Reading Time: 6 minutes read

I sat down at my desk, coffee in hand, just as the doorbell chimed. It rang throughout the house. Who could that be? I wondered. I didn’t have any company planned toda as I was hoping to spend all day alone at my computer, finishing the sketches I’d started earlier in the week. 

I sighed and got up, leaving behind my coffee, to answer the door.

Through the peephole, I saw my neighbor, Terrell Wainscott. He slicked back his gray hair and straightened his leather jacket. In his hands, he held a box with a smiling arrow on the side: an Amazon package.

I opened the door and smiled my best I-just-woke-up smile at him. “Mr. Wainscott,” I greeted him, “What’s up?”

He held the box out to me. “This came to my house, but I think it’s yours.”

I took it from him, and it did, in fact, have my name on it. Dianna Blasing was printed on the white paper taped to the box. Huh, I thought. Where’d this come from? I hadn’t ordered it and the sender was some Amazon store I’d never heard of.

I laid the box on the table beside the door. “Thanks,” I said. 

I began to close the door, but he cleared his throat and said, “How would you like to have dinner with me and Martha?”

I, caught off guard, opened the door wider and just stood there. I blinked and said, “Dinner?”

Mr. Wainscott nodded. “Yes, with me and Martha. Tonight, if you don’t have plans.”

I tried to think of any excuse to get out of it. I didn’t have one. Mr. and Mrs. Wainscott were nice enough neighbors, but I was a bit of a hermit. I didn’t like going out, and I particularly hated socializing. 

But when no good excuse came, I relented. Better to have an awkward dinner, I guessed. “Sure,” I said. “What time?”

“Six?” he said.

“Okay, I’ll see you then,” I said. This time I closed the door before he could add anything else. I pressed myself to the door and sighed. “Why did I do that?” I asked the empty room.

Then I remembered the package. 

I grabbed the box and sliced my fingernails under the black tape on the side. The box made a satisfying pop! when I yanked it open, and inside I found some cloth wrapped in plastic. I laid the box back down on the table and pulled out the package, sliding the cloth out. It unfolded into a strawberry-colored A-line dress. The straps were thin and I guessed the skirt would come to about halfway down my thighs. 

Inside the box, there was no gift note or any other indication of where the dress had come from. 

That’s not weird, I thought. At least it was pretty. And now I wouldn’t have to worry about what to wear to the Wainscott’s dinner. 

Six rolled around and I walked up the sidewalk to the Wainscott’s. The dress swooshed around my legs and I felt pretty with the dash of makeup I’d put on. Enough for a dinner with the neighbors, anyway.

I knocked on the door and Mr. Wainscott answered. “Why don’t you look lovely, Dianna. Come in; Martha will be with us momentarily.” He opened the door and stepped aside so I could enter.

I followed him into the dining room. The table was already set with plates and silverware. Red, cloth napkins were folded neatly into triangles on the plates. 

Mr. Wainscott pulled a chair out and I sat down in it. “Martha’s just finishing up cooking,” he said. “We’re having a roast.” He sat on the opposite end of the round table. A place was sat on his left for Martha. The center of the table had been cleared out for the roast and sides.

“How’s your art going?” he asked, folding his hands and laying them on the table. 

I shrugged. “As good as it can,” I said. “I’ve got some deadlines this week.” I shifted in my seat, crossing my legs and laying my hands in my lap. I tapped my fingers against my thighs, quietly and anxiously.

We chatted for what seemed like ages—about life, work, and whatever else came to mind. A half hour passed. Then an hour. I knew it was rude, but I checked my phone and saw it was seven. 

“Do you think Mrs. Wainscott needs any help in the kitchen?” I asked.

“How sweet of you to offer,” he said. “Why don’t you go check?”

I nodded and got up out of my seat. He gestured towards a door on the right and I headed through it into the kitchen.

Mrs. Wainscott stood at the sink, with her back to me. “Hi, Mrs. Wainscott,” I said. “Do you need any help in here?”

She didn’t reply. I glanced at the stove, which was on and warm. I opened the oven and it was empty. Still? 

I laid a hand on Mrs. Wainscott’s shoulder. Her body slumped and fell over, hitting the floor with a loud thump! I jumped and a scream tore through my throat. I knelt down and checked her neck for a pulse, but there was nothing. There were bruises around her throat and her eyes were wide, bulging.

Mrs. Wainscott was dead. 

“Oh, I forgot to tell you. Martha’s been a bit out of sorts today.” 

I turned to see Mr. Wainscott in the doorway. “Call an ambulance,” I said, getting to my feet.

Mr. Wainscott crossed the room and lifted Mrs. Wainscott under her arms, resting her dead body against the sink again. 

I walked backwards towards the door, never taking my eyes off Mr. Wainscott.

“Diana, dear, what seems to be the problem?” he asked, approaching me.

I shook my head, my mouth open in a soundless scream. I turned and threw the door open, letting my legs pull me towards the front door. I heard Mr. Wainscott pick up speed behind me, and he slammed into me just as I rounded the corner to the front door. He took me to ground and my head hit the floor. Stars swam over my eyes, white light from the impact blinding me. 

I felt his hands around my throat. My vision recovered just in time to see Mr. Wainscott above me. He pressed down and his face was blank. There was nothing behind his eyes as the world went black around me. 

Prompt: A package arrives at your character’s house, but they didn’t order anything.