The Neighbour

The Neighbour by Chris Barraclough, Humour/Mystery, 2,000 words

After a traumatic confrontation with a mugger, the nameless protagonist finds himself suffering from agoraphobia. Unable to leave his apartment, and tormented by a noisy neighbour, he soon discovers that his possessions are going missing...


3. The Hidden Thief


Those blackouts came more frequently, but I was too afraid to leave the apartment to get myself checked out. My phone had been disconnected so I couldn’t even call anyone for help. Just a passing thing, I figured. Brains heal, same as bones and bruises. Just give it some time and the attacks will stop, and I'll grow the set of balls I needed to step out the door.


But then I woke up last Tuesday, face-down amongst a pile of crisp packets, with the Eagles (‘Take It Easy’) echoing around the darkened flat. I grunted and rolled onto my back and let my eyes adjust to the room. Shadows came into focus, the sharp edges of my furniture. My gaze drifted over the walls and that was when I realised something was wrong. I struggled to a sitting position. My head was pounding in time with my heart, but I knew then what was different about the place. Some of the photographs I had pinned to the walls were gone, torn straight off.


Someone else had been here. I checked the locks on the door. All five deadbolts were in place. No way could anyone get in through there. Windows next, starting with the bedroom. Closed tight. Now the bathroom. This one was wedged open a couple of inches. I pulled it up as far as it would go, the splintered wood of the frame biting into my fingers, but all I could manage was a gap of six and a half inches (which I measured with an old tape measure I got last Christmas, in a victorious cracker-pull with mum). If the culprit had got into my flat through there, they had to be either a squirrel or a baby. Squirrel was the most likely, as a baby couldn’t scale the walls to reach the photographs. Just to be sure there were no more visitations, I nailed the window shut and kept the bathroom door closed. Even if the little furry bastard was the Einstein of squirrels, there was no way he could sneak in through there again.



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