Tuesday Tales: Forever Home
My name is Stephanie Grace Parker. I’m writing this from inside my bedroom closet in apartment 3B at 636 N. Lytton Way. If anyone should find this, turn it into the authorities immediately.
I left my phone at the side table near the front door. I’m too terrified to go and grab it. They could be anywhere . . . just waiting to grab me. It’s too risky. Besides, I barricaded my bedroom door shut as best I could. That’d take me awhile to clear away. I don’t have that kind of time. Maybe my phone will still be there, maybe it won’t. They’ll pocket it if they have any right mind left. Not that they had any semblance of a normal mind to begin with.
All I can do now is tell you what I know so you can find them.
I moved here with Mister Pebbles (my cat) a week ago. Admittedly, it was a downgrade. The newly renovated studio in the heart of the city was always out of my salary range, and it had finally caught up to me. But I digress. Need to focus here.
It started with the I.D. card. Frederick Hart. I found it in the middle of the empty apartment on move-in day, just laying in the middle of that worn-out hardwood floor in the living area. Fifty-two years old. He had a beard in his picture. I think he was an organ donor, if that even matters here. His residence was this one, 636 N. Lytton Way. Something left behind by the previous occupant was all I thought of it, so I turned it over to the property management company. They told me he had moved out suddenly and without notice a few weeks back, but they assured me they’d get it back to him. I’m thinking I should’ve held onto it now. Maybe there’s more I could tell you about this other guy.
The move here was quick. Hurried, all of it. I paid a few of my former neighbors twenty bucks a piece to haul some boxes over. Gave one of them a fifty for tossing my mattress and loveseat in his truck and bringing that here. I know that sounds like more blabbering, but it isn’t. Not this time. It’s important because the move is what made me so scatter-brained during my first few days here. That’s how they got me.
There’s probably more I didn’t catch at the beginning. Again, it was hectic. That’s how a move is supposed to be. You misplace things. Break them. Whatever. And that’s exactly what happened. Those first few days, I’d run from one room to the other looking for my laptop. I’d dig through unlabeled boxes trying to find a single mug. It didn’t help that I’d thrown my belongings in any nearby box while packing. Still, I eventually found most of the items I'd been searching for. Except the photo board.
The photo board was one of those fabric ones, probably two feet by three feet. It was tall, and I was positive I had packed it away. Positive. It was about the only object that mattered to me, and that’s still the case. My family lives two timezones away, as do most of my friends, and they’re all on that photo board. Every last one of them. The board’s what reminds me I’m not really alone in this big city. This thing was nowhere to be fucking found, though, and that’s what finally lifted my eyebrow.
I got ahold of the guys whom I’d asked to help move my stuff. Of course, they swore they hadn’t seen it. I didn’t really believe they’d taken it, but it was a place to start. I asked my previous building’s maintenance guy if he’d seen it laying somewhere in my vacated apartment. Also nothing. I chalked the whole thing up as a stupid mistake, a possession I had surely lost on account of my own carelessness.
Then there was the food. I’ve not been one for traditional meals. Never have. I’ll cook up some pasta and red sauce at lunchtime and snack on it throughout the course of a couple hours, leaving it on the kitchen counter. Normally, I couldn’t tell you how much was left on my plate or in my bowl at a given time. But this was different. My guard was still up from the missing photo board. I’d leave the room after making a dish and taking a few bites, saving the rest for later. When I came back, the meal would have a noticeable amount missing. More than just a couple bites.
It’d be easy to blame Mister Pebbles, and I would’ve if he were able to get up onto a counter. He’s nineteen. He can barely get across the room without me giving him a lift. No way he could’ve jumped up onto a table or counter to eat my food.
It happened once, and it happened again. Then again. Meal after meal, I’d notice something was eating my food. Or rather, someone. I put up with this, too, because . . . well, I don’t exactly have anyone around to talk to about it, and I wasn’t in a position to get a new place since I’d spent what little extra cash I had left on the movers. I was trying to be practical about it all. I can see now that was a mistake.
Everything escalated from there. It was over the last few days, but it felt like the blink of an eye. Too much to process, really. It didn’t make sense. One of the shoes I’d left at the front door vanished. My winter coat vanished. An entire goddamn box, still full of my crap, vanished. Gone.
It was Mister Pebbles’ vanishing that finally sent my heart racing. I had went to the store an hour or so ago to get him some more kibble. When I got home, I filled his bowl. I called to him. Not even the sound of his frail paws scooting across the floor in return. He loves food . . . it’s the only thing that’s kept him kicking after all these years. I searched every room. I flipped over the love seat, then the mattress. The mattress, as if he’d be smushed flat under there or something. I stopped back at his food bowl, panting from having searched every corner of the tiny apartment half a dozen times. It was turned inside-out, and that’s likely the way you’ll find it. Unless even more goes missing, which I fear it will.
Then I heard Mister Pebbles. Usually all I can get out of him is a soft purr. This was a hiss, a sort of snarl I’d only heard when he was young. And it was coming from the ceiling, from above my apartment. But there’s nothing above my apartment. The building’s only three stories.
When I heard him hiss a second time, I remembered the pull-down attic door resting on the ceiling just a few yards from my apartment door. I don’t know why that came to mind, but I’m glad it did. There’s an attic out there. I’m sure of it. But I had no way of knowing whether they were out there waiting for me, prepared to take me, too, right out of thin air.
I panicked. I ran into my bedroom, barricaded the door and hid in my closet, where I still am now. This notepad and pen are all I’ve got . . . all I have to tell you what happened. They’re up there, waiting for me. Maybe watching me. Maybe listening to the sound of this pen scribble furiously on this page. It’s a petrifying thought.
I fear this note is all that will remain of me. I found a big enough crack in the wood floor here where they won’t find it—not like how they so easily found the rest of my stuff, at least.
But if they can’t find it, will anyone else?
I fear I’ll soon be forgotten.
Because I’m starting to think Frederick Hart didn’t move out of this apartment at all. And neither will I.
— Steph Parker
February 16, 2010