The Neighbourhood Watchman

📅 Published on August 6, 2022

“The Neighbourhood Watchman”

Written by Dominic Eagle
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Nearly three years ago, when the pandemic began, I moved my family to a small hamlet in the Scottish Highlands.  I won’t give you its name.  I wouldn’t want you to find this place.

That being said, I can no longer keep this secret to myself.

Before this life, I was a poorly-paid security guard at a major bank in Carlisle.  In December 2019, I was laid off.  Over the following month or two, as the world commenced its descent into chaos, I frantically scoured the internet for any kind of job vacancy.  Nowhere was hiring.  Businesses were closing.  Talks of lockdown had begun.  I was worried my family and I would become homeless.

There were no jobs in Carlisle.  I widened my search to the entirety of Great Britain.  That was when I found the perfect job listing:

Neighbourhood Watchman

£31,000 per annum

7 days a week, 00:00-04:00

Civil service.  Funded by Strathspey Council.  Includes residence for employee & family.  Relevant experience preferred.

‘Relevant experience’ baffled me because I’d never heard of a paid neighbourhood watchman before.  I was certain that no such job really existed.  A neighbourhood watch was merely a collective of concerned residents, surely.  I couldn’t believe that a council would really pay somebody to do that.

I saw that dozens of people had already applied for the position.  Time was of the essence.  I polished my CV, placing heavy emphasis on the skills I’d acquired from two decades of security work for a bank.

When I received an email from Harriet Glade to say that I had been accepted for the position, I was ecstatic.  I didn’t have to let my family down.  I didn’t have to worry about being a failure in their eyes.

We packed up and drove north.  My two children, Rory and Grace, were a little disappointed that we were not moving to Edinburgh or Glasgow.  They were even more disappointed when they first laid eyes on the tiny hamlet that would become our new home.

The job title suddenly made complete sense.  I was to be a ‘neighbourhood’ watchman because this hamlet was merely a residential street in the middle of nowhere.  There was a row of six terraced houses on one side of a long country road.  In fact, everything in the hamlet was on the same side of the road.  A little farther along, there was a small convenience shop.  And just beyond that was a gargantuan house that would become our home.

My children perked up when they saw the building.  My wife gasped.  I gasped.  It was spectacular. When I read the word ‘residence’ in the job advertisement, I had not expected something twice as big as our old home.  It was three storeys tall, and it overlooked the forest, which was a few hundred yards away.  Between the hamlet and the wooded area was a large wooden watchtower.  It was about 70 feet tall.

“Okay.  This is cool.  I forgive you, Dad,” Grace said.

I laughed.  My wife kissed me on the cheek as I pulled onto the driveway.  Everybody clambered out of the vehicle, eager to explore the house.

“You must be the Graysons!”

The voice came from the direction of the hamlet.  I closed the car door and turned to face a short, elderly, Scottish woman.  She scurried towards me and held out a hand.  I shook it.

“Harriet Glade,” the woman said.  “Darren Grayson, I presume?”

“That’s me,” I replied.  “The house is beautiful.”

“Aye, so it is.  Ciaran has assured me that the inside is ship-shape,” Harriet said.

My wife walked over to introduce herself.

“Faye Grayson,” she said, shaking Harriet’s hand.

“Nice tae meet you, Faye.  How d’you feel about living in such an isolated place, eh?” Harriet asked.

“It’ll take some adjusting,” Faye said, clasping her hand around mine.  “But I’ll be fine.  I work from home.”

“Oh, aye!  When the internet’s working, so do I,” Harriet chuckled.

“Do you mind if I ask something?” I blurted out.

“Go ahead!” Harriet replied.

“This is a civil job, correct?  And you work for Strathspey Council?” I asked.

“Aye, that’s right,” Harriet replied, nodding.  “I deal with administrative matters.”

“Well, we’re a long way from Strathspey,” I pointed out.  “Why is this position so important to them?  I’m not complaining about being hired for such a well-paid job, but it’s a sizeable investment from a town so far from here.” It would be a sizeable investment even if it had been a local council, I thought to myself.  I still did not understand why a neighbourhood watchman was needed.

“I suppose it’s time to talk about your role, eh?” Harriet said, waving for me to follow her.

“I’ll take the kids inside,” Faye said.  “Have you got the keys?”

“Door’s unlocked, dearie.  Keys are on the table,” Harriet explained.

I remember thinking that such a lackadaisical attitude seemed out of place for a hamlet with its own watchtower.

“Don’t worry.  I only unlocked it this morning,” Harriet said, reading my mind.  “I assure you that we keep our doors locked in this hamlet.”

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Ciaran’s shop, which we like to use as a town hall when the need arises,” Harriet explained.  “He’s the mayor of this hamlet, y’might say.  He supplies the food, he fixes broken things, and he makes the final call on all decisions.”

She led me into the store, which was deceptively spacious.  In the centre of the room, there was a clearing with twelve chairs.  Two were empty.  A middle-aged man with a bushy beard rose to his feet.

“Hello, Darren!” The man roared jubilantly, raising his arms in a welcoming gesture.  “It’s nice to finally meet you.  I’m Ciaran Green, and these are your neighbours.”

“Hi,” a young woman sheepishly chirped up, raising a hand.  “I’m Lottie.  This is my husband, David. We have three wee ones at home.  They’re very excited to meet your weans!”

“Weans?” I asked.

The room erupted with laughter.

“English folk, eh?” Harriet chuckled, then she smiled at me.  “A wean is a child.”

“Oh, right,” I laughed, awkwardly.  “Yeah, I’ve got two children.  Sorry about that.” The rest of the people in the room introduced themselves, other than two silent, sinister-looking boys.

“And that just leaves these stoic teenagers,” Ciaran said, motioning towards the two fearsome chaps who were sitting with their arms crossed.  “These are my boys: Barry on the left, Richard on the right. They help me out at the store, but they don’t talk much.”

“It’s nice to meet all of you,” I stammered.  “That’s a lot of names.” Ciaran chuckled, sitting back down.  “Aye, I know this is all quite overwhelming.  And it’s not even what y’want tae know, is it?” I laughed uncomfortably, shrugging.

Ciaran nodded, removing his glasses, polishing them with the bottom of his leather jacket, then placing them back on his face.

“This is a quiet road, Darren.  It’s a good place with good people,” Ciaran stopped, his lip trembling. “But that doesn’t mean we’re surrounded by good things, y’know?”

My new neighbours murmured and nodded their heads in agreement.

“I see that the watchtower overlooks the forest,” I said.  “Is there something dangerous in there?” Ciaran paused for a long time.  “Aye.  Y’could say that.”

“I thought all of the deadly wildlife in Britain was exterminated centuries ago?” I replied.

“Well…” Ciaran hesitated.  “There are things in that forest.  Y’wouldn’t believe me, even if I were to tell you.”

I was a little exasperated at this point.  “What exactly does my job entail?  I know I only have to sit in a watchtower, but when would I ‘sound the alarm,’ so to speak?”

“You’d know,” Ciaran promised.  “But I hope it doesn’t come to that.” He swiftly changed the topic by offering tea and biscuits to everyone.  I didn’t know much about Scottish wildlife, but I knew it wasn’t particularly threatening.  I couldn’t see why a tiny hamlet would need a watchman to spot deer or highland cows.  I felt unsettled, to say the least.

I was on watch seven days a week.  Faye didn’t mind because my hours were short.  Midnight to 4 am. £31,000.  Fantastic.  I had plenty of time to spend with my family, even though I would sleep until midday.

I remember being terrified on my first night as the watchman, so it was almost an anti-climax when nothing happened.  And nothing happened for months.  Well, a wild boar ran out of the forest in quite a state.  I shooed it back.  That was twenty minutes of excitement.

“Can I come up the watchtower?” I remember Rory asking as I tucked him into bed.

“It’s boring up there,” I laughed.  “Even being a security guard was more fun.”

“Sometimes, from our window, I watch the forest with you,” Grace said as I knelt down to kiss her good night.

I smiled.  “Don’t worry.  I won’t tell your mum that you were out of bed.”

“Thanks,” Grace replied.  “Could you tell Harriet, though?  I’m basically doing the same job as you, and I wouldn’t mind a £31,000 salary.” I cackled until my eyes brimmed with water.  Ten-year-olds say the darnedest things.  Her five-year-old brother always seemed confused by her quips, and that only made each situation funnier.

Still, Grace’s words rang true.  What was I doing?  Why was I being paid so much for this?  I kept dismissing it as a bureaucratic oversight and continued to happily collect my money, but I didn’t like the idea of performing a pointless service.

“Am I just doing nothing every day?” I asked Faye.

“Half of the world is trapped at home.  They’re doing nothing,” my wife pointed out.  “This is a blessing, Darren.  We’ve landed on our feet.  Look at this amazing house.  We wouldn’t have ever been able to buy this place, even if we’d combined our salaries.  How many people get such an incredible opportunity?”

Faye always had a way of soothing me.  Let’s just say, on a particularly warm night in the summer of 2020, she found a way to liven up my watch.  The kids were having a sleepover with the three youngsters at Lottie’s house, and Faye kept me company in the watchtower.  I think you get my drift.

As we were getting dressed, I looked out of the glass pane that overlooked the forest.

The blood drained from my face.

Standing a few yards in front of the treeline was something on all fours.  It looked like a man who had contorted his limbs, bending his arms and legs outwards to walk like a four-legged creature.  Whatever black shape I saw, it immediately scurried backwards when it sensed my gaze.  It vanished into the forest.

“Did you see that?” I asked Faye.

“What?  Are you worried someone was watching?” my wife teased before clambering down the ladder and returning to the house.

I was more vigilant than usual over the following weeks.  Those four hours started to feel ceaseless.  I would keep my eyes peeled on the forest.  Even blinking felt like a luxury I could not afford.  I was actually working, at long last, and I was exhausted.  Fear had fatigued me.

By December, I decided that enough was enough.  I needed to start getting some proper sleep.  I started to relax on my shifts.  It was just an animal, I decided.

As the temperature plummeted below freezing and snow began to fall, the daily watch grew more brutal.

On one particular shift, I was shivering in my poorly-insulated room at the top of the watchtower, watching white flecks cascade from the sky and obscure my view of the forest.

I saw something.  It was the first thing I’d seen since the haunting apparition.  An ocean of snow had entirely coated the treetops and the ground below me, but I could faintly see black shapes emerging from the forest.

I felt my soul vacate my body for a brief moment.  I hadn’t imagined the creature at all.  It was real. And there was more than one of them.

Black, spindly limbs slowly marched through the snow.  I could see half a dozen of the things heading towards our hamlet.  As I fumbled in my thick coat for the walkie-talkie, I saw that the creatures were huddling together and making their way towards my tower.

“Ciaran!” I cried into the walkie-talkie.  “Are you there?  There’s some sort of… animal… coming out of the forest.”

To my surprise, his response was instant.

“You’ve done well.  You’ve given us time.  I need you to abandon your post and meet me in my store.”

I didn’t need to be told twice.  As I practically slid down the ladder from my tower, I squinted at the creatures through the thick waterfall of snowflakes in the sky.  I still couldn’t really believe what my eyes were seeing.

Let’s just say that my curiosity wasn’t as strong as my will to live.  I didn’t stick around to get a better look.

I waded through white muck, fixating my eyes on Ciaran’s shop and refusing to look back.  He was motioning for me to hurry up.  Once I was safely inside, he bolted the door behind me.

I suddenly realised that my family was there.  Everybody from the hamlet was there.  Faye, Rory, and Grace ran towards me, and I embraced them.

“What’s happening?” Faye whispered.

“Everybody needs to follow Barry and Richard to the back of the shop.  You’ll be safe there,” Ciaran ordered.

The emotionless brothers nodded and started to lead the small group of residents to the door behind the till.

“Not you, Watchman,” Ciaran said, grabbing my wrist before I could join my family.

Faye stopped and turned to face me.  Richard grabbed her arm and shook his head.  He insisted that my wife follow him.  I heard her continue to ask what was happening as Barry closed the door and locked it.  He and his brother stayed in the main shop area with Ciaran and me.

“Look,” Ciaran said.

I looked.  Outside the shop window was the main road, snow-covered grass, then a blanket of darkness. There was a long, glorious moment of silence.  Then, from the black void before us, the creatures emerged.

I could finally see them clearly.

My eyes had not deceived me.  These things looked half-human.  Stripped bare, bodies coated in mud, and limbs bent outwards.  As the first creatures reached the road, I saw that their eyes lacked pupils. Their mouths were open, and their teeth appeared to have been sharpened.

“What… the fuck… are they?” I asked in a breathless voice.

“Aye, that’s the question we cannae answer,” Ciaran replied.  “D’you see why y’would nae have believed me?”

“What are they?” I repeated.

“Used tae be like us,” Ciaran replied.  “Folk say something happened in one of the old factories, thirty years ago.  Truth is that we don’t know.  But every once in a blue moon, we see ‘em.  This is sooner than I expected.  Before the last sighting, in 2019, we hadn’t seen ‘em for twenty years.  Now, a year later, here we find ourselves.  Maybe they’re getting less patient.”

“This…” I paused, unable to think.  “What do we do?”

“S’only one thing that appeases ‘em,” Ciaran said.

“And what’s that?” I asked.

The sudden thump on the right side of my face was certainly unexpected.  I fell to the floor, clutching my wounded jaw, and I looked up at Ciaran.  The bastard had sucker-punched me.

“I’m sorry, lad,” Ciaran said.  “Other than the brothers, the people in there don’t quite understand how it works.  They don’t know how we managed tae survive.  A sacrifice.  That’s what it takes.  The brave watchman died fighting the beasts.  The beasts returned tae the forest.  We found another watchman tae take his place.  You.  The hero.  The sacrificial lamb.”

“You… You’re fucking crazy…” I cried, crawling backwards across the floor.

As Ciaran strolled towards me, I looked out of the shop door on my left.  The creatures were standing in the road.  They were waiting patiently.

“I have twenty people tae protect in my hamlet.  Look, I’ll make sure your family has enough money tae set them up for life.  Do this for them, Darren.  We have tae give the creatures something.  We have tae show them a wee bit of respect, aye?” Ciaran shouted, growing flustered.

I twisted my head to the right, looking for something in the store that I could use to defend myself.

“And don’t think about calling tae your family, okay?” Ciaran warned.  “Otherwise, my boys might just let them out.  The creatures might be treated to a bigger meal.”

I had an idea, but I had to act quickly.

“Okay, let’s start this performance,” Ciaran said, clearing his throat.  “What are y’doing, Watchman? Don’t go out there!  That’s bloody suicide!  Please… Y’don’t need tae prove anything tae us… We can fight the creatures!”

I grabbed a heavy porcelain vase from the shelf next to me and launched it with all of my might at the shop window.

It shattered.

“No, Ciaran!” I bellowed, using his own trick.  “Don’t do it!” The man did not have a chance to say anything in response.  One of the creatures had already crawled through the broken window.  The beast sunk its teeth into Ciaran’s neck, claiming its trophy.  The shopkeeper wailed as the creature dragged him over broken glass into the night.

Richard and Barry charged blindly after their father.  I pulled myself to my feet and quietly backed towards the door behind the till.  I didn’t dare take my eyes off the creatures, but they were a little busy.

Richard was faster than Barry.  He swung his fist at one of the monsters that was dragging his father away.  He fell flat on the road.  Before the boy even had a chance to stand up, two of the creatures had set upon him.  They frantically dug their pincer-like limbs into his body.

I cannot quite describe the sound of agony that escaped his mouth as a cavity was created in his back and his blood began to paint the snow.  All I can say is that the sound was short-lived, and the creatures continued to hack away at his corpse until it was an indistinguishable pile of crushed organs and bones in the snow.

Barry’s fate was worse.  His father had long been dragged away at this point, but once the surviving brother had pulled himself free from a state of frozen stasis, he charged through the broken shop window to avenge his brother.

Two of the creatures had disappeared into the forest with Ciaran’s body.  The four remaining beasts surrounded Barry.  When they pounced, they knocked him into the snow, and each of the creatures seized a limb.  Moving in four different directions, the horrific creatures pulled at Barry’s arms and legs.  They pulled until the flesh started to tear and the bones started to break.  Barry’s screams were louder than those of his brother.  The creatures continued to pull.  Then, in beautifully horrific unison, all four limbs detached from Barry’s torso at once.  Like the most macabre choreography imaginable, the creatures brought their dance to a close.

At this point, realising I was the only one left, I fumbled with the door handle behind the till.  I heard my family crying inside.  Then, I realised one of the brothers had the key, and my heart sank.  I was sure I would die.

By some strange twist of fate, however, the creatures ignored me and followed their deformed friends back into the forest.

I never told the people of my hamlet what Ciaran had done to the previous watchman.  I didn’t want them to know that the poor man had died unwillingly.  I didn’t want them to know that Ciaran had planned the same for me.

Then again, am I any better?  I offered the creatures a sacrifice, after all.

I know I should leave this place.  I should take my family and run.  But these people don’t know what Ciaran had to do to protect them.  And the creatures will return, whether one year or ten years from now.

When that happens, what will I do?

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Dominic Eagle
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dominic Eagle

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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