High blood pressure brought on by stress was enough to convince me to relocate. The countryside was my first option, and I embraced it with the hopes of finding a new peaceful life. Not only did the idea of a cheap house in a hamlet appeal to me, the idea of no longer having cars' exhaust spit black fumes in my lungs or people chattering around every corner be the weather damp or bright was what I dreamt of. All at the sacrifice of an hour's drive from the nearest village.
Sick of wanting, and tired of daydreaming, within months I packed my belongings. I kissed my parents goodbye, swore an oath to keep in contact with them, and I set off to the hamlet. The excitement had butterflies bouncing in my stomach when the green pasture and distant hills now surrounded me. Born and raised in a town, all I ever saw was grey- tarmac, buildings, clouds. I felt like a child seeing snow for the first time. This world would do wonders for my physical health, considering I had no desire to suffer a heart attack.
With the sun still shining its radiance down, I arrived soon after. It looked almost deserted- nobody even peaked out of their windows or enjoyed the weather. I shrugged, maybe I got myself into one of those clichéd hamlets where they frown upon newcomers. Well, my health came first, and they would have to deal with my presence whether they approved it or not. I began unpacking straight away, taking my time so I could soak up the natural beauty of the area. Having minimal possessions proved a blessing.
Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I noticed a man standing across from me, leaning on the frame of his porch. He offered a smile and waved. I returned the favour and approached him. We got the awkward greetings out of the way. He introduced himself as Thomas and lived with his Hispanic girlfriend.
"Her English isn't great," he said, "My nickname may be Thomas the Translator."
I chuckled. "What brings you here?" I asked after I explained my heart problems.
His lush ebony dreadlocks flowed down his shoulders, to his chest as he ran his fingers through them. He adverted his eyes to the framework. "Can't say, I guess me and my girl wanted a quiet life too."
He invited me inside and I followed. Thomas called something out in Spanish and a woman replied back. I took a seat and observed the cosy home: warm colours, artwork, and soft furniture pampered with blankets. I found a little bit of envy plucking my heart. It would make a designer jealous.
"I didn't see anyone else but you here," I murmured, finding it odd now thinking back to it.
"Yeah, you'd think the entire place was dead," he let out a low chuckle. I wasn't sure if it's because he made a terrible joke or something. He stretched his legs onto the coffee table. "Anyway, I have some friends you can meet. Two of them are out of town though. But they're a real pair. My girlfriend is always scolding me for doing stupid things with them." I forced a smile. I found it weird Thomas would start babbling on about his relations. He seemed sociable and yet his eyes locked onto mine the entire time.
At that moment, more Spanish came from the kitchen. Thomas laughed and explained that she called him and his friends The Three Stooges. "Then there's Joyce." His entire face changed into awe, as if he'd seen his childhood hero. "God, let me tell you. She's the best person you'll ever meet. She's a brute of a woman with these tattoos all over her arms, but once you know her…"
I couldn't focus. A bad feeling crept up my spine. I toyed with my hands while thinking about leaving. Go home and lock the door.
I stood up. "I think I should go home now. I've got work in the morning and I gotta sleep for the drive."
"Hang on," he ejected from his chair. "Wait, do you wanna meet Jojo?"
I declined and his face saddened. "Fine. It's just that she likes visitors." He lowered his voice. "She's a bit down inside, you know?"
Feeling a little guilty, I said, "O-okay."
He grabbed my wrist.
At Joyce's house, a crow sat on the porch. Thomas said that it was her pet. The crow stared at me- it hopped around, its head twitching in all directions. It screeched before flying off. I swallowed a lump in my throat, feeling my hand tremble whilst sealed in Thomas' hand.
We entered. Despite the homely look, I couldn't rid the desperate urge to run away. "Maybe she ain't home," I said, trying to stay firm. My shaking voice gave too much away. Thomas called Joyce but no answer.
I tugged on his grip and pulled back. I gritted my teeth, tugging my arm back. "Let go of me you cr-" My scream was interrupted by a loud bang below us.
Thomas froze and stared at the floor. "Joyce? You all right?" He called out. His face screwed in confusion and worry. He stepped towards the basement door and peaked through. I found myself hiding behind him. He looked at me and proceeded down, squinting his eyes. Thomas flicked the light on, and my mouth dropped open. I let out a scream as the room was covered in mannequins.
Every vein and wrinkle on their body was clear cut. I couldn't bring myself to look away. My heart throbbed in my ribcage, my mind squealed to turn and run but my legs caved in. I looked up and a woman stood beside Thomas.
Her eyes stared at me, her pupils thinning in content.
Thomas grinned. "Tea anyone?"
A mannequin's head snapped towards me and its hand tugged at my hair. "I wouldn't worry, she's great at making green tea."