A Growing Boy

“Something bad is happening upstairs.” Jordan declared as he gawked at the ceiling of his two-bedroom apartment. “Don’t overthink it. You remember what the building manager said, her son is special.” Frankie emphasized, imitating the tender voice of the office manager. “Nah, fuck that, something is leaking. Look, it’s brown. If it was water, the stain would be beige or yellow.” Jordan said, waving his hands like a magician. “Do you think its blood?” Frankie said.

“I don’t know but I’m going to report it tomorrow.”

“Maybe we should go, stay in a hotel until they figure it out. One of those rooms with two beds so you can rest properly.” Frankie proposed.

“I’m not going anywhere, plus we can’t afford it. Gotta save all we can for the baby.” Jordan knelt and kissed Frankie’s round belly. “OK, if you’re gonna go down there, try to be nice please. I know how you can be.” Frankie tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. “I will try my best to be polite. Promise.”

“I can’t sleep with all the stomping and banging going on throughout the night. From 10 to 3 o’clock in the morning. Are they wearing steel-toe boots up there, like what the fuck?” Jordan clamored to the mature woman behind the desk with a partially closed eye from a stroke she had a few years ago. “Mind your language Mr. Reed.”

“Yes, ma’am I’m sorry Ms. Brown. I’m exhausted. It’s bad enough I have to sleep on the couch. Frankie is 8 months pregnant and needs the space.”

“Trust me, I understand where you’re coming from. There have been complaints about the unit from other neighbors. We fined the woman five times. According to policy, that’s all we can do besides evict her.”

“That works.”

“Mr. Reed, you can’t be serious? I can’t in good conscious throw another Black woman on the street with her disabled son.”

“Now he’s disabled too? This story gets more dramatic each time.”

“Perhaps, you’ll feel different if you meet him.” Ms. Brown disarmed Jordan with a look reminiscent of his late mother.

“We can go up there together and speak to the tenant and I’ll have the building engineer find the source of the leak.” Jordan exhaled as he stood and shook her hand.

“Sure. Why not? If it happens again, I want a discount on the rent.”

“Let’s just see how it goes first.” Ms. Brown smirked. They left the front office and rode the elevator to the 13th floor. When they stepped off, a miasma struck both their nostrils and made them gag. Dark spots blemished the carpet. The doors of neighboring apartments stood ajar, except for 1301.

“Aight, Imma head out.” Jordan turned to the elevator, but it was gone.

“We can’t leave. What if they need our help?”

“Listen, I have a pregnant girlfriend and you are an old woman, no offense. There’s nothing we can do in this situation. I know how this movie ends, and we both Black.”

“Boy, this ain’t no damn movie. I’m gonna knock on the door and see if somebody answers, if not, we’ll go call the police.” Ms. Brown whispered. As she moved forward to knock, the door swung open. The two were met by a brown, stubby woman, shaped like a toad. “Hey Ms. Brown.”

The woman shot a dirty look at Jordan and didn’t speak. “Um, hey, Dorothy. What is that smell and why everybody door open?” Dorothy looked at Jordan and Ms. Brown with a distant stare, as if she was lost, tears swelled in her eyes. Then she smiled manically. “They just up and left girl. Probably sewer gas or carbon monoxide, I was coming down to talk to you about that.”

Dorothy attempted to pull the door shut behind her as she stepped into the hallway, but Ms. Brown forced her way in. Jordan followed closely behind. “This is Jordan, your neighbor from downstairs. He came to my office today…complaining about a leak.” The funk intensified upon their entry.

“What the fuck is that?” Jordan squealed from the hand that covered his mouth and nose. The inside of Dorothy’s unit was filthy. Feces smeared the walls and buckets of old meat were strewn about, some tipped over spilling pools of blood on the laminate wood flooring. Thus, confirming Jordan’s suspicion.

“Dorothy what is this? What happened?” Ms. Brown coughed.

Dorothy threw up her arms in surrender. “I’m sorry. He won’t stop unless I feed him.” Jordan walked towards the kitchen space, which was sacked. Cabinet doors hung open, broken dishes littered the floor along with crushed canned goods, and a mop bucket full of piss. “Did your son do all this?” Jordan cried in astonishment.

“Yes. He turns on me if I don’t give ’em what he wants.” Dorothy moaned.

“And what is that?” Ms. Brown inquired through gritted teeth.

“Company.” Dorothy answered while slamming the door and barricading it with pieces of furniture.

“Nope. Open that door, before I beat yo ass.” Jordan yelled as he grabbed a wooden chair nearby. A gurgling sound echoed from the hall.

“It will be quick. I promise.” Dorothy said covering her eyes.

Around the corner a bubbling mass slid into the living room. A discolored blob of veins, ligaments, feathers, fur, and human limbs. A voice spoke from the deformed head that jutted from the top. “Mama, I eat, eat. Mamaaaa, eat, eat!”

Ms. Brown recognized the multiple voices that spoke as one. The voices of the tenants she served for over ten years. In the abomination she made out their faces, melted together like a crochet blanket. Fingers, claws, and tentacles writhed towards her and Jordan. Ms. Brown fell backwards in shock.

The creature slid in their direction and forced them to a corner. “Get up! Come on, get up!” Jordan attempted to pull Ms. Brown to her feet as she slid in the pool of brown liquid and blood. “I want eat, eat, Mamaaa.”

It inched closer, appendages reaching for anything nearby. The slurping sound of its many tongues tapping the floor. Dorothy sat in the opposite corner of the room with her ears covered and eyes shut trying to block out the ruckus. Jordan swung the wooden chair over the head of the monstrosity, who responded with a screech.

He grabbed Ms. Brown by the hand and ran around the humanoid slug. They jumped on the soiled couch and onto the entertainment stand to avoid contact. Pieces of the chair snapped while being absorbed. Dorothy tried to stop them but was met with a right hook by Jordan. She hit the floor fast. Jordan tossed away the clutter that barricaded them in.

In a few seconds he was out the door but was stopped by the hand of Ms. Brown. Dorothy pulled at her ankle with both hands as her son, that thing, swelled and grew behind them. Jordan’s knees bent as he tightened his grip around the woman’s wrinkled hands. Moans from the many victims harmonized into a cluster of distorted words, “Don’t leave me, Mama.”

Warm blood sprayed on Jordan and Ms. Brown as Dorothy’s lower half came apart, causing her intestine to hit the floor with a wet thud, a thud Jordan heard many nights before. Jordan and Ms. Brown collapsed as Dorothy’s hold was released. Adrenaline carried Ms. Brown and Jordan down the empty hallway and through the stairway exit. The sound of cracking bones and squelching flesh followed them as they descended the steps with haste.

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