Murphy was looking through Netflix, trying to find something that looked interesting. His mother called, but he just tossed the phone onto the table, letting it rings as he scrolled. Finding a movie was hard, he’s watched most of what seemed like it would be worth watching, and there was always a good number of flops that popped up. After realizing that he wouldn’t be able to come to a suitable movie, he moved to YouTube. There was plenty of choices there, but he didn’t really know what he wanted to watch. It was then his phone rang.
The number was unlisted. Normally he would just send it to voicemail, but he had just submitted a bunch of applications and he wasn’t sure if it was someone calling to setup an interview.
“Hello,” he said, trying to keep the eagerness from his voice.
“Sorry,” the other person said. The voice sounded like a boy trying to sound like an old woman. Before he could say anything else, the person hung up.
Murphy just looked at his phone with a furrowed brow. He just sat there for a moment, thinking about who that could have been, and why the acted so strangely when he answered. For the most part, people would at least acknowledge they had the wrong number, or ask for the person they were looking for. Never before had he had someone just say sorry and hang up.
It reminded him about something one of his Shawn said. “The cops call and claim to have the wrong number, just to make sure they can tap your phone.” He had no idea if that was true or not, but it did make him think about it. Even more so because Robby and Shawn had just gotten busted. There was a good chance they ratted on him. What they didn’t know was that his stash was already well hidden. Shawn was always someone he thought would snitch, but he was always careful not to get caught. Robby on the other hand wasn’t that big of a surprise. Stupid bastard was always bragging about how much he sold, or was holding.
If it wasn’t for those two getting arrested, he wouldn’t have started looking for a job on the books. His dad had always said, “an honest pay, for an honest day.” But the honest days didn’t pay nearly as well as making the money in a way his dad would have been disowned him for. He could still hear his voice, imagine what he would say if he was still alive.
“Boy, you’ve really messed up,” he’d say. “No one lasts too long when they do stupid stuff like that. Look at all the famous dealers, they’re either dead or locked up longer than you’ve been alive. And those are the ones that were free long enough to get to that level.”
Murphy thought about that, he was still free and moved pounds of pot a week, not to mention all the keys he was selling. As far as he was concerned, he had made a pretty good life for himself, but he didn’t’ want to throw that all away. The money he had saved up was going to be used as an investment. But before he would start making those kinds of moves, he would have to have some kind of income. He didn’t want Uncle Sam to find him because he started making money by the books.
God, that would be his luck too. Getting away with pushing weight for the past five years, only to get busted when he tried to go straight. He couldn’t think about that now. There was too little evidence that he was doing anything illegal, at least as far as he knew. Whenever he got his shipments, he always made sure that it was delivered to his house, by someone he knew, and would make them stay a while after. Sure, they would smoke some pot, but nothing more than that. He always timed it by starting a movie when his stash got dropped off, and wouldn’t let the person leave until the movie was finished. He also never sold small amounts, not anymore. Whenever someone needed anything less than an ounce or an eight-ball, he would recommend one of the people that he supplied. That way, it would still bring him money when they sold out.
It wasn’t worth thinking about though, there was just an ounce in the house. If someone needed something, they would have to wait. For the most part, his clientele had been told that he was getting out of the game, so they wouldn’t be bothering him anymore, at least he hoped they wouldn’t. It helped that he also had a setup where if anyone wanted to buy something from him, they would have to speak in code. Everything was in the terms of CDs. Pot, was of course Bob Marley, and if they wanted a pound it would be No Woman No Cry, two pounds was Two little Birds, and five or more was Legends. Coke on the other had was a little harder to come up with, but he settled with Lincoln Park. If the person calling didn’t know what they were talking about, they wouldn’t get anything from him.
That was all behind him though, and he was going to make it through life without having to worry about the cops coming for him. He felt like it was time to start living that way now. Sure, if Shawn or Robbie ratted him out, well there was nothing to be found. The cops could raid his house, and maybe get him with a possession charge, but not with intent to sell, and that was a huge difference.
Murphy took a deep breath and sank into his chair as he let it out. His attention went back to YouTube, and he scrolled through the videos. The sheer number of How To videos was unreal. Did he really watch that shit all the time? Sure, some of the other things were buried deep down, but he wasn’t really feeling WatchMoJo either. It wasn’t until he saw something that was talking about a Kill Count for the Leprechaun movie that he stopped scrolling. With a chuckle he clicked on the thumbnail.
A catchy tune began playing from his speakers, while a bloody Dead Meat logo flashed across the screen. The host started talking about how awful this series was, and Murphy laughed. He knew those movies were bad, but they reminded him of when he was younger. His mom had always tried to watch those movies, at least the first one, and was either called away or fell asleep each time. It must have taken her fifteen times before she finally finish it, and it seemed like each time she tried, Murphy was watching it with her. Ask her if she finished it yet, and each time she would say no with more annoyance in her voice. Murphy, on the other had had seen the ending at least five times. So she kept telling him not to spoil the movie for her.
As the Kill Count continued, he found that he enjoyed it more and more. The jokes the host was telling were kind of lame, but also endearing, causing him to laugh a littler more than maybe he should have. It may also have been due to the joint he was smoking, but he wasn’t sure.
The commentary was close to the conclusion when his phone rang again. Once again that strange voice was on the line, only saying sorry, before hanging up.
“What the fuck?” Murphy said, tossing his phone on the table. He shook his head and went back to watching his show. Still, while he was enjoying the show, he couldn’t get that voice out of his head. It wasn’t as bad as if it was saying something more than sorry, but just how surreal it sounded unnerved him.
Luckily, he was able to forget about it after the full effects of the joint had settled in. His mind had become a blank, he couldn’t even focus on the show, despite his eyes being glued to the screen.
It wasn’t until his stomach pulled him from his catatonic state, that he was able to think. Food was all he could focus on. In his kitchen, he got a couple Hot Pockets and tossed them into the microwave. As he pushed the quick cook four, a knock came from the door. With a quick look, he waited for a second knock. Everyone knew that if they wanted to come to his house, they would have to call first.
Sticking a knife into his belt as he walked to the door, he was getting himself pumped for anything.
“Who’s there,” Murphy called as he got closer. There was no answer. He peeked through the peephole; the hallway appeared empty. Clutching the knife handle, he cracked the door as far as the chain would allow. The hall was empty.
“Hello,” he said. Apprehension smothered his voice. Still no answer. He closed the door again, making sure to engage the deadbolt, and headed back for his kitchen. After about three steps, another set of knocks rapped the door. This time they were much stronger, almost as if the visitor was trying to punch through the door.
Turning on his heels, he rushed to the door. The knocks were still coming when he reached peephole. The hall was still empty. That was it, he tossed the knife on his couch, went to his room, and retrieved his Desert Eagle. The knocking continued as he walked back to the front door. It finally stopped as he unlatched the deadbolt. He threw open the chain, and the door, gun at the ready. He pivoted from side to side, leading with his gun. The hall was empty.
“What the fuck do you want,” Murphy shouted.
His voice echoed down the hall. Someone opened their door, and peered at Murphy. When he heard the door open, he slipped his pistol into his waistband, his shirt falling over the handled as the woman peeked out of the door.
“Is everything okay?” She asked.
Murphy lifted his hand, unenthusiastically. The woman went back into her apartment, scowling.
“What the…” he said, turning to go back inside. In sharp lettering, “sorry” was scratched into the door. Murphy ran back into his apartment, locked the door, deadbolt, and threw the chain.
He returned to the couch, as James A. Janisse was doing his best “ayuh” in reference to a character from the Pet Sematary movie. With a trembling hand, he started to roll another joint, not even paying attention to the TV. His high had vanished along with the phantom knocker. However, facing this sober wasn’t something he intended to do.
When his dad had been diagnosed with cancer, Murphy was only in his early teens. He wasn’t ready to see a person that had always been active, live out the last few months of his life confined to a bed. It was too much for him to take, so he found different ways to avoid going home. In his attempt to keep his memory of his dad as something larger than he was, he began smoking pot. Sure, he had smoked a few times before, but this was the point he started smoking everyday. It was his girlfriend at the time who always supplied him with his pot. After about a month, he moved onto stronger things: coke, pill, x, and heroin. To support his habits, he started selling anything he could get his hands on, and found that it was easy money.
It wasn’t until one of the crackheads he was selling to found where he lived that he decided to just stick to pot and coke. The addict started coming to his house without his permission, and finally he ended up trying to rob Murphy. The crackhead snuck into the house while Murphy was out making a sale. Upon returning, Murphy found broken glass scattered across his kitchen. As he was looking for what caused the broken window, the intruder hit him in the back of the head. The hit was enough to drop him to his knees, but the second hit knocked him out.
When he came too, he was tied to a chair. The addict was standing in front of him, asking him where he kept the crack. Despite his vision being blurry, Murphy was able to see that his house was in shambles. All the contents of the cabinets were thrown across the kitchen, chairs were overturned, and it appeared that there was clothing strewed across the living room floor. He looked around to see that the intruder was one of the tweekers that Shawn introduced him to. With a knife held to his throat, he didn’t have much of a choice, and told the man that his stash was hidden in a removable panel behind the toilet.
The intruder rushed from the room, squealed with glee when he found the stash, and rushed out. It took Murphy about a couple hours to get out of the knots, once he was, he surveyed the house. Every room had been ransacked. The money he kept in his dresser was gone, as well as the cash he had under his mattress. Luckily for him, only a few hiding spots were found, leaving the larger stash of product still in tact, along with a few grand.
The next day he set out to find another place to live, and decided that the apartment complex where he now resided was ideal. The only way someone could get in was if they had a key, or were buzzed in. That was a good way to get rid of any unwanted visitors. Furthermore, he was able to control who came in. It seemed idea, besides all the cameras, which could have posed a problem for his business. But no one seemed to worry, even more so since they always stayed for long enough to make it seem like they were just watching a movie.
No one had ever bothered him at his new place, and the few people that he allowed in were well known to him. The only exception were a few one night stands he had, but those were chicks he met in a bar and didn’t know what he did for a living. It was better than Shawn, who was living in a rundown hotel, but the cost was much less with that life style. Still Murphy couldn’t live like that, he wasn’t a white trash, and didn’t want to live like it..
Now, someone had found him again, and it wouldn’t take long before he would have to move. In the morning, he would ask to have the security cameras looked at, but for now he just wanted to figure out how some junkie found him.
Finally, he got his joint rolled, lit it, and relaxed into his couch with his gun on his lap. There was no way he was going to let that get too far out of reach. Not tonight. Tonight he was on guard, and that wasn’t going to change until he was certain that his harasser was done with their game. His mindset was getting closer to “shoot first, ask questions later,” but he still was able to keep his composure enough not to just start blasting at anyone who walked past his door.
As the night grew darker, his neighbors started to come home. The couple next door were great for strange conversations. Some nights it would cause Murphy to laugh as their voices drifted through the thin walls. Tonight he was hoping for something that could cause him to laugh.
“I thought you’d like to use this,” the woman said.
Murphy muted the TV and listened to his neighbors. The sound of bed springs squeaking and a headboard banging against the wall. The woman was saying something, but Murphy couldn't understand most of it. Until “sorry,” began being said, over and over. Each time her voice seemed to become distorted, sounding more like the woman on the phone. Murphy jumped from the couch, taking the TV off of mute. Still the voice came through the wall loud and clear.
It didn’t matter how loud the TV was, the neighbor’s voice drifted through the wall like silk. He covered his ears, but still that didn’t do anything to drown the sound. Finally, he couldn’t have taken it any more, he walked to the wall and pounded on it. The talking stopped, and Murphy released a sigh of relief.
He turned the TV down, and sat back on the couch. As soon as his back hit the cushions someone knocked on his door. Without hesitating, he grabbed his Desert Storm and rushed to the peephole.
“What the fuck do you want?” He screamed.
As he screamed he unlocked the door. With one quick motion, he throw it open. On the other side, his neighbor was waiting in the hall. The Neighbor’s scowl vanished as Murphy’s pistol came up to his face.
“H-hey, man,” the neighbor said, “I don’t want any trouble. I was just trying to get some sleep. But, I won’t bother you anymore.”
“Sorry, bro,” Murphy said, lowering his gun. “I didn’t know it was you. Someone’s been fucking with me. I just wanted to get your girl to stop talking so loud.”
“What? My old lady isn’t even in town.”
“Your side chick?”
“No. One girl is enough drama for me, man. But I’ll let you get back to what you were doing.”
His neighbor started to back away from his door. Murphy watched him go, wondering what the hell he was listening to if he didn’t have someone with him. Either his neighbor was lying, or he was going crazy, and he couldn’t tell which was true. It wasn’t because of the weed, that was perhaps the only thing he really knew. His suppliers never gave him anything laced, at least not without telling him. The last shipment he got was strong, but it was also just pot, nothing that could cause any kind of hallucination.
Not only did he lock his door again, but this time he pushed his couch in front of it. Even though he was on the fourth floor, he went to each window and made sure they were locked. He felt as if someone was watching him, but wasn’t sure if it was because of the events that happened had him spooked, or if it was because someone was actually watching him. After double-checking every door and window, Murphy was able to try and relax once more. With the couch in front of the door, he decided that it would be easier to just lay in his bed. He was unaware how tired he was, and shortly after laying down, he drifted off to sleep.
His dreams were fitful. Memories of how he abandoned his father in his time of need. His dad reaching for him, begging him to spend some time with him before he died, but Murphy couldn’t stand the sight of him. A girl he had once dated, crying about catching him with another woman. He turned from her, blamed her for being too annoying, even though he really did enjoy their time together. A mob of people, at least fifty deep, all of whom he had sold laced or fake drugs to. They all demanded that he give them their money back, but he was able to evade all of them, or scare them off with a round from his Desert Storm.
The final dream was of his mother, and a wave a relief washed over him. He didn’t turn his back on his mother, and she was always happy to hear from him. But she was weeping, sitting in her rocking chair, looking at the phone in her hand.
“Why won’t he ever call me?” She asked.
Murphy’s sister answered. “Because he doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t matter that you to try to give him everything. He’s just a mooch that will take and take, never giving anything back.”
“But he can change,” Muprhy’s mom said.
“Yeah, when he’s dead. Sometimes the world is better without certain people in it. It hurts me to say that, but it’s true.”
“Don’t say that,”
“Sorry, but it’s time you face reality.”
His mom began to cry. Murphy screamed at his sister, but she didn’t pay any attention to him. He went to comfort his mom, but she couldn’t feel him.
“Don’t be sorry,” his mom said. “I knew for a long time, just didn’t want to admit it.”
Both of the women in his life looked at him. They spoke in unison, repeating that same word that had come to mean so much more to him over the past few hours. “Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” Each time they spoke their voices distorted, becoming a mockery of what they had once been to him. Their features elongating and mutating, no longer looking like the people he had known and loved, but now more bird like creatures. Their noses crooked as their necks stretched and craned around toward him.
Murphy woke in a puddle of cold sweat. He looked around the room and noticed a figure looming in the corner. With a quick motion, he griped the gun from his stomach and switched on his lamp. There was nothing there. Looking at the corner, he turned the light back off, but the figure didn’t return. With the light on again a shuttering breath escaped his lips as he got out of bed.
The condensation glistened in the glow from a streetlamp below. “Sorry” was written in the moisture, streamers cut through condensation to the bottom of the window. He walked over to the window, gun held in a white-knuckle grip, and tried to wipe the message away. With a gasp, he stumbled back to the bed. The message was written on the outside of the glass.
“Sorry,” that strange voice said again.
Murphy spun on his heels, aimed towards where the voice came from, pulling the trigger. The hammer clicked. He tried again and again, but each time the hammer just clicked.
A humanoid creature stood in the corner of his room. It appeared to be wearing a dark flowing cloak, but on closer inspection it was a conglomeration of hair and feathers. The thing’s neck arched like a vulture’s, ending with a human face adorned with a serrated beak.
“You’ve lived a sorry existence,” the creature said. “You’ve always run from everything and anything, even if there was nothing to run from. Abandoned those that care about you, and those you should care about. Ruined the lives of countless others, and you cower when someone comes to make you responsible for your actions.”
Murphy looked into the chamber of his gun, it was empty. The magazine was missing.
Clicking its beak, the monstrosity lifted the magazine in a wing that ended with a human hand.
“What the hell are you?” Murphy asked.
It gave a guttural chuckle.
“What are you?”
“I’m a cleanser.”
“What?” Murphy looked on in a stupor.
“You really don’t understand, do you?” The creature craned its neck in an obscene way. “Well, let me put it to you like this, I clean the world from filth. I clean the carrion from the dredges of humanity, so those who at least try can get a better world to live in. The error of human emotion, greed, and selfishness are taken into consideration when I choose who to stalk. Once I find a person who is worth my time, I watch, wait, observe. If they make any real changes, I allow them to go about their lives, still watching, but not as intently. However, those who don’t, well I pay them a visit.”
“I’ve been changing my ways. I even started looking for a new job. A real job.”
“Too little, too late. If I come to visit you, it’s because the changes you’ve made aren’t worth a damn. Why have you decided to change the way you live your life? Is it because you’re worried you’ll be incarcerated, or because you’ve realized the error in your ways?”
“I’ve noticed the error of my ways. I swear it.” Murphy fell to his knees, pleading with the creature.
Once again it gave that disgusting laugh.
“Don’t lie to me. You haven’t even tried to mend the wounds you’ve caused. I showed you some as you slept, but you ran from those again. If you had woken up, and had the intention to call any of those people, I would have given you more time. But you didn’t, you were going to smoke another joint. You were going to try and sell some more drugs, and once you weren’t worried about being watched, you’d go back to living the same selfish life you’ve lived. You only care about yourself with no pity for any of those you have hurt.”
“That’s not true,” tears were running down his face now.
“What happened to the man who stole from you a few years ago?”
Murphy thought about the junkie that stole his stash. Thought about how he had him picked up off the street and taken to an abandoned building. Him and three other people spend hours beating him with chains, pipes, and finally branded his back to send a message. The brand read “thief.”. He didn’t want to acknowledge that he did that, but the buzzard was already telling him about it.
“He stole those drugs to sell them so his girlfriend could get into rehab. They found out she was pregnant, and wanted to clean their lives. He died three days later from internal bleeding. What about when your father was dying, he just wanted to spend time with you. His dying breath was asking for you, but you were running from him, lying in a den with a needle sticking out of your arm. Your mother worries about you every day, when was the last time you spoke to her?”
Murphy ran and kicked through the door, but when he got on the other side of the threshold he was back in the same room. Glancing behind him, he saw the door was rebuilt, as if he didn’t even touch it.
“What the fuck?” Murphy said to himself.
“There’s no where for you to go,” the creature said. “You will stay here forever. Never aging. Never dying. You will be forced to live through all the darkness in your life, no longer able to run from it. Once you’ve been able to confront the choices you’ve made, you’ll experience everything that could have happened to you. The good, and the bad. You will be a spectator to everything that was, is, and could have been. Maybe then you’ll understand the depth of running from your problems, but never able to change them. Never able to forget. Always filled with regret.”
With a click of its beak, the creature vanished. The room melted to the living room in his childhood house. A hospital bed was resting in the corner, his dad’s withered frame poking up under the blanket. His chapped white lips moving, croaking out the desire to see Murphy before he died.
A tear rolled down Murphy’s cheek. He turned his back, but the bed was in front of him again. Closing his eyes didn’t seem to help either. The bed was just as clear with his eyes closed. Murphy fell to his knees, crying. His dad cried for him to come and see him.
Written by JohnathanNash