Dawn was approaching and we had to deal with the babysitter to get the baby. Little ‘Ness’ is what I believe Beth said they were called.

New neighbors were always given a warm welcome on Castleway, but especially if they had a little one.

Their blood is always the tastiest.

Thanks for reading, be sure to check back each day in October for another short, sweet and sinister story…

J.J. Maguire

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