The concluding part of this nightmare induced tale. You can read part one here.
A figure stood on the front steps leading to the front door, one of the gang members. I could tell by his jacket and jeans and the stain of blood around his ankles that he was one of them. I’d like to say I could tell by his face as well, but from the angle he was standing I couldn’t see it. While the front of his body faced me, faced the window, his head was cut at the neck and bent over his back, dangling, I could see, by skin and a pink sheet of muscle. Blood was staining his shirt and neck, still dripping down his body.
He turned, stepping carefully in a circular motion, and when his head faced me, he frowned, showing his teeth. Except he was upside-down, so he was actually smiling, a harsh, terrifying grin of glee, red blood staining the space between his teeth.
At that moment there were footsteps in the hall behind me, and Mrs. Page reached out to hug me. “Hey Jason, how are you?”
I pushed her away. “How are you?! That’s all you have to ask when THAT is outside your window?” I gestured at the headless gang member outside, but Mrs. Page merely glanced outside then at me, doubtful.
“What are you talking about? It’s only overcast. You’re stuck thinking about the weather.” She walked to her kitchen and offered some kind of juice or other. I stopped listening, shocked and a bit horrified. Outside, the headless man…was gone. There was no one on the steps, no one in the street. Emptiness outside, and inside there was only the sound of a panting dog, a juice machine and, in between juicing, Mrs. Page talking about her husband’s recent home improvement tasks.
I looked to the sky, and it was indeed overcast. The morning sunshine had been swallowed by a late gray pad of clouds, taking away any shadows that could follow a person, but also promising a dark future full of rain, at least, ahead of us.
Just as I was turning my attention back to the kitchen, I saw a flash of red near the bottom of the steps outside. I focused on them, walked to the window, and there it was again — only it wasn’t a flash, but more of a squirt.
Before I could scream for Mrs. Page, the Headless Man sat up on the steps and his neck squirted blood again. Shot straight into the air, the blood landed on the steps by his feet.
Mrs. Page offered me a glass of juice, but when the cold of the glass brushed my arm I leapt a bit, startled. I knocked the glass sideways. It shattered, and Mrs. Page glared at me. I’d ruined her floor, the wall, broken a glass, probably a dozen other things no one but she could see, but it was more important for me to focus on —the empty stairs. But the figure was gone again.
I ran for the front door. “What the hell are you doing?” Mrs. Page, angry with me for shattering her glass and ruining a perfectly well-juiced beverage.
“Don’t you see?” It was all I could muster, all I could say in an effort to aim her attention outside, to her own stairs. She just stared at me, like I’d lost my…head. “I’ll show you!”
I opened her front door, ran down the steps. Mrs. Page stood in the window, her pale face and dried, frizzing hair turning to follow me as I dashed down her steps. The air was still, with a distant rumble of a truck approaching.
I reached the blood stain on the stairs and, beside it, the body of the headless man. He was already sitting up, turned so his upside-down eyes could glare at me, his evil, lurking grin angry with blood seeping through his teeth. He reached back and pulled his head up, re-connecting to his neck with a chunky, disturbing SLOP. His head lolled side to side, squishy chunks blood and tissue, pink, red, and white, poking through the crack in his neck.
As he stood, I stumbled back up the stairs, barely reaching and shutting the front door as he gained on me, stretched out his hand for me. His fist thumped against the door, providing a muffled knock.
I leaned against the door, reached up and pulled the lock above my head. Mrs. Page stared at me from the entrance to the kitchen, drinking her juiced vegetable drink. She sipped, watched me, sipped more, and smiled at me. “Stay as long as you like, you’re on break from work, right?” She continued to smile, her lips parting, mouth opening wide, horrifically so. Her cheeks bent, the lines at the corners of her mouth stretching and peeling back. She continued to sip from her vegetable juice and the green liquid poured down her neck, out of the sides of her head. The trickle of green dripped and slithered to her feet, where Ledo was lapping up the liquid nonchalantly.
Three bumps at the door above my head shook me from my very souls, and I stood quickly, propping myself against the door, the sudden rush of air cool against my skin wet with sweat. “Mrs. Page…Mrs. Page, don’t you see?”
I heard a whistling whisper behind me, from Mrs. Page’s peeled open mouth, and feared to turn and face her. The daylight through the window was suddenly dim and dark, a red-yellow glow through the panes. I wondered what the guy outside was trying to get from me, and what exactly was happening to Mrs. Page. Were they connected? Was I being hunted for knowing something I didn’t realize I know? Perhaps this was a nightmare, a helpless situation with no escape because, soon, I would awaken in bed feeling horrific and sweaty and frightened, shaking, but alive and well with the sound of birds outside my window and cars driving by on the street.
There was a tap on my shoulder, causing a chill on my neck and icy shivers down my spine. I knew it was her, Mrs. Page, tapping on my shoulder for my attention. I could hear her breathing, a sickening heaving of bubbly liquid, her green juice pouring down her neck as her mouth opened wider and wider to suddenly bite down on my shoulder. Her nail caressed up my neck and I collapsed once again, scraping my forehead on the door and screaming.
She grabbed me, by the neck. This was it, this was the end —
But Mrs. Page smacked me in the face and I opened my eyes, only to find that she was concerned, confused, and normal, her mouth and neck back the way they should be. She was standing behind Mr. Page, who had slapped me out of my state of fear. “You alright? You were screaming.”
“Outside,” I whispered, and I tasted the salt of tears. I was crying. “Outside, there’s a man…a headless man.” Mr. Page glanced at the door, and stood. He went to open it, and I wanted to shout for him to stop but something inside told me it would be alright, that he would have control of the situation.
And I was right.
There was no one on his stairs, no one standing in the street, no bleeding man slumped on the sidewalk. Even the bloodstains were gone. I looked back helplessly at Mr. and Mrs. Page — and they smiled and leaned their heads back and came at me with wide open mouths, wide enough to swallow me whole, and as they descended on me I was pulled up to my feet —
—on the driveway, next to Hayley’s body. The girl in the whitewash jeans with the black skirt was holding me by the collar, staring me hard in the eyes. “You do something to her?” She demanded.
I could hardly talk, too shocked by being tugged out of what I thought was a piece of reality. I looked down to Hayley’s body, but instead of her body there was just a head, the head of the man on the stairs. he opened his eyes and smiled at me, started laughing. I looked back towards the Page’s house, but blocking my view was Mr. Page, mouth wide open.
“We are glad you decided to join us. You’re always welcome in our home.”
And then he chomped, mouth closing around my head.
And then I wake up, finally, into reality. Real reality. The place where I’ve always been: my home, watching the neighbors walk by, innocently glancing towards my house, their ugly eyes falling on my windows, their tiny little mouths sipping sodas and nibbling grapes. One by one, they eventually come up to my porch and try to sell me something, or get me to vote, or get me to sign a petition. I always listen, quietly, and imaging what it’s like to know and befriend these people. And at the end of our chats or visits or petition signings I always treat myself to a bite or three. These people never truly leave, and thus my neighbors think I have a large extended family staying with me.
It’s one big party.
Mrs. Page waves at me still from her window, invites me over for treats and drinks, and she still loves to smile. When she smiles, I look away. I can’t bear the idea of seeing her mouth break open again, a never-ending grin that could swallow you whole.
Some things are better left unseen.