I Met Him On The Stairs

 

I met him on the stairs, though perhaps ‘met’ is too strong a word, for we did not speak. We merely passed on the stairs.

It was the smell I noticed first, like a shallow grave in the rain.  The smell of loss, loam and blood. It conjured up images of pain and suffering. I slowed, then stopped and turned.

He wore a black textile jacket and I could tell by the way his shoulders bulked oddly that it had plastic armor underneath. A biker perhaps, though he carried no helmet. His jeans were black, as were his boots and both were clean, though damp. His hair too was black, though thinning, and it ran long at his neck, curling slightly at the collar of his coat.

As I scrutinized his back he paused, just a few steps below me. And then his unnaturally broad shoulders slowly turned, his head moving just enough to place me in his peripheral vision. The act of a predator when prey blunders in close, unaware of the danger.

“Help you?”

His voice surprised me. It was light, almost effeminate and at odds with his appearance. Nothing about the man seemed to add up and my lower back began to sweat, even as my mouth went dry. I was unable to work up the saliva to talk and so stayed silent.

He turned fully to look at me. His face was broad and flat, the forehead high. Uneven stubble covered his jaw, split by a wide mouth with thin, pale lips. A large canker sore lay at the left corner of his mouth and he worried at it with a sharp, pale tongue. A glimmer of something feral suddenly flashed within his yellowed and bloodshot eyes, as if there were a beast within him. It passed as quickly as it appeared and then his eyes simply looked dead.

I backed up the stairs, not daring to take my eyes from him and the smell of blood and pain became overwhelming, clogging my nose. He smiled then, for he knew. Thin cracked lips pulled back over long, yellowed and vaguely pointed teeth. The gums looked purple and unhealthy, as if he were rotting from within. 

I reached the top of the stairs and still he stared, smiling. Just before I turned to bolt to my flat I saw him wink slowly, and saw his smile widen. Bile rose in my throat and my shaking hands were unable to get my key into the lock fast enough and I nearly cried out as terror washed over me...

I sat in fear that night, unable to put on the television or radio, unable to drink, unable to relax. I simply sat, listening out for footsteps in the hallway. Footsteps of a man who smelt of blood.

I didn’t find out about the murder of the young woman in the flat above mine until the man I passed on the stairs told me himself. He had violated her in ways I could not even have conceived of before he told me that such things were possible. Finally, as his passion engulfed him, he had torn into her flesh with his nails and his teeth until he lay deep within her redness.

He told me all of this as he knows I pose no threat, for now I sit, naked and bound to a steel chair that is fixed to the floor with heavy bolts. He told me that he has never taken a man before, and before the girl in the flat above, he had never worked outside of this basement. He giggles as he talks, a high, girlish sound that is so at odds with his dead eyes and purple gums.  

He took me as I left my flat in the early hours of the next morning, for the man in black was meticulous and had observed my routines at the same time as he had observed those of the girl in the flat above. He said he would move on after me. A new city, new people, new possibilities…

I hurt now in more ways than I ever thought possible. Even if he left me alone now, I’m not sure if I could survive. I can barely see, and blood chokes my throat yet he assures me that we have only just begun.

I know that my life is forfeit. For coming home early. For not ignoring the man on the stairs. For catching his eye. For giving him a reason.

I see his naked, blood-stained body squat in front of me and he smiles as his hands reach for me again.

 

Neil Hatt



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