So, as a big fan of Chuck's challenges here's the first part of my story (as of yet, untitled):
Dave sat down to his breakfast and watched his new neighbor, Bob, go ape-shit on number twenty-eight’s lawn. Dave licked butter from his fingers, swallowed his first taste of hot coffee and went over to the window for a closer look. Bob was on one knee, hands tearing at the skin of his throat, body shaking like a guppy fish in its final death-throes.
Idiot, Dave thought, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Goddamn show off.
He returned to the breakfast nook and guzzled another mouthful of Joe. Dangers of living opposite a Limey: you never knew what to expect next. One minute the guy’s moving in – all Savile Row business suit, afternoon tea and crumpets – the next he’s causing a scene in the middle of the street like a mental patient.
Out on Mr Bewford’s beautifully manicured lawn, Bob had fallen flat on his face, hands still working at his own throat. Dave watched silently for a few moments, cursed himself and went out to see what all the fuss was about.
Throwing out my morning routine, you British asshole.
Bob was screaming, face-first, into the grass. It sounded like something was caught in the man’s windpipe. Dave shuffled over in his slippers, close enough to feel the heat baking from him. He caught a whiff of shit but reassured himself it was just the manure in the garden.
‘What is it, Bob?’ he asked. He spied a sodden, brown lump mashed into the set of Bob’s trousers and suppressed a shudder. ‘Anything I can help you with?’
Bob responded with a guttural yelp. His shoes dug sickle-shaped furrows into the grass.
‘No good, old bean,’ Dave said. He raised his voice over the din. ‘Perhaps this is what your lot get up to first thing but you may have noticed that here on Magnolia we don’t have time for games. Now, if you want me to help you back inside let’s get on with it. My coffee is getting cold.’
He rolled Bob rolled over onto his back and immediately regretted the decision.
Bob’s fingers clawed at a neck three sizes too big, the skin black and shiny like a bicycle inner tube pumped up past its capacity. His tongue thrashed from the grim opening of his mouth, his choked wails rising into the air.
‘Jesus,’ Dave said. He dropped to his knees to assist the man. Fucking CPR, he thought. Chest compressions, IV. Shit, shit, shit.
Before Dave could check Bob’s airway, Bob grabbed him. He linked his hands behind Dave’s neck and pulled himself close. ‘Sleep,’ Bob said with a dry bark. ‘It’s the sleep.’
Dave pulled himself away, the stink of sweat and shit all at once too much. He tried to re-examine his neighbor's blackened neck but Bob battered his fingers away for a second time.
‘Sleep,’ he tried again. He reached into one pocket, pulled something out and forced it into Dave’s hand. ‘They are coming.’
Dave looked down. The object was tiny, barely large enough to fill his palm. A gold, circular trinket. Metal links twisted and twirled about its circumference. Its lines seemed to dance right there against his flesh.
Looks like an antique, Dave had time to think. Bob let go, yelped shrilly and barred his teeth, in the full grip of a seizure. His fingers left the ruined mess off his neck and tore up chucks of grass
Dave looked on, helpless. A slick chill raced from the base of his spine to the nape of his neck and back again. He shivered despite the warmth of the June morning.
They carted Bob off around 8:15 – a pair of paramedics who pumped Bob’s chest, yelled his name and lifted him into the back of their Day-Glo vehicle. After they had gone, Dave watched the dull, man-shaped impression Bob had left behind on twenty-eight’s lawn. Neighbors were out on the street by now – gossiping, pointing, arms wrapped around themselves like flabby, insecure wraps. Dave didn’t fill them in on what had happened; just kept his eyes glued to the Bob-shape on the lawn.
The sleep. It’s the sleep.
When the cops showed up, he answered their questions. Told them what he knew. He kept Bob’s gift hidden in his pants pocket, of course. And why shouldn’t he? Bob had given the thing to him. Him and no-one else.
They are coming.
That night, Dave skipped dinner. He couldn’t eat. His stomach felt locked and bloated. Every time he tried to convince his body to try a piece of toast, a glorious, feature-sized image of Bob’s haunted, staring eyes flared up before him.
But the trinket made it all better. No doubt about that. Beautiful. So beautiful. The miniature hoops shifted and moved – a Celtic band one moment, a broach, a golden lattice the next. Sometimes, if he looked away for too long, he became afraid the gift would disappear and wink out from existence.
Better to keep his focus glued to the shifting hoops.
In the end he crawled up to bed, the trinket brought up close between the pillow and his ear. He expected to hear the metal plates shifting and twirling and sliding but the only sound was that of his own breath. He looked about his bedroom as though for the first time. The shape of the dresser at the foot of the bed began to change but he put it out of mind. The fitted wardrobe had too many corners. He thought it best to ignore it.
He lay that way – somewhere between awake and asleep – until the early hours of the morning. Finally, when sleep took him, he was too exhausted to realize.