The Werewolf Next Door
Amid construction of their new backyard swimming pool, Bonnie Clark felt uneasy about the next-door neighbor, Jack. He had always been hasty to complain about noises, seemingly sensitive to the subtlest sounds emanating from their yard. It wasn't the complaining, however, that induced Bonnie's anxiety. Something about Jack's appearance and mannerisms made the hairs on her arms bristle. He was sharp, reactionary and easily provoked into boiling rage. He wasn't someone she wanted to aggravate.
Bonnie felt the bodily sensation of shock like a shiver down her spine when she looked through her living room window. She saw Jack's familiar pair of amber, dagger eyes narrowed on her while he peered over the fence from his own backyard. His unruly, disheveled, brown hair contained frizz that stuck up like pine straw. He hardly looked human, almost resembling something wild – something that, perhaps, belonged in a forest, far from the propriety of civilization.
"Jack makes me nervous," Bonnie voiced her concerns to her husband, Steven Clark. He was preparing a bagged lunch in their open kitchen, probably for the road. He had to travel for business this weekend.
"He paces the fence like a rabid dog," she added, still peering through a crack in the blinds held open by her thumb and forefinger.
"Oh, he's harmless," Steven insisted. "Yeah, he has a temper, but his bark is worse than his bite. Don't let a bad neighbor ruin your excitement. You've wanted a pool for a long time. Enjoy this, Bonnie."
She contemplated her husband's words for a moment, her eyes lowering to the floor.
"Yeah, it's true I have been wanting a pool since we first moved here. I guess what you say makes sense. I shouldn't let him dictate what we do in our own yard," she rationalized aloud. Still, she felt the need to shut the blinds and pull the curtain over the window for an extra barrier against Jack's daunting stare.
Later that Friday in the early evening as the sun was setting, reddening the sky, Bonnie kissed her husband goodbye.
"Are you sure you have to go?" she asked him through the driver's side window of his silver Buick. She wanted to plead with him to stay, feeling unnerved by the neighbor's erratic reactions to their newest backyard construction project – the way he peeked periodically over his fence, his eyes looming over their backyard like a creeper.
"Yes, I'll be earning overtime with this trip, which means a bigger paycheck this month. Don't worry, I'll be back before you know it," Steven assured her. "Bye, honey!"
Bonnie waved and watched as he reversed out of their driveway. She stared after his car until it was out of sight. She felt an eerie vibe, knowing she was home alone for the weekend.
Next door, Jack was dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, standing while partially shielded behind a hedge of bushes in his front yard. He also watched as Mr. Clark's car departed. Jack's presence wasn't immediately detected, but when she did notice, Bonnie reacted with a jolt. His severe gaze flashed to her, shadowed ominously under the awning of his front porch.
As the evening progressed with darkness quickly looming over the horizon, a worker informed Bonnie that there would be a slight delay in the project's itinerary for the day. Construction would run later than expected. While home alone with an intense, noise-sensitive neighbor next door, this increased Bonnie's apprehension.
The doorbell rang at five minutes after 7pm. When Bonnie answered it, her eyes bulged when she saw Jack standing at her front door. From closer proximity, he looked even more intense than before. She caught the scent of his bodily musk, and it wrinkled her nose. His smell was reminiscent of the way a dog might smell; a heady aroma tinged with something fecal. The light from inside the house luminated Jack's fierce, facial expression. The whites of his eyes looked large around a pair of tiny pupils and golden irises. His jaw looked scruffy like he was due for a shave.
"Why aren't the workers done yet?" he barked.
There was no pleasant, "hello, how are you?" His voice was hard, severe, and very direct.
"They're running a bit behind but they're wrapping up," Bonnie croaked tensely.
"They better hurry," he growled. There was a threatening undertone in the harshness of his voice. After he left, Bonnie closed the door behind her and fluttered to her living room to stand by the window, opening both the blinds and the curtain. She watched the construction crew, chewing on her fingernails as the minutes ticked by. The obnoxious sounds of machinery made her body cringe because she knew they were sure to anger Jack even further, pushing him to his limits, especially as darkness continued to consume the sky overhead. She flinched when her doorbell rang again merely 15 minutes after their last encounter.
It was him again, Jack.
Bonnie didn't have to ask why he was there. She already anticipated his next complaint would be the same as the last.
"They're finishing up as fast as they can. There is nothing I can do," she told him. Her voice sounded almost pleading – but why? Did she think he would harm her if the crew didn't wrap up fast enough? It was out of her control. The most Jack could probably do was complain to the HOA of their subdivision. Rationally, she knew she didn't need to feel afraid. So then why did she breathe in and out in quick bursts? Why was her lower lip quivering as if cold? The temperature in the house was a comfortable 71 degrees Fahrenheit when she last checked the thermostat. Still, the image of Jack's eyes looming over her face managed to shake her to the core of her trepidation.
"Fine," he grumbled in response, turning around to leave in a huff.
She closed the door behind her again, retreating inside her house. She returned to her position by the window. Bonnie saw Jack appear, once again peering over his fence under the glow of their backyard lights. Engines roared with construction, which fueled the flames in his eyes. The workers were too busy to notice, trying in haste to conclude today's progress so that they could go to their homes, rejoin their families, and enjoy the weekend. Bonnie wondered briefly why Jack didn't have somewhere else to go, someone to see, instead of tormenting himself and her by sticking around.
Construction workers finally completed their day's activity at around 7:45pm. They had worked late into the evening, which wasn't ideal, but they were done now so Bonnie sighed a deep breath of relief. She collapsed onto her sofa as soon as they were gone. She melted into her cushions and flicked on the television. She thought she could relax because Jack would have no more reason to complain. Everything outside had been silent for about thirty minutes when the doorbell suddenly rang again. This time, Bonnie felt reluctant to answer, knowing exactly who it was. Unbelievable, she thought to herself.
He rang the doorbell again and again.
Ding dong! Ding dong! Ding dong!
Bonnie sat upright on her sofa, her back stiffened with her elbows pressed into her sides. She then heard banging as Jack hammered his large fist against her glass front door.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Bonnie's face turned ashen, her breathing was uneven again, and the palms of her hands were clammy. She momentarily thought that he would bash the door in. She jumped in her skin when she met his dagger eyes looking directly at her through the glass. He tapped his finger against it.
Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap!
"I know you're in there!" he howled. "I can see you!"
Something surged inside Bonnie during a brevity of impulse. She considered something her husband had told her earlier that day: "his bark is worse than his bite." Fear was momentarily replaced by adrenaline – or maybe an instinct. A rush of boiling anger fueled her to act. She couldn't stand the thought of this man tormenting her while she was home alone. She'd felt like she had been treading on eggshells all evening and now, when she finally thought she could relax, he started up again, antagonizing her.
She'd had enough of cowering, recalling what she'd talked about with Steven about not allowing the neighbor to dictate what she did in her own yard. Jack was a bully, intimidating a lone, young, petite housewife. With this mindset, Bonnie jumped up from her seat with a burst of courage and flew to her door, barking with the bluster of a ferocious chihuahua.
"What the hell is your problem?! You're freaking scary! Leave me alone or I will call the police!"
"Why did construction go on so late?!" Jack demanded, ignoring her attempt at assertion.
"I don't know but they're done for the weekend so what do you want from me now?"
"To tell you that you bring out the worst in me. You're driving my patience. You're making me be that neighbor!" He gritted his teeth, his nostrils flaring.
"I'm not making you be anything," Bonnie retorted, irritation rising in her voice, "You're acting like a deranged lunatic all on your own!"
Even though part of her still felt uneasy and she questioned her decision to answer the door to this psycho, something in Bonnie's gut urged her to maintain a strong front. Don't show fear, she thought, thrusting her chest, and raising her chin. The strength demonstrated in her body language was convincing enough for Jack to take a step back. Still, he wasn't fully deterred by her newly fortified stance.
"Do you see that moon?" he asked, pointing upward towards the sky. Bonnie followed his forefinger, gazing at a waxing gibbous shining brightly from above. "When it becomes full, you're going to be sorry."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"You'll see," Jack snarled, exposing his teeth. The corners of his mouth twitched upward into a dark smirk, something in his eyes hinted at impending danger. Bonnie closed herself in her house again, making sure to lock all the doors in her home.
Bonnie called her husband's cell phone soon after her encounter with Jack. She furled under the blankets in bed, feeling safer in the cozy environment of the bedroom. The lamp on her nightstand was switched on and she didn't want to sleep with it turned off tonight. She had to ring Steven's number twice before he would pick up.
"Hey, what's going on?" he asked. Bonnie immediately explained the situation with Jack, the words pouring from her mouth rapidly.
"I can't believe you actually answered the door to him," Steven criticized.
"Who is it?" Bonnie overheard a woman's hushed whisper in the background. It hit her like a bombshell, striking pain directly to her chest.
"Are you...with someone?" she choked the words when she asked, her eyes swelling.
"What? No, of course not," he answered firmly. Bonnie wanted to believe it.
"Look," he said, redirecting the conversation, "I don't think Jack will hurt you. I think he's just trying to intimidate you. Keep all the doors locked and don't answer him again. You'll be fine."
"Didn't you hear me? I told you I already locked the doors."
"You sound distracted," Bonnie noted.
"Just busy with work," he said.
"Steven, can you please come home? I'm really scared," Bonnie pleaded.
"I can't, I'm –"
"There is someone there with you," she said. It wasn't a question.
"Just a colleague. Look, I have to go, okay? You'll be fine. Don't worry about him."
He ended the call on the other end with the painful noise of a "click." It sounded so final to Bonnie's ear. She felt like she would almost prefer a physical slap to the face. With a trembling body and a shattered heart, Bonnie dropped the phone from her hand and wept.
There was good reason to believe that her husband was having an affair, enjoying the pleasures of another woman while his anxious wife remained home alone after being threatened by the wild man next door. She felt utterly betrayed and unloved by the person closest to her in this world. If Jack was planning to make good on his threat during the full moon, Bonnie wished he'd hurry up and get it over with. At this point, she thought that if he murdered her, it wouldn't be so bad. While her eyes were sore and puffy from crying, she leaned her cheek against her tear-soaked pillow and drifted to sleep. Maybe her silent wish would soon come true, and she would soon be relieved of her overwhelming heartbreak.
When Steven returned through the front door of his house after his trip, the brick was the first object he found lying on the carpeted living room floor along with scattered shards of glass. He looked up to see a gaping hole through the window.
"Bonnie? What happened? Are you okay? I'm home!" he called, but there was no answer. "Where are you?!" panic heightened his voice.
He scanned the scene in the living room. To his horror there was a trail of red. He quickly followed the blood streaks to the backyard. He paused once he noticed that it stopped at the edge of the concrete hole that was the newly constructed pool.
"Bonnie?" he said again. Still, nothing.
Steven crept forward, slowly gathering the courage to peek over the ledge. What he saw was horrific. Bonnie's body mangled at the bottom of the empty pool, blood-stained concrete. Something resembling claws had torn through her skin. Half her face was sloughed off. She rested limp and lifeless, contorted in an unnatural laying position in a puddle of crimson. Brown fluff surrounded the gruesome image in patches of molted fur. Steven could only assume she'd been attacked by a wild animal, something monstrous. This was confirmed for him when he spotted the red paw prints fleeing the scene as they patted across the pavement. Shocked and bereaved, he didn't know how to process what his eyes were seeing.
One detail that stood out to him, however, was the state of Bonnie's fingernails, which were in their usual shape, chewed at the tips from her own teeth. The tips of her nails were not stained black with animal blood, which would have indicated a struggle – No. Instead, she looked as if she had given in to the creature willingly. Her fighting spirit had not been activated when the attack occurred.
Steven collapsed to his knees, hovering over the ledge of the pool. He released a gasp after almost forgetting to breathe at the sight. He thought to himself how he should have come home when she asked. He should have called the police to check on her. He should have taken her concerns more seriously instead of shrugging them off.
He suddenly felt a pair of eyes on him, remembering that Bonnie had complained about Jack. Steven looked over his shoulder up at the second-floor window of his neighbor's house. He caught sight of Jack standing behind the glass, staring down at him. Despite the distance, he could see the smirk lifting Jack's dark, dagger-eyed expression. In that second, he knew. He didn't have a logical explanation for it, but he knew.
Bonnie was right.
"He paces the fence like a rabid dog," she had told him. "He said I'd be sorry when the moon was full." She had given Steven the clues he'd needed but, in his selfishness, he neglected to listen. Now she was gone, and he'd have to live with the knowledge that he'd failed to protect her. He'd failed in his duties as a husband, dismissed his wife in her time of need.
A sense of deep-seated, internal regret weighed on him now. He inhaled a shaky, uneven breath then exhaled. His heart felt heavy like a cold, hard stone pressing down inside his chest, squishing his organs into mush. He narrowed his focus on Jack's figure in the window and vowed to himself mentally that he would avenge Bonnie against the werewolf living next door.
About the Author
S. J. Walker is a mother and a creative writing MFA student at Southern New Hampshire University. She has a background in psychology and remembers what it's like to be the awkward kid in school.