Colin looked down at the gas gauge as his battered hatchback shuddered to a stop in his designated parking spot. He had less than a quarter of a tank, which with the little beater meant about sixty miles, unless there was a frost, and that was enough to get to work and back tomorrow. Payday wasn’t for another three days and if he had extra cash lying around for little things such as fuel he would probably spend it on something silly like paying rent.
With this paycheck things would change, everyone had been sick, except for him, and that meant pulling doubles and over-time. His boss wasn’t happy about it but when the entire staff is slimmed down to three healthy people and a couple more sickies who push themselves, there wasn’t much he could do about it. Unloading freight wasn’t a glamorous job and with a full crew the pay wasn’t too great but a job was a job. If he really had money he would spend it on amazing things like internet access or repairing his cars radio. Perish the thought, he could even go completely mad and buy a new pair of work boots.
Tomorrow would be the start of something new. He would pay his rent, fill up his gas tank, and head to the local community college to fill out an admissions packet.
“Tomorrow,” he let out a tired sigh and trudged to his apartment.
Somehow he made it to the bedroom before falling asleep,
There was a resounding thud as something hit his front door.
Colin sat up in bed to find that he was still wearing his jeans from the previous day but his shirt and left sock were off. Blearily he stood up and staggered to the door. In his sleep-drunk brain there wasn’t a second thought to the sound of someone trying to break into his apartment. Some part of a dream connected to a memory which pushed logic aside, he needed to let them in.
As his hand settled on the knob there was a solid bang against the frame similar to that of someone putting their shoulder to the door to force it open. His mind suddenly jolted to awareness, he was about to let in a complete stranger who was trying to break in, that wasn’t a good idea.
“Back off or I’m calling the cops,” he barked.
There was a pause and then the banging became more urgent. If he didn’t know any better he would swear he heard moaning too.
“Listen, you perverted slug, I’m not messing around,” he leaned over and picked up the long forgotten baseball bat that served as his security system. “I’m armed, when the cops get here and find a dead burglar they I’ll have to fill out a lot of paperwork. It’s my one day off this week, leave me alone.”
Colin hadn’t heard something bigger than the neighbors’ terrier growl at him since he had moved to the apartment complex but the rumbling reply issued from the other side of the door brought to mind memories from the time he fell asleep watching Animal Planet. He choked up on the bat, his grip turning from casual to white-knuckled, and took a step back from the door. Today was a very good argument to buy a shotgun. He would have to remember that once he got paid.
The sickly sweet smell of rot seeped through the door, tickling the hairs in his nose and sending a wave of goose bumps down his arms. He backed away farther, keeping his eye on the door and slowly navigating his small hallway in reverse. His apartment was on the third floor meant that he had a fire escape instead of a backdoor but right now that sounded like an excellent plan.
His living room was decorated with mid to high quality lawn furniture and particle board mostly due to the lack of a freight elevator. A small bistro style table blocked the path to the exit window. Putting down the bat he started to maneuver the heavy ceramic piece away when the unmistakable sound of wood cracking echoed through the small apartment. Dumping the table on its side, Colin desperately grabbed for the bat and bounded the distance back to the hallway opening.
Staring intently at the door while keeping his distance he searched for any sign of breakage. He couldn’t see any and he let out a tense breath realizing that his door was in fact solid metal. With more than a little relief he knew obviously that wasn’t what had made the noise. Another sharp crack of splintering wood brought the bat up and ready to swing. Yes, the door was metal but the frame was wood. The right side of the frame bounced a good inch away from the wall with another concussion.
“Definitely need a shotgun,” he muttered looking at the window leading to the fire escape.
Somehow he doubted he could get out of the window, down the fire escape, and safely onto the street before whomever this psycho was got through the door. Judging by the reaction to his voice this wasn’t going to stop at breaking and entering, it was a full blown home invasion, assault, and possible manslaughter situation.
The frame burst off its spot, swinging the completely unharmed door open. A fresh wave of rancid air preceded the hunched figure. Finally he saw the crazy thing who broke down his door, it was his neighbor.
“Mister Prokop?” Colin tilted his head to the side, the bat lowered slightly.
Tiny wisps of his remaining gray hair stuck out at odd angles, the faded blue bathrobe he was wearing was cinched closed thankfully but from the right shoulder down his torso was covered in a smattering of blood and something that was a slimy, off-white fluid. The old man had barely spoken to him since Colin had moved in three years ago but he was pretty certain the former mailman wasn’t a drug addict. He was hunched over, using his hands to help push himself forward, moving like a primate. Bloodshot eyes locked onto him. A guttural, hungry growl filled the space between the two. Mister Prokop sprang forward with his gnarled, gore-covered hands stretched toward his prey.
Colin swung the metal bat harder than he had in his entire life. It connected at the spot just below his neighbors’ ear resulting in a sound similar to that of the door-frame cracking. Following the swing, Mister Prokop fell headfirst into the wall punching a hole in the drywall. The old man went limp and slumped over. Colin watched as his neighbors’ foot twitched once, twice, and then was still.
“This isn’t how today was supposed to go.”