Flash Fiction: “CleerQuil” by Jonathan Raab and Colin Scharf

Everyone in your new neighborhood knows about you.

They know an awful lot about you.

They saw the moving truck, and watched from dark windows.

They hear your footsteps on creaking floorboards late at night, when you have trouble sleeping and pour yourself a little drink.

“CleerQuil,” one of them told you the other day. It was the man from down the street, from the house with the unkept yard covered in dead leaves. There’s a metal rod staked into the ground there, with a bit of loose chain wrapped around it. “There’s a lot of allergens in this neighborhood.”

The bottle was in your hands. It was icy-cold to the touch.

“Thanks,” you said. “But I have plenty.” Your cupboards were full of CleerQuil. You don’t remember ever buying any.

“Take it,” the man said. “It’s a real thing. I saw it on TV.”

And you waved him goodnight. There were others. They smiled. Plastic teeth, dead eyes. Their faces fell slack when you turned to go back inside.

And they watched.

Last Tuesday night, they went through your garbage, looking for empty bottles. Now they know how much electricity you use.

You’ll find a note in your mailbox when you go home from work tonight. The note is hand-written, scrawled in overwrought cursive across a thick square of faded paper the color of spilled coffee.

The note will say, if the moon is right:

“It’s a real thing. We saw it on TV. You should take it.”

The neighborhood will look deserted, but they will be there. You won’t see them, but you will feel their eyes upon you, and you will tell yourself that you have a sore throat.

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