Under the Neighborhood
From a suburb of Richmond, VA

Robert Biehler

The neighborhood I grew up in had nothing wrong with it as far as I ever knew. It

was a nice part of the suburbs of Richmond and had lots of woods and paths to walk

through. There were schools and a church that sat right against the reservoir. It was

always beautiful in the Fall; the wind would blow the leaves and the trees would sway,

and it felt like the whole neighborhood was taking a big breath. It was a safe

neighborhood too. All the crime seemed to happen in the city, and even the minor

things, like small fires or trees falling on houses, were always in the other

neighborhoods surrounding ours.

When we were kids, our parents told us that it was safe because there was a giant

sleeping under the ground that p rotected us, so naturally we wanted to find it and see it

for ourselves. There were these storm drains and ditches all around that we would play

in to try to see it, but the adults caught us and made us get out. There was also the water

treatment building right by the reservoir that had a chain link gate surrounding it at a

strangely long distance. No one ever saw anyone going in or out of it, but it smelled bad,

so we were convinced that that’s where the giant had to be. But there was no way we

could think to get in there without someone seeing us and ratting u s out to our parents,

so we never did. Our only hope were these weird, tiny buildings peppered throughout

the neighborhood. They looked as if a linen closet were taken out of a house, given brick

walls, and then plopped right down outside along the paths that went through the woods

behind the houses. They all had a single metal door that was always locked, and they

were hard to notice because once you had lived there long enough, you didn’t even think

about them when you passed them.

But one day my best friend at the time, Jonah, mentioned to all of us that no one

had ever seen anyone opening those buildings or even acknowledging them either. We

knew that had to be how to get to the giant somehow. After school Jonah, and I, and our

group of friends all went to the little building that was farthest away from any of the

houses. The door was locked of course. Someone put their ear up to the door and could

have sworn they heard the sound of breathing or snoring or something. We decided to

get a bunch of rocks and pelt the door with them, hoping that by some chance the door

would open if we hit it hard enough (it made sense to us at the time.) The rocks made a

terribly sharp “clang” against our ears and probably rang out over the whole

neighborhood. The wind picked up wildly with short gusts buffeting us, and I thought I

felt the ground shutter a little bit, but that was probably because of all the rocks landing

back down. I guess we all forgot that everyone in the world could probably hear us

throwing the rocks, and soon enough, someone’s mom came rushing up, screaming at us

to stop what we were doing. She swore that all our parents would hear about this, and

we’d all get in severe trouble, so we all ran away as fast as we could so that she wouldn’t

remember who was there.

After several years we grew up more and went outside less. We had more

homework to do and after we did it, we just wanted to stay inside and play video games.

All of us, except for this one kid, Kevin. Kevin never seemed to grow up past the fooling

around outside p hase. I’ll admit, there were days that I wanted to enjoy spending time 

outside again, wandering around in the woods and whatnot, but I thought it would look

weirder the older that I got. And by that logic, that made Kevin the neighborhood weird

kid now.

We also figured out the truth about the giant living under the neighborhood. It

was, of course, just a silly rumor our parents came up with to put a little more magic and

wonder into our lives, a nd once we were old enough to realize how stupid that sounded,

we all s topped caring about it. Well, all except for Kevin, w ho still fervently believed that

the giant was real. He even tried to tell us that he got into the water treatment plant and

saw it, or that the small earthquake we had one year was because of the giant jumping

around. We thought it was funny at first, but soon we realized that he was being dead

serious, a nd to be caught talking to him implied that you were serious about it too, s o we

stopped talking to him.

One day I noticed that Kevin wasn’t in school, which wasn’t that strange because

he had a habit of skipping class to go wander around outside; that or he got himself

suspended again. He was known for getting into trouble, trespassing and breaking and

entering and the like. He never stole or did anything bad, it was just that he liked to be

able to get into places that he wasn’t allowed to be. What was strange, however, w as that

Jonah didn’t come to school e ither and he never missed a day even when he had a cold.

After school I went to his house to see what was up and his mom answered the door. She

told me Jonah was in a lot of trouble for bullying Kevin late last night out in the woods.

Apparently, Jonah had gone out with him into the woods and after something

happened (his mom didn’t know what) Kevin ran home screaming. I knew that couldn’t

be true because Jonah wasn’t a bully, and he also wouldn’t go into the woods in the

middle ofthe night without some extraordinary reason. I asked if I could see Jonah, but

his mom wouldn’t let me inside, so after she shut the door in my face, I ran around to

the back of his house and threw pebbles at his window. He saw me and came climbing

right out the window. W e walked around as it was getting dark, and I got him to tell me

everything that had happened.

Kevin had come knocking at his door last night in a frenzy, yelling about how he

knew how to get to the giant for real. He said that it was definitely through those strange

little outdoor closet buildings, and he knew that because he had been snooping around

one and heard some breathing when he pressed his ear up to the door. Jonah reminded

him that we already tried those years ago and also that he was being an idiot for still

believing in the giant. But there was something in Kevin’s watery eyes and quavering

voice that felt genuine to Jonah, so he went with him.

They went to the building farthest away from a ll the houses; the same one that

we’d tried before actually. Jonah tried to tell Kevin that it was just a place for electrics or

some kind of maintenance, but even he admitted that he couldn’t know for sure. Kevin

pulled out his lockpicking kit and proceeded to get to work trying to break into the

building. J onah glanced around nervously, sure that they were going to get caught. He

was in the middle of c ussing out Kevin for being a moron who still believed in dumb

myths that their parents made up when the lock clicked, and the door heaved open with

a rusty, ear grating screech. Jonah said the ground shook a little and the wind picked up

again.

The door didn’t open up to any sort of electric or maintenance or even small

storage space; but rather to a dark chasm with a flight of earthen stairs leading

downward. Jonah remembered that even though it should have been only rock and dirt,

there was an eerily organic smell coming from inside. Kevin handed him one of two

flashlights he brought with him, and they both reluctantly but curiously w ent down the

stairs. The stairs didn’t actually go down too far, probably only a couple floors. Then it

became a long grimy hallway. Quickly the ground and the walls got moister the farther

down they went, and stone and soil transformed into this red, fleshy material. Jonahstarted freaking out and told Kevin that he was turning back. Kevin hesitated, like he

was pondering whether or not to go back with Jonah. He drew a shaky breath and

continued down the corridor while Jonah sprinted back to the surface.

Once there, Jonah caught his breath and waited. He said he wanted to run but

also didn’t want to leave Kevin behind. So, he sat on the grass and tried to keep his cool.

Suddenly the ground shook violently and a gale of wind was sucked into the door and

then blasted right back out. Moments later Kevin came scrambling back out in a panic.

Jonah caught him before he could run out into the woods without knowing where he

was going. Kevin cried and blubbered all sorts of nonsense, but this is what Jonah was

able to put together:

Kevin had kept walking down the squishy, fleshy corridor. He went far enough

that he thought he heard water, so he assumed that he must have been somewhere close

to, or even underneath the water treatment plant. It was around there that the corridor

opened up into a large room. Strange noises echoed off the walls that sounded like

breathing, or fluids rushing through some sort of tubing. And then Kevin shined his

flashlight to the middle of the room.

Connected to the ceiling and floor of the room by all kinds of tendons and fibers

were a massive set of lungs, slowly inflating and deflating; and in between those was a

writhing, beating heart that was about twice as big as Kevin was. He himself was in some

kind of trance, or probably just shock, but regardless of which he was, he said he walked

up to the giant organs and poked them. He said the whole room vibrated angrily and the

heart and lungs squirmed around rhythmically. Kevin snapped out of his trance and

realized he needed to get out of there as soon as possible, so he stormed back down the

corridor, back up the stairs and out the door where Jonah intercepted him.

After he told him all this, Kevin jerked out of Jonah’s grasp and ran back home,

screaming all the way. It was that morning that Kevin’s mom called Jonah’s and got him

grounded, which is why he wasn’t at school that day. I almost thought he was screwing

with me, but I didn’t know why he bother coming u p with a lie that detailed. He went

back home because it was getting dark, and as I walked home myself, I thought that I’d

try to talk to Kevin since his house was on the way. I knocked on the door and asked for

him when his mom answered, but she told me that Kevin wouldn’t leave his room and

that he was too afraid to go outside anymore

 

All that week at school everyone kept talking about what Kevin and Jonah saw

and whether they were faking it or not. After a couple months Kevin and his family

moved away because Kevin was too scared of the neighborhood to go outside. I still

don’t know if I believe him or Jonah. Sometimes I go back to visit home and walk the old

trails that are so beautiful in the fall, and I’ll see one of those small buildings and think

of the whole ordeal again. The really frustrating thing i s that as I try to write this, I still

can’t think of the best way to describe them. I try searching online for “small suburban

electrical building” or “closet sized stone building in woods” but nothing that c omes up

is actually them. No other neighborhood seems to have them. For whatever reason, as

far as I know, ours is the only one.