"Make it so the world never forgets me!" She beamed back at me, eyes ablaze with excitement. "That's what I want!"
"What...how would I even..." I stammered, this was the kind of statement you made drunk at 2am, not to your best friend over lunch when discussing birthday wishes. She walked into my dorm and started pacing around my room.
"It's all part of my two pronged attack! We make a great story of our experiences that nobody will EVER forget and you get all the fame and glory!" She put her hands on her hips and laughed. "You can thank me later for aaaaallll those eyes on you!"
From anyone else, this would come over as arrogant and self absorbed, but in the right hands it was downright endearing. Olivia was that type of person. She oozed eccentricity and I was always in her social shadow. She lit up a room every time she walked into it, the attention was always on her and I was secondary. Not that I minded, of course. She was a blessing to my social anxiety and years of crippling PTSD, I was so lucky to have her choose me as her best friend. Or maybe we were just destined to be friends from day 1, who can say?
All I know is that we bonded over a shared love of watching TV and morning runs, the rest was history.
"Dude, you know you have the power at your fingertips!" She wiggled her hands and laughed. "Literally!"
I was always confident around her or anyone in my close knit friends, but this dumbfounded me.
"You...you want me to write about you too?" I asked, picking at the skin on my fingers nervously as the prospect of sharing my work with so many strangers terrified me. She looked at me and placed a hand on mine, her beautiful hazel eyes peering into my soul.
"I want you to want to do it, I'd support anything you did! You know that!" She grinned. "You are the best writer I know! Come to think of it...you're the only writer I know!"
I began writing at her behest; she would influence me to take on these long fantastical tales
I apologise for my mental state yesterday. I don’t know how, but I think her singing somehow got to me. I’m not one to throw words like “trance” around, but that’s the best way I can think of to describe it - heavy, hypnotic.
I also want to thank you. I’m currently in my car and no longer enthralled, and I doubt I’d be here if it weren’t for the persistence of some of you in challenging my thought process. I’ll explain.
I sat in my room listening to her for a very long time. All of yesterday afternoon and last night, at least. At some point she stopped singing, and started speaking instead. She doesn’t talk. I have never heard her talk. At the time I found her voice beautiful, but playing it back in my head all I can hear is a rough, scraping lilt. A voice like tree bark.
The reason I eventually got my senses back was when she started screaming, if you can call it that. One of my eardrums burst, I think. But I do know that I stopped being able to hear - everything, even my surroundings, seemed muffled. I’d been leaning against the door, distractedly replying to messages on my phone, and when I came to I was slumped forward, bleeding from my ears but no longer under her spell. I’m not sure why she screamed - I don’t think it was pain. I obviously couldn’t hear, but I could feel thumps echoing through the house that make me think she was having a tantrum.
I also don’t know who she was talking to. All I saw - and I know how insane this sounds - was the shadow of hooves through the crack under my door. Two neat little cloven hooves. And slow replies to Fayre’s rough voice. I don’t know who it was, but they, or it, was outside my door for a very long time. I’m also unsure why neither of them decided to break the door down to fetch me - I’m going to assume that Fayre wouldn’t want this leaked.
I came to my senses, deaf in both ears and with blood leaking down my neck. I realised that I needed to leave - and leave as quickly as possible. I plugged my ears using the cotton balls I keep on my bedroom table - thank you for the suggestion - which both soaked up the blood and made everything feel even more fuzzy. I could still feel vague thumping from downstairs - it’s an old house, and you can feel every movement shake through the foundations, so I knew I was being ignored, right then at least.
I shuffled over to the bedroom window, which was thankfully already open - closed windows create stuffy rooms, so I make it a habit to keep them open. Tucking my phone into the pocket of my jacket (I was still in my work clothes - yes, even my heels), I checked to see if my wallet was still in the pocket where it should be. Luck wasn’t on my side. I remembered leaving it on the kitchen counter last night. My card was in that wallet. If I was going to get out of here successfully, I needed that card. It was my ticket to everything. I could feel thumping directly below me - they were in the living room, the opposite side of the house to the kitchen.
I crossed my room, grateful for the thick carpets, and eased the door open as slowly as possible. More thuds from below me. I tiptoed down the hallway, peering down the stairs to the kitchen before I descended. The bannister shook in my hand as I descended. She was angry. I slid into the kitchen from the stairs, avoiding the squeaky parts of the floor to the best of my ability. And froze.
Someone was stood in the centre of my kitchen, facing away from me. A someone with cloven hooves, draped in a long black coat with a hood that concealed any possible outline that could give a clue to the appearance of the figure. I shook on the spot, trying to slowly make my way backwards.
In a flash, the creature’s hand shot towards me. I flinched, my entire body tensing. I opened my eyes to see my wallet and car keys dangling in front of my face. In my peripheral vision, I could see a great chunk of blackness where a face should be. My next breath shook. Slowly, I extended my hand, and took hold of my belongings. The thing in front of me pointed at the front door, visible from the kitchen, which stood open. I blinked. It hadn’t been open when I had snuck down the stairs. I knew that.
Let me just preface this with yes, I always knew you shouldn’t flush tampons. They’re not biodegradable, they smell, and they’ll ruin the infrastructure of your pipes. I know all of this, and I have always known this since the first time I used a tampon and yet, hear my counterargument out; I’m lazy.
I lived in a cramped apartment building with your usual set of neighbours- cranky old lady, quirky office worker, single mom raising two terrors, and me. I was the down on her luck divorcee, who married too soon out of high school and paid the price. I moved away from my ex to this shitty block of flats just to have a sense of achievement about “having my own place”, which lasted only as long as I realised my room sucked.
And that wasn’t the only problem! Dana, the batty old crone who lived on the ground floor, was intent on stealing my newspapers. And then Beth-Ann, single mum to Carly and Carlton (what the fuck, right?!), would just let her kids run up and down the halls at all hours of the day and night. We both shared the second floor. She called it “huff and puff time!” and would sometimes join in. Like, I’m all for empowered women raising kids on their own but. Like. I’m also all for sleep.
And then there was Ethan. Something was just weird about him. We would come and go around the same time each day, and he’d always greet me with a smile and an awkward shuffle as we circled each other in the hall. He looked like one of those nerd type misogynists from highschool, all long-limbs and thin lips and beady eyes behind the wire-rimmed glasses. Not to say he wasn’t nice, but, man, there was just something strange about him that I couldn’t shake. We had shared a wine once in my apartment not long after I moved in- well, I had a wine, and he had told me he didn’t drink. But he had just given off too many strange vibes for me to accept his return invite.
I had just gotten promoted at my job, which meant earlier hours but not much more pay. So on top of my crazy neighbours that weren’t really helping my “turn your life around” movement that I was aiming for, I had to get up two hours earlier than usual. So yes. I did. In the wee hours of the morning when I was sitting on the toilet blinking the sleep out of my eyes, I’d fucking stand and plop! I’d flush my tampon.
I didn’t really think much of it until the building started to smell. And not just in a mouldy carpet sort of way, either. Far out, I mean the building had always been dank and cold, but this- this was different. And the drains started to back up, too. I had to unclog my toilet twice in one weekend, which pissed me off to the nth degree. Gross.
As a usual Monday went, I woke too early and stumbled to the bathroom to blink the spots out of my eyes. I had gotten my period two days earlier, so when I was awake enough I gritted my teeth and removed the thing, tossing it in the water and flushing without a second thought. I inserted another and went on with my early day, jingling my keys as I locked up.
“Andy! Hey!” Beth-Ann had a child under each arm and was lying halfway out of her door. I checked my watch and, damn, I had some spare time.
“Hey, Beth. Here, let me help.” I grabbed Carly and she screeched as I swung her into the air and safely back into her apartment.
“Have you noticed that smell?” Beth-Ann asked. Uh, yeah, I thought. Her apartment smelt like gross baby. But there was actually another smell, and even though it was too fucking early for this conversation, but I inhaled purposefully.
When I was ten years old my family moved into a new home. My father was a safety consultant for chemical manufactures and helped make their facilities more efficient and less hazardous. His job took him all over the country, and we went with him. Consequently, we often found ourselves living in the empty rural areas where these factories were often built.
The house we had moved into wasn’t much different from the ones I was used to. It was old, rickety, and, as always, cheap. My room was a cramped and stuffy corner of the home which always seemed either too hot or too cold. Most notably, the walls were made of paneled wood. You know what I mean - the kind with dark and light swirls and obscure little markings.
During my first night there, I noticed that the wood panel directly next to my bed had an interesting pattern. There were two circles with a third, larger one situated beneath them. I couldn’t help but think that it looked like two eyes and a gaping mouth, a face pressed into the very wood.
It’s important to note that I was a lonely child. No other kids lived nearby, my father was often busy with work, and I was homeschooled by my mother. She had previously been a teacher and taught me well. However, when she wasn’t lecturing it seemed like she was too busy for me. My father would return home late at night, eat, and go directly to bed. As a result, I was lonelier than ever before in that dark home of ours.
To cope, I began talking to the face in my wall. I knew that children often had imaginary friends, and I figured it was fitting that I would have one too. I spoke to it every night, much like a diary, telling it about my day and my feelings. It was cathartic. I poured all of my emotions into that eerie little pattern, letting out all of my frustrations and worries.
As time went on, something strange occurred. The face in the wall seemed to become more detailed and realistic. The eyes gained a sort of depth and I couldn’t help but feel its gaping mouth was slowly being stretched into a grimace. At first, I dismissed it, but every day it appeared more detailed, more humanesque.
That was when the breathing started. I went to bed one night and in the darkness of my room I heard the sound of labored breathing. I jumped to my feet and turned the light on only to find my room as it had been before – empty. And yet, when I turned the lights back off and laid down, I heard it again. I could have sworn it was coming from that face beside my bed.
I went to my parents and told them about it, but they dismissed the sound as creaky pipes. We lived in an old house after all, and that’s what old houses do. They make noise. Nonetheless, I became certain that the face breathed as it watched me sleep. I stayed up most of that night, but eventually drifted off in the early morning.
Yet that breathing continued night after night. It became less labored and soon sounded like the easy breath of someone content to sit and watch. It unnerved me, but I grew to ignore it. However, I decided to stop talking to the face in the wall. I felt as if it actually listened to me when I did so. The thought sent chills down my spine.
But then came the worst night of them all. I was drifting off to sleep when I noticed that the breathing had stopped. I had become so accustomed to it that the silence in my room was deafening. Then came the voice.
You know he’s a mean one. He’s as charming as an eel. Cuddly as cactus. I’m talking about my boss, Matt. That’s the only way I can properly describe him. Just seems like he is always finding excuses for why he believes I’m doing a horrible job as Santa or threatening me with being replaced.
So you can imagine just how hard it was to work up the courage to go into his office yesterday afternoon. Especially about something so bizarre.
I mean. Where do I even begin? Creepy kids? Supernatural Santa? I didn’t even know what was real and what was fake. (For the record I’ve never taken drugs but seriously the incident in the parking lot shook me)
I figured that if I’m even going to try and regain sanity, talking to Matt would be the first step.
He was busy ordering some flyers for an event we are having next week before Black Friday. Our mall really goes all out with huge sales and blowouts to drive customers in. And having Santa here is just an added bonus for the kiddos.
But I knew if even one of these psycho kids came to the event, chances were the entire thing would wind up derailed.
“You got a minute to talk?” I asked him as I tapped softly on his office door.
He nodded absently and put down the paperwork he’d been sorting through.
I swear I’m not being that pedantic asshole neighbor. Noise ordinance starts at 10 pm and most people respect it because there are a lot of young kids in the neighborhood. But my neighbor across the street is remodeling his house and last Wednesday he started cutting things at 10:30 pm. It sounded like metal. A high, shrill whine that easily penetrated the walls of my house and doubtless carried throughout the nearby vicinity. I thought - okay - maybe he’s running a little behind and desperately needs to get this done to meet some schedule. It is getting cold pretty fast, after all, or maybe he’s got some professionals coming out and something needs to be done before then.
I try to be a good neighbor and give people some tolerance.
11 pm rolled around. He kept working. That infernal screech, then a brief lull of silence. Each time he paused I thought that maybe he was done and I could go to bed and then he’d start again. I wondered if I should call the police. I wondered if they’d even care. A noise complaint seems pretty trivial, especially since this was only one night. It wasn’t like he had a habit of being noisy.
That rationalization didn’t make it any easier to sleep. I tossed in my bed for about thirty minutes before I gave up. I went to the living room to watch TV in the hopes that’d distract me enough to sleep. It didn’t work. The screech of the saw cut right through the dialogue of the movie I’d put on, shattering my idle concentration.
The longer it went, the angrier I got. Then, around 12:30 am the noise stopped for a full fifteen minutes. I sat on my living room sofa, listening intently, hoping that I could finally get to sleep.
Another shrill whine, somehow louder this time, and I jumped to my feet, threw the remote across the room, and screamed some profanities at the wall.
I still didn’t call the police. I wasn’t ready for a confrontation. I was trying to be patient.
But honestly, I was sort of hoping that someone else would be the one to call in a complaint. It was highly likely. Someone kept calling the police on another neighbor because they don’t like how he parks his pickup truck with the trailer in front of his house. Which I think is ridiculous. He runs his own lawn care business. This isn’t some hoity-toity white collar neighborhood with a HOA that tells you what color your slate shingles have to be so all the houses have a uniform look when viewed from the nearby golf course.
I’m so fucking tired. I’m rambling.
Shockingly, whoever they are, they didn’t call the police. So I just dealt with the noise until 1 am, when it finally stopped for good. I messaged my coworkers something about my asshole neighbor and possibly being in late (the timestamp on the message would explain everything) and then I threw myself into bed and fell right asleep.
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