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.
Or so we thought.
Bob brought misfortune, an understatement bordering omission, but the whole truth is even more insane. We thought nothing of it when the antibiotic-resistant flu came, two weeks after he moved in. We lost a few people, but managed to carry on. Then, a couple of months later, the pets started disappearing. Again, we never suspected Bob. That would’ve been crazy, wouldn’t it?
Then, 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. 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 began disappearing. Jim, my neighbor, started to connect the dots. Bob had a cold when he moved in, with the same symptoms later victims had. Bob put up flyers when his cat went missing, and then the rest of the pets started to disappear. He said he lost custody of his kids, and the neighborhood children went missing. His wife severed all ties with him, and the adults began to go missing.
We tried to go to the authorities first, but they thought we were insane. They listened, but never heard. We tried to tell other neighbors, but were likewise met with apathy, or outright disdain. 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 happened. We just needed proof.
The Kelley family lived in Bob’s house, when I was young. Their yard was on my mowing route. I knew the house pretty well. Bob’s living room was normal, for the most part, like I remembered. There was a strange 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. Beyond the living room, the house was absolutely derelict. Dust and cobwebs coated everything. We knew even that could be explained in some way. Maybe he just gave up on the interior. Maybe he was really depressed after suffering such a dark period, himself. We couldn’t get any of the lights to work, so we had to use the flashlights on our phones.
Jim’s friend from the records department called while we explored the strange house. Bob had never been married and had no children. It all came apart in just a few minutes. We found his bedroom, but there was no bed. Some kind of slimy cocoon object hang from the ceiling. It almost looked like a pod of some kind. It smelled awful, like rotting eggs and decayed flesh. There was something pale writhing inside. We shone our lights on it. It looked like smooth white marble moved beneath black jelly.
We were uneasy by that point. 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.
Jim went down the steps first. The first thing I heard was the sound of running water. I figured Bob had a leaky pipe somewhere. It grew louder as we descended the narrow stairway. I knew it was much more than a leak. We reached the bottom, but didn’t bother going down any further. There was some kind of liquid covering the old concrete floor. It glowed, it looked like antifreeze had been mixed with phosphorous. There seemed to be another world on the other side of that substance. It was a doorway.
We saw bones below the surface. Countless bones, from animals, from children, 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.
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. I remembered the little girl next door wore the kitty tee-shirt the day she went missing. It was now crumpled up by the back porch steps.
The fence surrounding the backyard was too high to scale, so we climbed the old tree and made the ten-feet 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 yard, like those worn by those who’d recently disappeared. Jim couldn’t come back out with me. He was shaking and mumbling, mostly to himself.
Nothing happened while I watched. I worried he would come back and find out we were onto him. Bob didn’t come home from work. He didn’t 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 officers there had worked with me as a volunteer firefighter 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 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 it 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 on from his house and said, the guy at the records department figured out 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. 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 then went into the men’s room. He never came 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.
We can’t explain it, and we never will. Neither Jim nor I have 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. It was never