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The Yummy Neighborhood

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The Yummy Neighborhood

How weird are your neighbors? (Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to PublicDomainPictures / 17914 images)

How weird are your neighbors? (Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to PublicDomainPictures / 17914 images)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to PublicDomainPictures / 17914 images

How weird are your neighbors? (Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to PublicDomainPictures / 17914 images)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to PublicDomainPictures / 17914 images

Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to PublicDomainPictures / 17914 images

How weird are your neighbors? (Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to PublicDomainPictures / 17914 images)


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Lena lifted the box onto her thigh, shifting it a bit for a more comfortable grip.

“Hey, do you need any help?” Kyle, Lena’s newly wedded husband, called out.

“No, I got it, thanks,” Lena replied scrunching her face up with determination, gripping the edges of the box, and heading towards her new home.

She liked the sound of that, her house. Lena and Kyle met at California State University, hitting it off instantly. They dated for a while and, next thing you know, Kyle was kneeling down on one knee and pulling out a ring on their three year anniversary. After the wedding, they searched for a new home to settle in. The couple needed to stay in Los Angeles, and after visiting five separate houses in one week, they finally decided on a house in Spring Hills.

The neighborhood was the precedent of perfection; in fact, the flawlessness was the reason they opted to buy the house.

Lena lowered the box from her line of sight and really took in the neighborhood, as if for the first time. Everyone’s house has the same practical design: driveway leading up to the garage, a well-manicured lawn, and one-story tall.

While engrossed in thought, Lena failed to notice the box in her path. Lena tumbled down,  losing her grip on the box as it flew forward. Her forearm skimmed the pavement in an attempt to catch herself. Lena hissed in pain, clutching her arm with discomfort. She examined the damage as her husband darted towards her, kneeling down to eye level.

“Let me see,” he said gingerly grabbing Lena’s arm and extending it.

Kyle studied the wound, narrowing his eyes, “You’ll be alright, but we need to clean it before-”

“Is everything alright? I hate to see my new neighbors getting hurt already,” a voice interrupted from across their lawn.

The newlyweds turned to see a middle-aged man, sporting jeans and a LAPD t-shirt. He had dirty blonde, buzz cut hair, brown eyes, almost as if they were concealing secrets, and a devious grin wide enough to put anyone on edge. Grimacing, Lena opened her mouth to respond but Kyle beat her to it.

“Yeah, she just fell, she’ll be fine,” he remarked, looking the man over.

The man cut through his lawn, heading over to them and Lena felt Kyle’s fingers tense on her arm. She gave him a questioning look and he subtly shook his head, mouthing, “nothing.”

The man now towered over them, “You sure about that? I can look at it if you want.”

Kyle shook his head, “No, it’s alright, I’m a nurse so-”

“No really, it’s no big deal for me, consider it a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift. Plus, you’re still getting settled in,” the man insisted.

Kyle’s jaw tightened, “No, I said-”

“I know what you said but-”

“No, I can take care of my own wife. Besides, we don’t even know you,” Kyle sternly stated, with aggravation rolling off of him in waves.

The man raised his hands in surrender, “Ok, ok, I get it, sorry I…”

He trailed off, staring at the blood dripping down Lena’s elbow, “Umm…”

An unknown emotion flickered across the man’s face. His eyes traced over the wound carefully, as he muttered something to himself…medical terms Kyle thought.

Kyle and Lena exchanged a look and Kyle cleared his throat. The noise returned the man’s attention back to the pair in front of him and he shook his head, as if to clear his thoughts.

“Oh sorry,” he said, eyes still lingering on her wound.

He glanced at them both and extended his hand, “I’m Mark.”

“I’m Kyle, this is my wife Lena,” he said standing to shake his hand.

Lena rose to her feet, “I would stay here and talk, but my arm is bleeding.”

Mark’s eyes flickered to Lena’s arm again before tracing back to her eyes, “Oh right, yes you should do something about that.”

Kyle waved half-heartedly as they retreated to the house, “Bye Mark, see you around.”

Mark returned the gesture with an awkward wave, watching the couple until Kyle closed the door.

“I don’t like that guy,” Kyle said, rummaging through boxes.

“He’s…strange,” Lena mumbled to herself, applying pressure to her gash.

“What’s up with him? Why was he so insistent on helping you, I’m literally a nurse, I do this for a living.”

Kyle returned with rubbing alcohol, paper towels, and a bandage, “I don’t know. Did you notice how weird he got when he saw the blood?” Lena replied.

“Yeah, why’s he trying to help you if he’s afraid of blood, that sketchy,” Kyle said as Lena settled onto one of the few chairs they had already set out.

Her husband delicately took her arm and applied the rubbing alcohol to the wound, “I hope everyone else isn’t like him.”

Lena hissed in pain as he cleaned the cut, he muttered a soft, “sorry.” Then he slowly pressed the bandage onto her forearm.

“Maybe he was just trying to be friendly,” Lena said, trying to find a reason to justify the oddness of their neighbor.

“If that’s his way of being ‘friendly’, then, I’m scared to see him angry.”

Lena swatted his arm, “Play nice, it’s the thought that counts.”

Kyle took a deep breath, “Yeah, maybe, but you said play soo…”

Lena laughed at him, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps Kyle was right and something was off with their neighbors or even their neighborhood. Deep down in her gut her instincts told her to run, but her mind shrugged the entire peculiar situation away. Lena just figured her new neighbors had strange personalities or something because there’s no other explanation for it…right?


Lena was curled up in couch, not quite asleep or awake. She was drifting in and out of consciousness, lazily debating to help Kyle unpack. Obviously, the answer was no.

The doorbell ringing echoed through the bare walls of the newly built house, interrupting Lena’s thoughts.

“I got it!” Kyle yelled from the bedroom, the floor creaking as he walked.

Lena heard the door open followed by an unknown voice, “Hi, I’m Eliza Riles. My husband, Mark, told me you’ve met already. I would like to apologize for his behavior before, he can be extremely adamant when he wants to help someone. Mark used to be an army surgeon before he was discharged; now he’s a cop.”

“Ah, I see. Well, it’s no big deal,” Kyle nonchalantly answered. Lena knew it definitely was a big deal. He hated people trying to do his job.

“Yes, well how’s your wife doing?” Eliza asked.

There was a pause as Kyle looked to the couch, “She’s fine, sleeping right now.”

“Oh, well I think Mark and I owe you. We would love to have you for dinner tonight. You’re still getting settled in and we wouldn’t want you to spend any more money already.”

“I don’t know, we’re tired and might just stay in tonight,” Kyle said.

“You would be breaking a neighborhood tradition if you did, all the new neighbors have always eaten dinner with us. You would hate to break a tradition now wouldn’t you?” Eliza said.

Kyle hesitated, “Wait, is she seriously trying to guilt trip us into eat dinner with them?” He thought.

Lena sat up and groggily replied from the couch, “We’ll be there, what time?”

Kyle turned, blocking Lena’s view of Eliza, and frowned at her. She raised an eyebrow as if to challenge him to say something, anything. Kyle sighed in surrender and faced Eliza.

Eliza noticed the silence exchange and smirked at her victory, “You can join us at seven. Don’t bring anything other than yourselves. Mark will be so excited. See you later.”

She all but ran back to her house.

Kyle closed the door with a sigh, “They really have a hard time taking no for an answer.”

Lena shifted and pulled her knees to her chest, staring at Kyle with an blank expression.

“What?” He questioned bemused.

“You were going to decline a dinner Kyle,” she stated sternly.

“Well, yeah I was…,” Kyle placed his hands on his hips and looks down,” I swear you’re too nice for your own good.”

He looked at his wife, with eyes full of amusement.

Lena rolled her eyes with mirth, “Whatever, look I know they’re a little bit…off but they’re apologizing so that’s got to count for something, right?”

Kyle walked over to Lena, sitting on the couch and pulled her feet onto his lap.

“Like I said, you’re too nice. Something about those people seem off to me. Mark’s got a thing with blood—”

“—There could be a reasonable explanation for that,” his wife interrupted.

“—and they’re controlling, they basically forced us to have dinner with them—” Kyle continued on.

“—after I accepted their invitation—”

“—I’m just saying, something isn’t right with them,” he finished all in one breath.

Lena sighed deeply, “Ok, ok, I get what you’re saying. Listen, how about we go over and you can be as hostile as you want; ask them all the questions that cross you mind, deal?”

Kyle made a show of pretending to consider the agreement, stroking his stubble-covered chin.

“Well,” he cracked a smirk, “I suppose that could work.”

Kyle reached forward for Lena’s hand, placing a kiss on her knuckles.

Lena giggled, then rose from the couch, “What time is it?” She stretched her arms out with a yawn.

Kyle glanced down at his watch, “5:48.”

“Well, I guess we better get ready then,” she replied, heading to the bathroom.


Kyle decided to take a walk.

Lena wouldn’t stop ranting about how perfect the neighborhood was, so Kyle wanted to check it out for himself, while Lena was getting ready.

He found a steady pace as he strolled down the sidewalk. He noticed a couple of odd details about the neighborhood as the sky darkened. For one, the groundskeeping in this place was unlike anything he’s ever seen. It was too perfect. Secondly, all the houses were practically identical, so identical that the numbers on the mailbox and the cars were the only distinguishing factors. Thirdly, he kept getting this unsettling feeling that he was being watched, which would make sense since, lastly, every time he walked past a house the porch light turned on twenty-five seconds afterwards. Yes, he counted.

Shortly after, he retreated back to his house, more creeped out than before, if that was even possible.


The newly wedded couple was showered and ready by the time seven o’clock rolled around. They held hands for the brief walk to their neighbors house.

Kyle knocked to announce their arrival without letting go of Lena’s hand. Shortly after, Eliza opened the door, smiling widely, “Hi! Come in, come in!”

She ushered them inside and at the first sight, red flags went off in Kyle’s head. Guns were hung up all over the wall, along with stuffed deer heads and a variety of other animals. Among the guns and stuffed heads, were plaques and a few pictures of Mark dressed in army garments with other soldiers. Kyle made a mental note to visit a shooting range in the near future.

Eliza took in Lena and Kyle’s wandering looks, “Oh, Mark used to be in the army, hunting and gun collecting is a hobby of his. Don’t let that intimidate you though, he’s just a big softie.”

Funny thing was Lena and Kyle should be afraid, petrified even.

Someone chuckled from behind them and they turned to see Mark leaning against the countertop, “Oh come on, I’m not that soft, but yes, welcome to our home.”

“Thanks for inviting us, it’s been a long day and neither of us felt like ordering takeout,” Lena replied.

Eliza shrugged it off, “Well, a little bit of hospitality goes a long way, that’s what my mom always told me.”

Mark lead them to the dining room, with Eliza following up in the rear, not that they needed any help finding it because their houses looked exactly the same inside and out. Eliza informed them of where the bathroom was and they both washed their hands.

A few minutes later, everyone was seated at the table. On each person’s plate was steak— or at least it looked like steak to Kyle and Lena—scalloped potatoes, and broccoli; all accompanied with a glass of red wine. Once they started eating, the newly weds quickly realized that it wasn’t steak.

“So, how does everything taste?” Eliza asked, with a smile that was almost daring Kyle to comment on it.

Kyle finished chewing, took a sip of his wine, and as he opened his mouth to respond, Lena placed her hand on his knee, definitely as a warning to watch what he said. His hesitation didn’t go unnoticed by the Riles’s, they stared at him with an indiscernible expression on their faces.

Kyle cleared his throat, “What exactly is this, I thought it was steak but it doesn’t taste like it.”

Mark smiled, “Ah, yes, it’s actually deer, I wanted you to have something special. It’s an apology for my behavior earlier.”

Kyle narrowed his eyes, “You sure it’s deer?”

“Of course, I hunted it and everything,” Mark said with a confused expression.

This was not deer, Kyle has had deer before and it did not taste like this. Mark was deflecting.

Lena raised an eyebrow at her husband—saying a lot by not saying anything at all—took a sip of her drink, and waved the apology off, “Mark, it’s no problem, apology accepted.”

“Uh, yes, but could you tell me why you froze up this morning, do you have a thing about blood? It’s just that I’m a nurse, so blood’s no problem with me and I forget some people can react that way,” Kyle questioned, fighting a smug smile.

Lena leaned toward him, gritting her teeth, “Kyle.”

Mark’s face appeared strained before he took a deep breath, “It’s quite alright, I guess I owe an explanation. As you know, I was a soldier in the army. I was stationed in Afghanistan and while I was there, I saw several of my friends get blown up. Some of them instantly died and the rest of us retreated to a cavern. We were there for a few weeks before backup arrived and by then, I was the only one who survived. I couldn’t go back on the battlefield, so I settled for being a cop. I still get a bit queasy when I see blood, it brings me back to their deaths.”

Kyle stared at his lap fiddling with his hands, feeling guilty.

There was a beat of silence before Lena spoke up, “I’m terribly sorry Mark.”

“No, no it’s fine. I’m supposed to be apologizing,” he said with a weak smile.

“Is…” Lena faltered, “Is that why you were so insistent on helping me?”

Mark nodded, “Yes.”

Kyle mumbled something under his breath.

They all turned to him, but Mark spoke, “What was that Kyle, I didn’t quite catch it.”

He tore his eyes from his lap, “I’m really sorry about what happened to you, but you’re deflecting. This is not deer and I think you know that, so why are you lying?”

Lena looked at him with a glare hard enough to kill a person, “Kyle, what is wrong with you?”

Mark and Eliza remained quiet, but Kyle did not take his eyes off of Mark. The Riles’s looked at each other, as if having a silent conversation.

“I don’t appreciate you—” Eliza started, her voice laced with anger.

Mark merely raised his hand to silence Eliza, “It’s already set in, Eliza, you don’t have to argue.”

He leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table. His expression the quintessence of power, as he gave a smile, “Your husband is smart Lena, you should listen to him more often.”

Lena’s head snapped to faced him, “What does that mean, Mr. Riles?”

Kyle would be grinning like an idiot at Lena calling Mark, Mr. Riles, if they weren’t in such a strange situation.

Kyle tried to stand, but he slumped back down into his seat. He was unable to carry any of his own weight anymore, he just felt too heavy, “Wha—what did you do?!”

“It’s just something I spiked your drink with,” Eliza answered, standing up and walking out of the dining room. Lena and Kyle’s vision started to blur.

Lena attempted to grab the table for support but she couldn’t, her voice came out in a whisper, “Why?”

Mark simply smiled, “Why not?”

Both Lena and Kyle fell out of their chairs onto the floor; the last thing they saw was Mark standing over them.


Kyle and Lena were slowly drawn out of sleep by the sound of knifes clanking. They were tied in their chairs, side by side.

Kyle blinked and he could tell that he was in a blank room. Another blink and he realized he was in his house by the boxes scattering the floor. Kyle looked over at Lena as she came to.

Lena suddenly remembered what woke her up and she looked up to find Mark. He was huddled over a cart containing scalpels, knives, and other equally terrifying objects.

“Good, you’re awake,” Mark spoke without turning around.

“What are you planning to do with us?” Kyle asked.

Mark turned, ignoring Kyle’s question, “There’s a couple of precious details I left out of that story before. When the rest of my regiment, fled to the caves, a lot of them were barely holding on. I was starving like everyone else and all we had was water. The majority of the injured soldiers died in the first three days. Later on, I got so hungry that I decided that I would rather eat a dead soldier than die from starvation. The others refused but I wanted to survive, so I did what I had to do. The soldiers that didn’t eat our fellow teammates died shortly thereafter. I was discharged because I didn’t pass the psychological exam, go figure, but I pulled some strings and got some friends to put me on the police force.”

Kyle shook his head and sarcastically replied, “So what you’re saying is that you make a hobby out of eating people, or is that more of a full-time thing?”

Mark smirked, “More of a full-time thing, actually. I roped in my wife when I returned and, alas, our quest started. When we get new neighbors, we invite them over, drug them, and eat them. That’s the easy part, it’s a little more complicated to clean up the aftermath. You wouldn’t imagine how hard it is to cut ties with a person’s family. Then, you gotta make up an absurd excuse to leave the country.”

“What about the rest of the neighborhood, it was like I was being watched every time I walked by…” Kyle said.

“Ah, yes. Well, it would be foolish of me to not keep surveillance of the neighborhood. Especially considering my hobby, it’s important to be safe. No one lives in half of these houses, they were built for surveillance and to make the neighborhood seem fuller,” Mark explained.

“I’m sorry, can we go back to the fact that you’re a cannibal, that’s gross, if not insane,” Lena said in disgust.

Mark laughed, “What do you think you ate for dinner last night?”

The color drained from Lena’s face as she slumped further down into her chair.

Kyle’s mind spun as the terror of the situation hit him, “So what now?”

Eliza rounded the corner, holding a butcher’s knife, “Well, now we eat you.”

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The Yummy Neighborhood