Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
I swear I’m not being that pedantic asshole neighbor. Noise ordinance starts at 10 pm and most people respect it because there are a lot of young kids in the neighborhood. But my neighbor across the street is remodeling his house and last Wednesday he started cutting things at 10:30 pm. It sounded like metal. A high, shrill whine that easily penetrated the walls of my house and doubtless carried throughout the nearby vicinity. I thought – okay – maybe he’s running a little behind and desperately needs to get this done to meet some schedule. It is getting cold pretty fast, after all, or maybe he’s got some professionals coming out and something needs to be done before then.
I try to be a good neighbor and give people some tolerance.
11 pm rolled around. He kept working. That infernal screech, then a brief lull of silence. Each time he paused I thought that maybe he was done and I could go to bed and then he’d start again. I wondered if I should call the police. I wondered if they’d even care. A noise complaint seems pretty trivial, especially since this was only one night. It wasn’t like he had a habit of being noisy.
That rationalization didn’t make it any easier to sleep. I tossed in my bed for about thirty minutes before I gave up. I went to the living room to watch TV in the hopes that’d distract me enough to sleep. It didn’t work. The screech of the saw cut right through the dialogue of the movie I’d put on, shattering my idle concentration.
The longer it went, the angrier I got. Then, around 12:30 am the noise stopped for a full fifteen minutes. I sat on my living room sofa, listening intently, hoping that I could finally get to sleep.
Another shrill whine, somehow louder this time, and I jumped to my feet, threw the remote across the room, and screamed some profanities at the wall.
I still didn’t call the police. I wasn’t ready for a confrontation. I was trying to be patient.
But honestly, I was sort of hoping that someone else would be the one to call in a complaint. It was highly likely. Someone kept calling the police on another neighbor because they don’t like how he parks his pickup truck with the trailer in front of his house. Which I think is ridiculous. He runs his own lawn care business. This isn’t some hoity-toity white-collar neighborhood with a HOA that tells you what color your slate shingles have to be so all the houses have a uniform look when viewed from the nearby golf course.
I’m so fucking tired. I’m rambling.
Shockingly, whoever they are, they didn’t call the police. So I just dealt with the noise until 1 am, when it finally stopped for good. I messaged my coworkers something about my asshole neighbor and possibly being in late (the timestamp on the message would explain everything) and then I threw myself into bed and fell right asleep.
I did pretty good the next day. Got up at my usual time through sheer habit and kept going with the help of coffee. Napped a little when I got home.
I talked to my next-door neighbor (the one with the pickup with the trailer) when I went out to check the mail. They’d been kept up by the noise too and were surprised no one complained. The neighbors right next door to the offender had a young kid, after all, who was surely unable to sleep through the racket. But we both agreed that it was probably a one-off occurrence and not worth a confrontation.
The noise started around midnight. I was already asleep and the screech of an electric saw jerked me awake. I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling of my dark room, wondering what sort of suburban hell I was currently living in. Did I dare go over there and confront him? Risk souring the peaceful relationship I had with my neighbor? We weren’t friends but we weren’t enemies, either. I’ve been here six years without problems.
I’d do it diplomatically, I thought. Explain why this was troublesome to me and then ask for his reason for working so late. Maybe suggest he do all the power tool work over the upcoming weekend. Or at the very least, find out how much longer he’d be using the electric saw and decide if I could live with that and buy some earplugs the next morning.
I put on my shoes, got a jacket, and put my cellphone in my pocket. Then I went over.
The garage door was up and his car was parked in the street, leaving the driveway and garage interior open. The overhead light was on and a small floodlight was positioned to further illuminate his workspace. The driveway shone with liquid, glassy under the streetlight, running out from the puddle on the garage floor and down to the gutter. This seemed odd, until I realized what he was cutting. Tile. He was using a wet saw. A stack of uncut tiles were stacked along the side of the garage.
I waited until a lull in which he set aside the two pieces of tile and turned to pick up another. It was a large pile. How much of his house was he tiling, I wondered. We have the same floorplan. The bathrooms and kitchen are quite small.
“Excuse me?” I said into the silence. “I just wanted to ask how much longer you’ll be needing to use the saw.”
Start polite. Don’t turn it into a confrontation right away.
I can’t tell you how glad I am, because after I spoke up, he turned around to face me and my insides seized up with cold terror.
He wasn’t human. There’s no other explanation. His body was human, his hands were human… but his head… like a wolf, almost. Pointed ears that were too perfectly triangular, devoid of hair, and the rest of the fur was short and bristly, like it’d been scorched. I could see pale flesh beneath in the patches where it was worn away. The skull was flattened, like the entire thing had been compressed, squashing the eye sockets away into thin, black lines of folded flesh. The skin receded from the jaw, revealing white gums and ivory teeth that glistened and dripped with saliva.
“Yes?” he croaked at me, his jaw splitting open and there was no tongue and no throat, only an inky darkness inside.
It took a moment before I could find my voice. He looked at me expectantly with eyes that weren’t there.
“I just… the noise…” I stammered.
“Well, I need to get this done,” he replied defensively, gesturing vaguely at the tiles.
My eyes instinctively tracked his hand and settled on the stack of uncut tile. The color was hideous. A fleshy pink interspersed with patches of darker red and an occasional straight line or knob of white. There was something disturbingly fascinating about the tile and I stared intently at it, trying to comprehend why its appearance seemed so familiar.
Then he picked up one from the top of the stack and the one beneath blinked at me.
An eyeball was positioned near one corner. It stared at me, wide-eyed, and the corners of the eyelid brimmed with tears that pooled on the smooth surface of compressed flesh and muscle and bone.
I glanced down at the liquid at my feet. It shone red in the light of the garage.
And then he put the tile on the saw and started the blade and I heard the scream of the saw and the scream of the mouth that was on the tile, shrieking in agony as he sliced it cleanly in half. He looked back up at me when that was done.
I told him that it was fine, that I’d just get some earplugs and I hoped he was able to get through his remodeling quickly.
Then I went home and didn’t sleep for the rest of the night, alternating between dry heaving in the bathroom, sobbing, and screaming incoherently at the wall as that infernal saw went on and on and on.
I guess I should have called the police but I confess I was not in a right state of mind. Morning came and I went to work only because I couldn’t stand to remain in the neighborhood. I looked at the neighbor’s driveway as I backed my car out. It was still damp and muddy water pooled along the curb. No blood. It was all just a product of my sleep-deprived brain, I told myself.
On the way home from work I bought some earplugs at the drugstore. Then I talked to my neighbor out by the mailbox again. He was thinking of having a word with the guy. I told him that was a terrible idea. Trust me, I said. I’d already tried.
There were no power tools on Friday, nor for the rest of the weekend. I was deeply relieved. Whatever was going on, it was surely over. I kept looking out the window all weekend, hoping to catch a glimpse of my neighbor, and I finally did on Sunday. He looked normal. His face was a human face. More and more, I convinced myself that I’d imagined the entire thing. Maybe I’d dozed off on my sofa and it was merely a hyper-realistic dream.
Then on Monday, a stack of bricks was delivered to his driveway.
And last night the saw started up again.
I remained in my house and peeked out the window through the curtains. It was 11 pm. I could clearly see his triangular ears and the muzzle of his canine jaw. I’d spent the weekend reading up on the noise ordinance laws so I knew we were well inside the applicable restrictions. All it would take was one phone call to the non-emergency line and an explanation that this was a consistent pattern now. I wouldn’t even be that asshole neighbor by calling. He was the asshole.
Then the next-door neighbor – the one with a young kid – went over.
I watched him, my breath tight in my chest. He’s a big dude with intricate full sleeve tattoos. Dresses as a Nazgûl every year to pass out candy for Halloween, complete with a sword. Seems nice. He’d double-checked some electrical work I did on my house earlier this year, but otherwise we didn’t talk a lot.
The tattooed neighbor was visibly taken aback when he approached. He stared at the wolf-man-thing a moment and they seemed to be talking. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but the tattooed neighbor was growing more agitated as the conversation went on. He threw an arm out to point back at his house and it was clear he was yelling at that point. Perhaps he was also sleep-deprived and making bad choices as a result, because I wasn’t sure I’d have yelled at something clearly so inhuman.
Or maybe that’s just hindsight talking. I confess I felt some of his anger as I watched the scene. I just wanted a good night’s sleep, for god’s sake, and did he really have to be working on this damn project between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am?
The neighbor with the saw turned his head away, as if in submission. The tattooed neighbor paused in his tirade.
And in that brief respite the wolf-thing rose up, drew his shoulders back, and his neck seemed to elongate, the muscle rippling and bulging, and he opened his mouth so wide the lower jaw flapped like a broken hinge, and then he bit my neighbor’s head off.
Blood fountained into the air, splattering over the saw, the bricks, and the garage as the body convulsed and then collapsed to the ground. I screamed and threw myself back away from the window. Then I was violently, horrifically sick as my entire body rebelled at the horror I’d just seen.
It took a while before I could recover enough to look again. I was shaky, my muscles weak from exhaustion and nausea. Trembling, I drew back enough of the curtain that I could see my neighbor’s garage. He was bent over the saw, running thick slabs of what seemed to be wood through it. My neighbor’s body was gone. I didn’t recall there being wood in his garage earlier.
Then he picked up another piece and positioned it and I saw that the whorls and rings in the wood looked like tattoos. He lowered the saw blade and blood poured forth, splattering on the ground and streaming down the driveway to the street.
I called 911. Told them my neighbor has been using power tools late at night for a few days now and that my neighbor had gone over and I’d heard fighting and I was worried someone had been hurt in the confrontation. They arrived quickly and I paced my living room, watching the lights of the police cruiser dance across the back wall. The officer didn’t talk long. Then he came to my house, since I’d reported it, and talked with me about what I’d heard. I wasn’t terribly coherent. I apologized, explaining that I’d been unable to sleep through the noise. The officer was polite and told me there was no sign that the argument had escalated further than just some yelling. He’d given the neighbor a warning about noise and told him to knock it off.
I asked if he’d seen anything unusual. No, the officer said. He said I should get some sleep, I was clearly having a rough night. Then he left and I watched through the window as the neighbor closed the garage door, a half-cut tattooed plank still on the saw, slowly dripping blood from the open wound.
My boss told me today that I should go home and sleep. I don’t look well. My eyes are dark hollows in my face, ringed by blood spots from all that vomiting. I’m dizzy from the lack of sleep. I refused. I’m scared to go home. I’m considering getting a realtor and just moving but then what would happen to the person that moved in? At least I know to stay the fuck away from the house across the street now.
The police were back when I got home today. They were talking to the neighbor with the small child. The wife, this time. Her eyes were red from crying. I didn’t have to overhear the conversation to know what was being said. He’s missing. He didn’t come home. The police searched the neighbor’s house again, checking inside and checking the backyard and I watched it the entire time, desperately hoping that they’d find something.
But they didn’t, because they came and talked to me again, and I cried a bit and the detective was sympathetic and took notes of everything I said. I didn’t say anything about the wolf-thing. I just said the neighbor went next door to complain about the power tools. I heard yelling. That was all.
It’s 10:30 pm right now. I’ve been listening to the saw for the past half hour. I’m too afraid to even look and see what he’s cutting. The sound of the saw reminds me of screaming but I think that really is just my imagination this time. I’ve tried putting in earplugs but it’s not enough, I can still faintly hear it and I’m too anxious to sleep, knowing what’s out there.
I’m getting a hotel room tomorrow night and every night until he finishes his damned remodeling.
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