I never liked Bob. I liked him even less when I found out about him. He moved down the street last year. We assumed he was just your average Joe Lunchbucket, and from all appearances he was. He worked at the bank, like several other people on our street. His home was adequately maintained, as were most elements of his life. He washed his car and watered his lawn, like anyone else. His lights came on, every night, just like everyone else. Our lives were safe, adequate, and predictable.
Or so we thought.
Bob brought misfortune, which is an understatement, but the whole truth is insane. We thought nothing of it when the antibiotic-resistant flu came, two weeks after he moved in. The authorities never found a point of origin, or cause, but we dealt with it. We lost a few people, but managed to carry on. Then, a couple of months later, our pets started disappearing. Again, we never suspected Bob. That would’ve been crazy, wouldn’t it?
Then, the children started disappearing. The authorities warned the community about a child sex-slave ring. How else could so many children vanish, and leave no trace? No witnesses ever saw them. A parent could look away just for a second, and their child was gone, even if they stood right beside them. That happened to both the Jones and the Miller families. No one ever noticed any strangers in the area, or any strange vehicles. The authorities believed it was a group of seasoned professionals who had been abducting for years. They were just too good to be your average kidnapper.
Soon after, we all began disappearing. Jim, my neighbor, was the first to connect the dots. Poor Jim. Bob developed a cold after he moved in. Coincidentally, he had the same symptoms the flu victims had; only he didn’t die. He could’ve just been a carrier, true, but that was just the start.
Bob put up flyers when his cat went missing, and then the rest of the pets started to disappear. Strangely, no one remembered him actually having a cat. He then said he lost custody of his kids, and the neighborhood children started to go missing. His claimed his wife severed all ties with him, and coincidentally, the adults began to go missing.
We tried to go to the authorities first, but they were less than enthusiastic. It was all coincidence, they said. What a magical word. We tried to tell the other neighbors, but were likewise met with apathy, or even outright disdain. We were jealous, or judgmental, for whatever reason was convenient. We were xenophobic.
We were desperate for something of substance to prove our theory correct. We broke into his house while he was at work. We didn’t take anything, but we knew Bob was to blame for what was happening. We just needed proof.
Bob lived in the old Kelley family house. I mowed old man Kelley’s lawn every summer, when I was in school. I knew the house pretty well. Bob’s living room was normal, for the most part, like I remembered. We couldn’t get any of the lights to work, so we had to use the LED lights on our phones.
The first thing I noticed was a glaring absence of life for a family man. No mementoes, no photographs of the kids, no decorations at all. Aside from new wallpaper, not much had changed since the Kelleys lived there. Beyond the living room, the house looked abandoned. Dust and cobwebs coated everything. Several rooms had portions of rotted drywall, with deep holes in the walls. Mold had formed in the more dank areas. Even so, I didn’t consider that particularly suspicious. That could all be explained. Maybe he just gave up. Maybe he was really depressed after suffering such a dark period, himself.
Jim’s friend from the records department called while we explored the strange house. That was a bit of an issue, in itself. Our cell phones barely registered a single reception bar in the house, but perfect coverage just outside. Jim had to go to the window to talk. His friend said Bob had never been married and had no children. He said he would call back once he found more information.
We found Bob’s bedroom, but there was no bed. Some kind of slimy cocoon object hung from the ceiling. It almost looked like a pod… of some kind. It smelled awful, like rotten eggs and decayed flesh. Something pale writhed inside. We shone our lights on the thing before us. It looked like pale liquid marble pulsed within the black, gelatinous substance.
We were uneasy by that point. To put it mildly. We were scared shitless. Everything Bob had said was thus far a lie. And if he really were responsible for the disappearances, what kind of jeopardy were we in for being there? As much as we wanted the truth to come out, we knew it would die with us, if we died. We decided to just take a peek in the basement and leave. We hadn’t found anything particularly incriminating, and there was no guarantee we would if we continued. We just stood a greater risk of being caught. Breaking and entering was a felony, more often than not.
Jim went down the basement steps first. The first thing I heard was the sound of running water. I figured Bob had a leaky pipe somewhere, or maybe an aquarium. It grew louder as we descended the narrow stairway. I knew it was much more than a leak. We reached the last portion of steps, but didn’t bother going further. Some kind of liquid covered the old concrete floor. It glowed, like antifreeze mixed with so much phosphorous it glowed in the dark. There seemed to be another world on the other side of that substance. It was a doorway.
Bones rimmed the portal below, countless bones, from animals, from children, and from adults. I couldn’t count the number of skulls alone. Jim and I quietly backed up the steps and shut the basement door.
We passed the doorway to the kitchen as we left. I couldn’t resist temptation. We hadn’t checked there, yet. I knew if we stayed longer, it would be more difficult to leave unseen. Luckily, the backdoor was by the refrigerator. I pulled the fridge door open and paused. All manner of limbs and members and digits floated in jars of various sizes. Several items still had jagged teeth marks from something taking a bite. A few arms were strung up in the back, as if to dry-age the meat.
We shut the door and went out the back. We came face to face with an unkempt yard. Clothing was strewn across it. They weren’t Bob’s clothes. I had a sinking feeling it belonged to the people in the refrigerator. They weren’t old or outdated. The Miller girl wore a pink tee-shirt with a white kitty, on the day she went missing. It now lay, crumpled and filthy, by the back porch steps.
The solid fence surrounding his backyard was too high to scale, so we climbed the old tree and made the ten-foot jump down on the other side. We were a mess. We came back to my house for a whiskey. I drove down the street and called the police while I watched his house. I only told them there was some suspicious clothing in his fenced-in backyard, like those worn by the people who’d recently disappeared. Jim couldn’t come back with me. He was shaking and mumbling, mostly to himself.
Nothing happened while I watched. I worried Bob would return and find we were onto him. Bob didn’t come home, nor did he have any visitors. One police car became two, then three. I waited a while before I introduced myself. The warrant came in and the cops broke down the door. I tagged along, unnoticed, behind everyone. I figured I’d ride along, so long as they let me. Luckily, one of the deputies worked as a volunteer firefighter with me a few years ago. He kept me clued in later on.
The living room looked the same. Not so for the rest of the house. The dust and cobwebs had vanished, and the remaining spaces were sparse, but clean. The drywall had magically repaired. The pod in the bedroom had disappeared. The kitchen was likewise free of grime, and the fridge was void of dismembered parts. I said nothing. The basement was no longer a pool to another world. It looked like Mr. Kelley’s basement, just without the old man’s tools and equipment. The only indication of the house Jim and I encountered was the backyard. The authorities found the clothing, and confirmed the articles came from the people who’d recently disappeared.
Bob was not at work. They said he went out to lunch and never came back. He never came home. Jim called later and said the guy at the records department discovered there was no such person as Bob. There was no deed to the Kelley house. It was an old foreclosure the bank could never sell. Bob’s bank. That’s how he got the keys. As far as detectives ascertained, no utilities were ever turned on at the house. We all saw him use electricity and water in the home. There was no generator in either the strange house, or in the old house the cops examined.
A local restaurant manager came forward days later. He had to call a hazmat team to his eatery the day Bob vanished. Bob came in for lunch and went into the men’s room after eating. No one saw him come out. An hour later, another customer walked in, and ran back out. The bathroom was coated with some kind of black jelly. The hazmat team brought in local military officials. Not even the police were given information on what they found. The stench still lingered days later. All we know is that the restaurant remains closed until the authorities seal the bathroom in concrete. His car remains parked outside the establishment. It had been reported stolen two years ago.
We couldn’t explain it, and now we never will. Neither Jim nor I ever told anyone what we saw in Bob’s basement, bedroom, or any other room. Not that we really can. Jim disappeared yesterday. I knew that is somehow connected to Bob, too. I keep worrying that I’m going to disappear, too. I wanted to get this down… in case the worst happened.
Maybe I will disappear. Who knows? It was never even established how the victims disappeared, to begin with. One moment they were there, the next they were gone. The authorities won’t file a missing persons report until 24 hours have passed. Maybe it’s coincidence. Jim hadn’t been the same since that day. Or maybe my time is running ou—