Christmas is my favorite time of year. It’s a great time to reflect about how fortunate you are. If you’re thoughtful enough you can spread some joy to others. I didn’t know how to help bring Eric and Sandra joy this year, but as things turned out I don’t think they needed my help after all. They used to live across the street and we were once close. That of course all changed in July.
When Eric and Sandra moved in across the street, their son was in the early stages of his sickness. Their new house was much smaller than the one they had left. I never asked because it was none of my business, but I always assumed that they had downsized because of the mounting medical bills. My husband and I went over after they had finished carrying in all of the boxes–our arms laden with cookies and housewarming paraphernalia. We became quick friends and were often invited over for cocktails after little Thomas was put to bed. Thomas lived for nearly a year after they had moved in to the place next door. Eventually, his little body couldn’t fight the cancer any longer. Succumbing to his illness in late July, Thomas died in the night.
We neither saw Eric nor Sandra for months. They had stopped coming out all together. Our repeated attempts to get in touch with them to offer help were ignored. Anything that we could do to help ease their sorrow, we would have been happy to.
In September someone vandalized our mailbox. We put one of those doorbell cameras outside. It was shortly after that we became aware of our neighbors strange habits after midnight.
At first it was a nuisance, we couldn’t figure out how to turn the notifications off. Every time someone or something moved in front of our house, our phones would chime. You could imagine how obnoxious that might be. I was in the process of trying to read through the manual and turn this function off when my husband, Daniel, passed his phone to me.
They were in the front yard in the moonlight. Eric and Sandra were dressed head-to-toe in black. Eric wore some sort of skin tight nylon head covering. Sandra’s face was wrapped and layers and layers of black tulle. They were both lying prostrate in the grass, squirming as though possessed. The street light that filtered through the tree above them gave the whole scene a sense of underwater mystery as it rippled in the wind. They both rose to their knees and Eric pulled a knife from someplace unseen. He stabbed it into the ground and began digging with it. After a time, he lifted it from the hole and he brought it to Sandra’s face. I stood from the couch meaning to go outside and stop whatever was about to happen, but Daniel grabbed my arm and urged me to sit.
We watched as Eric used the long knife to delicately cut a slit through the tulle. He began to feed her handfuls of the newly turned earth through the opening. Using the app on my tablet, I zoomed in on the scene and saw that the dirt was writhing with worms.
I went then to the door, and just as I approached it in the dark of our entryway, the two alerted as though they were somehow possessed of canine hearing. They looked directly at our house. As I opened the door they ran into their own house with unnatural speed.
This happened many times in the following months and we realized it must have something to do with the phases of the moon.
I wanted to confront them and ask them what their strange behavior was about, but Daniel convinced me that I better not. He told me that everyone grieves in different ways…though I wouldn’t categorize this bizarre moonlight madness as grieving, I thought perhaps he was right. I probably shouldn’t ask them about it.
On December 20th I decided to pay them a visit. I filled a basket with wine and cheese and headed across the street. I knocked and no one answered. Shrugging, I left the thing on their doorstep. I wanted to do something nice for them even though they had not been returning our calls or texts. It was Christmas. This is what you are supposed to do at Christmas. You are supposed to remind people that they matter. Eric and Sandra were strange and different but they still mattered.
The basket sat there for a day. Then two.
The full moon was the 22nd. As we slept, they were out in the yard again. A shadow began to approach them from down the lane. As it neared, slowly I began to realize who formed the shape. The face was gaunt and the body frail. He walked with a shambling gait, dragging one leg behind him as he took his small, deliberate steps toward them in the yard. Little Thomas, who’s eyes were vacant and skin was chalk had come home. He knelt at his father’s side and ate the worms.
I watched this all on my phone, hours later as I ate cereal the next morning. As the two of them began swimming through the dark grass of their yard, I loudly munched through spoonfuls of cereal. When Thomas appeared I dropped my spoon and didn’t finish the bowl.
Cautiously, I made my way across the street to knock on the door. My Christmas basket still sat there, appearing undisturbed, on their stoop. I knocked several times but received no answer. I carefully crept through their flower bed and chanced a glance through their living room window. The house was empty. Everything was gone.
It wasn’t until I made my way back to their door that I saw the basket I had left for them had been opened after all. A small slit had been cut through the plastic that I wrapped it in. The wine was gone and a note was inside. It read “You are good neighbors. Thank you, Scott and Daniel. We will not forget you.”
There was no indication of their leaving in the middle of the night, nor moving their things out of their home in the video. They just ate their worms in the moonlight and brought their son inside.
Before they closed the front door, the three of them turned and waved at the camera.