One Picture, One Story
Andy giggled as his cats swiped playfully at his hair from their perch above his head on the back of the couch. He was half thinking of his family thousand miles away and half thinking of his fruitless job search. The apartment was empty except for the couch and a small CRT TV he had picked up at a thrift shop down the road. He stared out the window trying to fend off the boredom that enveloped him every evening when he got back from dropping off resumes. He clicked from site to site on his laptop on the neighbours network that had no password. He felt a nagging guilt for doing it, but his mind needed to be busy or else it would dwell on the present situation.
Andy had travelled to this new town after securing the apartment about a month ago. The work back home had dried up and he needed to find something and quick. He had no real skills other than a high school diploma and some experience in retail sales. He had experience as a labourer as well, but he felt that was something that anyone with working arms and legs could do. The pay in both areas was poor at best and he had a wife and two children to support. He spent his days walking around the small city, stopping at store fronts to drop off resumes. There wasn’t much more available here than there was back home, but Andy felt a new start in a new place was needed for them all. It had been 4 weeks and not a single call for an interview. Andy was getting discouraged and the stress was wearing him down. He felt he needed to be strong for his family so never let on that he was slowly losing hope. On his walk he would see people 10 years younger than him walking the downtown streets wearing expensive suits and talking investments and business deals on their bluetooth devices. He was developing a strong feeling of inadequacy with each day. He did find the bluetooth devices comical as they gave they appearance that they were arguing with themselves, but that did little to dispel his disappointment in himself. He worried more and more about what his children would think of him as he spent more and more time unemployed; he worried about his wife finding someone else, someone like the young, rich bankers he saw downtown. He didn’t just worry, he almost hoped she would so that she would not have to worry about money again. He had spent most of his savings in the month he was here and had begun checking in dumpsters for anything useful like chairs or construction materials or food. Everyday he spent more and more time away from the apartment so that he could save on electricity. He needed a job, and he needed it soon.
He sat alone in the turn of the century apartment, clicking through the various job search websites and applying for anything that he could. At this point it was quantity as job one, not quality. He tried calling his family, but there was no answer. That seemed to be happening more often than not lately. He was beginning to think they were avoiding him. Maybe his wife had found someone else or they had decided to move on without him. Maybe his children had convinced their mother that He was dead weight and to just forget him. The thoughts circulated and tears formed in his eyes. He was convinced that they no longer wanted him in their lives. He laid on the couch and began to whimper, allowing the tears to roll down his cheeks an onto the green plaid sofa. He lay there crying for hours, stopping occasionally to catch his breath. He tried hard to stop himself, but something inside of him had given way and the emotions were now pouring over and out. He had exerted himself so much that he began to vomit on the floor. He rolled off the couch onto his hands and knees, trying desperately to catch his breath. That’s when he saw them. It wasn’t obvious at first, just shadows under the door to the complex’s main hallway. Quick, distinct movements, do precise to be someone walking by and too linear to be mice. He froze in his place, forgetting the pool of vomit for a moment. He watched as they slipped under the door and climbed up his wall and perched directly above him, on the ceiling. They weren’t more than small shadows, but there was nothing that would have cast them. The cats stared blankly at the ceiling, but they always did that. He watched them begin to spin in unison, faster and faster until it seemed there was a perfect, black circle above him. They spun like this for a moment or two, Andy merely watched as he was too afraid to move. Suddenly a new form appeared; a child like face with black hellish eyes. Andy fell to the floor directly in the pool of his own vomit, the black-eyed child seemed to stare into his soul, as if Satan himself had appeared above him. The monster made no noise and it’s movements were slow and calculated. It’s black, evil eyes never blinked as it’s body, about the size of a 9 – 12-year-old boy, formed beneath it. Andy assumed it was a he as it was dressed in boyish clothing and wore black dress shoes. The thing settled in the far corner of the room, sitting on the floor, and watched Andy.
Andy could feel the cooling vomit soaking into his clothing so he slowly stood up, not taking his eyes off the demon-like child across from him. He slid his shirt off quickly and dropped it back in the vomit and using it to soak up what he could. The child stretched out its hand as if to show that it was not a threat. Andy nodded, still terrified, and the thing closed it’s eyes and seemed to fall asleep. Andy waited for a few moments before cleaning his vomit and changing his clothes. He tried his wife’s phone again to no avail, so he sat and watched his new companion sleeping in the corner. He knew he should try to sleep, but his mind and the presence of the strange being were not allowing it. He fumbled through his box of DVDs and put one in the player and leaned back in the sofa, keeping one eye on the being as he did so.
Andy awoke to the bright rays of the sun shining through the curtainless windows, realizing that he must have dozed off eventually. He didn’t feel like he had slept long, or deeply as he was groggy and exhausted. Remembering the events of the night he quickly spun to find the being still there, staring at him silently in the corner. He picked up the phone and called his wife again. She answered and they spoke in generalities and didn’t delve into anything deeply personal and definitely not the new companion that lurked in the apartment. After hanging up, Andy’s unease with his family situation had worsened and somehow the creature in the corner had grown by at least a foot, its black eyes sucking Andy’s soul out of his body. Andy sat and stared. That is all he did, from morning until night; sat and stared and the creature grew and grew and sat and stared. Andy watched and watched, but all the creature did was grow. He ignored the phone, ignored the knocks at the door, ignored his hunger and need for sleep. They both sat staring, one wasting away and the other growing larger and stronger. For days Andy sat, boils forming on his rear and his urine soaked cushions smelling so rank his cats, who were slowly starving, would not come near. Soon he had no more strength to stare and collapsed on the floor, it was then that the door opened and his wife and kids ran to his side. They chased the cats away as they had already began feeding on his body; the monster stood and turned to leave, his work had been done.