Ugh, there it is again.
I’ve been hearing that damn noise for the past few days. I hadn’t really noticed it until recently, and I’ve been here for a while.
Well, here’s the deal: I’m a bachelor by choice, I live in a small apartment on the second floor. There’s a small balcony with a wrought iron rail and it overlooks my downstairs neighbor’s neat and tidy little yard. I’ve only ever noticed one resident down there, a middle aged woman who often works in the garden. I’ll have my morning joe on the balcony and she’ll usually wave to me with her blue rubber gloves and cute, straw hat. She often has family over, large gatherings and cook outs. She’s invited me over but I usually politely decline. They’re nice folk, I’m just not interested in…socializing.
I’m a simple guy. I don’t ask for much, just a roof over my head, food on my TV tray and my silk robe. Don’t judge me, I like the way it feels. I wear it all the time, even on my grocery runs. So I’m OK with how things are right now. Until that damn noise…
My balcony overlooks not just my neighbor’s yard but also a freeway on ramp. The space between the paved road and my neighbor (lets call her “Garden Lady”)’s yard is a small ditch, overgrown with weeds and shrubbery. I often wonder how Garden Lady feels, living by herself with just a simple wooden fence separating her from this patch of urban decay, but there haven’t been any incidents.
I’m standing here, and I’m gazing out into the dark. Occasionally a car will roar past illuminating the ditch but there’s never enough time to make out anything (anyone) definitively. I gaze off into the dark and glance down in to Garden Lady’s yard to make sure she’s OK. I see an orange glow down below and realize she’s out smoking again. She doesn’t seem to pay heed to that clacking sound and I excuse myself silently as the smoke tendrils waft their sour scent into my humble abode.
The next night, the noise returns. I’m just lounging back, watching my programs (never mind what I’m watching, it’s…not important) and if there’s one thing I really hate it’s being interrupted during my program.
Again, I gaze out into the darkness of the ditch. It’s pretty late, there’s barely any traffic out. It’s just me, myself and whoever is making that damn sound.
And now, something new.
I know that sound. I’ve lived in the city long enough to know that sound. There’s some damn vandal out there tagging poor Garden Lady’s fence. Probably a punk kid. God only knows how many times he’s been out there. I’m not going to call the cops because he’ll surely be gone by the time they arrive. So I stare out into the abyss, hoping to catch a glimpse of the guy. I’m sure (s)he will be back tomorrow, so I’ll keep watching until I get a better look.
Night #3, I’m out on the balcony again, watching. I have binoculars this time but I still can’t see shit. I’m crouched low, wearing a dark jacket over my silk robe, looking for all the world like a suburban recon wannabe. I wonder if Garden Lady will look up and think I’m a peeping tom? She’s definitely asleep by now, but I can smell the aftermath of her cooking. Usually she only cooks when she has a gathering but I haven’t seen anyone stop by in a while. I take a whiff and it smells pretty damn good. A boiled meat of some kind, maybe pork?
Whatever it is, it’s a hell of an improvement over the stale smell of tobacco.
A new sound.
A whistle! Oh shit!
I duck low and roll back into the apartment. Did (s)he see me? It had to have been the Vandal. Maybe they were calling an accomplice over. Surely to inspect their work of “urban art” and give it their seal of approval. I guess you’re your own worst critic even when it comes to vandalism, right?
I need to be more careful…
I left the apartment earlier today. I ventured out into the warm sun. It gets pretty hot here in the summer, so I didn’t wear anything under my robe. I kept it wrapped up pretty tight though because, you know, people might not like it. People seem to be pretty petty about things like that but whatever. At least I wore shoes.
I’m glad I did because I circled around the block, made my way past the chiropractor’s office that hugs the on ramp and decided to scour about the ditch. There was nothing out of the ordinary. A few beer cans here, a used condom there. You know, the usual. Human trash scattered amongst the weeds and refuse. There was a strange black lump on the fence though. I poked it and it gave way slightly under my finger. I figure it’s some kind of fungus or rot on the wood.
Yum (I say with all due sarcasm).
No sign of graffiti though. Odd.
So here I am again, watching and waiting. It’s night again, but I haven’t heard the paint can rattling or spraying tonight.
It’s been awfully quiet in the place below but I can still smell her cooking. Maybe I will take her up on her offer one day, it smells really good and I’m getting tired of TV dinners.
There in the ditch-brush. A movement.
I hear footsteps and the sound of a can being kicked. The vandal is back. I have a feeling this will be the night when I see who is behind these nocturnal shenanigans.
As I raise my binoculars, I see something that makes my blood run cold.
A large, jagged hole in Garden Lady’s fence.
I waste no time. I spring to action. I clamber over the balcony railing and slowly lower myself down, holding onto the rail for as long as I can. Then, I let go and drop softly five feet below to the grass. No harm, no foul. I hope I can say the same about my dear neighbor.
I scan the area quickly. Her sliding glass door is closed and perfectly intact. The smell of her cooking still lingers in the air and were it not for that gaping hole, I’d be hard pressed to say anything was amiss.
But I know better.
I make my way gingerly through the hole, my silk robe snagging briefly on an errant splinter. Damn.
It’s dark as hell out here and I wish I had brought a flash light.
There’s the movement again… and a light. A small orange light.
A familiar smell hits me and then a passing car briefly lights up the silhouette of the figure standing before me. A straw hat, flannel shirt… it’s the Garden Lady.
I meekly wave to her, confused as to why she would be out here in the dead of night.
She doesn’t respond. She moves past me, scarcely affording a glance. Her cigarette droops from her lips as she makes her way through the brush and approaches the fence.
Oh, come on.
There it is, right before me. My kindly old downstairs neighbor, crouched before the fence spraying a dark colored paint right onto the wood. I don’t see any paint can though…
This doesn’t make any sense, but who am I to judge her if she wants to mess up her own property? Then I remember: I had seen her a couple nights prior in the yard and heard the same spraying noise. It hadn’t been her at that time.
I can feel the gaze upon me as I turn around. There’s someone else here.
A man. I can’t see his face. He’s wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark jeans. He’s completely draped in shadow and I get an uneasy feeling as he stares back at me.
Nothing is said, no movement is made. Garden Lady doesn’t seem to care. She’s too consumed with what she’s doing. I turn back to her, keeping one eye on the mystery man.
A passing car illuminates the fence. She’s spraying… something. I have no idea what. Some type of indecipherable scribble and odd symbols. I can only surmise she’s a bored widow who has taken to joining a street gang, one that is far too eager for new recruits.
I decide to play good neighbor and ask her what she’s doing, what she’s writing. I get no response. I nudge her gently. She turns to me.
Black paint dripping from her chin. She stares at me blankly, emotionless.
What the hell…?
She turns back to her work. It’s dark, but up close by the moonlight I can see just enough when the spray begins again.
I wish I hadn’t.
Her mouth is agape, far wider than it really should be. There’s something dark in my kindly old neighbor’s mouth, it’s segmented and waving freely. It suddenly stiffens and a black mist escapes from the craw.
Below the arcane writing and symbols, I see more of the black mold. There’s a lot more. It’s taken on a lumpy appearance and it begins to writhe and squirm as the paint (??) comes into contact with it.
Behind us, the hooded figure watches silently.
I’ve decided I’ve had enough.
So has the hooded Vandal. He steps before me and I stumble in fright. I crash to the ground, my robe splaying around me. He hovers over me and drops down upon me.
Oh shit, now what?
He removes his hood and I see a featureless void. I see nothing but dark, the vague glimmer of eyes set into a round, smooth and black oval.
A line bisects the head of the thing and I see something waving about within, as that familiar sound emerges.
It leans down close to me, the squirming appendage coming closer to the point I can smell it.
It smells like… boiled meat. Pork, maybe.
I fumble around frantically and come into contact with something heavy and solid. An empty beer bottle. Perfect.
I swing it upwards, in desperation.
It connects solidly and takes his whole damn head off.
That was unexpected.
The Vandal crumbles to the ground, exploding amongst the grime and grit into tiny shards of viscera.
I don’t bother questioning what just happened as I stagger to my feet. Where the Vandal had previously been there is a pile of black, lumpy substance. From this unnatural goulash, a shape emerges.
It rolls off into the tall weeds. I remain frozen, shocked as Garden Lady continued her work.
I didn’t see what it was, only that it was small.
The thing in the grass emits a shrill whistle.
A car passes by, rolling up the ramp.
In the light I see… mandibles, feelers waving wildly. Segmented legs. Joints and angles where there simply shouldn’t be. A severed head that is crawling towards me.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me…
I smell those familiar smells and hear those familiar sounds.
But these sights are something that no human being should ever have to see and I fear that I may escape with my life, but not my sanity.
Behind me, Garden Lady steps forward. Behind her, the black mass on the fence suddenly implodes as a torrent of black tar substance pours out.
I see small forms wriggling in the mass, tiny feelers and legs groping forth blindly as they emerge anew.
And then, I’m on the ground again. I clutch my robe around me, hoping to afford some meager type of defense.
Garden Lady holds down my flailing arms and now I am truly sorry I hadn’t been more cordial with her.
Whatever remained of the Vandal clambers upon my chest.
Another car passes by but I don’t expect help to come.
As the Vandal presses its drooling carapace to my face, I hear the hissing again.
I feel the black mist begin to coat my face.
And again, I smell that delicious smell.
It’s my one tiny comfort at this point.
Let me have that, won’t you?
POLICE BLOTTER REPORT
SAN DIEGO COUNTY June 2016
6/2/2016 2:30:25 AM 16-133834 SUSPICIOUS PERSON TEATRO AVE/I5N ONRAMP
**Police respond to call identifying suspected vandals behind a local convenience store/market. Mischief, littering, possible indecent exposure.
Suspects are Female, 50’s, blue flannel shirt, blue pants. Male, 30’s, black robe, potential lewd exposure.
Suspects fled on foot, female carrying a small black dog or pet, male detected with black substance on face, possible drug use. No evidence found at crime scene, save for unusual black object left behind, adhered to wall.
APB issued for suspects, potentially dangerous.
Just another incident in the increasing events of vandalism.
Just another day in the city.