Twilight Homes – 1000 words – 2017-01-31
I thought it was a shortcut.
Traffic on state highway 99 was backed up at the exchange onto state highway 111 and I knew it would be a good fifteen minutes just to make it through and I had a pint of Häagen-Dazs in the grocery bag. So, I cut into a new subdivision which my GPS assured me had access to the 111.
Except, upon entering the Twilight Homes development, I couldn’t find my way out.
I drove west as far as possible, only to end up in a cul-de-sac. So I drove north, but that just turned west and then south and then west again, leading to another dead end.
Okay. No panic yet.
I passed a woman jogging and rolled down the passenger window to ask directions. She ignored me.
Finally, I saw a real estate saleswoman standing outside an open house.
“Excuse me,” I said.
“Oh, hi!” she exclaimed. (That’s not writerly cleverness. She actually exclaimed everything she said. It was creepy.) “You must be the new addition to our little community!”
“No,” I said. “I got lost. Now I’m just looking for the right road out of here.”
“Oh, no one ever leaves!” she exclaimed. “As we here at Twilight Homes like to say, once you’re here, you’re here forever!”
“We have a nice little two-bedroom cottage for you! Quite reasonable!”
“What do you mean no one ever leaves?”
This time, I saw the fractured cheerfulness behind her eyes as she said, “Just that! Once you become a part of our community, you’re part of it for the rest of your life!”
“See ya,” I said, driving away.
“I’ll be right here with the paperwork!” she exclaimed after me.
I spent the next three hours cross-sectioning the entire subdivision, making a physical map on the back of my grocery receipt and eating my ice cream before it melted away. I found no way out. I also saw no other cars moving, and few of any kind. No one would speak to me. Eventually, I passed the saleslady again.
“What’s with this place?” I asked her. “No one’ll talk and I can’t find the way I came in, or any way out.”
“Twilight Homes is a close-knit community!” she exclaimed. “Once they get to know you, you’ll be visiting each other for backyard barbecues in no time!”
“There has to be a way out of here.” I tried logic. “How do you get the food for the barbecue, or the money to pay for it?”
“Oh, people learn to work from home and everything gets delivered by drone-drop! We have the best wi-fi network in the country! Why would anyone ever want to leave?!”
“But how did I get in here if there’s no road connecting to the outside?”
“Pshaw! This place is a marvelous little secret and only a select few ever find it! Come inside and let me show you the granite countertops! Every house in Twilight Homes has them!”
I drove away again and parked in a little dead-end drive with no houses, where it looked like they thought about putting in another cul-de-sac and then just stopped and decided not to. I slept in my car that night, poorly, figuring I’d follow the locals on their way to work in the morning.
Except, in the morning, there were still no cars going to work. I circled the edges of the subdivision on my map, to see if I’d missed anything. I hadn’t, so I switched tactics. I parked my car on what I figured to be the southernmost edge of the property and walked along it slowly, looking for either the 99 or the 111 in the distance so I could cross the space on foot. What I found were dense thornbushes and deep ravines from a local stream, nothing crossable. I moved clockwise around the edges and found similar blocks on all sides. One expanse had a tall soundblocking wall which I climbed (with a great deal of difficulty, being twenty years past my prime and with the sedentary life not helping at all). On the other side of the wall? Another ravine, this one deeper than the others.
Near the end of the day, unwilling to spend another night in my car, I drove back to the cottage where the saleslady was waiting exactly as she had been the previous day, only a different colored blouse indicating any change.
“Well, I can see you’ve had a thorough look at the subdivision! Are you ready to see your new home?!”
Surrendering, I said, “Show me.”
That was eighteen months ago. I make my money selling my writing online: stories, articles, essays and whatnot. It’s enough to make my house payments and keep me fed. I can order anything I want online, from clothes to books to food. I even, finally, got a dog. I finally had the time for one. I call him Number 6. I tell the neighbors it’s a joke because my first 5 pets were hamsters whose lives were so short, I called them by numbers to avoid getting too attached, and it stuck. My neighbors invite me to dinners and barbecues and, to be neighborly, I invited them back from time to time.
I don’t make waves. About two months after my arrival, there was a guy who couldn’t fit in. He lasted about a month, then he suddenly died. Heart attack, according to the mortician who lives four doors down. Sure. An athletic 23-year-old died of a heart attack only one month after getting caught here. So, I smile and play my part like the real estate lady. Her name is Jenny. Sometimes, she spends the night when the loneliness gets too much for her.
I know you don’t believe me. This, of course, is just another one of my stories that I send out into the world. Believe me or not, but listen to my warning. Never, under any circumstances, enter the Twilight Homes.
* * *
Afterword: I got lost in a subdivision trying to take a shortcut. I started driving, encountering blind turns and cul-de-sacs, getting more and more turned around, and my writer brain went “Idea!” I eventually got out (as far as you know).
Photo Credit: blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2009/07/chanhassen_is_n.php but I played with the colors.
This will be my last story for a while. I need to focus on other things for a little bit.