Ciao, everybody. If you’re here looking for this week’s writing links, I had to delay the post a day. And here’s why.
We at Story Empire have a writing prompt to share today. The following short story is inspired by the Story Empire Friday Fiction Prompt: Limited and Focused Views. I’ll give this fiction piece full attention today by moving my regular Friday feature to tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the tale I came up with based on the prompt.
Oh, one more thing. This one probably isn’t appropriate for kids.
Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors
“I know I did, but—”
“It’s my birthday.” He kissed her neck. Her hair was up in a clip, giving him easy access to the sensitive spot under her ear. “We’ll leave the lights off.”
Lyla tipped her head back and sighed. “But we won’t be alone. Davis is outside.”
“How do you know?” Sean separated her lapels then pushed the silk off her shoulder. He pressed his lips to her flesh.
Lyla leaned into him and tipped her head. “I heard him when I brought towels out to the hot tub.” She moaned. Her voice was soft, breathless. “Before I changed into my robe.”
“Speaking of, you don’t need this.” He reached for the belt again.
She danced out of his reach. “I’m telling you, we won’t be alone. Davis is out there, grilling something. And I think I heard digging. Who digs after dark?”
Sean chuckled. “He’s a landscaper. He doesn’t have time to work in his own yard until he’s done working, which is after the sun goes down. He’s probably doing some maintenance while he makes dinner.”
“Without a light?”
Sean shrugged. “Who knows why people do what they do? You certainly shouldn’t care. It’s all the better for you. There won’t be any light while we’re out there—not even from the neighbor’s yard.”
“I don’t see why we can’t wear our swimsuits.” Lyla pulled her lapels tighter. “Then we could turn on the light.”
He sighed. “Because one, Davis would definitely see you, which I know creeps you out. Two, in case I didn’t already mention it, it’s my birthday. And three, you promised clothes would stay inside. I want to watch you dance naked in the moonlight. And four, you promised.”
“You already said that.” Lyla frowned. “I’m going to go see what he’s doing. I’m not traipsing through the yard without clothes unless I know he won’t see me.”
“He won’t see you. We have a six-foot privacy fence around the entire yard, and the hot tub is on the opposite property line.”
“I just need to be sure I won’t end up on YouTube or anything.”
He rolled his eyes. “Fine. I’ll open more wine while you go spy on the neighbor. But then we’re getting in the hot tub. Without suits.”
“Only if there’s no chance of being seen.” She opened the door and stumbled out to the porch.
Sean thought about turning on the porch light but decided against it. He’d never get her back out there if he screwed around now. While his wife played Nancy Drew, he uncorked another bottle of Barolo. Huh. Last one. They must have killed three already. Probably shouldn’t spend too much time in the hot tub. He’d read somewhere that alcohol and hot water weren’t a good mix, and if he knew his wife, she was more than a little tipsy by now.
Good. Happy birthday to him. Tipsy Lyla was so fun to fool around with.
Smiling, he returned the corkscrew to the drawer. When he was turning around, she burst into the kitchen.
“Call the police!” Lyla spun and bolted the door, then she rounded on him. “Get the gun!”
He hurried over to her, grasped her shoulders, and held her at arm’s length, studying her. Her face was pale, her eyes wide. His pulse tripped, but he spoke calmly, hoping to settle her. “Sssh. It’s okay. Calm down, honey.”
She shook her head so hard, her hair came loose from the clip and spilled around her shoulders.
“Lyla. Talk to me. What’s wrong?”
“He killed someone. He’s a killer. A killer! He’s barbecuing the body and burying the bones in a big hole. Call 9-1-1!”
She was too upset for this to be an excuse. But it didn’t make sense. “Babe, are you sure that’s what you saw? I mean, that’s a pretty far-fetched scenario, and you’ve had quite a lot of wine tonight.”
“I know what I saw, Sean.”
“You’re telling me our next door neighbor is a murder. And possibly a cannibal.”
“Yes! Now call the police!”
“How about I go check it out before we do something we’ll regret?”
“You don’t believe me.” She clutched her robe tighter.
“I believe you think that’s what you saw. But I also think you might be mistaken. It’s dark out, and…” He shrugged and glanced at the bottle of Barolo.
She stomped her foot. “I’m not drunk.”
“You’re not sober.”
“Move.” She pushed past him and snatched her cell phone of the counter. “I’ll call myself.”
He sighed. “Just wait. Please? Let me go see what he’s doing.”
She chewed her lip. Tears welled in her eyes. “I’m coming with you. There’s safety in numbers.”
“I’ll be fine. And so will you. Just stay here. In case there is something wrong, you can call for help.” The last thing he needed was for her to get them caught peeking through the fence because she was whimpering or wailing.
“At least take your gun.”
“I don’t need it. He’ll never even know I’m out there.” Sean rolled his eyes as he unlocked the door. Then he walked out back. A peek over his shoulder showed her looking through the kitchen window.
A full moon hung high in the sky, casting a silver glow over the yard. Made it easy to pick his way across the lawn without incident.
Lyla was right about one thing—Davis was grilling something. And it smelled delicious.
He crept to the fence and peered through a gap between two slats. His neighbor had a large grill, and the lid was open. A human torso was on the grate, skin blackening from the heat. A head and an arm lay on the picnic table, bones protruding from the places where the body parts had been severed. Blood dripped from the neck and the shoulder joint, running over the table edge and puddling on the ground.
A deep pit had been dug behind the grill.
Sean gasped and jerked away from the fence. He had to have seen it wrong. There had to be another explanation, a better one. His stomach roiled, and he fought to keep from vomiting the wine.
After the nausea passed, he took a deep breath. Scrambled to his feet. Peered through the gap again.
An eyeball stared back at him.
Sean screamed, jumped away from the fence. Stumbled, fell. Cracked his head on a border rock and sat for a moment, stunned, rubbing his head.
He clambered to his feet and dashed toward the porch.
“Too bad you and your wife are so damn nosy,” Davis called from Sean’s kitchen. “I was hoping to finish up soon, but looks like this’ll be an all-nighter.”
Sean stopped in his tracks. Icy panic sluiced through his veins.
The hinges of the screen door creaked as it swung slowly open. Davis stepped out, brandishing a chef’s knife in front of him—the big one from the block near the stove. The blade dripped with dark, viscous liquid, leaving splotches on the patio.
Sean’s feet rooted as his neighbor approached. Then Davis stood right in front of him, maniacal glee in his eyes. Sean blanched, horrified at the splatter of blood on his face. His wife’s blood…
“Wonder who’s tastier—you or Lyla?”
If he could stall, then maybe…
Davis licked the blade, long and slow.
Sean turned and vomited, then he stumbled away.
Davis sighed, chased him down, held the knife to his throat. “Tsk-tsk-tsk. Stop wasting my time, Sean. Help isn’t coming. Lyla never had time to hit the ‘send’ button.”
Sean’s scream echoed through the night as the blade sliced his flesh. It turned into a gurgle. A burble. A gasp.
And then there was silence.
Hope you enjoyed this. And please remember to visit all the other stories linked in the comments at Story Empire today.