Things that go bump in the morning
With a yawn Melanie started to wake up; she’d been dreaming about her honeymoon in La Jolla. Glen was lying beside her on the beach while the sun streamed onto her back, warm and inviting. When she realized it was the sun seeping in through the blinds she woke up completely, and yawned again with a stretch. That was when she felt something small and furry moving up her spine.
“There’s something on my back!” She shouted. “Get if off, I don’t want it to bite me! What is it?”
“Uh, Mel,” Glen got out of the bed and stood next to it, his eyes searching every inch of her bare back. “There’s nothing there.”
“I can feel it, something is crawling on me - is it a mouse?”
When they’d first moved into their apartment at The Belmont, Glen had found a mouse in the corner of the pantry. They hadn’t found one since the exterminator had been, but Melanie was constantly worried about them, and wanted to move as soon as their lease was up.
“Get it off, get it off!”
“Baby,” Glen’s voice eased into a soft tone. “I think you’re still half asleep and dreaming, because there’s seriously nothing on your back. I’m looking right now and nothing, absolutely nothing is there.” His wife often had vivid dreams, and sometimes talked in her sleep. One time she’d dreamed about falling off a cliff and woke up screaming as she fell to the floor, bumping her head on the bedside table on her way down.
“Alright,” Melanie sniffed and pushed herself up with her elbows. As soon as she did she screamed, and that’s when Glen did see something on her back – small drops of blood.
“What the hell?” Glen reached down to check the wounds, and his hand took hold of something furry. It writhed in his grip, but he saw nothing in his hand. It felt like a large tarantula with lots of tentacles and fur. Soon he felt a sharp, searing pain on his forefinger and saw tiny bite marks with blood seeping out. He screamed and threw the invisible creature against the wall and heard a soft thud.
“What is it? What is it?” Melanie grabbed a t-shirt strewn across the headboard and pressed it against her back.
For once he didn’t have an answer for her. Usually he was Mr. Fix-It, with everything from a broken taillight to a computer crash, he had an explanation and solution for every problem. Glen stared at his wife with a look she’d never seen before.
“It’s on me! It’s on me!” Melanie began shaking her leg as drops of blood appeared on her ankle. Glen reached down to the spot where blood had appeared on her ankle and grabbed the creature, what he assumed was its husk. He held it while he tried to figure out where its teeth were.
He found them when another sharp pain singed on his hand, and he slammed the creature into the wall above the laundry basket and held it there. A small dent appeared in the plaster, and Glen’s hand was roughly four inches away from the wall so he estimated the creature was about that length wide. He held it against the wall and tried to ignore the squeamish feeling in his stomach as it writhed in his hand, its tentacles wrapping themselves around his fingers.
Melanie pulled on a large parka from the closet, and then a pair of ski pants. She found Glen’s ski clothes behind his trench coat, and carried them over to him.
“Thanks, but I’m afraid to let go of this thing.”
“At least you can put on the pants, they’ll help block its teeth.” Melanie helped him shimmy into the ski pants. There was still a tear in the seam from their trip to Nashoba Valley last winter that she kept forgetting to mend.
“What are we going to do? Why can’t we see it?” Her back and ankle had stopped bleeding, but the wounds pulsated. She noticed the bites on Glen’s hand were doing the same thing.
“I’m going to kill it, like I would any other pest.” He didn’t bother trying to guess her second question. He focused on the one solution he had.
“I need you to bring me the largest screwdriver we have, or a butcher knife from the kitchen.”
Melanie scurried out of the bedroom, happy to have a chore to focus on as she tried not to think too much about what this creature was, and why they couldn’t see it. She hoped she was still dreaming, because her mind couldn’t get around it.
She went into the kitchen and looked through the toolbox under the sink, but only found a hammer and wrench next to a tub of nails. She went through the dishwasher and drawers until she found a butcher knife and rushed back to the bedroom.
“Hurry up! I can’t hold this thing much longer.”
Melanie handed him the knife.
“Glen, why can’t we see it?”
“We’ll worry about that later, let’s just get rid of it.”
He steadied his grip on the creature, and held the knife with the blade pointed toward the wall. He breathed through his nose and relaxed his shoulders. He held up the knife to the creature and stabbed it into the wall. He felt around the knife, and felt fur attached to a slack mass. A gelatinous liquid he couldn’t see oozed through his fingers, and Glen felt satisfied that it was dead. He wiped his hands on a towel and went over to Melanie.
“Baby, it’s over. I killed it.”
She looked up to where he pointed at the wall. She saw nothing but the knife sticking out.
She wondered if she were going crazy. She thought about herself in a stark white straightjacket, kneeling on a padded floor surrounded by padded walls with bare feet. She actually felt her toes grow cold, and that was when she heard Glen’s voice.
“Are you okay? I’ve been calling your name - where did you go?”
“What do you mean?”
“I said your name like four times before you finally heard me; you weren’t even looking at me, you were looking off into space or something. You okay?”
Melanie nodded, and wondered if she were indeed still dreaming, since none of this seemed real.
“You killed it, Glen? It’s really gone?”
“Yeah, it’s gone. It’s over. Now what do we do with it?”
“I…I think we should go see a doctor about these bites.”
Glen couldn’t decide if he should call animal control or NASA. It was invisible, but he could feel it. Melanie felt it. The bites on them were proof, even though the pain had stopped the bites were still there.
But when he glanced down at his hand there was nothing; no blood, no marks, nothing. He asked Melanie to remove her parka so he could check her back, and the marks were gone as well.
“What’s wrong? Are the bites worse?”
“Um, no, they’re gone. They’re just gone...do yours still hurt?”
Melanie was surprised to realize that she hadn’t felt any pain from the bites in a while; she’d been too preoccupied to notice. She reached down to her ankle and pulled up the ski pants to check the bites on her ankle, and nothing was there. Her eyes widened as she looked at the knife in the wall.
“Was that real? Did it really happen?”
Glen walked over to the knife and touched the area around it, and felt nothing but cracked plaster.
“What the hell?”
“There’s…nothing there. Just the knife. But I felt something! I felt this stuff ooze out of it….did it disappear, or disintegrate or something when I stabbed it? Did it turn to dust like a vampire?” Glen chuckled, but he didn’t feel very humorous.
Melanie stared at the wall, and wondered again if it was all a dream, if it was simply the most horrible, sickening, vivid dream she’d ever had, and any moment she would wake up to Glen snuggling against her back with a hard-on asking if she was in the mood before coffee that morning.
She closed her eyes and urged herself to wake up; she told herself that when she opened them, she’d be back in bed beside her husband. But when she opened them, Glen was still staring at the wall as if it held all the answers to what had happened to them that morning.
Melanie sighed and looked downward, and saw a small bump in the carpet that was creeping toward her.
“Oh my God! I think that’s it right there!” She pointed at the bump, whose movement quickened. Glen rushed over and stomped on it with his foot, but it moved too fast and he missed it by an inch. He stomped on it again, but it scurried away. He felt like he was playing Whack-A-Mole at the carnival.
Melanie looked around the room for something to throw on top of it. She picked up one of her hardcover Harry Potter books from the shelf and threw it on top of the bump.
“Did I get it?”
They both scanned the floor, looking for movement. Glen picked up the book and peered at the carpet. He pressed down, but didn’t feel anything.
“You didn’t see anything after I picked up the book?”
She shook her head and looked around the floor, and then saw movement out of the corner of her eye.
“There it goes!” The bump was near the door where the bedroom carpet ended. The bump vanished, and through the open door Melanie saw the bump reappear in the Oriental hallway carpet heading toward the kitchen. She ran after it trying to stomp it, but it kept dodging her foot.
Glen ran ahead into the kitchen and grabbed a knife from the drawer. He stood with his feet planted on the linoleum and waited at the entrance of the kitchen where the hallway carpet ended. He watched the bump move to the edge of the carpet; it inched upward briefly then fell flat, and he stabbed at the floor right next to it. He kept stabbing the knife around the same radius of a few inches and scratched the floor in several places before he gave up. Panting and sweating, he looked at Melanie, who had grabbed a knife of her own.
“I haven’t seen the bump again, I think you got it!” She managed a small smile.
“Yeah, well, I thought I got it before so I’m not getting my hopes up.”
Melanie reached out with her free hand and stroked Glen’s back. He leaned down and nestled his nose in her neck, and breathed that scent he loved. In the mornings it wafted this mixture of wet roses and baby powder; he’d always found it intoxicating. She kissed his chin, and he kissed her lips. He wanted to pick her up and carry her back to the bedroom, and try to pretend the morning had just begun when her back arched and she gasped in pain.
Glen swiveled her around and saw blood on her lower back. He reached down to where he saw the two small drops of blood and caught the creature in his hand. He threw it down onto the floor and grasped it while he jabbed the knife through. Again he felt a thick liquid ooze out, but he didn’t let go; after a few seconds, he didn’t feel anything at all.
The creature had disappeared again, and with a groan Glen stabbed the floor a few inches to the right, then the left, then a few inches away from that. It was infuriating trying to find something he couldn’t see, and he didn’t want to wait for one of them to be bitten again to find it.
“There it is!” Melanie pointed with the knife at the hallway carpet, where the bump had reappeared. She ran after it, crouched down and stabbed at it, but missed. She kept stabbing at it as she chased the bump down the hallway, not caring about all the repairs they’d have to do in the coming weeks. She no longer cared what this creature was or why they couldn’t see it; she just wanted this all to be over.
Glen ran ahead to the carpet’s edge by the bedroom door. He crouched down and held the knife ready. When the bump got closer and then disappeared when the creature came out from the carpet, he brought the knife down and stabbed the floor. He felt around the tip of the knife but didn’t feel anything. Then he felt it on his chest, crawling upward.
“It’s on me!”
“I can’t stab you!” Melanie said with a pout. Glen grabbed the creature from his chest and didn’t even wince when it bit his palm.
“Let’s try to burn it this time. Go turn on the oven.”
Before they could try their new plan, Glen felt the creature disappear from his hand. He didn’t know if it fell to the ground, flew away or if it could teleport.
The fact that they couldn’t see it was making him lean toward teleporting, but that was the sort of thing that happened in sci-fi, not real life. Invisible creatures and teleporting were the sort of things he’d seen on old Twilight Zone shows he used to watch with his dad. Glen cursed and kicked the dresser, then cursed again at his stubbed toe.
Melanie screamed and fell to the floor. Blood appeared in tiny drops as the creature crawled all over and bit her in every uncovered spot it could find. She screamed and squirmed and Glen, who didn’t normally cry, began to sob uncontrollably. Through the blur of his tears, he thought he saw the creature appear on Melanie’s torso; a flash of silver gray fur with a dozen tentacles and beady red eyes, it looked like a cross between a spider and a bat.
He saw his chance to finally kill it. He gripped the knife and brought it down, but the second the tip of the knife grazed its fur it disappeared again, and the knife went into Melanie’s stomach.
Blood poured out and her eyes widened as she looked at Glen, who stared at her with tears streaming down his face.
“What…what did I…” He stammered and reached for the handle of the knife.
“Don’t!” Melanie’s voice was growing hoarse. “Don’t take it out! Call 911!”
Glen wiped his cheeks and started to rise when the creature scurried up his leg and began to bite him all over, just like it had done to Melanie.
“It’s on me!” He fell to his knees beside her, swatting at the creature.
Melanie watched the small drops of blood appear on Glen’s stomach and chest, and saw a silver flash. She blinked and looked again, and saw something with silvery fur crawling up Glen’s side toward his chest. She didn’t think much about what she was doing, she just saw her chance to kill the creature because she could finally see it, and stabbed it with the knife.
Just as her knife reached it, it disappeared and the knife went into Glen’s chest. She let go of the handle and Glen fell over next to her on the floor.
Melanie stared into his eyes, and found she could no longer speak. A bloody cough was all that came out when she tried to tell Glen she loved him.
“I love you, baby.” His voice was hoarse.
Melanie mouthed back “I love you too” and blood spurted out. With what little strength she had left, she reached out her hand to hold Glen’s and squeezed it, faintly. He squeezed back and then they both closed their eyes as the world around them swam into blurred shapes and colors, and then pure darkness.
Three days later, the superintendent unlocked the door to number twenty-two at The Belmont, with Melanie’s sister behind him. The scent inside the apartment swarmed at them, as if it had been waiting for that door to open just so it could run out through and let itself loose in the hallway. They both covered their noses and coughed before walking inside. A couple of flies were swatted at, and they headed toward the bedroom at the end of the hall, where the smell was strongest. The superintendent eased the door open, and dozens of flies buzzed around the room.
On the floor, the bodies of Glen and Melanie Wapenski were covered in dried blood. Melanie had a knife sticking out of her stomach, Glen beside her with a knife in his chest. A larger knife was stuck inside the wall right above the laundry basket.
The superintendent left to call the medical examiner, and to find a can of bug spray. Melanie’s sister fell to her knees in the hallway and wept and wailed; one of the flies flew into her mouth, and then flew back out. Bile rose in her throat so she ran into the bathroom and vomited.
The police arrived later, and after searching they seemed confident it was a double homicide, or perhaps a murder-suicide, no matter how much Melanie’s sister insisted they were a happy couple. She was convinced someone had broken in and killed them, even though there wasn’t any evidence of a break in and nothing appeared stolen.
The scratches in the floor and tears in the carpet only seemed to back up the detective’s theory that a violent fight had taken place before they killed each other.
Several other residents in the building had gathered around number twenty-two to see what was going on, and what the smell had been. A small bump appeared in the hallway carpet leading to the stairs, but nobody noticed through all of the commotion.
The creature reached the entrance door to The Belmont and scurried unseen into the bright sunlight. A few minutes later in a garden-level apartment two blocks away, a woman screamed.