The outbreak. It took them all eventually. In Swanston Close, it started with Irene Fisher and her husband, Henry.
Irene was the shining example of a good suburbanite — her wheelie-bins were always out 24 hours before they needed to be on collection day, and were never taken in again any later than 15 minutes after they’d been emptied. Her lawn was always green and close cut with neat edges and bordered by a selection of ornamental rocks — evenly spaced, removed for the cutting, and evenly replaced. The fallen leaves from her maple tree, always neatly collected up and neatly put into a neat little bag by her neat little husband, Henry. Rumour was spreading in the close that she and Henry were having marriage issues — mainly from the fact that when Henry was out at work during the week, a stranger kept appearing, shiny new car parked on the eternally swept, weed-free driveway. However, no-one thought things were so bad that Irene would put aside her propensity for neatness and order one Saturday morning, and bite a neat chunk out of her long-suffering husband’s neck while he was mowing the lawn for the fourth time that week.
It didn’t take long to spread.
Joan, the ‘witch’ at no.3 was the next to get it. She had lived in the neighbourhood the longest — buying the biggest house on the street when the estate was first built sometime in the eighties, and consequently, acted— no — believed she owned the place. The little patch of grass and trees, that jutted out into the curve of the road, and looked like public land — that was hers — apparently, and boy did anyone who walked on/played on/parked near or looked at it know when she came out on her patrol.
Her constant door calls to Evan, the street’s neighbourhood watch leader at no.8 about such ‘heinous crimes’ as kids playing ball in the street, trade-vans parked on the road, and of course — trespassers on her precious patch of grass, were increasing on a weekly basis. She obviously didn’t have her contact lenses in that morning when she went out to scold the latest unlucky violator of her patch — a somewhat unrecognisable Henry.
Henry — or should we say, the late Henry, neck in shreds and smeared in his own blood, was engaged in a combination of staggering and crawling across Joan’s precious patch of grass, mainly because the lawnmower that had mangled his leg was now trailing from it like a ball and chain. On reaching him, Joan’s look of utter contempt quickly changed to disgust — then moved to confusion, with a quick stop at surprise, and finally ending in terror, as Henry proceeded to dine on her chubby calf, oblivious to her screams, her leg locked in his vice-like grip.
For Alison and Martin Hughes at no.7, things weren’t actually that different from normal. Martin was cowering in the lounge as his wife advanced towards him, but instead of her usual screaming that carried across the street on quiet evenings, she uttered a more modest, guttural moan before embracing him in her arms and her teeth.
The Grays at no.5 seemed to have their shit together. It wasn’t long after Joan’s screams abated that Paul and Chloe, and their two-year-old son, Daniel were hurriedly loading their 4×4. The 4×4, which had been sat on their drive for over 8 months, undergoing various repairs, seemed to be in top working order as it pulled out, its spinning wheels throwing pea-shingle across the driveway, then ploughing through Alison and Martin — now lurching out into the street, together, and finally not arguing.
The ironic thing was, the neighbourhood — a dormitory of commuters, that on evenings and weekends had parked cars in driveways and on the sides of the road, but was essentially a ghost town between the hours of 7am–6pm, had never seen so many people out on the street at once.