Maude raced around her home frantically tidying for the umpteenth time that day. She cursed inwardly as she noticed the tiniest splodge of dirt on her white rug in front of the fireplace. Maude swept into the kitchen muttering as she went and dampened a flannel ready for patting the stain away.
Maude paused. looked into the open cupboard below the sink. Her brow furrowed, and she almost gasped a little at her observation. The array of neatly folded dusters had been disturbed and it wasn’t her work.
The top duster was straight and neat but underneath a few corners of the other cloths had turned up and some weren’t in line with the next. Maude froze still as if caught in the act of a crime and peered around the kitchen suspiciously while tip towing around her own home. She noted one of the picture frames on the hallway landing was askew before straightening it and biting her bottom lip nervously.
It’s happening again, thought Maude. Someone is breaking into my house and moving things. She was convinced it was her neighbours waiting for her to leave each day before sneaking in and subtly displacing her belongings.
Maude was sure it was the young man and woman who had moved in next door some nine months ago. They were polite and always bid her good morning, but she didn’t trust them and things in her home had only started moving around since they’d moved in.
A young couple like that shouldn’t be able to afford such a property, it was suspicious. They were likely drug dealers or up to something highly illegal. Now they were out to drive her mad with their games and take her home from her.
That was why she’d called Raymond Bernard and asked for his help. Maude initially wanted to speak with Damon Brew, but she felt self-conscious at the idea. Maude lived fifteen minutes away from Damon and his wife Doreen and had spent a lot of time with them over the years. They were her good friends, but after she’d initially mentioned the problem of her neighbours to them she observed a look between the two which hinted at doubt or distrust in what she was saying.
The truth was Maude couldn’t quite tell what the look meant but it was enough to deter her from confiding fully in them. If it was her sanity taking leave, then a shepherding call from the esteemed and reverent Raymond Bernard maybe better suited.
Maude though was almost certainly sure this was not about her losing her mind but a test, evil neighbours had moved in and it was for her to stand her ground with a little spiritual help from Brother Raymond.
Maude returned to the kitchen and threw the cloth into the wash basket, content at least that the unsightly speck of dirt had been removed from the rug. She was far less content however as she again surveyed the house looking for any other items that may have been moved. Satisfied that nothing else had been altered or re-arranged, Maude set about preparing her best tea set ready for Raymond and Derek’s imminent arrival.
No sooner had she finished meticulously laying out the tea and classic biscuits (complete with serviettes to quickly do away with crumbs) the doorbell rang. Maude gave a final check of her surroundings ensuring it suitably clean to receive visitors and made her way to the front door. When she opened it Raymond and his father Derek were stood on the doorstop, Raymond wearing his best dazzling smile. “Come in both, please, thank you so much for coming,” she gushed as she led them both into the kitchen. “Ahh, would you mind taking your shoes off, I’ve just had the carpets cleaned,” she added. Raymond and Derek removed their shoes before entering the kitchen and pulling up a stool at the breakfast bar.
“How are you Maude my dear,” asked Derek who was looking pristine in his suit and overcoat in spite of the warm climate. Raymond was looking a little more dapper with a modern number he was wearing which was reminiscent of a banker’s suit complete with a royal red tie.
“Oh I’m well thank you brother Bernard and how are you both, I am sorry to drag you out today as I know how busy you both are.”
Raymond shook his head in polite protest. “Sister Maude, please no need to apologise. We are the congregation’s humble servants,” replied Raymond before leaning forward and gazing inquisitively at Maude. “But tell me Maude, how are you really?”
Maude found the tone penetrated her true feelings and her plans to slowly divulge the issue of her neighbours soon evaporated, she felt at her wits end.
Had Maude not been of the faith she’d have likely sought a doctor’s view on these feelings and the doctor would have advised she suffered a level of mania and extreme anxiety leading to paranoia, but the one faith frowned upon such advice and urged its followers to refer to the elders for guidance.
Maude had persevered in near silence on the issue of moved belongings and was ready to finally divulge all. Maude felt ready to explode if she did not confide in the elders today.
“I’m not feeling all too well to tell you the truth brothers. I…I feel agitated and anxious and I believe I’m victim to two very cruel young people,” Maude whispered this last conspiratorially, pointing in the neighbours direction before continuing, “They move things you see, around the house. When I’ve gone out it seems they sneak in and carefully displace items, enough that I'll notice. I know I’m a little obsessive when it comes to keeping my home clean and tidy but that is how I know things are moved. It’s just me here after all, since…since Mark died. They are of the world and even though they smile and act oh so polite, I see the glances they give each other, those sneaky knowing grins and when I left for work last week she was in the window watching. The curtains twitched closed, but I saw her and sure enough, when I returned home that evening, my biscuit tins had been moved, the chord of the iron unravelled and even my bin had been rearranged. I don’t know what they want with me brothers, but they are driving me to madness.”
Derek took a sip of his tea as she spoke and munched happily on a chocolate digestive. He’d known Maude for years, albeit from afar, and thought her quite mad. This latest offering of hers only cemented his feelings, though he was here today to ascertain why exactly she’d turned to them and not Damon or Doreen.
Raymond put his hand on Maude’s in a show of support and sighed sympathetically with her. “Oh Sister Maude this is indeed a hardship I can see and one you’ve kept to yourself for too long. How long has this been going on?”
“That is the question which convinces me it is them. None of this started happening until they moved in next door and literally within days of them being here. It’s at least twice a week they sneak in. I don’t know how they do it, maybe they get in through the back somehow or a secret entrance through the walls?”
Maude was looking wired at this stage of the conversation. Reliving the events or at least events as she saw them, had her in a knot. Her hair was wild and frantic while her eyes seemed to have an entire life of their own.
“I wouldn’t like to say at this time Sister what is going on but as we know people of the world are not to be trusted and we must always be on our guard. Have you called the police or alerted anyone else to this problem?” enquired Raymond delicately.
“No no, not at all. Certainly not the police, I don’t have any evidence.”
“Good, that is wise Maude and while the police at times, I’m sure, do an admirable job, they are also of the world and not to be trusted. We are approaching the end times after all, the Lords time of cleansing is near and we can only look to each other in times of hardship.”
“Quite my son and you can just imagine how dismissive the police would be of such a complaint. In this day and age with the amount of crime that blossoms so freely and unchecked, sins against another such as this are merely ignored or even mocked by the authorities or even put down to madness. Sad times,” Derek added before noting Maude’s facial response.
Her bottom lip quivered slightly as she sucked it in and dabbed at her eye at the mention of being mocked or mad. “You, you think they’d think I was making it all up? Why would I do such a thing? It’s happening you know, just like I said it is,” Maude implored.
“Dear Maude, we believe you and that is why you were right to call us. My father and I will help you, of course we will. We are here today are we not?”
Maude nodded numbly in response and took a sip from her quivering tea cup.
Derek took up the reigns of the conversation. “Now we could go around there and simply confront these unruly neighbours of yours. Reason with them and make them see what they have done to you?”
Maude looked horrified at the suggestion, something Derek had rather counted upon. “Ok, that is fine Maude I understand. Not really an option at this stage. Well first we must pray I think for guidance and God will give us his answer soon enough.” Derek clasped Maude’s hand, smiled solemnly at her and closed his eyes. Maude followed suit though Raymond kept his open after initially closing them.
“Dear Lord, we come to you now in the name of Sister Maude, seeking your divine guidance and light to help steer us onto the right path. Lord, we ask that you in your divine wisdom free her of the psychological cruelty inflicted upon her by these people of the world. We ask that you watch over her and keep her safe from any harm or wrong intent and that the sinners responsible see you’re light, both to fear and love it. God, we also ask that should any agents of the Devil be seeking to darken the footsteps of our sister's home, that you help give her the strength to fight and cast away the demons that seek to disarm her. Dear father in heaven, we ask you this in all humility and faith and thank you for listening to our prayers. Amen.”
Maude looked even more alarmed after the prayer had concluded, “Demons? Really they do this kind of thing?”
Raymond answered, “Satan’s demons are capable of all sort of acts my dear Maude, from the petty to the extreme. They are tuned to exploiting our weaknesses or even our strengths. You sweet Maude have a home to be proud of, a pearly castle of cleanliness and since the trials of losing your husband, the one thing you have held dear in spite of the loss, is your cleanliness. Cleanliness is close to Godliness and perhaps the demons or demon knows this and seeks to hit you where it hurts. But do not be alarmed for that is only one possibility. It could just be the worldly neighbours but until we can prove that remember the parable love thy neighbour. However, if it is them, you will know soon enough.”
“But how, how will I know if they never do it when I’m here?” asked Maude in growing agitation.
“We will know because we will keep watch for you. We’ll plan it, you will let us know when you are gone for the day and we will wait secretly outside and see what we may see. After a few sittings we will know what you are dealing with and we will know your enemy,” Derek replied.
Maude nodded not appreciating for a second that Derek had no intentions of surveying her home whatsoever. He would show up, possibly with Ray, but he wouldn’t waste time staking out mad Maude’s home as there was nothing to see. It was all in her head along with the few remaining marbles that clattered around like spare parts.
Raymond and Derek got up to leave and Maude thanked them for their generosity and prayers. Before they finally exited, Raymond asked Maude one more question, “Did you confide in Damon or Doreen about this problem my dear? They are such close friends of yours and perhaps they can help too.”
Maude looked a little lost for a moment, remembering the briefest of looks Damon and Doreen exchanged when she had broached the subject. She felt shame when she thought about it. They’d been friends for years but that shared little look felt like a reproach. “No, I, no.. I didn’t want to speak to them about it for fear they’d think me crazy or something. I’m not crazy you know.”
Derek embraced Maude momentarily, “You sweetest Maude are far from crazy and I’m sure Damon and Doreen would agree, but if you’d like me to keep this problem to just us three, then we shall, shan’t we Ray?”
Raymond nodded warmly, “Of course we shall. Sometimes even the wisest can be blinded by what they do not understand but fortunately Maude, God has guided you to us on this occasion and we will do everything we can for you.”
Maude thanked them before commenting, “I’m sure when I alluded to the problem, they didn’t quite grasp it and that is not their fault, they have so much to contend with themselves, what with Denny to look after.”
“Denny? Is there a problem with little Denny? I always thought him such a good boy?” replied Raymond.
“Oh yes I’m sure he’s fine but he is a teenager after all and that isn’t easy. Forgive me I’ve said too much it’s just I felt I should be honest and say I did mention briefly the problem to Brother Damon, but then thought better of it. God guided me to you as you say and perhaps it’s He who stayed my hand in divulging more.”
Derek and Ray thanked Maude for her hospitality and left with the information they needed. Once they were back in the car, Derek grinned at his son and said, “Perhaps a friendly call on the Brew family is in order my boy?”
“I think it is. The Lord does indeed bless us this day,” as Raymond started the engine in agreement and set out for their second visit of the day.