Beep! Beep! Beep!
David opened one bloodshot eye and groped at the electronic alarm, fighting with the button that turned off the alarm. Nowadays it didn’t seem to matter how many times you pressed the key, you just had to mash it hard once to get it to stop, usually after enduring thirty seconds of that obnoxious beeping.
Setting it to the side now that he’d silenced it, he rubbed his aching head and wiped his face. He’d been dreaming the strangest dream, one filled with doors and hallways… along with the slasher girl from last night. David shuddered just thinking about it. Getting up, he stripped out of his clothes, which reeked of liquor, and threw them onto a pile reserved for laundry day. He walked over to the bathroom and turned on the shower, reaching his arm into the stall for just a second to twist the knob.
Turning to look at himself in the mirror, he flinched at his appearance. He coughed into his hand and scratched himself before leaning forward, pulling down his lower eyelid to look at his blood-shot eye, before the reflection started bleeding from its eyes. David let out a shriek and jumped back, bumping into the stall. Wincing, he closed his eyes as he stretched out his foot.
But his reflection was once again normal, with no bleeding of the eyes. Sighing, he looked up at the ceiling as he heard footsteps running across the upstairs, back and forth. “Hey!” He shouted, hoping to catch the attention of the person in the apartment upstairs. “Little concern for those below you?”
A few moments passed when he heard a muted “Sorry” come from the ceiling. Nodding his head, he looked at the water as it began to fog up his bathroom, testing it with his hand. He stepped into the shower and began scrubbing himself clean, grabbing a bar of soap and a loofah to make sure he didn’t reek of last night’s drinking binge before he went to work today. He washed his thinning hair and shaved while thinking of the nightmare, before turning off the steady stream of hot water and pulling open the curtain.
Staring across the divide between the shower and the mirror, David let out a blood curdling scream as he stared at the blood drenched gore that covered his pale frame, streaks of fleshy pink and clotted spatters matting his hair. Looking down into the tub, he saw the water was a red sludge, a low bubble popping up as it slowly circled the drain.
David screamed again as he thought he saw an eye bob up from the center.
“I don’t know what to tell you David, I’ll have someone look at it today,” Mrs. Rattigan’s voice came over the phone as he toweled off the blood, washing himself via his kitchen sink.
“I need this fixed Mrs. Rattigan! I can’t have this kind of crap going on in my life, I just, I just can’t.” David said his face blotchy from the tears he was holding back. “I need my life to be as normal as possible.”
“I know dearie, after Diane and all, I can understand that,” Mrs. Rattigan said.
“I don’t want to hear that bitch’s name!” David growled over the phone, breathing heavily as he went over the mantra in his head. “Just get someone up here to fix the problem or I’ll find a plumber myself and charge the apartments!”
“Right away dear,” Mrs. Rattigan said before hanging up.
“Damn it! I forgot to ask about the person above me making too much noise!” David said, smacking himself in the forehead before washing out his hair with the clear water coming from his sink. “Oh well, I’ll bring it up with her tonight.”
David washed off the crust from behind his ears, wincing as he looked at the blood-caked rags that he was throwing atop the trash can’s mountain of garbage. He’d already been through five rags and a bar of soap, and he still didn’t feel clean. Looking at the clock, David yelped and ran into his bedroom, where he got dressed for his day job at the Daily Trumpet. Wrestling with his tie, he looked at himself in the mirror of his dresser and stared for a moment, taking in how pale he looked, how gaunt. But he shook it off.
“Just my imagination, nothing more,” he said, repeating his mantra in his head as he walked to the door, picking up his keys and pulling the door open with a good tug. “It’s all in your head David, all in your head.”
Racing out the door, he paused as he looked back in his living room, where he thought he saw movement. There was nothing save for his armchair, ottoman and television, along with a few empty bottles of beer. Looking around for a moment, he savored the silence. Finally, he closed the door, tugging it shut so he could lock the door.
Walking down the hall towards the main office, he stopped as he heard the elevator ding, the tarnished doors sliding open to reveal an older woman with a walker, her hair done up in a bun, walking out of the elevator in her bathrobe. David smiled and waved to her.
“Hello Ms. Amherst!” He said, causing her head to pique up and look at him.
“Oh, hello David, how are you doing?” She asked. She lived on the second floor, in 4B, as she had for the past twenty-odd years. She was the watchdog of the complex, always reporting any violations to the main office, and never giving anyone the slightest chance to repent themselves.
That is except for David. He didn’t know if he reminded her of her grandson or some memory of an old lover, but she treated him like one of her own. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas she’d invite him over (which he always attended) and she celebrated his successes with him whenever he had one.
It’d been a long time since he had one…
Walking up to her, checking his watch, he leaned over to give her a hug. “How are you doing?”
“Oh I’m fine,” Ms. Amherst said, waving away his concern with a rheumatic hand, her voice cheery. “How are you?”
“I’m doing… alright.” David said as he looked at Ms. Amherst. She seemed… off. Stumbling as if she were asleep, leaning heavily on her walker. “Ms. Amherst, what’s the matter?”
David reached out and grabbed onto her bicep, shaking her gently. Ms. Amherst’s cloudy blue eyes focused on David, her brow furrowing. “David? What are you doing here?”
“What do you mean? I live here,” he said as he guided her over to the lobby where she could sit down.
“No, this isn’t home… this is something else. There are children running up and down the halls, and in the room next door.”
“So you heard them too?” David asked, looking Ms. Amherst in the eyes, which were beginning to water.
“Heard them? I had them banging on my door all night, trying to get in. Every time I phoned the front desk I’d get some new lady who wouldn’t help at all, and to top it off my air conditioning broke.” She said as he guided her to her seat, easing her down onto one of the armchairs. She looked up at him. “It was dark out last night David, so very dark. You shouldn’t be here.”
“Yeah, but look Ms. Amherst,” David said, motioning to the window coming in from the front office, where daylight was shining. “Sun’s out like it is every day!”
“Oh no, no no no…” Ms. Amherst said, shaking her head as she wringed her hands together close to her chest. David checked his watch, tapping his foot, before squatting down.
“How about I come by tonight and check your AC, see if there’s something I can do to fix it, hmm?” David asked, hoping she would agree so he could get a move on. He was almost late to work!
“That would be lovely dear,” Ms. Amherst said, reaching up to clutch his forearm. Then, in a voice not her own, she growled at David while squeezing his arm tightly. “You killed me swine, you killed me as sure as you’ll kill this old hag!”
As soon as it started, the gentle breeze returned from the air conditioning, so subtle he hadn’t even noticed it stopping. David stared down at Ms. Amherst, not knowing what to say. She just smiled up at him and patted his forearm.
“You’d better get going now lad, you’ll be late for work,” she said, her watery voice as normal as ever.