Thursday, June 20, 2019
An Unwelcome Guest
I’d been in the apartment a little more than six months. Centrally located but quiet, well-furnished, 7th floor. Perfect for me. There were enough small takeout restaurants nearby that I didn’t have to cook much, and the bar scene was just right. I even got the idea that the apartment had a certain feng shui that helped me with the women. Since moving in, I’d brought home many, something that had seemed harder in my previous place.
Of course it was sheer superstition about the feng shui. The women I brought back--they hadn’t yet seen the building when they stumbled with me out of this or that bar. So how could the building be working on them in my favor?
No matter. With a new job and new digs, staying fit at a gym round the corner, women like never before, I finally felt set up in this new city. It had taken awhile, but the town was starting to seem right.
During my fourth month in the apartment something odd happened. A girl I’d brought home, Maureen was her name, had dragged herself from my bed at about three a.m. to find something to drink in my fridge. I was in bed, asleep, when she began to scream in the kitchen. Startled awake and stumbling from the bedroom, I saw she’d switched on the kitchen light and stood against the wall, frozen.
“You … you …” she began.
“What? What happened?”
“There’s someone in your fridge! Your father! He glared at me. He’s in your fucking fridge!”
Her eyes were wild. She was screaming, unhinged. She'd wake the neighbors, and probably already had.
For a minute I didn’t know what to do. Like everyone, I’d had to deal with nut cases now and then, but this was different. Once her words really sunk in—I was buzzed and half asleep—I thought either someone must have put something in her drink at the bar, or the girl was a full-fledged psycho.
“You think my father is in my fridge?”
“He said he was your father!”
“But … it’s impossible!”
There flashed through my mind the trouble I might be in—that she’d somehow accuse me. Just recently there’d been a widely reported case in town of a rich young perv who’d been slipping date rape drugs in aspiring models’ drinks. That guy was headed to jail.
I tried to calm her down.
“Listen. There’s no one in the fridge. Just think about it. It’s impossible.”
“I saw him.”
“My father lives a thousand miles away. You must have been sleepwalking or dreaming.”
“He’s there! I saw him.”
“But it’s impossible. Think about it... Here. I’ll show you.”
I stepped toward the refrigerator door.
“No! Don’t you open it! He’s … horrible.”
She was blinking, breathing unevenly. She did look drugged. What was I going to do?
“Okay,” I said. “But my father doesn’t even live in this town, much less in a fridge. Don’t you realize what you’re saying is literally impossible? Just try to be calm, think it through. It’s the middle of the night. Come back to bed. We can talk about it.”
“You’re sick!” she yelled at me, really angry this time. “I can’t stay here. This is SICK.”
She scampered past me to the bedroom.
“Where’s the light switch!” she yelled.
I went and turned it on for her. She dressed quickly, muttering curses as she did, then rushed back to the living room and grabbed her bag.
I followed her to door, tried to say something to calm her down, but it was no use. She slammed it on the way out.
It took me awhile to get back to sleep, but that I finally did made me feel a little proud of myself. I got in a good three or four hours before work. No use letting a psycho ruin my night and the whole next day. And as for trouble, if she was going to cause any, I’d just have to deal with it. I’d done nothing illegal.
Two days passed without any appearance from the police. I breathed a sigh of relief. Crisis over.
Then one evening about two months after Maureen's fit I was putting a styrofoam carton of takeout pasta in the fridge when something pinkish caught my eye. It was in one of the door racks. I reached down to fish it out.
It seemed to be half of a set of dentures—the top half. What the fuck? It looked real enough, but was too small, about a third the size normal adult dentures would be. Was it maybe a denture made for a kid? Or a toy? But why was it in my fridge?
I took it and sat on the sofa near the lamp, to look it over more carefully. I thought back to the state of the refrigerator when I’d moved in. In fact there’d been a few items from the previous tenant: some condiment jars, a few drink bottles. Had I maybe not noticed the denture when I cleaned them out?
Then it hit me. Looming up like a wall, solid and white, menacing: the memory of that night with Maureen.
I put the denture on the coffee table, then picked it up again. Then put it back down. With a tightness in my throat, I went back to the fridge and stood staring at its closed beige door.
Then I had to laugh at myself, at how absurd it was.
I went and looked at the toy denture again. But it didn't seem to be a toy. And really: Why was it in my refrigerator?
I finally opened the refrigerator and peered in, scanning the spaces, the shelves. Drinks, white plastic bags of uneaten takeout. It was a mess. I swung the trash bin out from under the sink and, my heart starting to pound, began to empty the top shelf where most of the takeout was. Toward the back of the shelf I noticed an empty white bag stretched lengthwise, covering something. I seized the corner of the bag and yanked it off.
There he lay, on his side, blinking.
“Okay, okay!” he snapped suddenly. “It is what it is. I like the cold. What are you gonna do about it?”
I’d recoiled four or five steps, eyes trying to take it in. It was impossible.
“What are you gonna do about it?” he repeated.
“What the FUCK!” I yelled. “What the fuck is THIS?”
“This is this,” he said, glaring at me with beady black eyes. "It is what it is."
He wore what looked like a threadbare hospital gown. He was nearly bald. Shriveled in an unnatural way. From head to toe he seemed a bit over two feet. An obscene doll.
“Who are you?” I demanded. “What are you?”
“Oh as if that's …” he began. Then: “And who are you—if it comes to that?”
“This is my apartment. I’m renting it. How long have you been in here?”
“Not quite sure.”
“You told a girl you were my father!”
“I didn’t want to scare her. She caught me awake.”
“You didn’t want to scare her?! You think finding a shriveled man in a fridge in the middle of the night is not going to scare the shit out of someone!”
“Well … I did my best.”
“FUCK!” I yelled, stepping closer to the open door.
“Yes, that’s the way. Get it off your chest.”
“Off my chest? FUCK! This is ABSURD. How did you even get in here?”
“I’ve been in here a while. I like the cold.”
“But ... why my fridge? You should be dead in there. Are you in there all the time?”
“I'm not dead. And I think I told you," he said sarcastically, "I like the cold. It helps me sleep.”
“You should be dead! You’re in a fucking refrigerator!”
“But I’m not. I can hibernate. Since I was young. I can do it. I think I’m part bear. Hah! Funny, hey?”
He made a kind of pirouette move with his hand, as if to punctuate the joke.
I was frantic. I began to pace a bit, still keeping my eyes on him.
“How old are you?” I demanded.
“I don’t keep track. It’s better that way. Sometimes I’m out cold three, four days. So as for months and years, who knows?”
“C’mon now. Let’s just keep things simple here. We can just get along. It’s no skin off your back. I only nibble a bit of your chow now and then. Couple times a month I figure. What’s it to you?”
I winced, unsure whether I was feeling nausea from the thought, or whether it was the impossibility of the whole thing.
“NO,” I finally said.
“Just be a good sort now and put my bag back over me and close the door. The light bothers my eyes. C’mon, then,” he coaxed.
“You are OUT OF HERE.”
From the floor where I'd dropped it I snatched up the bag he’d been using as a sheet. I wrapped it round my right hand so I could seize hold of him. I didn’t want to have to touch him.
“No no no!” he started, covering his face with his hands. “Just take it easy here! There's no reason to … ”
I moved closer and began to reach in toward him.
“I’ll bite you!” he barked. “I’ll bite you good!”
“I have your dentures,” I said, feeling more confident.
“You only have the top one! I’ll bite you! I swear!”
Lunging forward, I got my hand round one of his deformed little legs. He twisted himself round to make good on his threat. I yanked him out of the fridge in a single swoop.
I held him up in the air, upside down. He was screaming and writhing, trying to grab my arm to bite me. Holding him out away from me, I got to the apartment door and managed to open it. I swung him out onto the hallway floor, far enough that he wouldn’t have time to scurry back. I slammed and bolted the door.
Cussing, heart racing, I retreated to the living room. I stood glaring for a while at the locked door. He didn’t knock, didn’t make a sound. I heard nothing in the hallway.
I needed to get my wits about me. It was all too much. A hibernating imp!
I sat back on the sofa, trying to think. Then: “My dentures,” I heard through the door.
I didn’t reply.
“My dentures!” he said a little louder. “C’mon. Be a sport.”
To be done with the whole thing, to get him to leave, I took the dentures to the door, unbolted and opened it just an inch, then flicked them through the crack near the floor. I heard them drop against the hallway tile just before reslamming the door.
“Aw, you could've broke ‘em!” he whined.
“Go away!” I yelled.
I stood listening for movement, but heard nothing. A few minutes passed. He made no more noise from outside.
A half hour later I decided to go out myself and look around, to be sure he was gone. I didn’t find him in the hallway, nor on the stairs going down (he was too short to use the elevator) nor anywhere near the building’s main entrance. I scanned both ways down the street. Nothing.
All this happened a week ago. There have been no problems since. I did clean out and disinfect my fridge. And I called my father. Though of course I told him nothing about what happened. He wouldn't have believed me.
Sometimes I’m only half convinced myself it happened. But no, I know it happened. It's all too clear in my mind. I wasn't drugged. And Maureen wasn't drugged.
And so a question: If I ever run into her again, which I suppose is possible, should I tell her? Should I try to apologize?
I'm thinking it'd be better not to.
Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.
Posted by Eric Mader at 3:25 PM
Labels: horror story, refrigerator, story
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