Suburbia. Short Story.

John sighed as the phone rang out and went to voicemail.

“Hey, it’s me, did you forget that we were supposed to have dinner tonight?” John hung up, then after a brief pause he rang Chrissie, she wasn’t a huge fan of his but maybe she’d know if Tom was running late or if he was just bailing again.

The phone rang out. “Hey Chrissie, It’s John, I’m trying to get in touch with Tom, I’m supposed to meet him for dinner and he’s not answering. Hope everything is ok…bye.” John hung up and looked at his phone. That was kinda weird. Chrissie was glued to her phone, it might as well just get permanently sewn onto her. Maybe she was just ignoring him, wouldn’t be the first time. She’d listen to the message and ring him back soon enough. He glanced at the time, Tom was now twenty minutes late. John wouldn’t have minded so much if there had at least been some kind of heads up before hand, but why would Tom ever do such a thing. No, that might make life easier for other people and Tom would never allow that. Johns stomach rumbled, he was hungry. Hell he skipped lunch so he wouldn’t be too full for this early dinner. The restaurant didn’t seem all that full yet. John took another look around the parking lot then decided to go in.

“Hi, could I have a table for two?”
“This way.”
John followed the waitress to a small table, “Would you like to order a drink now or wait until everyone’s here?”
“I’ll order now, I’m not entirely sure if he’s able to make it yet.”
“What would you like?”
“Could I have a coke please.”
“Sure thing, I’ll be back in a minute to take your order.”
The waitress turned and walked away. John took his phone out again and shot Tom a quick text, “Hey, inside the place, sitting towards the back. If you’re not coming I’m gonna be pissed.”

The restaurant itself was welcoming, though it wasn’t Johns favourite place. It was large but with panels breaking up the room, everything was furnished in dark woods. The seats were comfortable, if a little large. The waitress returned and dropped off his drink, after a seconds hesitation, John ordered. He was hungry and Tom was late, it wasn’t all that rude to start without him. Douchebag probably wasn’t even going to show up. John took his phone out of his pocket to check if he had gotten any messages, seeing none he placed it onto the table. No way he’d miss it now.

The food arrived and John ate, when he had finished there was still nothing on his phone. John paid the bill and went out to his car. He sat there for a moment then tried to ring Tom again. The phone rang out. He tried Chrissie too, just in case. Nothing. He frowned at his phone. That wasn’t like either of them. He tried their house phone, it wasn’t like they ever answered that anyway, but it was worth a shot. He let it ring for a while then hung up. After a few seconds of indecision John decided to drive out to Tom, just to check that everything was ok. Sure it might just be them being dicks, but if something had happened and he could have helped he would never forgive himself. Besides, it was only about a half an hour drive away.

The area that Tom and Chrissie moved to was less a town and more of an out of the way suburb. It was mostly houses, lining twisting roads that looped back around on one another. The closest shop was about a ten minute drive, closest anything else was about twenty minutes away. When they moved out there John had told them it was a bad idea, but they didn’t listen. Kept telling him that they were joining a community that would start to grow and flourish and that before long there would be shops and everything there, their own little town. The plans fell though and that idea died when the developer ran out of money and left without bothering to build the rest of the proposed buildings. All in all there were maybe a hundred houses there, most of which were bought by families. John was glad they had that going for them, he didn’t think they’d have been able to stay there if most of the houses remained unsold. Too creepy for Tom who always had an overactive imagination, even when they were kids. He didn’t like scary or creepy things. Never even saw horror movies. The wuss.

John slowed the car as he entered the housing estate. The streetlights had come on as it was dusk, but none of the houses had their lights on yet. On the few times he had visited there were always children out playing on the street, regardless of the time of day. Now however the streets were empty. He turned down the radio to listen for the noise of children playing, maybe they were all inside for dinner? He glanced at one or two of the dark houses. This was definitely creepy. Maybe the power went out on the houses, they could be on a separate system to the streetlights. Yeah. That was probably it. Most people would be out the back barbequing, it wasn’t too cold for that yet, or they would have gone out for dinner. John rolled down the window expecting the smell of smoke and cooking meat to drift through the window, but it didn’t. There was a smell all right, one of flowers and strangely enough, a sort of dusty overtone. The developer had put in some flower beds in the beginning and it seemed like the local residents had continued the upkeep.

He pulled into Tom and Chrissies driveway, their car was still there so they probably didn’t go out. Far too distracted by the power cut. He’d pop in for a few minutes, make sure they didn’t need anything then head home. Maybe he’d call Tom a dickhead first. John got out of the car and went to the front door, automatically he pressed the doorbell, as he pressed it he realised it was dead, then he jumped as the doorbell rang anyway. Weird. Wouldn’t that be out too if all the lights were gone? The noise faded away, making John realise just how quiet the streets were. A breeze blew along the road, scraping the remains of leaves and dirt with it, creating a dry skittering. John shook his head then knocked on the door loudly. “Hey guys? Are you home?”
John reached out and turned the doorknob. The door was open, no big shock there. They had gushed about how it was so safe out here, they could leave it open all the time. John thought it was stupid, regardless of the area it was just asking for someone to stroll in and take all your things. He stuck his head inside the door, “Hello?” silence greeted him.

John stepped into the hallway and paused, he pulled out his phone and turned on the flashlight function, at least he’d be able to see now. He spread the light around the hall, nothing was knocked over or broken. He moved forward and glanced in at the sitting room. There was a bright red light on the TV, he stopped and reached out for the light switch. Bright light filled the room making him squint. He turned off his flashlight. That’s weird. Where was everyone? Maybe they were having one of those community picnic things? But if they were, surely he would have heard people talking and the music playing.

John moved through the house, turning on the lights and calling out, there was no response and no sign that anything was missing. Nothing was broken or turned on its side. It looked like a regular house, like they just left to go to the shops or something.

When he had finished searching the house, John went back to the kitchen, he was getting kind of thirsty. So far he hadn’t come across any sign of them. In the kitchen he filled a glass of water. As he drank it he idly scanned over the chalk board wall they put in. It was full of drawings by the kids and a few lists. He read over a few of the things, maybe they had left a note. He read one then paused and read it again. That was odd. It didn’t make sense.
“Something’s happened to the children”

That was all, scribbled onto the board. Did one of them have an accident and need to go to the hospital? He took out his phone and tried ringing Tom again. Toms ring tone started playing from underneath the kitchen table. Frowning, John bent over and pulled up the table cloth, there was Toms phone, Chrissies too. He picked them up and placed them on the table. That was strange, maybe they dropped them in their haste, but then why would they leave the car? They wouldn’t have all fit in an ambulance. Nor did it explain why the lights were off in all the houses. John placed their phones onto the kitchen table, he found a piece of chalk and cleared off a patch on the blackboard, feeling bad about getting rid of one of the drawings.
“Was at house, couldn’t find you, ring me if you see this. – John”
He put the chalk down then turned off the light. He moved through the house turning all the lights off. He’d go to the nearest police station, try and file a report. They’d be able to check the hospitals too. Surely if something happened out here they’d know about it. He turned off the last light in the hall and opened the front door. He stepped outside and closed the door behind him, looking at his phone, he chose the nearest police station and let the GPS plot his route. He looked up from his phone and froze. Standing all around him where kids, shrouded in shadows. It had gone completely dark when he was inside and now the only light was from the streetlamps.
“Uhh, do any of you kids know what happened to the people that lived here?”

“Um. It’s late. You kids should probably be heading home now.”

None of them reacted. Johns heart was thudding in his chest. He took a breath, he was being silly, they were just kids playing some kind of a prank on him. That was all.
“ha ha. Very funny.”
John started walking towards his car, weaving through the children as he did so. Slowly they turned to follow him with their eyes. John was glad he didn’t live out in the middle of nowhere, these kids were creepy as fuck, obviously living out here all alone was messing with their heads. The children opened their mouths and as one they began to scream, high and shrill. “Jesus!” John covered his ears, wincing and dropping his phone. As soon as it hit the ground the children stopped screaming. “What the hell is wrong with all of you!?” John bent over to pick up his phone, when he stood back up the children had moved, they were standing closer.

John shook his head, “fuck this” He started walking towards his car again, it was only a few feet away.

As he reached out to grab the handle, something heaving slammed into his side, knocking him down and winding him. Before he could start to get up he felt something sharp rip at his arm, then at his other. He yelled and pulled his arm away, a long thin cut snaked down it, blood already welling up in the wound. A child was standing over him, grinning. In one hand she held a knife. John looked at the other kids, they all held some kind of weapon. How had he not seen that already? Jesus, they must be in some kind of gang. He scrambled to his feet and reached for the car door again, he would be safer in the car than the house. As his hand closed around the handle the girl slammed the knife into the back of his hand, John screamed, the children started to laugh, the girl pulled the knife out of his hand and, still laughing plunged it back in. Together the children began to surge forward, each one brandishing their weapon.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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