Dream #6402 — Part 1
At first, I thought it had to be some kind of kinky sex club.
I mean, what was I supposed to think? A triple decker with a privacy fence on the roof already seemed a little odd. But when I saw that man up there. That clinched it.
He was huge. He was this hulking mass with almost comically large muscles. His head was bald. He wore nothing except shorts, a collar, and a strange gold mask over his mouth. Then an older man with thick glasses came up to him and attached a leash to the collar and led him away.
What would you think?
I’d only moved in a couple weeks ago. This was a new apartment building and I was one of its first tenants. It wasn’t fancy, but it was the tallest building in town, and the view from the window was great. Not that the neighborhood was anything to write home about either, but from about five stories up, you could see rooftops, trees, hills, and the sky all at once. It was better than the grimy apartment I had moved from.
I had noticed the privacy fence right away. Given that pretty much every other residential building in town was the distinctive New England triple decker, it seemed like overkill. The building I was now living in was probably the first building in the town’s history tall enough to see the top of that roof. The fence was much older than my building, though. I couldn’t help but wonder what paranoia inspired it’s construction.
That roof became something of an obsession. Every time I was in the living room, my eyes were drawn to it. I’d stare at it for an hour straight, hoping to catch some sign of life. It didn’t take too long for me to be rewarded with that glimpse of the giant bodybuilder and his keeper. It only whetted my appetite.
The word ‘obsession’ became more than just hyperbole. I would come home from work and go straight to the couch, hanging over the back to look out the window. I bought some binoculars. Microwavable dinner trays stacked up on the cushion beside me next to a pile of empty chip bags and protein bar wrappers. I’d scan the perimeter of the fence. I’d scan the area around the door to what looked like a large shed in the middle of the roof. I’d scan the access hatch to the top floor apartment. I’d scan all the windows I could see on the building from my own window.
What was I hoping to catch? A bunch of people having sex? Maybe. I have to admit I thought about it more than a few times. But there was something else. I had a gut feeling there was something stranger than some BDSM club going on here. Most of the time, though, there was no sign of life in the whole building.
I was enjoying a Thursday evening sweeping my binoculars back and forth through a gap in the blinds when there was a rapid knock on my door.
My heart suddenly began to pound. “Shit!” I hissed for some reason. I guess I was worried I’d been found out. Someone was here to complain. Was it illegal to spy like that?
I frantically scooped up my garbage pile. Three or four roaches scattered into the crevices of the couch. “Shit!” I repeated. I swore I could feel a tickle on the back of my hand as a roach skittered across it. I desperately tossed the garbage into the trash can and swiped at my forearm.
I needed to get a hold of myself. Really, the couch garbage pile was just the worst of a long list of issues that made the place ill prepared for visitors. Whoever it was probably didn’t need to come in. I told myself to take a breath.
Outside the door was a twenty-something young man with slicked and parted black hair, pale skin, and a cheap, white button-up that was soaked.
“Hey, man, sorry to bug you, but I live downstairs and there seems to be a really bad leak in the ceiling. Is your tub overflowing? Do you have a leak?”
“Uh, I uh — “ I sputtered.
“Do you mind if I have a look?” he asked.
“Oh,” I said smartly. “Uh, I guess.”
Before I really had a chance to think about it, he walked in and started looking around. “Bathroom’s over here, yeah?” He pointed.
“Yeah,” I confirmed, running to catch up. “I wasn’t running a bath, though.” Honestly, I probably hadn’t bathed in a week.
He pushed open the bathroom door. No water running. He looked in the toilet. He turned on the tap and opened the cabinet under the sink.
Intelligent thought was beginning to kick in. “Have you called the superintendent?” I asked.
“Can’t reach him, of course,” he snorted. “Kitchen’s this way?”
I followed him to the kitchen. I was starting to get a bit annoyed and suspicious. This guy was getting a good look at everything but the bedroom. I sure as hell wasn’t letting him in there.
“Sink plumbing looks good,” he sighed, closing the kitchen cabinet. “I’m going to be flooded out by the time anything gets done. Whole ceiling is going to come down.”
I nodded awkwardly. I still wasn’t entirely sure this guy wasn’t legit. I wanted to ask him to leave, but I didn’t want to be rude if he was really in a bind. “Did you try the landlord?” I asked.
“Yeah, right,” he scoffed. “Have you ever tried to get a hold of that guy?” He nodded to the binoculars I had stupidly left out on the counter. “Birdwatcher, eh?” he asked with a smirk.
“Oh, uh, not really,” I said. I was on the verge of telling him to get out.
“I bet you have a good vantage point up here,” he laughed. “You ever look at this freak up the road with the fence on his roof?”
I went cold. “Haven’t really thought about it much,” I lied.
He grabbed the binoculars and went into the living room. Pulling up the blinds, he looked through them. I knew the exact line of sight so well.
“I can’t see over the fence from my place. You’ve got a good view. I was holding out for a secret swimming pool. Looks like it’s just a shed.”
I spoke up. “So, uh, not to rush you out or anything, but isn’t there this major leak in your apartment?”
The guy put down the binoculars and held up his hands. “Okay, sure,” he conceded. “But I’m not really sure what I can do. Without finding the source of the leak, I can’t stop the damage. Super needs to get on it.”
“Maybe try the unit next door,” I suggested.
His eyes widened. “Hey, that’s a good idea. I’ll go see if they’re home.”
I showed him out, barely catching as he called out, “Hey, thanks, man!”
I was glad to see him go. That exchange was profoundly uncomfortable. After a few minutes, I thought to call the super. The line was busy. At least that part checked out. I went over to the bedroom wall and put my ear up to it. I thought I could hear voices on the other side, but I wasn’t convinced they weren’t coming from a TV.
I stayed away from the window for a bit and attempted to pick up the place a little. Trash, dishes, laundry were in every room of the apartment. I felt a humiliating dose of shame. What if the super had to come into the apartment to fix that guy’s leak, assuming there really was one? I started the daunting task of picking up my filth.
“What the fuuuck?!” I whined at the toilet as the water crept right up to the rim before stopping. I sighed. I so did not need this.
I picked up the plunger for what felt like the hundredth time. But I had been impatient. I should’ve waited a couple of minutes for the water level to drop. I pushed the plunger into the bowl and murky tan water sloshed onto the floor.
“God dammit!” I growled, backing away from the puddle. I had been at this for at least 20 minutes. The clog wasn’t budging. My shoulders were tight, my brow was sweaty, and to be honest, I hadn’t felt that great when I stepped into the bathroom to begin with. Every time I plunged, the water seemed to creep down, but another flush brought it right back up. I was on the verge of tears I was so frustrated.
There was nothing for it. I had to call the super. This was not the sort of thing I wanted to involve someone else in. Plus, I really wasn’t keen on being seen as a troublemaker. I didn’t know what else to do, though. I picked up my phone and called him up.
About ten minutes later, he showed up wearing gloves and carrying a closet auger. I led him to the bathroom. He looked down at the soup in the bowl.
“What are you flushing down there?” he asked through a thick New England accent.
I shrugged. “Normal stuff, I guess.”
He shook his head and pulled the line out of the auger before feeding it into the bowl. Just then, a thought occurred to me.
“Hey, I don’t suppose this has anything to do with the leak from last week,” I asked, hoping to escape blame for my current predicament.
He stopped cranking the auger for a moment and looked back at me like I was a crazy person. “What leak?”
I blinked. “Last week, the guy downstairs came up and told me he had a huge leak coming through the ceiling,” I explained.
“The unit below this one?” he asked.
“I think that’s where he said he was,” I replied.
The super shook his head and went back to cranking. “Nobody in that unit. Haven’t rented it out yet. And there haven’t been any leaks that I know of,” he told me.
I felt the blood drain away from my face. “But his shirt was wet,” I stammered weakly.
“There it goes,” he said with a smirk as the toilet glugged down the water. He pulled the auger out completely. Wrapped around the end was a wad of yellowish-brown soaked toilet paper. “What the hell kinda TP you using in here?” he asked with more than a hint of accusation.
“Oh, uh, nothing fancy.” I reached under the sink and showed him the packaging.
He shook his head. “Too fancy. Eat more fiber. Use cheaper paper. One ply.”
I could only stare at him in response.
“Anyway, you were cased for sure,” the super went on.
“Yeah, cased. The guy was up here looking at what he could steal,” he explained. “Probably some black kid, am I right?”
My eyes widened. “No,” I answered. “He was white.”
The super shrugged as he finished coiling up the closet auger. “Probably a spic. There’s a lot of them in this neighborhood. They look white sometimes.”
I swallowed hard and my pulse quickened. I badly wanted to call him out, but the thought of having a shouting match with someone who could influence decisions about my housing made me feel a little panicky. After a moment I managed, “I’m pretty sure he was a white guy.”
He gave me a good long look before cracking a broad smile. “Lighten up, buttercup. Whoever he was, you were an idiot for letting him in. It’s simple, don’t let people you don’t know in, and make sure you lock your doors whether you’re in or out.”
I nodded. I wanted this to be done. I’d agree to whatever he said as long as it got him out the door faster. I didn’t have to wait long. He was finished. He packed up and headed for the door.
“Good luck with your next shit!” he called over his shoulder as he walked out. Whatever else happened in this apartment, I vowed to never call him back.
I closed and locked the door and immediately headed to the kitchen. Reaching up into a cupboard, I pulled out my binoculars. I was glad the super hadn’t seen them. I could only imagine what kind of gross comment he would make.
They felt good in my hands. Weighty. I started to feel calm just holding them. But just holding them wasn’t really what I intended. I went over to the couch and looked out the window.
“Oh, shit,” I whispered and slapped the binoculars to my eyes fast enough that it stung. There was activity on the roof.
It was the huge bodybuilder again, still wearing the gold mask over his mouth. He had his hand on the shoulder of a woman wearing a sack over her head. He was leading her to the shed. The old man opened the door for them and they stepped inside. The last thing I saw of them before the door closed was the long red braid growing from the base of the muscled man’s skull, the only hair on his body it seemed.
I was breathing hard. What the hell was going on over there? Who was that woman? Was she there of her own free will? Was she in danger? I just didn’t know. I swept the binoculars over the building one last time.
Someone was looking out from one of the top floor windows. I jumped back, my heart thumping hard and fast. I had to steady myself and take another look. I had never seen anyone in any of the windows, and all the shades had always been drawn tight.
I pointed my gaze back toward the window and took a shuddering breath. It was a man. With binoculars. He was looking right at me. He pulled the binoculars away and waved at me with a smirk. It was my visitor from last week. The guy with the pale skin and slick, parted hair. He winked and pulled the shade.
I threw the blinds shut, though I’m not sure what good it could possibly have done. He had already seen me. He knew that I saw him. What was I supposed to do next?
I spent the next hour arguing with myself. Should I call the cops? No, they’ll just think I’m crazy. What if that woman is in trouble, though? Maybe they’re raping her or murdering her or both. Or maybe they’re just a bunch of kinky people doing kinky stuff. I mean, that’s their business, right? Then I had another image of them cutting her up like a side of beef.
The operator for the non-emergency line sounded tired. I was sweating profusely. I could barely make my throat work to talk to her.
“Yes, listen, I don’t know if there’s a problem, but I saw something suspicious and I wanted to report it in case someone was in trouble. I didn’t want to ignore it and be sorry later,” I stuttered into the phone.
“Okay, sir, where are you calling from?” she asked.
I gave her the address of my building.
“And would you like to leave your name?”
“I would not,” I responded flatly.
“Okay, so what’s going on?” she prompted.
“Well, there’s this building down the road. It’s across the street and about — “ I paused to count. “It’s three buildings from the intersection east of here. Anyway, I have a view of the roof from my apartment, and I just saw two men leading a woman with a sack over her head into a shed that’s built on the roof.”
There was silence on the line for a moment. “Do you know the building number, by chance?”
I wracked my brain. Given how much I stared at this building on a regular basis, you’d think I’d know the address. I tried to think based on the numbering of buildings I knew on the street, but the multiple floors threw me off and I couldn’t seem to do simple counting.
“I don’t,” I said apologetically. “But it’s a white triple decker with brown trim and what looks like wrought iron railings on the balconies. And there’s a privacy fence on the roof. It’s really the only one like that nearby.”
More silence. Then, “How long ago was it that you saw these people on the roof?”
“About an hour ago,” I answered.
“Okay, someone will be by to check on it soon,” she assured me.
“Okay, thank you.” I hung up quickly. My hands were shaking slightly. I paced the living room and rubbed my forehead. I hoped I had done the right thing.
It was hard to sit still, but I forced myself to get back on the couch and peek through the tiniest slit in the blinds. I was there for about fifteen minutes before a patrol car pulled up to the building. An officer stepped out and went up to the door. Someone answered his knock almost immediately. I couldn’t see who it was, but the officer talked with them for several minutes. When they were done, he walked back to the car and drove west.
Was that it? Wasn’t he going to search the property? I was so confused. I spent several minutes looking the building up and down for any further suspicious signs.
A sudden loud pounding on the door had me leaping off the couch in terror and stumbling to the floor. It was three rapid, forceful bangs followed by a brief silence before three more. I ran to the door, my heart struggling to escape my body via my throat.
I looked through the peephole. I couldn’t be certain, but I was pretty sure it was the cop who I had just watched drive off. Why was he here? I opened the door.
He started right in on me. “Did you put in a call a few minutes ago about that apartment over there?” he demanded.
“Y-yes, sir,” I stammered.
“Do you know what the penalty is for making a false report?” he shouted, leaning in my direction. He was tall and very fit. I was intimidated.
“It wasn’t a false report,” I argued meekly.
He visibly bristled and took a step through the doorway. “Listen, motherfucker, don’t bullshit me. I swear to God, I will make your life a living hell. If I hear from you again, I don’t care what the reason is, I’m gonna fuck you up.” He punctuated the threat with a sharp, painful poke to my chest. Then he simply stormed off down the hallway.
That whole interaction just seemed off. How could that be his reaction? Why was he so angry with me?
There was only one logical explanation in my mind. He was in on it. He took the call, talked to someone in the triple decker — probably Mr. Pale Skin — and got the details about where to go and who to threaten. But where does that leave the woman I saw on the roof earlier? I imagined she was already dead.
The next few hours were torment. I didn’t know what to do. I paced for a while. I went to the window and watched the apartment. I talked myself into alternative plans: calling the FBI, taking a trip out of town for a few days, I even entertained brief fantastical thoughts of being some heroic super-sleuth who saves the day and gets the bad guys. I then talked myself out of each of those things. Doing anything was just as scary as doing nothing. I was paralyzed by indecision.
Midnight rolled past, and while I was exhausted, my racing mind made sleep nothing more than an amusing fantasy. I was sitting on the couch and staring into the distance at nothing when a knock came at the door. It was a fairly gentle knock, especially compared to the last one, but it still scared the hell out of me.
I very seriously considered pretending not to be home. I tip-toed over to the door and put my eye to the peephole. I broke into a stinging cold sweat. It was the old man who I’d seen on the roof. No way in hell was I opening this door.
“Oh, come now,” I heard him call. “I know you’re home. I know you’re awake. I know you’re on the other side of this door. Just open up.” It sounded like he had some kind of transatlantic accent, as though he’d spent his childhood in some stuffy boarding school.
I remained silent.
“I only wish to talk with you face to face,” he assured me. “I will come in one way or the other,” he added ominously.
I didn’t know what he meant, but I was determined not to let him in. If I had to barricade the door, so be it. For now, I just stood quietly at the door holding my breath.
“Very well,” the old man said with feigned resignation. “I’m sorry it’s come to this. Kratos.”
I barely had time to register that he had said that last word to someone else who was in the hallway with him. A mass of flesh moved in front of the peephole, and I just managed to scurry out of the way as the door exploded into the apartment.
The hulking bodybuilder I’d seen on the roof had to duck to step through the remains of the doorway. I had no concept of how large he truly was until that moment. I was a child, and he was a monster from my most terrifying dreams.
The old man stepped in behind him, reaching up to pat his back as he passed. “Excellent work, my friend,” he praised the beast. Then to me, “Now, was it really worth all this?”
I mumbled incoherently. I wasn’t really sure what it was I was trying to say. It may have been multiple things at once trying to force their way out of my clenched jaw as I fought with myself not to scream. I couldn’t look away from the giant in my living room.
“I see you’ve noticed Kratos,” the old man chuckled. “My masterpiece. Come, Kratos, no secrets from our new friend.”
Kratos made a sound that could’ve been either a growl or a very deep voice offering a concurring, “Mm.” He reached up to the gold mask over the lower part of his face and pried it off.
I didn’t want to look, but I was mesmerized. The matte metallic yellow dropped to reveal that Kratos had no flesh over his mouth at all. His lips and a fair amount of his cheeks had unquestionably been sliced away, revealing his teeth and gums. It gave him a distinctly demonic quality.
My head was swimming. This had to be a nightmare. How could a man like this one exist? I struggled to remain on my feet.
“Collect him, Kratos,” the old man commanded.
Kratos’s nose wrinkled and his brow descended. I couldn’t fathom him looking any scarier. Then he bolted toward me. I ran.
I don’t know where I thought I could go. The door was blocked. I was on the fifth floor. I was trapped, but I sprinted toward my bedroom. I could hear the pounding footfalls of that massive creature right behind me. He swiped over my head and hit the wall, sending a shower of drywall raining down.
I dove through the bedroom door and over my bed. There was an old 8-inch survival knife in my nightstand that I had owned for years, a gift from my father. I never thought I’d have to use it. It didn’t seem like it would really do me any good, but I was desperate.
Kratos crashed through the doorway. The frame crumbled. He barely had to step in to grab my bed one-handed and toss it against the wall like doll furniture. He stepped up to me. The way his eyes squinted and the flesh over his cheekbones bulged told me he was grinning; it wasn’t just his permanently exposed teeth. I heard a deep guttural chuckle.
I stood there with my knife, wholly impotent. I knew I was a bug to him. He could literally crush me with his bare hands. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I didn’t want to die. “Please,” I sobbed desperately. “Please don’t kill me.”
“Nonsense,” the old man said, stepping into the bedroom. “Ah!” he cheered, noticing the knife. “So you have some fight in you.”
I was shaking uncontrollably. Kratos lunged at me. I reflexively slashed with the knife, but couldn’t have made a more useless defense. The huge beast caught the blade in his bare hand and wrenched it away from me. His laughter continued.
“Let’s not dawdle, Kratos,” the old man chastised. “Take him.”
Kratos reached over and lifted me as one does a kitten. He tucked me under his arm and walked back through the apartment and out the door. Overwhelmed by the stress of it all, I passed out.
To be continued...