Short story: Life at 524 Bellaire Avenue
Time was ticking faster every second, or at least that’s how it felt to Carter. He had been sitting in the back corner booth of his favorite Italian restaurant for nearly 15 minutes, but it felt more like 15 years. He checked his watch again, seeing that it read 7:35. “Five minutes late,” he thought, “he must really be pissed.”
His boyfriend Aiden hated being late. Usually he would be the one 10 minutes early to a dinner date who chastised Carter if he showed up even a few minutes behind. But not this time.
As he waited, a young waitress with a silver nose ring came to the table, looking slightly sympathetic. Carter smiled, recognizing his friend Chelsea.
“Still not here?” she asked, gesturing to the bottle of red wine in her hand.
“Nope,” he said, nodding for her to fill his cup. “It’s okay,” Carter said. “I’m sure he’ll be along in a few. Thanks, Chelsea.”
“No prob.” Chelsea gave another kind smile and headed over to another table with an older couple. As she walked, Carter noticed her accidentally knock over a table-setting with her long skirt. He was about to call to her, when all of a sudden he was no longer looking at her, or at anything. The room had gone completely dark, as if the power had gone out.
He tried calling out to Chelsea or anyone else in the room, but nothing.
Unfortunately, Carter had felt things like this before. His narcolepsy often came in short bits – he would fall asleep for a few minutes, seeing weird dreams and being unable to control anything until he came to. At least this time didn’t seem as bad so far. The last time he had been immersed in a room full of groaning, dying Furbies, so he knew that it could always be worse.
He could not see anything in the darkness. His body felt suspended, as if he was on his back looking up.
All of a sudden his chest began to feel heavy, as if Atlas was setting the weight of the world on top of him a few inches at a time. He groaned at the weight and tried to push off whatever it was, but the darkness in the room did not let me see what was causing it. Then suddenly a series of words flew across his eyes like plane banners flying through the sky. The words looked like they had been cut out of newspaper clippings, all in formal font and colored red, reading things like “Killer strikes again!” “Victim found bleeding out,” and “Will backstabber strike again?”
Before he even had a moment to contemplate what it all meant, he awoke. He looked up to see Chelsea back at his side, looking more concerned than she had before.
“You alright there? You’ve been out for a few minutes,” she asked.
“Yeah, just fine,” Carter said, shaking the words out of his head, as if that were possible. When he blinked he could still see a red stain where they had been. Carter looked down to check his phone and saw that he had a text from Aiden. “I couldn’t do it, please don’t call. I still need more time,” it read.
Deciding it would be more pathetic to wait to see if Aiden would change his mind, Carter stood to leave. It took him what felt like another 10 years to pay, say goodbye to Chelsea, put on his coat and head outside to grab a cab.
The city lights flashed across his closed eyes as he rested his cheek against the window of the cab he had managed to flag down. The massive weight from the dream was gone, but a harsh pain had replaced it in the pit of his stomach.
After about 20 minutes, the cab driver asked him a question that Carter attempted to answer. But when he tried to open his eyes, all he could see was soft blurring lights of all colors passing over his vision. Slowly he saw certain objects pop up. The bottle of wine from the restaurant; an old boom box playing a workout song that came out in the early 2000s; a parakeet that was chirping along to the song playing on the cab radio. Suddenly the objects all morphed together into an ambiguous blob, that then turned into a figure dressed all in black with a knife in his hand. He started coming towards Carter, who was terrified and began to yell for help.
Instantly he was awake again, the cabbie now yelling at him to get out of his cab. Carter, paralyzed by his sleep attack or the fear that came from it, couldn’t move or respond at first.
When he was finally able to speak again, the cabbie wouldn’t listen to him and kicked Carter out anyway. He wrapped his coat tighter around his body as he exited the cab and walked briskly down the street, thankful that his apartment was only a few blocks down.
Once he got to the building, he hurried upstairs and unlocked his door. He knew that there wasn’t really a serial killer on the hunt for him, but he still couldn’t help feeling a dark presence around him – especially in his dreams – that felt too real to completely ignore.
Once in his apartment, he relocked the door, locked the window, closed the shades and grabbed his knife block off the kitchen counter to hold tightly in his arms. The killer couldn’t get his knives if Carter was holding them; it was perfectly logical.
It was several hours later, around 11:30 at night, when Carter decided to finally get off his couch, put the knives back on the counter and try to get some normal sleep. When he began to make his way to his bed, the song from the boom box from earlier began to play throughout the apartment. The memories all came rushing back and Carter couldn’t take it.
He ran to his bedroom and tried to block out the noise with his pillows, but to no avail. He tried screaming over the beat of the music, which helped until the music stopped. When it did, Carter looked up and saw Aiden lying on his side on the floor, eyes open and a knife stuck in his back. Carter blinked rapidly and screamed to himself that it was just another dream. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, then opened them to see the masked figure had returned. He could not see a face because his room had gone completely dark again.
Out of the darkness, the figure spoke in a voice that sounded all too familiar.
“He can’t find out, okay?” the voice said, and the pain in Carter’s chest came back as he realized it was his own voice.
Almost instantly the lights came back on again, and Carter felt himself smothered in his pillow.
All he wanted to do was forget and move on. He reached for his phone and saw that there were no messages. He pulled up Aiden’s number and almost pressed the call button, but couldn’t do it. His arms slumped down to his sides as he flopped down onto his pillows once again, intentionally closing his eyes and hoping his dreams would go back to featuring Furbies.