by Erin Landers
It was perfect.
Sasha Smith stood staring up at her new, upstairs apartment, smiling.
It was October first, move-in day, and she was at the height of happiness.
At twenty-two, Sasha was for the first time moving out of her parents house and into her own apartment. She had just landed her first grown-up-real-world-career-type job as the Marketing and Communications Manager of a nonprofit.
“You’ve never been a manager of anything in your life!” her parents had said.
Sasha had only smiled. They had hired her for a reason, afterall.
The new job equated to the new apartment, yielding to the absolute freedom and happiness that surely was adult life.
She wondered what her new neighbors were like.
* * *
The next morning, after carefully choosing an outfit of smart black pants, conservative flats, and a bright-but-not-too-bright blue blouse for her first work day, Sasha stepped out her front door to find a lovely surprise.
A stuffed animal purple spider wrapped its plentiful legs around the banister. A smiley jack-o-lantern beamed hello at Sasha.
She couldn’t wait to show her neighbor just how festive she was, too.
On the way home from work, Sasha stopped to pick up pumpkins and a sparkly black cat that could hang from her doorknob.
That night, she cheerfully put out her decorations, specifically on her side of the balcony area. This would be a great first impression.
* * *
The next morning, leaving for work in not-too-high heels and a creamy white sweater, Sasha frowned as she noticed that the decorations on her neighbor’s side appeared to have bred overnight.
The entire balcony was brimming with witches, ghosts, vampires, and werewolves, some with friendly auras and some without – such as the skeleton hand coming out of a grave, dirt falling from its brittle fingers.
Sasha almost cried out when she saw the dead zombie baby next to her own door, with red eyes, spoiled skin, the mouth a rigid “O.”
Sasha startled. It was a little girl, below. She had Cindy Brady curly pigtails and 1990s style overall cutoffs.
“Have you met Judith?”
The little girl pointed to Sasha’s neighbor’s door. “Judith,” she repeated.
“No. . .”
* * *
A couple of weeks and multiple gruesome, blood oozing, eyes gaping, green slime discharge adorned decorations later, Sasha pulled up in front of her apartment after a particularly horrifying day at work.
It had been discovered that Sasha had graduated college with an English degree, not communications or marketing – a fact that Sasha had never attempted to hide, and yet, had somehow been overlooked; the revelation did not go well.
As she pulled up in her Volvo, Sasha noticed Hilda playing hopscotch.
“Hi!” the girl said. “I have something for you.”
Hilda was at Sasha’s car door before it opened.
“I made you this in school today. Maybe you can add it to your own decorations.”
A tiny felt pumpkin was placed into Sasha’s hands.
The stress of being a grownup with work problems evaporated.
* * *
Several days later, Sasha drove home with the certainty that she was getting fired.
She wouldn’t be able to keep her apartment. She’d have to move back in with her parents. Well, at least she’d be getting away from “Judith.”
In the past 48 hours alone the shared balcony had transformed from a kid-appropriate, Casper-the-friendly-ghost type of decorated space, to a nightmare out of a gruesomely realistic horror movie.
An arm came out of the door with scissors punctuating its hand. A poorly wrapped mummy leaned over the banister, its intestines literally falling onto the ground below. Then there was the single eyeball – the whites like a discolored egg shell, the red veins like miniature deadly rivers – just staring at Sasha from an indent in the stairs, midway up.
Sasha thought she saw Hilda up there as she approached the ghastly scene, but she could only make out her tiny face.
Then she realized that was because it was only the head.
Hilda’s preadolescent, decapitated head dangled like a hanging plant, sticky and sickly sinking from its own weight towards the welcome matt below, the dripping, starting-to-dry blood highlighting her blonde locks for a deadly twist on strawberry blonde. Eyes now the color of dirty dishwater gazed somewhere up and to the left.
Sasha opened her mouth to scream but her horror was as silent as Hilda’s own frozen face.
* * *
When Penny Peasley – finally, her maiden name again – pulled up to her new apartment on November 1st her feelings of independence began to shatter, like the dry, fall leaves disintegrating.
Penny was finally divorced from her highschool sweetheart and was ready to move on and start over.
And now this.
The upstairs balcony was covered with Thanksgiving decorations.
Pilgrim boys and girls, decked out in colonial tan brown and olive green clothing, danced amongst the banister bars. An image of a bountiful cornucopia hung from the outdoor light. A turkey wrapped its feathers around the neighbor’s doorknob.
This was not going to do at all.
Penny the Wife decorated for holidays. The Penny who had a hot beef and mushroom casserole ready for her husband at 6PM sharp. That Penny was festive.
Single and Fabulous Penny does not decorate for holidays.
Fuming, Penny got out of her car, leaving all of the boxes and bins behind and proceeded up the stairs. The decorations were clearly encroaching on her designated side of the balcony, with the hanging letters spelling “Thankful” almost touching her front door.
As she stepped onto the straw mat with “Welcome” in block letters, Penny noticed a drop of what must have been fake blood in the upper lefthand corner, clearly from recent Halloween decorations.
In fact, there was the red substance on the doorknob, and a few dripping clots on the right side of the doorframe.
Penny made a mental note to speak to the neighbor first thing in the morning.
This woman had no idea what was coming to her.
Erin Nudi is a freelancer living in Waterford, New York. Find her at ErinNudi.com
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal, and The BG News. He has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the medical publishing industry for several years. For the last 15 years Richard has also taught literature and writing at the secondary and post-secondary levels. He works much of the time with at-risk students.