My neighbor, Mr. White, is usually a quiet old man, spending his days in a rocking chair on his porch, watching the city and his life pass by.
However, to say that he’s odd would be an understatement. He dresses from head to toe in solid black clothes, the few times I’ve talked to him he’s seemed like a nice guy (a little standoffish perhaps), nothing to indicate why he dresses in all the flamboyant colors of a chimney sweep.
It was the first day in August when the screaming began. 1:00 am sharp in the morning a horrible scream pierces the thin wall between our flats. As suddenly as it started, it stops, leaving my heart hammering and my mind awake. This continues for the rest of the week, but each time I make up my mind to confront him about it, the screaming stops and I lose the nerve to knock on his door. The next day he’s out on the front porch again, dressed in his usual black attire, from black shoes, up to black socks, pants, jacket, shirt, glasses, and finally hat. “Good morning,” he mumbles as I pass.
I almost stop and ask him about the past few nights, but the way he rocks back and forth on his chair, his head pointed straight ahead of him, I’m still too weirded out to talk to him about it. I get back that evening to see him take off in an airport shuttle. Now, I haven’t seen Mr. White leave his house in the two years I’ve lived next to him, but I figure his sudden departure simply means it’ll be that much easier for me to get some sleep. Unfortunately, as soon as I get settled down into bed, I hear a new noise, a noise I hadn’t noticed earlier.
My bed lies against our adjoining wall, so I can hear water running in the pipes whenever he has the faucet on. As I lie there, I can hear water rushing. Two hours and no sleep later, I realize that the noise from the pipes is even more disruptive than the screaming. I figure I’ll do us both a service and shut the running faucet off. So I dress, grab a few supplies, and head over to his door. I’ve lost my keys enough times to figure out how to jimmy a lock, so I shove a couple of paper clips into the doorknob and wiggle ‘em around a bit.
Soon enough I hear that soft ‘click’ and enter his flat.The place is in shambles, like somebody had been running around knocking everything over. Books and magazines litter the floor and half the furniture has been knocked over and shoved against a wall. I head toward the sound of running water and enter Mr. White’s bathroom, blood everywhere. The walls are covered in blood, the bathtub has blood running down into it, and the edges of the sink have bits of bloody hair and flesh around the edges. I turn off the faucet and then turn myself to get the fuck out of there. And that’s when the fucking lights go out. “Pop” goes the bulbs in the bathroom.
I flip out and bolt out of there. That’s when I make the mistake of looking behind me. From the gloom of the bathroom I see that there’s something watching me, its eyes reflecting some unknown light.I don’t really remember the next minute, but the next thing I know I’m standing in my own bathroom, in my own apartment, with my pants heavy with my own piss. Shit. Some fucking shiny thing in the bathroom looks like eyeballs and I piss myself. I take a shower and go back to my bedroom to grab some new pants. But as I’m putting them on, I look out the window. It’s fucking watching me, its eyes a glow in the darkness outside.
I scream and almost ruin my second pair. But a moment later they’re gone. I call myself a dumbass for falling victim to my own imagination and go to the living room. Sleep’s out of the question, but maybe I can kill my fear with some horrible late-night television.
Everything’s cool for the first hour and half, then a commercial comes on where the background is black. You know how you can see your reflection in the TV when the screen is dark? Well I see me. I also see the fucking eyes glowing at me from the darkness behind my couch. Frozen to my chair I watch them watch me. Never moving, never blinking, the beast in the shadows has me steady in its gaze. I snap out of it suddenly, doing a half-flip half-barrel roll away from the couch and onto the floor.
Of course, when I look again, they’re gone. This shit’s too crazy for me, my last bastion of defense lies in my copious alcohol collection. Practically sprinting to the kitchen, I grab a bottle of something strong and fill the glass. Glug glug glug, raising the glass over my lips and above my head until it’s empty. But there’s something else in the bottom of the glass, I see those fucking eyes again. I slam the glass down and catch a glimmer of light as the beast takes off down my dark hallway. Shit. Shitshitshitshit. Five minutes later, all the lights in the house are on and I’m decked out in a flashlight and a kitchen knife. Well, I should say all the lights are on but one. The hallway light died as I flipped it on, giving a soft ‘pufft’ of bulby death.
At the end of the dark hallway lie two doors, a closet and the door out of my apartment. It’s time to get there or die trying. I creep down into the increasingly dark corridor, my flashlight and knife a foot in front of me. The goddamn closet door is open.I think I see the beast’s eyes again as I near the closet, but it’s just the latch on the door. I reach the closet door. Breathless, I pull the knife back and get ready to strike. “Haaahhhh!!!” is my battle-cry as I turn the corner. Nothing. No beast and no beastly eyes. I close the closet and continue to the front door, resolute in my escape. That’s when I notice another thing wrong; the outside light usually seeps in through the crack under my door. Fuck! So close and more shit happens.
Playing it safe I edge up to the door and peer out the eyepiece. Two glowing eyes look back at me. I scream for the third time that night and go running back up the hallway to the light of the living room, leaving the knife and my only flashlight lying by the front door. There’s no escape. I get ready to barricade myself in a corner. I grab the TV cabinet and began to push it toward the center of the room. It’s watching me. The space between the wall and the cabinet. Three fucking inches wide. The beast’s eyes glare at me. Its gaze is neither malevolent nor friendly. Just two, perfectly round, shining orbs. That’s it, I’m done. I collapse backwards onto the floor and back away to the wall, watching the eyes. Watching the eyes watching me. Watching the eyes watching me watching it. I sit there, staring. They don’t move. Nor do I. the night creeps by second after second, me caught in this horribly twisted staring contest. I just wish I knew what they wanted.
If the beast attacked me, if it revealed itself, I could know what I’m up against. I might even figure out how I’ll die before it kills me. No. It stays in the crack between my wall and my TV and watches with infinite patience.
The darkness outside dissolves into a gray morning, and the eyes begin to lose their glimmer. As the sun lights my living room, the beast retreats, gone into the shadow it came from. To where I have no fucking idea. I pack my things. I’m going away, fuck knows where, but I’m getting at least a thousand miles between me and here before night falls again. Two shots of bourbon wish me on my way as I grab my suitcase and set off for the front door.“Knock, knock” someone get there first.
I jump, dropping my stuff and getting ready to bolt back to the nearest corner, “knock, knock”. But reason grabs me by the heels, whispering in my ear that the fucking night monster wouldn’t be courteous enough to knock before killing me. Slowly I open it. Mr. White is standing there, resplendent in his black hat, sunglasses, shirt, jacket, pants, socks, and shoes. “Good morning, Steven,” says he.
“Hi,” says I.
“Say Steven, did anyone go into my apartment while I was gone? There are footprints leading from my bathroom to my door.” Notice he neglects to mention what the footprints are formed of.
“Uh, no Mr. White, I’ve been in my apartment all night and I didn’t hear anything.” (If you think I’m about to admit to a man who has blood all over his bathroom and a monster living in his house that I broke into his house, then you are very mistaken).
“That’s good Steven, I have many fragile belongings that could easily be destroyed or stolen by a malicious soul. You have a good day.”
“You too, man.” He turns to leave and then turns back to me smiling, “Oh and Steven,” he says, “I couldn’t help but notice bloody footprints leading from my door to yours.” His smile gets even wider. He leans in, bringing our face right next to each other. He removes his sunglasses, revealing two empty pits in his face.
“I’ll be keeping my eyes on you.”