Your Invisible Neighbor

In this beguiling short-short story, Houston author Claire Anderson inverts one of science fiction's most enduring horror tropes.

Your invisible neighbor rarely leaves his house. So you assume. 

When he does leave his house, your invisible neighbor is usually wearing only a few articles of clothing at a time. A hat, some gloves in the winter, shoes (of course!), and maybe a jaunty little scarf or ascot, those year-round because they’re fashionable. Only with gloves on can you tell if he’s waving back at you. 

When he walks his dog — his visible dog — all you can really see of him passing you by on the street is a floating leash attached to his dog’s collar. It’s funny when the dog suddenly pulls left or right, because the floating leash just whips and zooms away with him, and you have to imagine the expression on your invisible neighbor’s face. 

Your invisible neighbor’s dog is named Herbert George, after the H.G. in H.G. Wells, who once wrote a book he called The Invisible Man. Your invisible neighbor loves that book. You gave him a really nice copy of it a few Christmases ago, one all decorated with silver on the front. You’re pretty sure he really appreciated it, but since you couldn’t see his face you’re not totally sure. But he sounded pleased. 

Your invisible neighbor doesn’t talk much. Or at least, not to you. He seems to prefer the solitude of being, you guess, the only invisible man in a very visible neighborhood. You wonder sometimes if he doesn’t get lonely, all invisible and alone with his dog and his house, but when you do talk to each other, he seems nothing but cheerful.

You find your invisible neighbor kind of funny, even if — and I agree with you here — he is a little weird. But maybe he has the right to be weird. Maybe it’s right for him. There seems to be no one in the whole world the exact same kind of weird as him. And that’s sort of beautiful. 

When you need your invisible neighbor’s help with something, or have a favor to ask him, he’s always got your back. He must be — at least a little bit — super strong, because he is a master at moving furniture around. He’s rearranged your living room five times already, single-handedly! Your invisible neighbor says he’s always happy to help. He says that’s what neighbors are for. 

You’ve never asked him how he became invisible, or if he’s always been invisible, and you probably never will. It doesn’t feel appropriate. You don’t want your precious few conversations to get too uncomfortable. But still, your mind likes to wander. Was it some kind of nuclear testing accident? A voluntary experiment gone wrong? Was he born invisible? Are either of his parents invisible? 

He’s never mentioned his family before, and he never has visitors or travels anywhere for the holidays. You wonder. 

You think about your invisible neighbor often, and sometimes with unexpected fondness. You hope he thinks about you, too, but you doubt he does. You’re used to doubting. 

When the doorbell rings one day when it’s raining and you open the front door to see a trench coat, boots and gloves attempting to close a wet umbrella while wrangling a dog and his floating leash, after you pull them both inside and your invisible neighbor tells you all about how he’s locked himself out of the house, how silly of him, but could he and Herbert George please dry off and warm up in your lovely home because you’re the neighbor they know best, and could your invisible neighbor use your phone to call a locksmith, and once he’s done that he tells you how the locksmith is charging extra for having to drive so far uptown and in this rain of all things; when all this happens, you finally realize you’re in love with your invisible neighbor. 

And when, a little while later, you’re sitting together talking by the fireplace, snoring dog calm on the rug between your armchairs, sipping hot tea that you can just see going into the place where your invisible neighbor’s mouth should be, in the middle of a casual conversation that somehow went from stories about losing keys to an analysis of Oscar Wilde and 19th century morals, after you accidentally mention something you’ve noticed about how your invisible neighbor likes to keep his rose garden, something he says no one’s ever noticed before; at that moment, without really saying it yet, your invisible neighbor tells you he loves you, too.

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Claire Anderson

Claire Anderson

Claire Marie Anderson is an Art History student and writer from Houston, Texas. Her prose and poetry has appeared in Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad Ones, KAIROS Literary Magazine, The Magazine, and The Decadent Review, among other publications. She is currently competing as a playwright in Cone Man Running Production's War of the Words, an audio play bracket battle.

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