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.