B & E

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject

I walk the two blocks from the convenience store to my apartment building.  It’s an old office building that some enterprising cheapskate turned from undesirable commercial dwellings to undesirable studio apartments.  When I signed my lease, I got offered a chance to live up above the squalor of street level for an extra hundred bucks a month.  I passed on it.  Instead, I opted for the “Sub-Garden” level.  I figured that I didn’t have to look at my truly depressing neighborhood if I didn’t have windows in the first place.

I walk through the open-air lobby and head down two flights of stairs.  The faint smells of mildew and earth fill my nose as I descend.  The fluorescent lights obliterate shadows and cast everything in harsh flickering white light.  For all that the stairwell is not visible from the street, there’s a surprising lack of graffiti on the walls.  My footfalls echo from the metal stairs, but stop suddenly as I reach the bottom landing.  The sudden quiet is eerie, even a year after I moved into this dump.  I round the corner and head toward my door at the end of the hallway.

It’s open already.

I suppose I should be upset, but there is literally nothing left of value after the last time I got robbed.  I didn’t replace anything because I had just gotten in the car accident that left me without wheels and effectively ended my stint as a delivery driver for a sketchy Chinese food joint.  How sketchy was it?  Well, the local animal shelter has lower kill numbers than most areas of similar economic opportunity.  Sometimes those urban legends you hear have more substance than anyone cares to admit.

I walk without caution up to my open door.  No point in sneaking.  Anyone in there aught to be long gone.  As I approach, I can make out the boot-print above the doorknob on the otherwise featureless white door and I can see where the bolt splintered out of the door frame.  Damn cheap-ass landlord.  A reinforced door jam isn’t that expensive.  I checked.  I let out a heavy sigh as I push the door open.  It creaks and thumps as it yawns wide and hits the wall.  My light hangs from the exposed pipes and conduits that run across the ceiling and is still on.  The “kitchen” on the left wall is in shambles.  My bachelor-sized collection of a pot, a pan, and a few plates and bowls is scattered on the floor, with the mismatched faux-cabinet doors left hanging open.   The fridge is open.  The back wall has a bathroom the size of a closet and an actual closet.  The left wall has my bed made of a mattress on a stack of milk crates and my mound of dirty clothing.

It’s mostly as I left it, really.  As I step inside, something hits me in the face.  My vision greys out and I rock backward and fall on my ass.  I feel a boot hit me in the ribs.  The fucker stepped on me!  I let out a groan that takes all my air as it leaves.  Over the sound of my own gasping, I can hear feet pounding on the stairs.  I need air.

I struggle to my knees, and put my hands on my head.  I hold my mouth open and gasp.  Breathe.  I force my eyes open.  I see black spots that blot out most of the world, but they shrink as I suck in air.  My face hurts.  It’s wet too.  Some of it is tears.  My eyes sting.  I wipe my hand across my face.  It comes away covered in thick crimson.  I spit into the hallway.  Blood splatters on the floor.  I pinch the bridge of my nose and haul myself to my feet.  I walk into the bathroom.  I feel like I should limp, but my legs work fine and there’s no one around to get sympathy from.

There never is.

I turn on my faucet and splash water in my face until it stops running red.  It takes a long time for the water to go clear, but it finally does.  I look into the dirty mirror above it.  My nose is swollen.  I bar my teeth.  More blood.  I look like I just took a bite of someone’s neck.  I suck water into my mouth and spit.  Better.  I turn off the faucet and dry my face.  “Fuck,” I say to no one in particular.  I want to scream, but it wouldn’t help.

I push my door closed.  It won’t latch.  I pull the little safety chain up and latch it to the door.  At least that should wake me up if someone tries to drop by.  I slap the switch on the wall.  Darkness chokes the room.  I shuffle across the floor to my bed and flop down on it.  I have to be up in time to get to that medical testing thing in the morning.  I also planned to give blood.  My last thought as sleep closes in is that having my nose smashed should totally count.

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