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Love Me Dead

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You suppose that you like your apartment well enough. It’s not your dream home or anything, but it’s pretty nice. You like the high ceilings, the yawning bay windows, the view of the dog park across the street- though it’s been a while since you’ve seen anyone playing out there. The creeping autumn chill is pushing everybody indoors to the comfort of their working fireplaces and non-drafty living rooms. It’s a good thing rent is so cheap here, or you wouldn’t be able to manage the hefty cost of heating this place.

At least it gives you an excuse to curl up in bed with a cup of hot chocolate and take a break from your work. Your bed is in the perfect spot, tucked nicely into a windowed alcove overlooking the intersection of your street and the next. You can see your landlady’s phlox asserting its place between the fence slats- brown and shriveled now, even before the first frost, she really ought to take better care of her garden- all the way down to the convenience store at the far end of Eugenia St. This corner of town is usually fairly sparse as is, but it looks practically abandoned now under the encroaching blanket of bruise-colored storm clouds. All in all, the perfect environment to cozy up and get a little writing done.

You pull out your typewriter from its nook under your bed. Maybe it’s a bit silly to do all your work on a typewriter in this new, digital age, but you’ve always harbored a kind of yearning for bygone times. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the click-click-click-shhhk as the keys hammer words to paper, the steady trembling of the page as it is whisked through the rollers and of your fingers as they struggle to load another sheet before the muse can flit into the wispy shadows. Its weight in your lap is a comfort, another familiar thing to ground you when lately everything about your world feels uncertain and indistinct.

As you were saying- you like your apartment well enough, but it definitely would not be your first choice to spend the majority of your waking moments. And it seems like these days, that’s all you really do- sit in your apartment and write. You like to tell people you’re writing a novel, but technically it should be classified as a thesis. One you’ve been working on for too long, and keep telling your advisor you’ll finish eventually, but… here you are.

The sharp click-click of nails on the hardwood alerts you to the entrance of your dog, Thompson, into your bedroom.

“Hey, buddy. What’s shaking?” you ask him.

His stride is unhurried, his furry head pointed straight for the doggy bed you leave near your own. He doesn’t even acknowledge you as he pads delicately onto the bed, making a few revolutions before finally settling into the well-worn cleft in the center. His chin drops onto his paws with a world-weary sigh.

You reach out a foot and nudge him. “Tough day at the office?”

Again, he ignores you. His eyelids drift slowly shut, and after a few minutes you can hear the low rumbling snores that indicate he’s fallen asleep.

You give him a fond smile. Oh, to be able to just curl up and nap, not a care in the universe; how you envy him that luxury. With a sigh to match Thompson’s, you return to your typewriter and the unborn thesis anxiously awaiting the release of your touch.

It is unclear how much time passes in this way before you hear a strange noise coming from below. A low, rhythmic growling; you lean over and see your dog, hackles alert and lips curled in a cautious snarl. The sound that follows it, however, turns high-pitched, more of a panicked whine, carrying a note of fear you’ve never heard from him before. You glance over to see what could have scared him so- and your heart shudders to a halt.

Someone is standing in the hallway just outside your room, back to you so that you cannot see their face but you can sense the threat in their posture. Their body is all straight lines and quiet intent. What you can see of their raven hair appears neat and unmussed, a strange companion to the wrinkled hoodie-and-leather-jacket combo they’re sporting above black jeans and combat boots. Que grunge , you muse. Their hands are shoved into their jacket pockets, feet planted shoulders’ width from one another, a slight hunch to their torso. Even though you cannot see their expression, every bit of them radiates aggression.

Truthfully, you are not unused to seeing these kinds of things. You can’t quite remember when exactly it started, but not terribly long after you moved into this apartment, you started to see… things . People, mostly. They were usually only there for a few seconds, more a whisper than a presence. Mostly they appeared to be men, often wearing unkempt clothing and rubbing their hands together like they were perpetually trying to warm themselves over a fire. They never spoke or interacted with you, or even seemed to realize you were there.

At first you had chalked the visions up to a few too many sleepless nights, but they became far too frequent for you to truly dismiss. They left you with a deep sense of unease, and for a long time after they appeared you were left with a sense that the world was not quite correct. Thompson seemed to sense them, too- you’ve heard the thing about dogs being able to see ghosts, so maybe that is what they were. He would stare intently at unoccupied corners of the room or bark at what seemed like nothing; his normally calm demeanor would disappear and his hackles would shoot up if you got too close. It was unnerving, certainly, but the both of you seemed to adjust over time. The apparitions no longer leave you with quite the same bone-deep sense of unease.

This one, however, is different. They seem more solid, more real than any of the previous visions. As you stare at them, their outline grows sharper, their presence more concrete- and you are struck with a sudden, visceral fear that this person may truly intend you harm.

As if he senses your thoughts, Thompson’s snarl breaks into a flurry of ceaseless barking. He is half-raised from his position on the bed, tail tucked close against his rump and ears flattened back in fear, but the great growling barks that erupt from his furry body would have any intruder sprinting for the back door.

The stranger startles and turns, and just for the briefest moment you can glimpse their face, the honest surprise that passes over their features- and then they are gone.

You fix yourself an extra strong cup of hot chocolate to ward off the chill from that encounter.