's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" New Neighbors "

Submitted by Sly Devil

I'm not really sure what's happened. None of us are really sure. I know we used to have scientists, people who cared, who thought about this sort of thing, one really thinks about it anymore. I'll try to write what I can remember, what I can...while I can still think.

It was a real gradual process. I'm pretty sure it had been going on for a while. Everyone in the modern world seemed so stressed, or so angry or ignorant or something. Like people were looking for excuses not to think. It wasn't really their fault, though I'm not sure what actually happened.

One of the first real dramatic signs that something had gone wrong was the oceans. You'd hear about occasional freak extinctions before-groups of hundreds of birds dying at once, for no apparent reason. Well, this one was much worse. Not just thousands of fish, but millions, dying worldwide. They thought it was some sort of chemical spill, or some kind of pollution, but no one really knew what was causing it. Overnight, seafood became a luxury. Not that anyone cared about that for very long. Not when the sea slowly turned black, brackish. When pale leviathans began moving beneath the surface.

That's when...people's thoughts began...I don't know. The effects aren't the same on everyone. But that's when people began really becoming NOTICEABLY different. For many people, they lost all traces of ambition or curiousity. They stopped questioning things. They merely...lived. I think that's a big reason why no one really knows exactly what happened to us. I was odd. These fantastic things were happening, and being reported on, people were noticing them...but not that many people seemed to question why they were happening or what caused them. Fish had gone through a worldwide extinction, but there seemed to be no studies being done about it.

It wasn't long after that when our housepets began abandoning us. They just...left. My own dog, Trixie, thirteen years old-I opened the door one morning to let her out to go to the bathroom, and she just bounded away into the woods. I ran after her. But the streets were full of people chasing after their dogs, or their cats. I saw her once more, about two months later, trotting along with a dead squirrel in her mouth. She looked at me, but at that point I didn't care anymore about getting her back.

All the while, people were becoming more...lifeless. More apathetic. They stopped going in to work. I remember actually going hungry a couple of times because none of the stores were able to operate without employees. That was before the police stopped working too. After that, I just went into the store and took what I needed.

It was as if nobody had any interest in keeping civilization running anymore. No one mowed their lawns, no one came by to take out the garbage. No one paid their bills, so the lights eventually went out, but no one ever came by to foreclose on the homes. Without running water, people eventually began to drink from streams. Not everyone suffered from this malaise. I thought people were going insane. I at least kept enough of my sanity to continue paying the bills. I was the only house on my block that had lights at night. I was also the only one that continued to go into the office, though. Eventually my paycheck stopped coming, and I simply stopped going as well.

Slowly we began to notice that there was...less light. I don't know if the sun was casting less light, or what. But the shadows seemed darker. There was a bit of a gloom to the world, even at noon. There seemed to be somewhat of a haze over everything. It was also a lot colder, to the point where I had to wear my winter gear in the middle of summer. I tried to find out what was going on...but people had stopped writing newspapers. My internet service had been turned off, and besides, it seemed that a lot of websites had gone down.

Not too long after that, the vegetation began dying. I guess it just wasn't the right climate for them. Trees shed their leaves, burying lawns. No one bothered to try to rake them. People most of the time sat inside, staring at nothing. I would try to begin a conversation with one of my neighbors, ask them what the hell was going on, and get nothing but a shrug and a sigh.

At this point, the food began running out. I had long ago bought myself a gun, and I had spent my youth hunting, so I thought I might be able to provide for myself. But the supermarkets, everything, in fact-they stopped receiving shipments. Gas stations shut down, and I could no longer drive my car. Given these conditions, it wasn't long before people began dying off.

I saw my first death one morning when I was out for a walk by the stream where people gathered to drink. One woman, pale, thin, simply keeled over and fell into the stream, face-down. I watched in horror as she drifted slowly downstream, towards a cement tunnel. None of the other people drinking even lifted their heads as she passed by.

The world became a cold, surreal place for me. I'd walk out to the woods to hunt (animal populations seemed to be doing just fine). Along the way, I'd pass the staggering figures of my former neighbors, coworkers, friends. Barely recognizable. Wasting away. Dropping dead in the streets at alarming rates. Some of them seemed to have more survival instincts than the others, though. Because some of them ate the corpses.

It rook me a while to figure out that this was happening. I saw people dragging the corpses in off the streets, and I just assumed that it was someone retrieving a loved one. That, apathetic though they were, they still felt the need to bury their dead.

I was wrong.

I figured it out when I busted into my neighbor's house. I was going to try to force him to eat. I figured that maybe if I got enough warm meat in him, I could get him talking, get him thinking straight again. I was so naive.

On his dining room table lay the mangled remains of...well, I couldn't even tell. He hadn't chopped it, or cooked it. I think he just went and gnawed on it as necessary. The only thing I recognized as human was the pigtails.

He lay on his couch, staring at the wall. Wearing the same bathrobe he had for months now. Mouth stained with blood. The house smelled foul. I figured he had just been defecating in the bathroom and letting it rot.

I shot him.

I'm not sure why I did it.

He wasn't any danger. I had never seen any of these lifeless humans attack anyone, they didn't have the energy for that. I just...well, I don't know. I didn't recognize anything human in him anymore. Hell, I didn't recognize anything LIVING in him anymore. It had all the emotional impact of shooting a can. He didn't yell or anything as he died. He didn't even look at me. He just continued staring at the wall.

Like I said, not all people were like that.

Some people, I found out eventually, had retained their survival instincts, but none of their reason. I saw them when I was out hunting. They'd be foraging for what little there was left, or fishing, or trying to hunt on their own. I don't think they really had enough will to live to make a decent go of it.

I don't know why I wasn't really affected. I just know I wasn't the only one. After about a month of living this way, I met a man who gave his name as Bill. He said he didn't remember his last name. Bill wasn't much for conversation-he didn't seem to care to wonder why these things were happening, or making any long-term plans-but he had enough of his wits about himself to hunt, and to discuss hunting, and enough desire about him to reminisce about enjoying a cold beer. So that was nice. We'd hunt and talk, and the world around us emptied at a pretty quick pace. I tried burying the bodies I came across at first. But I realized pretty soon that there wasn't much point.

Eventually, the population stabilized. Around me, I'd say maybe one in twenty people survived. Either they were eating the corpses and were lucky enough not to get sick, or they still had enough energy to cook them, or they had found some way to survive. I'd see them walking around, sometimes. I'd try to talk to them. Most of them wouldn't say much to me, Bill was the most talkative I ever came across. No one ever tried to start conversations with me. The world was quiet, now. Dark, cold, and quiet. It wouldn't be much longer, I figured, before we all just died off.

That's when they came.

It was a cold winter's day, with a light dusting of snow on the ground. I was out for a little walk, seeing if I could find anyone to talk to besides Bill, who was out hunting today, when I saw one of them drift out from the treeline.

I don't know what they are. They look sort of like five-foot long maggots, floating vertically about a foot above the ground, so the top of them is about face-height. They have a long seam down the middle of their pasty bodies, and what looks like really thick folicles of black hair, about three to seven feet long, extend from it. They wave in the air, so they're obviously controlled by the creatures. The most disturbing thing is, at the top of them, above this seam, is a vaguely human-looking face. There are no eyeballs-or if there are, their eyes are always closed-and the flesh looks a little waxy-but it is definitely a human face.

I ran for my life the first time I saw one. Hid behind a house and watched what it did. It drifted slowly out of the treeline, moving slower than my walking pace, and floated lazily through the open door of an empty house. Working up my courage, I ran to my house and grabbed my rifle. Not that it really mattered. One was in my yard, roughly ten feet from my front door.

It froze when it...well, I can't really say that it 'saw' me. The human face at the top of the creature grimaced in some pantomime of emotion. It opened its mouth and uttered some guttural noise-sounded like it was speaking backwards. Then it drifted slowly away.

These are my new neighbors.

I don't know where they came from, but they don't really seem to do me any harm. They drift out of the woods-I see a few every day-and take residence in the empty homes. I use the term "residence" loosely. I went into one of their houses once. They don't seem to mind, although I can't bare to be in the house with them for too long. They mostly just drift along, caressing the walls with those hairs of theirs, sometimes saying something in that weird backwards language of theirs to no one at all. They leave me alone, and stay away from my house. I guess that's all I can ask for.

I don't know what these things are. I don't know if they're what did this to us. But i think they're meant to replace us. They're taking our houses, at least. I don't really care, at this point. Besides Bill, I'm pretty much alone, and Bill is talking less and less these days. I think it's only a matter of time before he spaces out and starves too.

So I guess this is my life now. I hunt. I live. I watch the homes of my dead neighbors fill up with these creatures.

I'd wonder why this all happened, but what's the point? Anyone that could have figured it out is long dead by now. There must be other people out there like me who kept their wits about them, but even if there were, what can I do? Risk death going out searching for them? For what? To rebuild society?

I've always liked living alone. Now I'm more alone than ever before. And I've always liked hunting. Now I hunt all the time. The creatures don't attack me, or any of the other humans that are left. We're free to live our lives as we want until we die, at which point I'm sure one of those things will move into my house. But who cares? I'll be dead.

This is the way the world ends.