It’s an apartment downtown next to an industrial paper mill. On the good days, it smells of farts. On the bad ones, you’re left inhaling an aroma resembling that of a military-grade chemical weapon. It wasn’t poisonous, the Realtor had said, merely a mild displeasure. The smell could have been harmful for all he cared. Robert always dreamed of the apartment downtown, where it would be noisy, dirty, and roaring with character. Being steeped within the city made him feel less alone, for there were always conversations taking place at all hours, and when one finds himself awaken at night by a disturbing dream, he is greeted by the murmuring, tipsy voices of hipsters and bums.
Tonight, there had been too much to drink at dinner. Robert left early before he could make a fool of himself. He took off down the street to hop on the bus back to his apartment. He found a seat next to an elderly woman who slept soundly against her purse. When he looked towards the front, Robert noticed a man staring at him. He did not recognize this man, and soon realized that he could not really describe the features of this man. Robert froze and squinted to make sense of the chin that appeared to grow wide, then shrink, then grow wide once more. Or the eyes that blurred into a series of colors, like a melted rainbow folding over itself into eternity. The mouth twitched up in a smile, then promptly fell into a frown, a snarl that caused the nose to quiver and wrinkle. The man wore a red tracksuit. There was a suitcase on his lap that he was drumming his fingers against. The intercom buzzed on and the driver said, “Robert Anthony Taylor, you are to get out at the next stop. A man will begin to follow you home, try to ignore him.”
Robert looked at the people around him, searching their faces for answers. Maybe they didn’t hear what he did, that is why they act like nothing happened. The bus slowed to a stop, and the double doors flew open. The man in the tracksuit sat on the edge of his seat, tapping his foot and smiling at Robert.
“Go on, Robert,” the man said. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Robert was stuck in his seat. The woman sitting next to him grabbed his sleeve and pulled him in close.
“Get off this damn bus or I’ll stab you in the stomach and cut out your eyes,” she said.
Robert stared at her in horror, her wrinkled face pressed around tight lips and glossy blue eyes. Her perfume stunk like an antique shop, of dust and rot. She pulled a blade out of her purse and swung it at Robert. He ducked out of the way and dashed for the door; the man followed. The double doors closed and the bus wandered down the street. The two men ran past the smoke shops, delis, and cafes that lined the street Robert’s apartment was on. He was a good few strides ahead of the man chasing him, and if he got into his apartment first, he could throw the lock into place and hide in his bedroom with the 12-gauge. He could kill the man, then himself.
Robert threw open the door of his building and ran up the stairs to the second floor. He quickly inserted his key and made it into the apartment without even seeing the man behind him. Robert locked the door and went to his bedroom. He flicked the light on and opened the closet to retrieve the shotgun. Robert went to check how many bullets he had chambered. The sound of splintering wood brought his attention towards the bedroom door. The man had broken in and was coming down the hall towards him, so he chambered a round and crouched behind the bed. The bedroom door exploded open in a storm of wood and smoke. Robert had been protected from the blast, and was now aiming at the doorway. A figure appeared, holding something above its head.
“All hail, Necromancer Robert Anthony Taylor of the First Order!” the figure said.
Robert pulled the trigger and watched the person crumble to the floor. He pumped another shell into the chamber and tried to put the barrel under his chin. The gun was long, so he had to stand up against the wall and get a toe to press the trigger. Robert balanced himself against the wall and rested his chin on the barrel. His big toe found the trigger and he stepped down. The dull click reminded him of the failure to buy more shells after last weeks episode.