When I pulled down the driveway, I saw the first one, shirt sleeves rolled up, hair sticking to his foreheads, spade digging into the ground again and again. The edge of the grave was just on the other side of my property line, and not very big. And anyway, on Monday, the hole wasn’t big enough for me to be worried.
Tuesday, there were two of them when I came back from the office, my skin smelling like fabric softener and my breath like artificial mint. Their curls were matted to their heads with sweat as they dug, dug, dug, throwing clods of dry clay beside the hole. They stood up to their knees in the hole, which doesn’t sound very deep, but their knees were taller than most people’s.
By Wednesday, there were three of them, and they had been digging through the night. I had heard the scuff, scuff, scuff of their shovels outside my bedroom window as the blades bit into the dirt. I knotted my tie and tied my shoes and went to work in my office that was ten feet away from a window. On Wednesday afternoon, they threw my potted plants into the hole. The ones that sat outside my front door, that I’d gotten on sale at Home Depot. I mean, I couldn’t be sure they had taken them, but the plants were missing when I got home, and I knew the pots had been there when I left in the morning. But by now the hole was deep enough and the diggers were tall enough that I didn’t want to ask. Plus, it was just flowers. I’d only bought them to make the stairs look better for the party I’d thrown for the sales reps.
Thursday, there were four. They kept digging. They didn’t look at me when I came home, and so I knew they had thrown something else in the hole. I was right. The tall lamps from behind my sofa were gone, and so were the wine glasses. There was something different looking about the dining room, too, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I thought possibly there had been some framed prints on the wall, but I couldn’t remember what they’d been if they’d existed. Mountains, possibly. My parents might have given me prints of mountains. If I had my way, I’d have plastered the entire house with movie posters anyway. I thought about confronting the diggers about it, but there were four now, and the hole was getting big enough to make my mouth thin and silent.
I knew there would be five on Friday, and I was right. The front door was closed, but the table was gone, and all of the furniture from the guest room, and every candle that my ex-girlfriend had bought. I wasn’t sad to see those go, though I was put off by the disappearance of the stereo system. It hadn’t seemed like the sort of thing they’d throw in the hole. But it was gone, and the rugs too. At least I thought I’d had something covering the floor. The floor looked fine without anything, but a little naked. I went to turn the TV on that evening, but it was gone too. Without the TV or stereo, I went to bed early and fell asleep to the sound of their shovels.
Six on Saturday. I had a meeting at the office, though I wanted to call it off so that I could watch the house. Their eyes, barely visible at the edge of the grave, followed me when I pulled back into the driveway. My tie felt tight around my neck. They were not digging. I walked into the house, their gaze heavy on me, and found it empty. Everything I owned was in the ground now. Well, not everything. My guitar, dusty and untuned, sat in the middle of the kitchen floor. The kitchen looked a lot more open, because they’d taken the island as well.
I sat in the middle of the kitchen floor and took the guitar from its case. Pulling it into my lap, I tuned it, slowly, laboriously. The strings were rusted up near the ends. Near the — what were they called? nut? I couldn’t remember. I put my fingers on the frets, pressed down a chord, but I couldn’t remember any songs. It had been a very long time.
I sat for a long time in the kitchen, my fingers pressed onto a chord that had been infinitely important one time, a long time ago, to another me. I sat until the windows were dark and finally, I remembered that I had an awards brunch for work tomorrow and I ought to get to sleep. They had taken the bed, so I curled up beside the guitar case and slept on the kitchen floor.
On Sunday, there were seven, and the guitar was gone. The only thing left in the house was me, and the empty guitar case laying open on the floor. A coffin for a victim that had gotten away. They watched me as I carried the guitar case out of the house. My car was gone; they’d taken it too, while I slept, but it didn’t matter. They watched me and they put their shovels in the mound of dirt. I heard the whisper of dirt falling back into the hole right before I stepped into it.
Author’s Note: suburbia kills.
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