I Am Forced to Write to My Neighbor About the Beast

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I didn’t want to write you. I had honestly believed I could keep everything a secret. Or at least on the down low. Not that anyone wouldn’t notice, but that they’d feel embarrassed to bring up the beast’s antics in polite conversation. Good fences make good neighbors.

But the beast forces me to speak when I would rather not.

The beast asks, “Why don’t you talk about me? Are you ashamed? If I eat your tongue and your eyes, will it be less awkward for us to go out together in public?”

And I must go out to eat—my diet has become entirely fast food—because the beast devours everything edible in the house even though human food isn’t what keeps the beast alive. It survives only on parts of the body: animal accepted, human preferred. The beast can live off nail parings and shed hair, but it prefers blood and bone. Favorite food? Fingers. I sleep with gloves and shoes on. The beast has promised it won’t eat me, but it’s broken promises before.

Henry trusted the beast.

You have asked where Henry is. You looked incredulous when I claimed he was visiting family in Alaska where there was no cell reception and no forwarding address. Surely, there is cell reception in Alaska! you argued, but I asked if you’d ever been to Alaska, and you looked down, ashamed.

Tom claimed Henry had no family in Alaska. He argued with me, declaring he’d been friends with Henry since they were kids, much longer than Henry and I had been together, and he knew everything about Henry, because Henry is a simple soul who is as uncomplicated as they come.

The beast agreed with Tom. Henry was a simple dish. A little seasoning was all he needed. A little fear, a little love, a little pain, and a little despair for dessert. Henry, however, didn’t agree with the beast, not at all. The beast spat up foul-smelling bile for days after eating him.

Henry isn’t to blame. I invited the beast into our home. When the beast crawled up through the kitchen garbage disposal I didn’t shove it back down with a wooden spoon and switch the disposal on. It was a poor-looking thing, shriveled and stretched out like a deflated balloon. It had long, sharp teeth, ragged as the edge of badly-opened can. Its eyes were red and hateful, but still I pitied it.

Perhaps I wanted a child. Perhaps that was it.

Henry wanted to call animal control, but I stopped him. When the beast ate our cat Basta, I convinced him it was for the best. Basta had arthritis. She was incontinent. She barely ate and slept all day, moving only to smear the house with her excrement. Frankly, I was tired of cleaning up after her.

After Basta, the beast plumped up nicely. It contributed to the household. It skin was so hot it heated up our house no matter how cold it got. At the New Year’s Party, you complimented us on the coziness of our home. That was all a result of the beast. And the fact that when Jordan went looking for our bathroom, she was so drunk she stumbled into the beast’s room instead. (I’m sorry, Matt, but she was never good enough for you, anyway.) The pleasantly spicy smell in the air you all enjoyed wasn’t a new candle, but a by-product of the beast’s digestion. So you can see why we weren’t eager to get rid of the beast.

To be clear, I never meant for any of this to happen. I’m not a bad person. I haven’t poisoned the dogs who poop on the lawn. I’ve delivered casseroles to the widowed and patted the heads of all the errant children. I’ve never had anything to complain about. Even when the Smiths’ kids toppled the back fence that day they decided to play Siege the Castle, I didn’t mind. That’s what kids do, after all. They cause beautiful trouble. And they keep the beast satisfied for a few days without making it sluggish and grumpy.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that the beast is no good. That the beast is horrible. That the beast is what you’ve always feared, deep down inside. You believe it’s the worst part of yourself given form and flesh. But that’s not true at all.

The beast is the best part of me. It wants to embrace you despite all your flaws—there are many, even you must admit—and it will never let you go. You’ll become part of the beast. You’ll understand everything.

I didn’t want to write you. But what the beast wants, the beast gets, and the beast wants love. It loved Basta and Henry. It loved Tom and Jordan.

And it will love you, too.

Andrew Kozma’s fiction has been published in Escape Pod, HOAX, The Dread Machine, and Analog, and his second poetry book, Orphanotrophia, was published in 2021 by Cobalt Press. He lives in Houston and writes flash fiction postcards on Patreon, but you can find him haunting Twitter or Instagram or Mastodon.