Clive Loves His Neighbours

Clive hated his neighbours from the very start. It wasn’t just the three under tens moving into a house with no outside space that worried him about the inevitable junior stair Olympics, nor the industrial sized drums of cooking oil unloaded from the van that suggested the lingering smells of fried grease to come. No, it wasn’t just that, it was all of that, and everything else that was on its way. And, sure enough, Clive lost his quiet evenings, his bedroom smelled like he lived above a chip shop, and he slept poorly, from the very day they moved in.

Clive like his peace and quiet, and he liked to go to bed early sometimes. He liked to sit and read, but the screaming and shouting meant that more often than not he went to bed when family obnoxious next door went to bed which was always late, and he was always too tired by that time to pick up a book and lose his now rare, and all the more valuable for it, nap time. He spent a small fortune finding the right earplugs – not too cheap (still heard them), not too expensive (missed his alarm) – and of course ran the risk of pissing off Danny and Alice, his nice neighbours on the other side, if he took up the tuba in protest. Danny and Alice were nice because he never heard them, not like family obnoxious, but he didn’t think they’d be too impressed if he started playing the tuba at five in the morning. Not that Clive would have been too impressed with himself had he in fact done that. He’d tried reasoning with them. At first he’d knocked on the door and asked them to keep the noise down, talking about mutual respect for one’s neighbours. Then he’d knocked on the door and explained that the separating wall was very thin and that they might want to keep the noise down because he could hear everything they said (shouted) to (at) one another. More than once. He’d even tried knocking on the separating wall, and shouting back, by way of demonstrating the thinness of the wall. More than once. In fact, he’d banged so hard one evening that he’d cracked the plaster, so spent the following Saturday morning patching and painting because of it. He was not a DIY enthusiast, so this only added to his resentment. No, none of those options had provided any succour, so he took to wearing the earplugs around the house, and in doing so he briefly rediscovered his love of foreign cinema. Unfortunately, this seemed to affect his balance so it was all too short lived.

He felt that he’d been so unlucky with choices beyond his influence, of rental residents not of his choosing, that the hate he’d come to hold for them was utterly visceral. It was one particular evening, as he was listening to them play their most recently invented game of how far can you throw furniture, that he came up with a plan. To be fair, he’d been thinking of several plans for a couple of months now, but all of them had seemed pretty stupid and pointless, but this latest … this was the one, he was sure of it. He started work almost immediately. The separating wall, once it went up into the attic, didn’t meet properly with the roof beams and the resulting gap appeared just big enough for him to get access to the attic space of family obnoxious, so up he went. Once he was in, he gently crossed the ceiling space to the loft hatch. With very little effort he was able to lift the hatch away from its recess, and take a look down to the landing below. He knew this was the right thing for him to do, and could feel his heart racing. Softly, he lowered the hatch back into place, returned to his side of the attic and back into his house. It would work. This would SO work. He suddenly felt very calm, and he allowed a small smile to cross his face – a place which one of those hadn’t visited for quite some time. The next morning, he made a series of small but vital purchases from the various DIY (he almost shuddered) stores located nearby, and waited.

Eventually evening came, accompanied by the inevitable screaming, shouting, banging, crashing and furniture callisthenics that had become the norm. Only this time, Clive revelled in it. This time it fuelled his purpose, cleared his head, and served as a window for preparation in which he laid everything out in front of him. Clinically. Calmly. As evening turned into night, and the witching hour approached, the hellhounds finally fell silent. It was time, he knew, as he reached for the surgical gloves and double-bagged his hands and fingers.

He unfolded the plastic sheeting next to the ladder beneath his own loft-hatch, stepped on to it, and opened the packets containing the coveralls and overshoes. Once he was dressed, he opened the other packets, and slipped the contents into his pocket. Remaining on the sheeting, the empty packaging went into one of the plastic bags he’d brought from the kitchen. Once he was up in his own attic, he put on the balaclava and crossed into the neighbouring attic. He opened the loft-hatch of family obnoxious and lowered himself quietly on to their landing using the lightweight escape ladder he’d bought earlier that day. Without a sound, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a brand-new box-cutter, and headed for the first bedroom.

He stood over the first one, and steadied his breath and his hand. Jesus, his heart rate! He took a moment, and felt himself calm. It was now or never. Do it, do it now, or resign yourself to only more of the same hell that you’ve been living for months, do it. He leaned in, and in one swift smooth action severed his first carotid artery. The pillow turned an instant crimson, but not a sound broke the silence. Clive’s heart rate levelled out at possibly what you’d call a “general calm”, and he moved on. One room after the next, he silently dispatched each one of those he’d come to despise. He went downstairs and unlocked the back door, thereby ensuring that any fibres or blood he may have picked up would transfer along the way. If the trail went cold immediately under the hatch, it could spell trouble.

Back up on the landing, he opened one of the plastic sacks he’d left at the foot of the ladder, removed his coveralls, rolled them up and put them at the bottom, dropping the box knife on top. Next came the overshoes, followed by the top layer of gloves. He tied the sack, and climbed up the ladder, taking all evidence of his having been there with him. Once in the attic, he pulled up the ladder, and secured the loft-hatch. When he was back on his own side, he untied the sack, and put the balaclava and second layer of gloves inside. He was done. He went into the kitchen, made a cup of tea, and congratulated himself. That house would be empty for months.


Gloria told him that application of the tincture would likely result in what she called a temporary and harmless darkening of the soul.

He looked at her quizzically, “erm… yeah, not sure about that?”

“Oh shut up and get it on you. Like I said, it’s temporary.”

“You also said harmless – what happened to harmless?”

“It might … just a little …”

“What? Just a little what?”

She shot Derek a stern look, and started to rub it in vigorously, before he could say anything else. Gloria had soft warm hands, and he felt the heat penetrate into the back of his neck as he closed his eyes and tried to relax. The tincture looked like it had a dangerous attitude, like thick sticky engine oil, but smelled much softer – innocent, almost. He felt odd for thinking like that, but then all of a sudden Gloria’s hands felt really good as his shoulders dropped and he felt himself sink into darkness as all the tension slipped away, his mouth curving into a contented smile.

Derek woke up three days later, in a hedge at the back of Swindon Railway Station car park, covered in blood, with a pounding headache. A cursory onceover showed that the blood wasn’t his – at least not all of it…