“Boo,” hissed the sofa, its teeth chomping wildly as it inched closer to him.
“Right back at you,” Chuck slurred, grasping the wall for balance as he contemplated whether it was a good idea to vomit on the floor of his new house. He’d drank too much again, or at least more than he’d intended to. After nearly a decade of honing his alcohol-skills, he’d come to the conclusion that there was no such thing as “too much,” only “just enough to black out.” Although he wasn’t yet blacked out, he still felt he’d overdone his drinking this time. He’d promised he’d take it easy tonight, limit himself to just a few drinks. He had a date in the morning, a meeting with a wonderful woman he’d met on the Internet. Technically, however, he hadn’t actually broken his promise. He never specified how many a “few” qualified as. Twenty-six was definitely still a few. In fact, he was pretty confident he’d kept true to his promise.
The wall opened up and wrapped around Chuck’s wrist, a wet tongue-like object slowly caressing his now-consumed hand.
“No,” Chuck pleaded, pulling his hand away. “I’m drunk. No means no.” He stumbled backwards, his living room an unfamiliar haze of blurry colors like a painting dipped in water. He’d only recently moved in after being thrown out of his last apartment for being “a drunk, useless fool.” He’d lived on the street for a few weeks afterward, enjoying the warm summer air as he lounged on his cardboard box, but decided he should probably look into better living arrangements. He still had a few thousand dollars to his name, so he set out using the public library’s computer to find an apartment or at least a motel. After just a few minutes on Craigslist, he stumbled upon the deal of a lifetime: an entire house—a four bedroom, two bath—for absolutely nothing. It was obviously a scam, yet he decided to check it out anyway. He didn’t really have too much to lose.
The owner greeted him at the door, an elderly man with long, unwashed, gray hair. He walked with a limp and suffered from a terribly distracting tick, his head constantly glancing behind him at the slightest of sounds.
“Don’t take this house,” the man had pleaded.
“Nice house,” Chuck said. “I’ll take it.”
“It’s haunted,” said the man, glancing back.
“Yes, haunted,” the man said, glancing behind him again. “Do not take this house.”
“Great, I’ll take it,” Chuck repeated. He’d never gone hunting, nor did he know how a house could be a ‘hunted house,’ but free was free.
“No,” the man said, his left hand grabbing for the keys in his pocket while his right seemed to try to stop it. “I can’t let it ruin someone else.”
“Is that brick?” Chuck said, glancing at the exterior of the house as he grabbed the keys.
“Please, don’t take it. I only posted the ad to appease it. Please, save yourself.”
“Sounds great,” Chuck said, shaking the man’s already-shaking hand and wandering off toward the house. He couldn’t believe he was finally a homeowner; he immediately made himself comfortable with a few shots of whiskey.
Chuck sat down on the couch, its teeth no longer exposed, and grabbed a beer from the case beside it. He hiccupped softly.
“Get out,” whispered a deep voice, almost as if it were inches from his ear.
“Fuck off, Carl” Chuck said, blinking heavily. Carl was always trying to screw with him. He was pretty confident he knew a Carl.
“Get out,” repeated the voice.
Chuck opened the beer and tilted it back into his mouth. It was cold, yet tasted metallic and rotten, almost blood-like. In fact, most of what he ate and drank in his new home tasted of blood. He made a mental note to get the place checked out for mold once he had enough money to afford someone who would look at mold. Maybe a mold exterminator, he wasn’t exactly sure what they were called. Regardless, though, it was fine for the time being. It wasn’t exactly the first time he’d experimented by drinking blood.
A blurred object wandered across Chuck’s peripheral, then stopped in front of him. He glanced up. A translucent figure stared back at him, its eyes glowing with a soft red as it floated silently. Chuck tilted his head, the figure doing the same. It looked female in form, yet its features were blurred and unrecognizable. Chuck bent down, pulled out another can of beer, and tossed it at the figure. The can landed on the floor with a loud clang, rolling directly through the translucent being.
“Drink up,” Chuck said, taking a sip of his own beer. “It ain’t exactly the expensive stuff,” he said, hiccupping, “but it’ll do the job.”
The figure remained still, its eyes locked on Chuck.
“You single?” Chuck said. “I got a date tomorrow, but it isn’t anything serious.” He took another sip. “If you want to do something later, I’m free.” Chuck knew that it was somewhere around 2:00am, or at least it felt like it, but he figured it was worth a shot. There was a good 24-hour diner nearby, they could probably go grab a milkshake or something. He’d probably add some whiskey to his, though.
The figure tilted its head, then opened what seemed to be its mouth and let forth a blood-curdling cry, its eyes glowing fiery red as it screamed. Its body began to vibrate, torso shivering as wisps of white slithered off its body and faded into the air. Chuck had once seen a woman do something similar down at the Spread Eagle Gentleman’s Bar on 14th. He wasn’t impressed then and he wasn’t impressed now. The rejection always hurt the same.
“Alright, jeez,” Chuck said, “a simple ‘no’ would be fine.” He sighed. He wasn’t looking to sleep with the woman—although he certainly wouldn’t say no—he just wanted a bit of company at a meal. He was nice enough to allow her into his home, whoever she was, he felt the least she could do is entertain the notion of going on a date with him. Still, he didn’t want to impose. She was clearly a very opinionated woman.
The figure turned its head forward again and vanished. Chuck leaned back against the sofa and glanced down at his beer can. It was sizzling, the liquid violently splashing out of its top and onto his pants. For the third time that night, his beer had spontaneously began boiling. He really needed to invest in a better air conditioner once he could afford it, it seemed to constantly fluctuate between absolute zero, comfortable, and boiling point. He placed the bubbling beer can on the floor and pulled another from the case, opening the tab and taking a sip.
“Get out,” murmured the deep, hushed voice again. A cold, arctic air slithered down his spine, the hair on his back raising up.
“Carl,” Chuck said, pushing himself to his feet and balancing himself on the back of the chair in front of him, “for fuck’s sake, no gay stuff right now. Fuck, man.” He shook his head and wandered over to the piano in the corner. He’d never learned how to play one before, but he didn’t really need to with this one. It seemed to play itself, which was wonderful. Even though it only played depressing and dissonant music, it was still more comforting than the sound of cars and busses driving past his old apartment and cardboard box.
“Get out,” repeated the deep, empty voice.
“Carl,” Chuck slurred, “check this out.” He sat down at the piano and began pretending to tap the keys, swaying in beat with the sad, quiet song that the piano played on its own. “I’m Mozard.” Chuck was pretty confident that was the deaf piano guy’s his name.
“Fucking Christ,” snarled the disembodied voice. “It’s Mozart.”
“Right,” Chuck said. “Mozart.” The piano abruptly stopped playing as the keys stilled themselves. The stool he sat upon slowly began sinking into the ground, the floor turning into a dark, black ocean. Several large fins emerged from the water, their bodies hidden beneath, and began encircling him. Chuck had no idea the home included an indoor pool. It made absolutely no sense why the guy would offer up such an inclusive place for free. Still, he wasn’t exactly too fond of water—he got incredibly sea sick, even in swimming pools.
“Carl,” Chuck shouted. “Did I always have a pool in here? This place is going to—hic—have great resale value,” he said, tipping the beer back and finishing it off. He glanced over at the case of beer floating next to the couch. It appeared empty, the box floating casually atop the waves. “Fuck,” Chuck said. “I’m out of beer. Carl, can you go get some?”
“Will you fucking get out of here,” shouted the disembodied voice, an intense heat radiating against Chuck’s head. “Fuck you.”
“Fine, I’ll do it,” Chuck said, using his hands as oars as he attempted to row himself to the front door. He’d probably get another case of beer and maybe a few fifths of vodka. Something slithered against his submerged foot, running over his ankle and across his heel. He assumed it was some sort of cat. Chuck stopped rowing.
“Oh no,” he shouted, grabbing his mouth with his palm, just as a stream of vomit spewed forth from his closed fingers. It projected out like a thumb over a hose, splashing down into the black water surrounding him.
“Are you shitting me,” shouted the disembodied voice. The water immediately vanished, the piano stool again returning to a solid, unmoving state.
Chuck stood up and wiped his hands on his shockingly dry pants, then wandered over to the case of beer by the foot of the sofa. He lifted it up and stared inside. It was indeed empty.
“I’ll go get more alcohol,” he slurred, turning and walking toward the door. It whimpered as he pulled it open, the handle soft and wet against his palm. He made a mental note to look into finding someone who could repair a limp doorknob.