Bob · Story Series

The Monster in my Building: Part Nine

Once upon a time there were two islands…

Start At The Beginning

Today is just today. I woke up, left for work, and came home from work. I’m not planning on leaving my apartment again and I didn’t see Bob. Actually, in the last three days, I think I’ve only seen Bob once, and then only on the monitors. He’s been quiet lately.

I’m lying with my torso underneath my coffee table, and my calves and feet resting up on my couch. A few years ago I had back problems and found some relief doing this; now I just do it because I feel like it. My zebra finches sing merrily, and I play games on my phone.

Someone knocks at the door.

I panic and try to get up, but only succeed in banging my head on the coffee table.

“Ashley, are you home? It’s me, Christine.” Her voice comes muffled from the other side of the door.

I make unintelligible growly, complainy noises as I crawl out from under the coffee table and rub my head. Once out from under the table, I sit up and stare at the door. Maybe she didn’t hear me. Maybe she’ll go away.

She knocks again. “Could you open up before Bob comes and eats me, please?”

I scowl at the door. You can’t use Bob to get what you want. That’s worse than black-mail, it’s Bob-mail. But of course she would. I consider ignoring her anyway, after all Bob hasn’t been inclined to show himself lately, but that’s exactly the sort of thing that precedes something really unfortunate, so of course I can’t.

I don’t even have the luxury of talking to her through a gap in the door too small to get through, and then closing the door at the earliest excuse. You just have to let people in the door here, and it’s a lot harder to get them to leave. This is one of the more unexpected consequences of living with Bob, but up until now it hasn’t affected me much. Most people have more common sense than to just go around bothering the neighbors, you see.

So I let her in.


She scoots past me and I all but slam the door shut, just in case.

“What’s up?” I say with a tight smile.

Christine takes a deep breath and lets it out quickly. She’s excited. This makes me wary.

My zebra finches are quiet, as if waiting to hear her response. They’re not used to seeing people other than me in this apartment. Actually, I can’t remember the last time another human being came in here. Maybe when I needed to get my sink fixed, a few years ago?

“I want to interview you,” she says.

My brows furrow. “Interview me for what?”

“Well, my blog to start with. Plus I know a guy with a popular-ish YouTube channel, so who knows. And I think I’d like to write a book someday,” she babbles excitedly. “But you never know where it could go if it gets popular. Stranger things have happened. The world must know Bob!”

“No.” The word falls out of my mouth and lands with an awkward plop on the floor.

I’m being blunt. I’m not often blunt, but sometimes I am. After all, if I might get eaten by a giant bird tomorrow, who has time to mince words?


“No.” I confirm.


“Because you’re not one of us.” These words fly out of my mouth before I can stop them and then flap around the room shrieking.

I’m not even sure I mean it. Probably something like it. Mostly I think my life isn’t some sideshow, and I don’t want to talk about it with a bunch of random strangers.

“But I live here.”

“No you don’t.”

“Well I can’t live here all the time. I have a kid.”

“I lived here as a kid.”

“So you think I should just bring my four-year-old to live in a building with a giant bird monster?”

“Absolutely not. That would be idiotic.”

“Well then?”

I shrug.



“So your parents moved here with you as a kid and didn’t leave when they found out about Bob?”

“No, I…I’m not answering questions.”

Especially not about my parents.

“Okay, then. Well could you give me tips on living with Bob? I will be here sometimes, quite a lot of the time, actually. Overnight, occasionally.”

Overnight occasionally. Lands a mercy, we should give her a medal.

“You don’t want me to get eaten by Bob, do you?” she says.

I know perfectly well this is a way to get more information about Bob, and see what little bits I might spill in the process. But on the other hand, she’s not wrong. If she’s spending time here, there are things she needs to know to stay safe. Or at least be less of a nuisance to the rest of us. And I don’t know what the others might tell her, well-meaning as they are. Still, I should say no. Just on principle.

Except now I’ve hesitated way too long on a question that should have been an immediate “no” and Christine is looking at me funny.

“I guess.”

She smiles. “Great. I’ll bring the Oreos.”

I almost smile.

Bob · Story Series

The Monster in My Building: Part Eight

Christine was wrong

I sit on a decorative boulder in the landscaping in front of my building. Sitting with my back to the street would be weird, so I don’t, but I make sure to sit so that I can still see the building in my peripheral vision. Bob can’t get out, I know that. But this isn’t a place you turn your back on.

Carly shuffles up the path toward the building and incidentally also me. She wears a long patchwork coat and carries a Japanese-style parasol. “You coming in, honey?”

“Nah, don’t want to,” I say.

“You’ve got to come in sometime. Come on, let’s do it together,” she says.

I shake my head. “Don’t want to.”

She gives a little laugh. “But you have to.”

Do I though? Do I really have to? Every afternoon for the past couple of days I’ve considered just going to a hotel for the night. Maybe today I will.

“I might not. I might go to the Four Seasons, and sit in the hot tub.”

“I see,” says Carly. “And then what?”

“Stay? Maybe we should all do that.”

“We should all go to the Four Seasons and sit in the hot tub.”

There’s a big evergreen shrub growing near the sidewalk. I’ve noticed if you’re coming up the street, the shrub hides the rock I’m sitting on from view. It stands to reason, then, that for anyone coming up the street, it will look like Carly is talking to a shrub. Despite my pensive mood, I can’t help but smile a little at that.

“Yes we should,” I say. “Why don’t we? I mean people always ask that and I usually just think it’s a dumb question because reasons, but really. Why?”

“Well, I suppose by now everyone who is going to leave already has,” says Carly.

“But can you remember anyone leaving? You’ve lived here longer than me,” I say.

“Not much longer. I think I’d only lived here two years before you were born.”

“Sure, but I don’t remember much of the first several years,” I say. “Do you remember?”

It occurs to me that, sitting on the rock, I might be tall enough to be seen over the evergreen bush. So it might look like Carly is talking to a bush with a head, or someone standing in the bush.

“Well sure, there have been some,” says Carly. “Did that investigator lady put you up to this? Is that what all the questions are about? She’s not going to live here, apparently, she’s got a little son. So at least you won’t have to worry about that.”

“No, she certainly did not,” I say. “But in a way, it is because of her. This is weird, isn’t it? That we all still stay here?”

“Everyone’s got their problems. And it really isn’t so bad. No one’s actually been attacked by Bob in a long while,” says Carly. “Plus, have you noticed? We never get rats. Or mice. Not a one.”

“I suppose…”

“And most people have to pretend their lives are interesting by going to the movies or those escape room whats-it-thingees. We face death on a daily basis.” Carly twirled her parasol. “And we do it with style. Bob is not a monster, he’s a way of life.”

The more rational side of me stands to the side with its arms crossed, and opines that this is dumb and that Carly has clearly eaten too many raisin bran muffins. But while I don’t think Carly’s opinion is correct, it does appeal to me, and in that sense I agree. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I do.

“Yeah,” I say.

I slide off the rock, and take Carly’s proffered arm. We stride up to the building where Bob awaits, somewhere.

Carly brandishes her parasol. “Onwards.”

Bob · Story Series

The Monster in My Building : Part Seven

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

Today is a Good Day. It’s a Saturday, and I have no intention of leaving my apartment. On days like these I like to curl up on my sofa with a cup of tea and a good book, and pretend that the whole world outside my apartment has ceased to exist, never existed at all, in fact. Not only does my apartment building* not exist, but the world beyond it as well. No reason to ever leave my apartment and nowhere go even if there was. My apartment floats in a void, or is embedded in solid rock, or is lodged in a crevasse at the bottom of a sterile, bottomless sea.

Those images in the windows and noises from beyond my living space? Hallucinations, all of them, my mind trying to make sense of nothing.

Some noises, though, you just can’t ignore.

A woman’s scream; a loud, raucous squawk; a wet crunch; pounding feet getting louder, someone running towards my apartment.

I just react, too terrified to think about anything other than how much I want this to not be happening. I rip my door open as the footsteps get close, and grab hold of a green sweater. The sweater-wearer yelps as I pull her into my apartment, and then I slam my door shut. I lock it, instinctively, though Bob doesn’t know how to use doorknobs, except as something shiny to peck at.

Me and Bob’s would-be lunch stare at each other, panting and shaking. I don’t recognize her. She must be the new tenant. She’s my age, with shoulder-length brown hair. The rips in her jeans appear to be a fashion statement rather than a Bob casualty, but there is a smear of blood on the sleeve of her sweater.

“Are you okay?” I say.

“That thing ate–” she doubles over, trying to catch her breath.


She stands up again. “My chicken. I threw the chicken at it, and now it’s gone.”

“Your chicken?”

“I was going to make a roast chicken. You know, as a special house-warming thing. I don’t know what to do now.”

“You could get another one.”

“In this economy?”

“Meatloaf? With fancy ketchup.”

“Fancy ketchup?”

“If it was homemade, maybe with heirloom tomatoes or something.”

“Oh. Yeah, I guess I could do that.”

The new tenant and I stop nervously blathering and stare at each other for a bit longer.

“I’m Ashley,” I say.

“Christine,” she says.

“You want some Near-Death Experience Oreos?”

A short laugh escapes her mouth. “Is that a new flavor?”

I’m about to say they taste like adrenaline and soiled underwear, but I clamp my mouth shut just in time and giggle instead.

The hollow clacking of Bob’s beak sounds outside my apartment, followed by a weird low rumble.

“It can’t get in, can it?” says Christine.

“Nah,” I say. “If he could, we’d all be dead already.”

“You’ve lived here a while, haven’t you?” she says.

My smile is a little tight as I beckon her down my hallway. “Come on, the Oreos are over here.”

She glances back at my door, and then follows me.

“You keep them in your closet?” she says as I emerge with the well-over-half-eaten box.

“Don’t ask,” I say.

We munch on the Oreos, and get crumbs all over my bed, but I don’t mind. It’s nice not being treated like a weirdo by an outsider for once. I’m sure she’ll start looking for another apartment as soon as we can safely get her to her current one, but I’ll enjoy this while it lasts.

“I guess you got a lot more than you bargained for,” I say.

“I’ll say…although, kind of not. But yes.”


“I’ve been looking for a place like this for ages. I mean, not to live in, but to study, kind of. I’m what you might call a paranormal investigator.”

I pop the last bite of my Oreo into my mouth and chew it slowly, trying to come up with something appropriate to say. Bob isn’t a zoo animal or a tourist attraction. He’s the nightmare that’s plagued my whole life. What does this lady think she’s doing?

*Obviously, Bob does not exist either. In fact, the entire concept of Bob does not exist, so I don’t even know what I’m talking about.

Bob · Story Series

Meet Bob (Kind of)

I’ve had trouble finding the right featured image to go with my current story series “The Monster in My Building.” I suppose I could have tried looking for an ominous image of an apartment building (though honestly that didn’t occur to me until now.) But I wanted to use an image of Bob, the series’ titular monster. The trouble is, Bob’s look is rather unique.

I settled on a copyright-free image of a bird-looking monster, though it doesn’t look exactly like Bob as I’ve described him and is only meant to convey the idea of Bob. At my real-life job, though, we have access to the AI image-generating software Stable Diffusion, and after chatting with one of my co-workers about it I decided to attempt to generate an image of Bob.

Did it work? Well…no, not exactly.

But nevertheless, I managed to generate some images I quite like.

This one almost looks like it might be a person in a Bob suit. I like how the lack of wings and human-like shape makes this “Bob” eerily undefinable, you can’t quite tell what he is supposed to be. And the oversized feet are kind of cute. I can picture him waddling around the building with his head wobbling back and forth.

This one is the most realistically bird-looking. It does look like a stork, but not a Maribou stork. I don’t think Stable Diffusion really knows what that is. I liked the fluffy, almost hairy look of the feathers on the neck, as well as the unnervingly oversized hook on the beak. Even though the “real” Bob has neither.

This one looks the most monster-like. I like how this “Bob” looks like it’s lurching out of the elevator towards you. Its over-sized, droopy wings are the closest I could get to long claws on the wings. Usually if anything Stable Diffusion just gave me a clawed foot where a wing would normally be. Unfortunately, because it has no beak it’s missing a lot of the “creepy bird” vibe Bob ought to have.

All in all, it was a pretty interesting experiment, and my first brush with AI image generation. In the future I may spend more time tinkering with such things, and see if I can’t come up with something that better represents all it means to be “Bob.”

Bob · Story Series

The Monster in My Building: Part Six

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

It was a half-day at work. I’m on my way home, and looking forward to binge-watching the back-catalogue of a youtuber I discovered late last night. On top of all that, I’m giddy from the fancy decaf coffee that was definitely not decaf I downed on the bus.

In fact, I’m almost okay with the possibility of running across Bob on my way up to my apartment. After all, he was nowhere to be found this morning, maybe he’ll leave me alone now too.

However, as I approach the building I can see Bob standing just inside the door to the east stairwell. At least I don’t have to wonder where he is. On most days I would just sigh and walk over to the west stairwell. But today is a weird day, and at least up until now it has been pretty good.

I approach the building cautiously, though to my knowledge Bob has never attempted an assault on any of the doors. It’s not often I get a chance to get a really good look at this thing, this blight on my existence.

We like to say Bob is nine feet tall, but since the ceilings are under seven, it’s really more of an estimate. Right now his neck is bent in an exaggerated J-shape, putting his head a bit below his shoulders so he can stare at me at eye-level. Which isn’t creepy at all. From what I can see of the length of his neck, he could easily make nine feet if he stood up straight.

His over-sized beak is at least three feet long, black, and flaking at the edges. The bare wrinkly skin on his head and neck is black too, with a purplish tint to it. His claws come out underneath the longest flight feathers on his wings and protrude beyond the black plume of his tail. When his wings are folded, they almost look like they could be oddly thick, stiff feathers. Bob croaks, tilts his head to the side and spreads his wings (as much as they can be spread in the narrow stairwell), and I can see exactly how long and sharp the claws are.

I glance over my shoulder. A woman is out walking her dog on the other side of the street. Part of me wants to bring her over here to see what she makes of Bob, assuming she makes anything at all.

The building residents are fond of saying we can’t all be crazy, but I don’t see why. After all, either Bob (and the occasional physical evidence of his existence) are a shared delusion, or we are all more or less willing to keep sharing a building with this thing. Neither option speaks well of our mental-health.

I have a stupid idea. I don’t know why it entered my head and I don’t know why I don’t dismiss it immediately. I blame the caffeine.

But I reach for my keys. One way or another, Bob isn’t going to be my problem anymore.

I unlock the door and open it, moving aside as I do so. Part of my body is hidden behind the door, but mostly I want to make sure Bob has plenty of room to get out.

Bob growls and fluffs up his feathers, shifting his weight from foot to foot. He waves his beak around where the door was. Bob takes a step forward-

My head is within striking distance of his beak.

I jump behind the door and slam the door in Bob’s face. Bob hisses in annoyance, and I run to the west stairwell, up the stairs, and down my hallway. My hands are shaking so badly I drop my keys and let out a squeak of terror, before snatching them up and successfully opening my door.

I slam my door shut, run down my hallway, and dive into my bedroom closet. Grasping about in the darkness, I retrieve the box of Near Death-Experience Oreos I keep stashed there and start listing all the ways what I just did was idiotic, one for each new cookie. Thankfully I cut this exercise short after the first row, otherwise I easily could have consumed the whole box. But I do not leave the closet. My zebra finches chirp in worried tones outside.

Bob · Story Series

The Monster in My Building : Part 5

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

“Alright, alright,” Terry waved his hands, drawing everyone’s attention back to the matter at hand and away from me and my long-awaited muffin. “This is getting out of hand. I suggest we table these suggestions until another-“

Don interrupted him “–well we could vote on it at least.”

Terry scowled at him. “Another day. When we’ve all had a chance to think on it. Alright?”

Don frowned and crossed his arms.

“Right then,” said Terry. “I just have one more announcement. Next week we have a new tenant moving into room 312. We’ll be keeping Bob occupied in the east stairwell during the move, so use the west stairwell or the elevator if you see a moving truck out front on the 25th.”

I nearly spat out a chunk of muffin. “A new tenant? Do they know?”

“Of course she knows,” Terry frowned. “It’s in the lease. She signed it.”

There’s a clause in all of our leases that say we won’t sue anyone for damages associated with Bob. I seriously doubt it would hold up in court, but to challenge it you’d also have to prove that Bob exists. Given his inconvenient disappearing acts whenever the police or animal control show up, I’m not holding my breath.

“But does she know?” I say.

“What do you mean, does she know?” says Terry.

“What living with Bob means. That it’s real. How to stay safe.”

“Well, she soon will. And I trust those living here already will give whatever help they can.”

“This is totally irresponsible.”

Terry huffed. “We have to find renters, Ashley. We’re sitting at 60% occupancy as it is. What do you want me to do?”

“Show her,” I say. “You said Bob is going to be in the east stairwell. Show her. Make sure she knows what she’s getting into.”

“Well, that would be irresponsible. Knowingly putting someone in close proximity to such a creature.”

“Oh, but it’s just fine if you set her up to unknowingly wander into close proximity with Bob dozens of times a year?”

I’m about to give Terry another piece of my mind when a quavering screech from somewhere nearby derails my train of thought. It does nothing to quell my frustration however. Even as I’ve been saying these things, I don’t know what’s come over me. I practically never say anything at these meetings.

Maybe I’m still mad that I had to risk my life to attend, Terry couldn’t even be bothered to get decent snacks, and then started the meeting before I had a chance to get my hands on one crummy muffin.

“Shut up, Bob,” I say.

“I don’t think that was Bob,” says Old Roger.

An uneasy hush falls over the group for about the third time this evening. No one needs to ask the question we’ve all been forced to consider.

“Shut up Roger,” says Terry.

Bob · Story Series

The Monster in My Building : Part Four

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

I stagger out of the elevator, my heart still bouncing around my chest like a demented pogo stick from the miniature heart attack Bob so kindly bestowed on me moments earlier. All this could have been avoided if we just did the strata meeting over Zoom, but as you might suspect, the same factors preventing people from moving out of an apartment building with a giant man-eating bird in it also tend to prevent them from owning computers and an internet connection. Not everyone, of course, but enough.

The only space in the building large enough to accommodate all of us is the lobby, so naturally we all cram ourselves behind the solid door of the optimistically-named “games room.” These meetings are humans-only, you see. Of course it’s not fair to Bob, after all he lives here too. But he refuses to respect the difference between the renters and the snacks, so we are forced to exclude him.

Speaking of snacks…

I enter the stuffy games room, making sure to close the door behind me, and make a beeline for the snack table. It’s really the pool table with a plastic sheet over top, but it may as well always be a snack table since there’s only one pool cue and half the balls are missing. I suspect they’ve been absconded with as Bob-repellent devices. There are a couple plastic trays of muffins on the table, and they are just as uninspiring as I expected. But there is also a knot of people clustered in front of the table, and suddenly I find myself irritated that they would deny me something I didn’t want much in the first place. I risked my life to attend this meeting, is a mediocre store-bought muffin really too much to ask?

Terry, the superintendent, barks at everyone to sit down so the meeting can get underway. As the knot of people disperse, I scoot towards the table. Terry catches my eye and scowls at me. I sit down.

“Alright, let’s get this started. We’ve got quite a few items to get through.” Terry frowns at the rumpled piece of paper in his hands. “Don has a proposal he’d like to make about the fire doors.”

“Yes,” Don stands and addresses the room. “The fire doors exist for a reasons. They are for our safety.”

Carly crosses her arms and sighs audibly.

“Please hold all comments until after I’m done,” says Don.

This topic isn’t new to me. Don, and a few others, think we should leave the fire doors completely closed to make sure they function correctly. Others point out that this will leave Bob stuck on one side of the building, which isn’t fair to the people who live on that side of building. I tune out Don’s speech on fire safety and glance over my shoulder at the snack table.

The chairs are arranged in a tight horseshoe. The opening of the horseshoe is four chairs down from me, and I know there is no way I can get up and walk that distance without incurring the wrath of both Terry and Don. However, I could slip between my chair and the next one and stealthily duck over to the snack table without being too obvious. It’s not like no one would see me, but it might work depending on how heated the fire door debate gets.

“So, in conclusion, we have no choice but to–“

Carly cut Don off. “Are you volunteering to have Bob on your side of the building then?”

Numerous grumbles of dissent arose from others who also lived on the west side. Incidentally, I also live on the west side of the building, but I believe too strongly in the power of controversy to stifle decision-making to get worked up about this.

I examine the space between my chair and its neighbors. Could I fit through? Yes. Without drawing the ire of those sitting next to me? Assuredly not. But, if I scooched my chair to the left, the gap on the right could become large enough to reasonably slip through. Fortunately, Carly is to the left of me, and she won’t mind me sitting a bit closer for the remainder of the meeting, especially if I bring her a muffin too.

“Now just wait a minute.” Don raises his hands to quell the rising arguments. “We can still share the burden of Bob equally, as we have always done. Periodically, we can transfer Bob from one side of the building to the other.”

“And who’s going to do that?” said Carly.

“Well now, as it’s a matter of building safety I think the superintendent–“

Terry let out gruff snort of laughter, which served more to dampen Don’s suggestion than any verbal refusal could have.

“Well how about Don just closes the fire door on his floor?” says the skinny guy who lives on the first floor.

“Oh sure,” says Don. “It won’t matter if I’m baked from a fire from below because nobody else wants to put in the effort.”

I shuffle my chair an inch to the left. Carly glances at me, but I pretend nothing has happened.

“I don’t think we should be closing doors at all,” says Molly, anxiously clacking her knitting needles. “Bob is used to having them open. Suppose he finds one closed, and bangs on it until he breaks it down. We can’t have Bob trying to break down doors.”

The room is quiet for a minute. We all rely on the sanctity of our closed apartment doors for our survival; the thought that these barriers could be breached seems profane.

“We don’t know that Bob is strong enough to do that,” says Don.

“Well, if he is, we sure as heck don’t want him knowing that,” says Carly.

“Or…” says Todd.

“Oh good grief,” says Don.

“Now, hold on, Todd. We’ll get to your suggestion in a minute,” says Terry.

“It’s pertinent to Don’s agenda item,” Todd says.

“Like heck it is,” says Don.

“It is, because if we do it we won’t have to worry about Bob anymore,” says Terry. “We feed Bob.”

A cacophony of protest arises from the room. Amid the hubbub, I scooch my chair another inch to the left, and slip out of my seat and over to the snack table.

“Now, now. Come on. This would solve everything. If we feed Bob, he won’t be hungry. Then we won’t have to worry about him eating us,” says Tod’.

I quickly scan the offerings on the table. One muffin coquettishly suggests it is a chocolate chip muffin, even though I know perfectly well it must be raisin bran.

Despite Todd’s assurances, objections to his idea flood the room. Old Roger, who’s lived here longer than anyone else, shakes his head. I think I hear him say, “that would only bring more.” I shove that thought out of my head and pick up the raisin bran muffin.

“No, you can’t feed him, Todd, because someone else already does that,” Molly somehow manages to make herself heard above the commotion.

The room falls silent again, and everyone notices me standing at the muffin table. Obviously, I have not been feeding muffins to Bob, and I stare haughtily back at them. I snatch up a lemon-cranberry poppy seed muffin, return to my seat, and hand the raisin bran muffin to Carly.

“Thank you, honey,” she says.

She likes raisin bran, mind you. I can’t fathom why, but she does.

Bob · Story Series

The Monster in my Building: Part Three

Part One | Part Two

Today is a Bad Day, because I have to leave my apartment for a second time after work. I’m an incurable homebody; it’s one of the side effects of living in a situation like this. You’d think it would be the opposite, that I would spend as much time as possible anywhere but here. Believe me, I’d like to. But leaving the apartment means coming back, and that means dealing with Bob twice when I could just stay home and try to pretend he doesn’t exist. Staying out longer after work isn’t a great option either, because I’ve learned the only thing worse than dealing with Bob during the day is dealing with Bob at night.

But today is the building’s AGM, and there’s no avoiding it. Well, I could skip it technically, but if I’m absent everyone is going to think I’ve been eaten and send someone up to check on me. Then I’ll have to fake a cold, which no one will believe because no one ever wants to go to these things. Besides, if we’re not coming we’re suppose to let the super know by email, so no one has to risk their lives to check on anyone, and I’ve completely missed the boat on that.

No, I am going. I sit up on the couch, preparing myself to stand and brave the corridors of this cursed building. The clock on the wall reads 6:37. I still have over twenty minutes. I flop back down again.

The super, Terry, said he would provide muffins at the meeting. I will try to think about muffins for the next twenty minutes, a muffin meditation, if you will.

The muffins will be the grocery store bakery kind. Possibly baked on-site, but this makes little difference to the overall quality. Either way, they will be monstrous things, two or possibly three times the size of a single homemade muffin. They will have a soft, spongy interior with a not-terribly appealing moist and slightly sticky exterior. There will most likely be Things in the muffins, inclusions which can either propel the muffins to near-cupcake levels of culinary delight or render them inedible.

Odds are, we will have a mix of Tolerable to Inedible inclusions. Nuts, blueberries, raisins, the carrot/coconut/candied fruit mix of Morning Glory muffins. But perhaps…just perhaps, we may have chocolate chips, or even a pool of jam hidden in the center of some muffins. Knowing Terry, though, this is fairly unlikely.

Most if not all muffins can be improved by heat, and the application of butter, but this is not likely to be possible either. The best I can hope for is a napkin to keep crumbs off my lap.

It is nearing 6:55. Now I am both hungry and depressed, but I suppose this is better than the state of existential dread I would be in had I spent the last eighteen minutes considering the possibility of being eaten on the way to the meeting. Needless to say, I am not a muffin and I don’t appreciate being treated like one.

I sigh, and go check the peephole in my door. The coast is clear. Of course I knew it would be, because no ruminations on muffins is capable of preventing me from hearing Bob lurch his way down the hallway. But not checking would be a pointless risk and I refuse to engage in pointless risk-taking, even on principle.

There are others in this building who pride themselves on using deductive reasoning and logic to intuit where Bob is likely to be, and don’t check their peephole or the monitors unless they feel they really need to. I suppose they think the smug feeling they get from being right most of the time makes up for getting the living daylights scared out of them every so often. I think it’s idiotic.

I slip out of my apartment and scurry to the monitors beside the elevator. I’m used to feeling like a rabbit caught out in the open whenever I leave my apartment, but that doesn’t make the sensation any more pleasant. Bob is coming up the west stairwell. More to the point, he is not on the ground floor where I intend to exit the elevator, so the coast is clear.

As I enter the elevator, I hear the stairwell door open at the end of the hall, and the familiar rustle of Bob’s feathers as he pushes through.

I frantically stab at the Close Door button, and after a pause that seems to last for an eternity, the elevator door closes and I begin to descend, away from the creature lurking in the same hallway I occupied only moments before.

I double over and release an aggravated sigh.

It’s been ten seconds since the last Bob-related incident. Congratulations everybody. Get back to work.

Bob · Story Series

The Monster in My Building: Part Two

Here’s Part One if you missed it.

I sit at my desk, staring at the little clock in the left-hand corner of my computer screen. It reads 4:58. It’s quitting time, and I hear my coworkers joyfully gathering their keys in anticipation of a relaxing evening at home. I sigh, wishing it was possible to teleport myself onto my couch at home.

This, I think, is the part I hate the most. I can’t look forward to going home. Because I never know what’s going to be waiting for me when I get there. Bob might be off sleeping somewhere, or as I approach the door, looking down as I fumble with my keys, I might look up to find Bob standing on the other side of the glass door, staring at me. I’ve never met a horror movie jump scare that can compete with that particular sensation.

We don’t have the CCTV monitors on the outside of the building, you see. It’s been tried, but they kept getting stolen or damaged, and people had privacy concerns. The front doors sort of provide a view of the monitors outside the first floor elevator, but if you go in a side door there’s no way to see where Bob is until you’re actually in the building. I usually just open the door a crack and listen for his footsteps, but this isn’t foolproof.

Once I thought I was safe, but I opened the door just as Bob was walking down the stairs into view. I slammed the door shut only moments before the mass of claws and black feathers plowed into it. He walks slow but he can move fast when he wants to. I almost died that day.

That day could be any day. And one day I might not shut the door fast enough.

I can’t help but mull over these things on the way home. Sometimes it seems like useless self-torture, but today I think of it as practice. A way of preparing myself for battle. I can make it to my apartment; I have done so every other time I’ve ever left. I just need to be alert.

I get off the bus and sigh again. My building is just out of sight beyond the curve in the road. What would happen if I just walked the other way? I could go to a hotel and find somewhere else to live. Be a hobo. Anything. But then my pet zebra finches would starve, and I’d never see my favourite mug again. Nope, like it or not, I’m going home.

As I round the corner, I see police cars in the parking lot outside the building. Two feelings war inside me. Dread, because we might have lost someone, and hope, because maybe this time they will find Bob and then this will all be over.

People have called the police or animal control numerous times about Bob. Somehow, none of them ever find him. I’m surprised they still come, frankly. But we have the CCTV footage, and numerous photos, even if both of those can be faked. There seem to be a few people in both departments who have seen enough to believe that something is here, even if they can’t find him.

This is the second mystery, other than what Bob survives on in between unfortunate incidents with residents’ pets, or heaven forbid, a resident. That’s really rare, though. Most often its a visitor who thinks it’s all a joke. Or somebody’s crazy ex-something. Or a burglar.

Carly, the lady from 218, is standing outside watching. She wears thick blue eye shadow and a coat that looks like it might have been a floral print couch in another life. I can see she’s been experimenting with cutting her own hair again. She turns to me as I approach. “Bob got stuck in the laundry room.”

Real hope bubbles up within me. I struggle to keep it down. “Really? Did they find him? They must have, right?”

“You’d think. But I haven’t heard anything from inside. By now there should have been gunshots or something.”

I cross my arms.”Maybe they want to keep him trapped in there. They’re being cautious, or they want scientists to see what it is.”


“He can’t walk through walls. We’d all be dead if he could.”

Carly shrugs.

Two officers emerge from the building: Joel, and another officer I don’t recognize. Joel is a bit of a skeptic when it comes to Bob, but I can tell he’s convinced something is going on here, even if he doubts a nine-foot bird is involved.

“Well?” says Carly.

Joel shrugs and shakes his head.

“How?” I say. “How in the actual pancake-flipping heck.”

“Forget it Ashley, it’s chinatown,” says Carly.

“I’m going to have to get a statement from both of you,” says Joel.

“I just got here,” I say.

“Alright then. You’re free to go,” says Joel. “Would you like an escort up to your unit?”

“That would be great actually,” I say.

I’m pretty sure Joel meant it as a joke, but thankfully he’s the honorable type.

Joel and I head into the building while the new guy takes Carly’s statement.

“Hey, do you want to carpool to the laundromat later, honey?” Carly calls to me.

“Sure, sounds good,” I say.

“I told you there’s nothing in there,” says Joel as we enter the elevator.

I shrug.

“So if there’s this monster in here that ya’ll are so afraid of, why don’t you just leave?” says Joel.

“I like to live dangerously,” I say. “Plus, if a resident is physically injured by Bob we get 10% off our rent permanently.”


“Last one was eleven years ago. Mrs McGraw from the second floor. Lost her thumb.”

Joel smiles, thinking I’m joking. And I am, sort of. Except about Mrs McGraw, that actually happened.

I also often wonder why I don’t just leave. I have two opinions on the matter, and I wobble between them like a pendulum on a metronome:

  1. I was born here* and I’m going to die here. This is my home and I’m not going to let some dumb bird chase me out. Who else can still say they spend less than 25% of their income on housing? Nobody. And I’ll never have to worry about my apartment getting broken into. Besides, how do I know the next apartment building I move to won’t have something worse?
  2. I have to leave. I will leave. As soon as possible. Right after the economy becomes rational again and I can afford to.

When we arrive on the third floor, part of me actually hopes Bob is standing outside when the doors open. I know he won’t be; he wasn’t anywhere on the CCTV monitors on the first floor. But what if he was? For the price of a brief moment of terror and some temporary hearing loss from gunshots in a small space, it could all be over.

He’s not, of course. We step out into a perfectly ordinary hallway, except for the paint color, a kind of queasy avocado that screams “serial killer residence.” I suppose in a sense, this is true.

Joel sees me the last few feet to my apartment door and we bid each other a good evening. I grab a pint of Ben and Jerry’s from my freezer and deflate onto my couch, trying to forget that in about 14 hours I have to do all this all over again.

“I have to get out of here,” I say, and my zebra finches chirp agreement from their cage in the corner.

*Literally. When my mom went into labor Bob decided to park himself outside our door and wouldn’t leave for a full 48 hours. So I was ushered into the world on our couch, attended by my father and the building superintendent. And by Bob, who clacked his beak in ominous congratulations in the hallway outside.


The Monster in My Building: Part 1

Photo by Gabriele Brancati on (This is not Bob.)

I’m about to head out to work, just putting my shoes on, when I hear the familiar creak of the elevator’s hydraulic system, and the clunk of doors opening on my floor. My apartment is right next to the elevator, and usually it’s just one of the other tenants. Still, I can’t help but tense a little.

I hear footsteps shamble past my door. The scritch-clump scritch-clump of heavy, clawed feet, and then a guttural croak like the great-grandfather of all ravens.

“Shut up, Bob,” I say.

I hear a deep “awk,” and then nothing. No more footsteps. Bob heard me. Of course he did. He mostly hunts by sight, but he can hear.

I look at my phone. At this point I have no choice but to wait until Bob loses interest and leaves, but I think I can still catch my bus if I hurry. Bob usually doesn’t hang around for more than a minute or two.

As per usual, it isn’t long before I hear the scritch-clump of Bob’s footsteps again. I wait until I hear the creak of the fire door opening, the rustle of feathers as Bob pushes through, and then the door swing closed behind him.

I wait until Bob is well on his way down the hallway, heading towards the stairwell on the east side of the building. It’s actually fairly unusual for Bob to take the elevator. We suspect it only happens when Bob accidentally bumps the car call button, and the elevator is already on that floor and opens immediately.

Cautiously, I slip into the hallway, and peek through the fire door. Bob can’t open doors, so we leave them propped open so he can stick his beak through the gap and push through.

The hallway¬† is clear, so I hurry over to the elevator and check the monitors mounted next to the elevator. They show live feed from all the buildings’ CCTV cameras. There are other displays next to each elevator and stairwell door on every floor.

Bob is in the east stairwell, shambling up towards the fourth floor.

What is Bob? I don’t know; nobody knows. He looks like a nine-foot tall Maribou stork with claws on his wings that would make a therizinosaurus feel inadequate. He will eat anything made of meat, but we haven’t had a death or the loss of a pet in a long time. This means either he is something unnatural and will never die or go away, or someone is feeding him. I’m not sure which I find more appalling.

I could use the elevator, but Bob has a habit of making a mess in there. Maybe he gets motion sick, or maybe he thinks of it as a kind of litter-box. I can’t tell what. So I hustle to the west stairwell, and down the stairs before Bob has time to arrive at the fourth floor and traverse the length of the building to the west stairwell. Unless he takes the elevator again, there’s nowhere else for him to go.

I know I have plenty of time to leave before Bob even enters the stairwell, but even so, knowing he is coming propels me out the door faster than any coffee could.