Crazy Eddie, the neighborhood kids called him, though no one knew his name. He moved into the Caldwell’s house that summer, after it had sat empty over the winter, following their move to Arizona. No one knew anything about him, though some said he was a family relation of Melissa Caldwell’s. He did not appear to have a job, at least not one that required him to leave the house, which he did rarely.
When he did, it was to drive up and down the streets of the neighborhood in his dull and rusted Dodge Dart. The engine rumbled oddly and the exhaust it spewed was dark and heavy. There seemed no purpose to these ventures, except to stare at passersby as they stared at him. He did not stop anywhere. No one could recall him ever going into a store, not even to buy food, though surely he must have. He became an object of fascination as a result, children telling each other more and more outlandish stories of his provenance and the unspeakable things he did in the Caldwell’s place.
As the months went by and summer turned to autumn, even the parents living on the same street began to suspect that something was amiss with Crazy Eddie. All but those suspicious of any newcomer had just assumed he was a harmless oddity. An eccentric, not worthy of much notice. But his strangeness began to seem sinister, for reasons no one could quite put into words.
Had anyone ever heard him speak? Had he ever said a word?
No, seemed to be the general consensus. He had nodded once or twice, though mostly he would not quite meet the eyes of anyone he encountered on his drives. Or when he was bringing the trash out to the curb, even as he stared with what might be described as longing.
There were also the oddly undefinable sounds that came from behind the drawn curtains of the Caldwell place. What might have been simply the wind, but which everyone somehow imagined as Crazy Eddie moaning low. Sometimes there was whistling, off-kilter and abrupt, as though it had been strangled in the throat almost as it began. The hammering of nails in an odd staccato rhythm, that seemed to hold some meaning, or follow the tune of a song no one could quite recall. There were other construction sounds as well, loud and clattering, or low and insistent. Yet no one saw him bringing tools or supplies of any kind into the house, and nothing ever left.
“He’s just tearing the damn place apart,” more than one person said, with a sad shake of the head.
At night, when people were out for a walk with their dogs or their children, they would pause for a moment by the house and peer toward it, as though the darkness would somehow reveal its terrible secrets. All they could see was the blue light of a television stealing past the drawn curtains.
Edward had come to town trying to escape, but it had found him. It always did. It always would. He had tried running, tried going as far across the world as he could. Had tried going to vast teeming metropolises with millions of inhabitants. Now he was here in this small innocuous town, where he had allowed himself to hope yet again that he had somehow slipped free of the thing that pursued him.
But now he realized, as he always came to realize, that there was no escaping it. The thing did not pursue him. It had no need to hunt for him. For no matter where his wandering took him, it would be there. It was tied to him in some fundamental way.
Part of Edward, a part that he hated more than even the creature itself, was glad that this was so. It welcomed the creature and the grip of terror it held upon his life.
It was always the same. Edward knew the routine, even as he fought against it. He came to a new home, settled in and, just as he began to allow himself a glimmer of hope, the creature appeared. As if it had always been there, biding its time, waiting for the most opportune moment when it might best destroy what remained of Edward’s soul. This time it had been after some weeks, during which Edward had allowed himself to imagine the kind of life he might build in this little town, driving around and looking at everyone and dreaming of the conversations they might have together. The friendships he could build.
It was not something others could see. They could not even intuit its presence. Edward had tried before, but he could not even describe the creature. It was without corporeality, like a shadow or a bitter wind. And yet it ruled his days as surely as any flesh and blood thing could. More so, for it insinuated itself into his thoughts somehow, tethering him to it, so that he could flee nowhere without it knowing. He could not do anything without its being aware, not even speak, or whistle. It knew.
This time would be different though, Edward decided, as he woke up one day in the middle of summer, drenched in sweat and fear, knowing the endless drain of horror that awaited him. This time he would find a way to fight back.
He needed help, but he was in a small town now. A small town where nothing could escape attention, where his oddity stood out for all to see. He could not simply disappear into a sea of ever-changing people here, a face glimpsed for a moment and then forgotten. People would notice and wonder and eventually they would do something.
He had to take care. The thing was aware of what he did, at every moment. There was no telling what it would do if he tried to enlist help and attempted to fight against it. Before his only thought had been flight, something it could easily manage to thwart. But now he was preparing to challenge it directly. He did not know what the consequences of that would be.
He began by driving everywhere, but going nowhere. He did not frequent any of the stores, did not buy any food or supplies of any kind. Surely that would raise questions, he thought. Little happened though. People were watchful. He could feel them watching him, asking themselves questions. But it was not enough yet to draw them into action.
Next he tried moaning and whistling from behind closed doors when he knew the neighbors were about and could hear. And they did hear, but still they did nothing. They were thinking though, Edward could tell. Most importantly they were paying attention.
And so he began to hammer and run various implements he had picked up along his endless journeys. Tablesaws, planers, drills. He did so in the cellar where the sound would be muffled, but still carry far enough that people would hear it and wonder what it was. If they listened closely they would notice a rhythm to the hammering and the tools. A series of dots and dashes.
A cry for help.
The strange construction sounds went on throughout the summer and into the fall. Crazy Eddie continued to drive about the neighborhood, eying everyone strangely. People talked about it, but their fear had subsided, along with their curiosity. Nothing untoward had happened. This was simply the latest expression of his oddity. If this was how he wanted to live his life, and he wasn’t harming anyone—and it didn’t appear he was—then why not let him go about his days. And so they did.
It was late in November that somebody noted they hadn’t heard any sounds of construction for sometime. No more whistling or moaning either. The Dodge Dart remained parked in the driveway, and the first snowfall was left atop it undisturbed. That drew a few comments from people, irritated that the driveway and sidewalk were unshoveled.
When a heavier snowfall was left untouched in the first week of December, someone decided something needed to be done. The bylaw officers were called to issue a fine. They knocked on the door and received no response. When they tried to handle they discovered it was unlocked. And when they went in they saw the house was empty.
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