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August 2022
 
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The Neighbors

by Lee Gimenez


Our new neighbors were strange. That's what I told my wife, the first time I saw them.

"Did you see the new people next door?" I asked her, the day they moved in.

"No, not yet," she replied, busy making dinner.

"Well, they're strange."

She put the pot down. "What do you mean?"

"They're odd."

"Oh, Harold. Quit kidding around."

"I'm serious."

Laura lowered the flame on the stovetop. "Okay, so what's strange about them?"

"They're perfect."

She shook her head. "Harold, you think everyone's strange. What do you mean they're perfect?"

"They look like Ken and Barbie. Their faces are perfectly smooth and tan. Their bodies are perfectly proportioned. Real people don't look like that."

"Have you taken your medication yet?"

"Yes," I said in a huff. "And it doesn't have anything to do with that. Let's go over there after dinner. Welcome them to the neighborhood. You'll see."

And that's what we did. Laura took over an apple pie she'd baked yesterday. I thought that was too generous on our part, but I'm cheap that way.

I knocked on their door and waited. 'Ken' opened it.

"Hi, I'm Harold and this is my wife Laura," I said. "We're your next door neighbors."

The man was over six feet tall, ruggedly built, with thick blonde hair.

"Hello, people," he said in an odd accent. Swedish, German maybe?

I forced a smile. "We came to welcome you to the neighborhood."

"I've brought you a pie," Laura added.

He looked down at the pie and frowned. "A pie," he said, like he'd never seen one before.

He stared back at us. "Please, enter my house and sit." He stuck out his hand. "My name Jack Tor."

Just then, 'Barbie' came into the room. Tall, long blonde hair, blue eyes. A knockout.

"I Susan Tor," she said in the same odd accent.

We all shook hands and sat in the living room. "Where are you from?" I asked. "You sound European."

The Tors exchanged a glance and he said, "From Ukraine."

Laura smiled. "I brought you a pie."

Susan Tor took it, looked at it quizzically and then put it on the table next to her.

"What do you want?" Jack asked, frowning.

I stood up. "Nothing...we just wanted to say hello; welcome you on your first day. I'm sure you've got a lot of unpacking to do." I looked around the house and saw no moving boxes. The furniture was all in its place and the pictures on the walls were perfectly hung. How's that possible? I saw the moving truck unloading all their furniture and boxes just this morning.

We said our goodbyes and left.

"Didn't I tell you?" I asked Laura as we walked back to our house.

"They seemed normal to me, dear. A funny accent, but other than that, just a very good looking couple. Maybe they're models..."

"Models my ass...they're strange."

"Harold, be nice."

A noise woke me up at 3 am. I looked at the clock and listened. There it was again. A scraping noise coming from outside. Laura was sound asleep next to me, so I slipped quietly out of bed and peered through the bedroom window. The noise was coming from next door. I pulled the curtain aside and saw lights on in their house. What the hell? It's the middle of the night!

I put on a robe, walked downstairs and out to our porch, to get a better view of what was going on. There's a window in the side door to their garage, and light spilled out of it. I crept over to their house; I know I shouldn't have, but I'm pretty nosy. I peered in the window and saw our neighbors. They were dressed in black clothing and were loading something into their van. At first I thought they were burlap bags, but after a second look I saw they were huge brown eggs. What the hell are those?

Suddenly a dog barked down the street. Startled, the Tors stopped loading and looked around. I don't think they saw me, but I got scared and ran back to my house. I crawled into bed and tried to fall back asleep.

Over breakfast, I told Laura what happened.

"Silly man. You shouldn't be spying on our neighbors."

"I'm telling you, they're strange."

She shook her head. "I'm calling Dr. Larson today. You need to see him."

"I'm fine. And, yes, I took my medication this morning."

"I'm worried about you Harold."

"I'm not making this up; I saw them loading these huge eggs into their van. I think they're aliens from another planet. They're going to take over Earth..."

"Ok, that's it. As soon as I get back from the market this morning, I'm calling the doctor."

Laura did the dishes, finished her supermarket list, took our old Buick and left. Tired from last night, I lay on the sofa and closed my eyes. I thought I'd doze for a while, try to calm down. Maybe Laura was right, maybe I was imagining things.

Within a few minutes, I was startled awake by a noise outside. What could that be? Probably squirrels in the back yard.

I closed my eyes again and dozed off. Suddenly, I felt something grab my arms. My eyes snapped open. Oh, my God! It's them!

Jack Tor held my arms in a vise-like grip, while Susan clutched something in her hand. Then I saw it. A large hypodermic needle.

I struggled, trying to get free. But it was no use; I'm sixty, a retired pencil pusher, no match for that guy. I screamed as she plunged the needle into my arm. I had just enough time to wonder why aliens would use something as ordinary as a hypodermic before my body went limp and everything turned black.

When I woke up, I was strapped down to a bed; Laura was standing next to me. We were in a hospital room.

"I'm sorry, Harold. I should have called the doctor sooner."

I answered her, but it was gibberish -- I couldn't say anything coherently. Are there drugs -- Earth drugs -- that could do this to a man with a single dose? None that I've ever heard of, at least none that wouldn't leave obvious traces. So maybe the Tors dosed me with an alien drug or poison on me, but used a regular needle to deliver it...

Tears rolled down her face. "Don't try to talk. Doctor Larson says you've suffered a mental breakdown. I'm so sorry."

I struggled against the straps. I've got to get out of here. I've got to warn the world. Before it's too late.

THE END


© 2008 Lee Gimenez

Bio: Lee Gimenez is a science fiction writer and a member of SFWA. His work has appeared in Nature; Cosmos; Bewildering Stories; Afterburn SF; Beyond Centauri; Fifth Dimension; Escape Velocity; AlienSkin; Morpheus Tales; The Cynic; Arcane Twilight; Antipodean SF; New Voices in Fiction; Expressions; Skive Quarterly; Skiveflash; Green Wave; and, of course, Aphelion (most recently The Wellness Center, March 2009).

E-mail: Lee Gimenez
Website: Lee Gimenez

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