From the Malafarina Files, ‘One Sunny Suburban Saturday Afternoon’ a short story by the master of horror Thomas M. Malafarina

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by Thomas M. Malafarina

The sun was shimmering in the midday sky, basking the suburban homes in its
luminescent warmth. Anthony stood barefoot on his deck in khaki shorts and Hawaiian
shirt, his eyes closed, head turned upward, enjoying the heat from the sun and the warm
summer afternoon breeze. He had slept in this day, having returned late the previous
evening after being away on a business trip for a week.

It was times like this when he often wished his house and deck were located on a
large plot of land with a lake or ocean view instead of looking down into the many
fenced-in back yards of the other homes in his suburban development. Maybe someday,
if he played his cards right, he might be able to afford such a location.

This wasn't meant to suggest he felt anything wrong with either his home or
neighborhood. In fact, his was one of the most in-demand housing subdivisions in the
county. Still, he longed for a place a bit more private, where he could look out and see
nothing but nature; waves splashing, animals milling about, and birds soaring.

Then as if summoned by these fowl thoughts, the shadow of a large bird soared
overhead, its massive wings partially blocking the sun as Anthony shielded his eyes with
his hand to get a better look. What was that? A hawk? An eagle? In the glare of the high
sun, Anthony couldn't be certain. Then to his surprise, he saw a second huge bird join the
first floating on the air currents in a circular pattern, gliding effortlessly in a magnificent
aerial ballet. Then there was another, then another. Soon he lost count of how many birds
were soaring above. Anthony found this all a bit strange. He had seen birds in his
development before but never so many or any so large.

Then he realized something about the scene was wrong. Something was not quite
right with the creatures either, something Anthony couldn't exactly nail down. He looked
back out across the yards directly behind and below where he stood, still shielding his
eyes from the sun's glare. Everything, at least what he could see, appeared normal to him.
The yards were all empty. He knew that most of his neighbors and their families went
away for the weekend.

Some would travel to the Jersey shore, while others would venture to Maryland
and Delaware or north to the Pocono Mountains. Some might even head so far south as
Virginia Beach. This was one of the things he liked best about the neighborhood during
the summer months. For at least a short time, the clamor of kids playing, lawnmowers
roaring, and hammers whacking stopped. Very few of his neighbors stayed home over the
weekends, which suited him just fine.

Anthony looked down and over one house to the right. It was the home of old Mr.
Estes, Juan Estes, a widower who lived alone. He was out sleeping in his yard, stretched
out on his lounge, obviously enjoying the summer day just as Anthony had been.
But Anthony could suddenly tell something wasn't right with Mr. Estes either. He
allowed his eyes to focus under the shield of his raised hand, and he traced an invisible
line from where Mr. Estes slept up toward the sky and saw it intersected directly with the
flight path of the soaring birds. He felt a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach as if he
was aware of something, although he couldn't quite pin down what that might be.

Then the realization hit Anthony like a ton of bricks. It was the birds. They
weren't hawks or eagles or any such noble species but were the lowest of the low;
buzzards, turkey vultures, Mother Nature's garbage clean-up crew.
His eyes shot back down to where he had seen his neighbor presumably sleeping.
There was something down there on the lounge with him. Something was moving. It was
black and was quite large. Anthony realized it was another of those horrible buzzards,
which was now perched on Mr. Estes' chest, and its pink, fleshy head was pecking at the
poor man's face. Anthony wondered why the old man hadn't been fighting back at the
horrible creature. Then he realized why.

“What the hell?” Anthony shouted, then he screamed down at the bird. “Hey! Get
the Hell outta there! Shoo! Go away!”

The bird lifted its head to see where the source of the shouting had originated. As
the creature drew back, Anthony saw something stringy and white dangling from its
hooked beak. It was an eyeball! It hung from crimson strips of sinew and swung slowly
back and forth like an ogling pendulum.

“Oh my God, no!” Anthony shouted as he turned to run down the stairs of his
deck, screaming wildly. As he hurried through his yard shouting, arms flailing, the
buzzard opened its massive wings and, with a few slow-motion flaps, was airborne, its
delectable prize morsel dangling from its beak.

Anthony hopped over the four-foot chain-link fence separating the yards, clearing
it by almost a foot. He ran up to the unmoving body of Mr. Estes, stopping and looking in
horror at the condition of the dead man's face. Bloody black sockets remained where the
man's eyes once had been, and a partial crimson and black stump of a tongue lolled from

the corner of his mouth. Most of his nose, as well as his lips, had been decimated.
Anthony could see through the darkened nasal passages into his skull. What little flesh
remained on the man's face had been pecked to tatters, down to the bone. Anthony looked
up at the great flock of buzzards soaring overhead, still circling, waiting for their
opportunity to return to their feast.

“Well, they won't get another chance," Anthony roared as he reached down and
grabbed one end of the lounge, lifting it and dragging the chair and corpse across the
lawn toward Mr. Estes' patio and back door.

He couldn’t imagine what might have happened to the man; perhaps it had been a
stroke, or a heart attack had befallen him as he lay resting. He must have been dead for at
least a day or two by the body's condition, which made sense because Anthony thought it
might have taken that long to attract the turkey vultures, although he had no real
knowledge of such things. He was fairly certain these birds were not predators but docile
and timid scavengers.

As Anthony got close to Mr. Estes' back door, still dragging the lounge across the
concrete block patio, he happened to look over to Mr. Estes’ next-door neighbor’s patio. It
had been shielded from view from his own deck by some tall arborvitaes, which
obviously were planted for privacy. However, now that he was on Mr. Estes’ patio, he
could see the French doors leading to the neighbor’s family room. Anthony didn’t know
those neighbors well, but he believed the family’s name was Stauffer. As he recalled,
there were a husband, wife, and two young children.

Then he saw a movement in the darkened shadows thrown by the tall arborvitaes
and saw two of the wretched buzzards pecking at a piece of tattered flesh. He looked
back at the family room doors and noticed something jutting out from one, which stood
partially opened. It was an arm with a large section of flesh peeled away. He found an
empty drinking glass, a nice heavy one sitting on a nearby patio table. He grabbed the
glass and threw it over at the buzzards, completely missing them but hitting a nearby
patio light pole with enough force to shatter the globe and frighten the fearful creatures
into flight.

He stepped around the lounge, slowly walked over to the Stauffer's patio, and got
a better view of the thin, feminine bare arm hanging out of the door, lying on the
concrete. He saw even more strips of flesh missing from the limb, revealing yellowish-
white bone and brownish-crimson musculature. It was the little girl. He believed her
name might have been Jeanie or Janie; he wasn’t certain.

Suddenly his stomach lurched, and he found himself rushing to the wall of
arborvitaes, where he vomited uncontrollably, feeling weak with trembling hands. When
he had emptied his stomach, and dry heaved for a few more convulsive moments, he
grasped the tall bushes for support and feebly managed to stand upright once again. He
somehow found the strength to make his way toward the French doors.

Anthony looked through the glass panes and saw Mr. Stauffer dead on the family
room floor. He pulled open one of the French doors and saw Mrs. Stauffer and her son,
also dead, lying on the sofa, their arms dangling down to the floor. His thoughts became
jumbled and started to make no sense to him whatsoever. At first, he wasn’t even thinking
of how such a thing had happened. Instead, he found himself wondering what the Stauffer
parents' names were. “Was his name Bob or Bill? And hers? Was it Sandra or maybe
Debra” Anthony knew he was not thinking clearly at all, but unfortunately, his sense of
smell was functioning quite well.

He noticed an ungodly stench coming out through the open door, and Anthony
backed away when he heard the sound of tiny footsteps scurrying about the room. To his
shock and horror, he saw several rats running for cover, each dragging small pieces of
bloody flesh.

“What in the Hell is going on here?” Anthony wondered yet again. He was
beyond confused now and tried desperately to fight off a new urge to vomit. He was
certain there was nothing left in his stomach to come up. He had to do something and do
it quickly. He reached into the pocket of his shorts and retrieved his cell phone. He stood
as upright as possible and took a deep breath, trying to regain enough composure to call
911 and report what he had found. He was facing up toward his own property again and
could see his deck overlooking these homes just a few hundred feet away.
Before he could press the buttons, his eyes caught sight of something, which at
first was beyond his ability to comprehend. Several houses on both sides of his all had
elevated decks similar to his own. But his deck was different in that it didn’t have dead
bodies strewn about it or large black buzzards pecking and tearing those bodies to pieces.
Some of the corpses were hanging over the deck rails, while others had apparently fallen
to the ground below the decks were rats, and other such vermin were feasting on their
remains. Anthony staggered out to the grass, staring at the spectacle in incredulity. He
stood with his cell phone in hand, mouth agape, disbelieving what his eyes were seeing.
He was certain this all had to be some terrible nightmare. He had pressed the nine, then
the one, and then the second one and had his thumb ready to press the call button.

“So … what do you think of my handy work?”

Anthony stood frozen. He was still very dazed and uncomprehending. He felt as if
he were in some kind of surrealistic nightmare. He knew he had heard a voice coming
from somewhere next to him, but he couldn’t seem to be able to acknowledge it. He
wasn’t even certain of what he had heard. It was as if he was in the middle of a horrible
dream, and there was no way for him to wake up. He felt trapped in some sort of bizarre
world, and for some reason, he could hear a strange, unidentifiable voice calling to him
from a place he knew was close by yet seemed to be very far away.

Once again, the soft yet well enunciating voice said, “I asked you a question, my
friend. What do you think of my handiwork? I think I did a very good job, wouldn’t you
agree?”

Every so slowly, Anthony turned in the direction from which the sound had come.
Standing just a few feet from him was a tall man of average build, in a black business suit
with a blood-red tie and a matching kerchief sticking up from his jacket pocket. The
man's slicked-back hair was coal-black, and his complexion was evenly tanned. His
swarthy countenance looked very much out of place in this upper-middle-class suburban
neighborhood on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

“What?” Anthony asked, disoriented. “What did you say?”

The man looked at him curiously and said, “I asked you what you thought of my
handiwork.”

“What … what are you talking about?” Anthony asked, keeping his thumb near
the call button on his cell phone yet still not pressing it. The fact was, he had become so
confused he had forgotten completely about it.

“All this.” The man said, waving his hand in a theatrical semicircle.
“What?” Andrew repeated. Then still befuddled, Andrew asked, “Are you saying
… I mean … do you … expect me to believe … you did … this?” Andrew once again
looked slack-jawed out into the carnage surrounding him.

“;I don’t expect you to believe anything in particular. In fact, as far as I’m
concerned, you’re most welcome to believe whatever you choose to believe.” The man
replied casually. “However, the truth is I really am the one responsible for all of what you
now see before you. Every person in every house in your lovely suburban neighborhood
is dead. And it is all my doing.”

Despite his confusion, Anthony realized such a claim had to be impossible. Had
this man killed one or even two neighbors in the manner he had witnessed, surely the
noise of the commotion would have alerted some of the other neighbors to the danger.
He hesitated for a moment, unsure what he should do next, then asked the strange
man, “But … but how? How could one man do such a thing? And … and why? Why
would anyone even want to do such a thing?”

The man replied, “;The how is not important. In fact, it’s likely beyond your
comprehension. Let’s just call it one of my many trade secrets. The why, on the other
hand, is simple. I did it because I could and because I wanted to.”

“But … but …” Anthony started to protest.

“Just relax.” the odd man said, And please stop trying so hard to understand.
Comprehending my motivations is beyond the scope of mere human understanding. Let’s
just say it’s something I choose to do from time to time. If you were a student of history,
you’d find many accounts of small towns and villages throughout the world where the
entire populations either simply vanished or were all found dead."
Anthony recalled a documentary he had once seen on television about a famous
incident in North America where every one of the citizens of the Roanoke Colony
vanished in 1587, never to be seen again. He also recalled accounts of massacres in
American History and current news events from Africa and the Middle East where the
populations of entire towns had been slaughtered and the perpetrators never caught.
Anthony said with discomfort, still feeling confused, overwhelmed, and not even
certain any of this was really happening. “Are you trying to say … you were responsible
for … for those events as well?”

Anthony realized he was obviously talking to some lunatic, perhaps not a
murderer, but someone with delusions of grandeur. Likely, the individual had stumbled
upon this carnage just as Anthony had, and perhaps for some insane reason, this fellow
thought he could get some instant fame by claiming credit for the incredible horror.
It made no sense to Anthony, but he realized very little did at the moment. He
knew wackos like this character were out there looking for their fifteen minutes in the
crazy media-frenzied world. Such individuals were often known to confess to crimes they
didn't commit just to get their face on the evening news. Others down on their luck were
simply hoping to get a few free nights in jail on the county. “Three hots and a cot” was
how they referred to it. Anthony still had his cell phone in his hand and decided now
might be a good time to get the authorities involved. But when he tried to press the call
button, he realized his hand couldn’t move. In fact, he suddenly discovered his entire
body was paralyzed.

The man hesitated, then said, “Not just yet, Anthony. I know you have a
communications device at the ready and are anxious to contact law enforcement, but I’m
afraid that will have to wait for a while. I still have a bit more to explain to you. Then I’ll
be happy to let you press your button and contact whoever you choose."
Anthony noticed that many of the buzzards had landed on the grass around him
and no longer seemed afraid of his presence. Some of them went off to find other sources
of nourishment, but several dozen remained and had positioned themselves behind the
dark stranger. It was as if he was their master, and as such, they were there to do his
bidding.

"You see, Anthony, and yes, I know your name is Anthony, just as I knew that
old-timer was Juan Estes, and those folks over there were the Stauffer family. Back there
was the Edmunds family, over there the Rices. I could go on and on, but what's the point?
I've been doing this sort of thing for centuries. I show up, wreak a little havoc as it were,
then disappear for another decade or so until I get the urge for some more fun, and then I
pop back in for a bit of additional excitement.”

“Yes, I’m sure that right about now, your human curiosity is getting the better of
you, and you have thousands of questions about me; the whys, the what’s, and the
wherefores, but sadly I choose not to waste my time explaining things to you or any other
human for that matter. So what say we get this show on the road as you people like to
say?”

“Here’s what I want you to do. I will release you long enough for you to complete
that call you were about to make. I suspect it was for some sort of emergency help or
perhaps to signal those in authority. Don’t look so surprised, Anthony. That’s exactly
what I want you to do.”

The strange man waved his hand a moment later, and Anthony could move once
again. He quickly pressed the call button and, in a few seconds, heard someone on the
other end say, “Nine-one-one, operator. What is the nature of your emergency?”

Anthony attempted to speak but was unable to do so. Nor was he able to move.
He looked over at the dark stranger who was smiling at him sinisterly. “That should be
good enough. Don’t you think?” Anthony knew the stranger was right. His cell phone
would be traced, and emergency personnel would be dispatched to his location.

“Well then. I suppose my work here is almost done. You see, when the authorities
get here, all they’ll find is a lot of dead people and no explanation for how they ended up
that way. They’ll come up with all sorts of ideas and theories but will never know the
truth. The real fun will come when the so-called crazies, wackos, and conspiracy theorists
start to come up with outlandish ideas such as space aliens and such. Some might even
blame demons from Hell for rising up to the surface to wreak havoc. Those folks will be
closer to the truth than they’ll ever realize.” He chuckled to himself.

Anthony began to feel his arms move slowly upward and turn outward, so his
outstretched fingers were directly in front of his face. The hands drew ever closer to his
face as his fingers formed into claw-like appendages. He didn’t want to know what would
happen next, although he believed he understood perfectly well.

“That’s right, Anthony, the dark stranger said. “We can’t leave any witnesses,
can we? I suppose I could leave you alive and muttering insanely like a madman, but then
they’d simply give the credit for my handiwork to you. I can’t allow that. No mere human
can claim the right to my creativity. And here's the best part. Everyone in your
neighborhood has been dead for several days, while you will be a fresh kill. That will just
make the mystery even more bizarre.”

Anthony’s hands sprang forward, and his fingers sank deep into his eye sockets,
clawing and tearing his eyeballs from their moorings. One of them fell to the ground,
where it was promptly gobbled up by a nearby buzzard. Anthony screamed out in agony,
and while his mouth hung open, one of his hands grabbed his tongue and tore it out in a
shower of gore. The hand threw the tongue across the lawn and into the waiting mouth of
another buzzard. Then the claws reached up and began to tear at his throat, ripping flesh
and shearing veins and arteries. Anthony fell to the ground as his lifeblood pumped from
his carotid artery and soaked into the soil and grass beneath him.

He could see nothing but heard the stranger speaking to the wretched birds,
“Enjoy your feast, my friends. I must be on my way.”

Anthony lay in the grass, his head against the ground, now too weak from blood
loss to even lift his gnarled hands. He could hear the sound of dozens of small footsteps
against the soil surrounding him. Then as he sensed the last of his life passing, he could
feel them pecking at his face and hands, tearing off strips of his flesh and devouring him
ever so slowly. He hoped against hope death would come quickly.

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