Based mostly on a true story. This is an Expressions of Madness and Nightmare Fuel crossover.

I’m not a paranoid sort of person. Sure, I joke sometimes about that kind of thing, or make exaggerated conspiracy claims for fun… but I’m not really paranoid. That first time I received an anonymous gift on my back step, I thought it was probably just the one neighbor I had talked to the other day across the street. We don’t talk much, but, every once in awhile we have an interaction about growing hops, or the one time I tried to rescue a juvenile grackle that had fallen and hurt itself in the driveway. That sort of thing.

I mean it was weird. After all, it had been days later and there was just this little mason jar on my back step, with some little flowers in it… bee balm, I think, but I don’t know much about flowers. I never went across the street to ask about it… they are across the street and one house down so it always seemed a little out of the way and awkward to ask. I just imagined myself, BANG BANG BANG on the door, “Hello! HELLO! DID YOU LEAVE THESE FLOWERS HERE?!” That’s not what people normally do, right? I’m pretty sure those are the neighbors that left the polite, anonymous, note complaining about my dog barking in the morning in the mailbox.

The neighbors on either side of me knew nothing. The rear neighbor, notoriously reclusive.

A year passed. Maybe two years. Hard to say for sure.

I was leaving for work, but as I was pulling out of the driveway I thought it would be a good idea to throw out some of the drink bottles and food wrappers from the car before they really started to accumulate. So, I stopped and opened the can. Someone had put a bunch of kitty litter pails in there. Since I moved in about 8 years ago I had noticed from time to time that someone was putting their garbage in my bin, but I never really caught them at it. Well, in any case, they are very neat and polite about it. If they had asked I wouldn’t have said no anyway.

Once, I saw an old man poking around in one of my neighbor’s garbages. It was years ago, back when I first moved in and didn’t know anyone or anything about the area. I didn’t take a particular note of it, but just enough to remember it. Not sure who the man was. I didn’t take note of his face, really. Maybe the man in the corner house, the one across from the one that collects old ambulances and plays horseshoes on the opposite side of the fence from his yard.

I don’t go out often. So I don’t see or speak to these people much.

The other day, I pulled out of my driveway and stopped because there was something I saw on my front step. I was already running late, but it was raining so I felt I needed to investigate what was on the porch. A little ceramic vase. The kind your grandmother might own, white with gold trim and red flowers. Full of the night’s rainwater, of course.

I wondered if perhaps it was a present from the old man using my garbage can. I usually fill up our can all the way to the top so he probably didn’t have much opportunity to use it lately. Maybe he leaves gifts and I never noticed before, never made the connection. But then, I can’t imagine he’s only used my garbage only twice?

The mysterious reclusive rear neighbor had since scolded me because, as it turns out, she enjoys staring out the window and our yards and my storage of old landscaping supplies behind the garage finally became unbearable. I became more reclusive myself… who wants to sit in their own backyard knowing that an angry old woman is staring at them at all hours of the day?

I had wanted to plant lilacs in the back, but a tall, unruly privacy hedge seems more and more attractive.

I wonder if I should bring the vase in. I never removed it from the step. Every day when I come home I make a note of it, scanning for any evidence that someone might have touched it. As if someone would just turn it this way or that. I fancied that it looks at me, too. That any day I would come home and it would be there, turned to face me. Eagerly awaiting me, like a doll in the leaves.


Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 11

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