By Joseph Logsdon

People were vanishing. At first glance, the neighborhood seemed so innocent, but at the same time, evil was everywhere. Charles was watching Johnny, the little boy across the street, who was riding his bike. He was also watching Mary, the next door neighbor, who loved to expose her breasts to the entire neighborhood. The sun was out, the birds were singing, and the little kids were playing. It was a normal day, or so it seemed. Before Charles could go inside, he was stopped by his neighbor.

"Hey, Charles, I gotta talk to you," Ryan stated.

"Well, whatever it is, make it quick," Charles stated as he stepped into the street.

"Have you noticed anything strange lately?"

"Why, of course not. Should I be noticing something strange?"

"It's just that lately, things seem different. Do you know what I mean?"

"Honestly, Ryan, I don't, and even if I did, why should I care?"

"People are vanishing, that's why. Do you know Lee Marvin, the man who lives down the street? He's gone, disappeared, almost like he never existed. You gotta admit, that's pretty creepy," he stuttered.

"Well, I wouldn't worry about it too much, okay? He's probably just on vacation, that's all," Charles stated.

"Make no mistake, this isn't a fantasy. If you're not careful, you'll end up like Lee," Ryan stated.

"Just because one man has disappeared, doesn't mean that everyone is in danger," Charles stated.

"Oh, that's where you're wrong. As we speak, the forces of evil are gathering. The sad thing is, they don't want to kill you, they want to convert you," he gasped.

"Who does?"

"Everyone you know," Ryan stated.

"What do you mean by that?"

"You've been warned," Ryan stated as he walked away.

Charles tried to go back inside, but before he could, Mary approached him. Hoping to end the conversation quickly, Charles tried to limit eye contact.

"Hello, Charlie, what have you been doing?"

"Oh, nothing much," Charles replied.

"Got any plans for tonight?"

"Yeah, I'm watching a movie with my kids," Charles answered.

"Oh, ain't that sweet? My kids are gone for the whole summer, and of course, I have nothing to do. What do you say, are you up for something later? Since it's a sunny day, I thought we could play some tennis. You know me, I have to keep fit. When you're a woman, there's nothing else to keep, really. The men own the cars, they own the money, they even own the bathroom. Oh, who am I kidding, I love men. Without them, I wouldn't have any place to go. Oh, forgive me, I'm rambling, aren't I?"

"It's okay, I'm used to it," Charles stated.

"So, is it a date?"

"In case you've forgotten, I'm married, Mary. You're a beautiful woman; have no doubt of that. I know you're lonely, so lonely that you use your body to attract questionable men. As a man of God, I must point you in the right direction. Maybe, instead of whoring yourself, you could try something productive. Gardening, for example, could help you tremendously," Charles stated.

"Fuck, Charles, I never asked for your advice, did I? You're right, I might be a slut, I might even be a whore, but I'm not a liar. You think yourself so superior, don't you? Well, let me tell you something, I've done more for this community than you could ever hope to. Why you stand there and laugh, I've been cooking for those fucking homeless kids for years. You're right, I'm not a Godly woman, but then again, who is? I do what I can to get by, and that's that," she sighed.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you," Charles stated.

"Fuck you," Mary stated as she walked away.

That night, Charles talked to his wife about his conversation with Mary. Even though it had been hours since he had spoken to her, he still felt nervous.

"She was certainly wild, that's for sure," Charles stated.

"She's a bitch, that's what she is," she replied.

"Oh, come on, Judy, she's just troubled," Charles stated as he sipped his coffee.

"She needs to be taught a lesson," Judy stated.

"What kind of lesson?"

"This is a Christian community, after all, and as a Christian community, we have to uphold certain things. Where I come from, there wouldn't be any room for someone like her," Judy hissed.

"Well, what do you expect me to do, kill her?"

"Maybe," Judy stated.

"Why, Judy, I'm surprised at you," Charles stated.

"As long as she lives here, she's a danger to us all," Judy stated.

"Can we just forget about her?"

"It's not that simple, I'm afraid. She's already infected our community, and the longer she stays, the more infected we'll become," Judy stated.

"Oh, stop talking crazy," Charles stated as he headed to the bedroom.

That night, around midnight, Charles awoke from his slumber. His wife was gone, as well as his children. Hoping to locate them, Charles left the house. Out of all of the houses, only one had a light on. Without hesitation, Charles ran inside the house. When he entered the living room, however, he witnessed a horrible scene.

"Help me," Mary stated as the knives penetrated her soft skin.

"What's going on here?"

With the entire neighborhood staring at him, Charles felt naked. In all his life, he had never seen so many bloodthirsty people. They didn't look angry, they looked satisfied. All of them, even the kids, were carrying blades. If Charles didn't know any better, he would've said it was a dream.

"Oh, hello, Charles," Ryan stated.

"So, is this what you meant, Ryan?"

"What do you mean?"

"You said people were disappearing. Well, this explains that, doesn't it?"

"You don't understand, I didn't even know about this ceremony until tonight. You see, Charles, the neighborhood has been eliminating sinners for a very long time. Without this practice, we couldn't function. You're shocked, I understand that, but that isn't any reason to condemn us, is it? Come, please, join us," Ryan stated.

"It's the right thing to do, I promise you," Judy stated as she placed her hand on his shoulder.

"No, never," Charles stated, backing away from the group.

"If you don't join willingly, we'll have to try something else," Ryan threatened.

"Go ahead, I can take it," Charles stated.

"Okay, it's your funeral," Ryan laughed.

The End