It seemed like I had made too many cupcakes again. I don’t know why I always bought the amount of ingredients that I did. I decided I would do what I did every time: take them to my neighbor.
I put a few in a basket and began walking to the door. I was taking the cupcakes to my old neighbor, Johnson. His wife had died a while back and he lived alone in this big house with his chihuahua. He was always sitting on his porch watching the cars drive by, so I was a little shocked to see that his porch was empty.
I walked up the steps and knocked on the door. There wasn’t any barking which was odd. His dog loved to let him know when someone was at the door.
There wasn’t an answer so I knocked again. After a few seconds a younger gentleman, probably in his 20s, answered the door. He was wearing suspenders and had his hair perfectly in place. I felt embarrassed showing up in sweatpants and a messy bun.
“Yes?” His voice was calm and deep, almost too deep for his age.
“Uh, hi. My name is Rebecca Clark. Is Mr. Johnson here?” I smiled, lifting up the basket of cupcakes.
He looked confused. We stood there in silence for a good 10 seconds before he broke the silence.
“Very funny Miss Clark. I am a very busy man so please tell me the real reason you are here.”
“I told you, I am here to see Mr. Johnson. I bring him cupcakes every few weeks. I make them for myself but always make too much. Is he here?”
“Miss Clark I am sure that I do not have to explain to you the disrespect one must have to joke about a man’s death like this.” He stood up a little taller. I raised my eyebrows.
“And I am sure you know how inappropriate it is to lie about someone’s death when I saw him just yesterday while I was on my morning run. He was sitting right here on the porch with his dog. Who are you anyway?” I sat the basket down and crossed my arms. I wasn’t sure what kind of prank this was, but it definitely was more annoying than funny.
“My name is William, I am Mr. Johnson’s great grandson. My great grandfather died 10 years ago today,” he looked serious, which wasn’t much of a change from his original demeanor.
I fixed my gaze on him while I tried to sort through everything in my head. I saw Mr. Johnson almost every day. I knew for a fact I hadn’t made it all up. Not to mention, I had only lived here for two years. If he had really died 10 years ago, we never would have met.
After waiting what I felt was an acceptable amount of time, I spoke.
“So, Mr. Johnson isn’t here?”
“Mr. Johnson hasn’t been here since the week he passed.”
Part of me wanted to believe him simply because I couldn’t find a good enough reason for a guy to lie about the death of his great grandfather. The other part of me knew this was insane and impossible.
“How did he die?” I had hoped this questioned had stumped him. It didn’t.
“Some disease, I can’t seem to remember the name of. It was sudden. He began to ‘see things.’”
“What kind of things?”
“Lights, ghosts, I don’t know what you would call it. He said as he got ready for bed, they appeared in his mirror, then eventually in his windows, and then by his bed. At first we thought he was dreaming of my great grandmother, but he swore that that wasn’t the case. He stopped eating and would spend all day staring out of the window. He stopped taking care of his dog, so my wife and I took him in. The poor thing died a few years ago.”
I felt a little uneasy but knew for a fact Mr. Johnson didn’t sit by his window all day long. Every time I ran, he would ask me how things were going. He seemed normal to me.
“Finally we decided to admit him into the hospital. He began to form blood clots at an unnaturally rapid pace. They rushed him into surgery. During the procedure, he apparently tried to fight the doctors while under. After a few hours, he flatlined and they weren't able to bring him back.”
“And this was because of a… disease?” I had never heard of something like this.
“Yes… a disease that causes your blood to clot rapidly. However we never found out what caused the hallucinations.”
I stood there for a minute longer before bending down to pick up the basket. I wasn’t sure of what to make of this conversation or really how to handle the information I had just received.
The air had gotten significantly colder in the five minutes I had been there and it seemed as if William was waiting for my departure. I took a step back and looked at him.
“Well, I am very sorry for your loss…” I wasn’t sure of what else to say.
“Thank you, Miss Clark.”
I turned around to head to my house but something felt off. I turned back to face William and caught his attention before he had shut the door.
“Did he ever mention me? Did he ever talk about the girl with the cupcakes?” I figured there was some sort of chance he knew me, even though, at this point, I wasn’t sure how.
His face fell white, as if I had said something that sparked an awful memory.
“Stay right there, I have something for you…” He went inside and closed the door behind him. I stood there on his lawn, holding my basket of cupcakes.
It felt like forever before the door finally opened. He only opened it part of the way and stood there. I decided that was my invitation to walk back onto the porch.
He handed me a book with a drawing on the cover. It was a drawing of a red-headed girl who was holding a basket of cupcakes. The weird part was, the girl looked just like me.
“I don’t understand,” I said, setting down the basket and taking the book into my hands.
“He wrote about you, my great grandfather. I don’t know how I didn’t realize until now. In his last few years, he told us of this girl, the girl with the cupcakes. He wrote about how you reminded him of his wife. You brought him cupcakes, you saw him almost daily… I don’t know how I missed the connection., it’s been so long.”
I looked at the book and flipped through it. There were pages and pages of writing and drawings. I looked up at William, more confused that I had ever been.
“That’s not possible. If he died 10 years ago, he wouldn’t have ever met me. I just moved here two years ago, this can’t be about me.”
“He said you always brought him lemon poppyseed cupcakes, his wife’s favorite… What kind of cupcakes are in your basket?” I looked down at the basket and then back at William. I felt sick.
“Lemon poppyseed… I make them every couple of weeks. But how -“ William cut me off.
“The last page, it never made sense until now. He said you would pay him one last visit. We never knew what that meant, but didn’t worry too much about it.”
I flipped to the last page, afraid of what I might read.
My sweet Rebecca,
Nothing is more difficult than accepting your own mortality. It seems as if my time here is coming to an end. Nobody understands me anymore. I haven’t seen you in a while. I miss your cupcakes and your daily visits while you went on your run. What happened? Did they tell you? Did they tell you about the monsters that follow me? They keep telling me to go, but I pray to see you one last time. You promised to visit me one last time.
It is getting harder to resist, oh how I hope you will come bid me farewell. I have a feeling you will eventually understand the way that I do. For once I am gone, the monsters will need a new friend to follow.
I had a dream just last night, you joined me. The monsters had gotten you. You looked younger than I remember. You looked like my wife, young and sweet…
Avoid them at all costs. Whatever you do, do not give in. My sweet Rebecca, run. Run for your life.
You are next.
I felt a lump form in my throat. I looked up and William was gone.
I felt a cold breath on the back of my neck as Mr. Johnson’s words repeated in my head: you are next.