Are you fucking kidding me?
For the fiftieth time that week, the voices screamed from outside my window.
I was sitting in my bed at 2:00 AM, morose and contemplating my station in life, when, big surprise, the shouting started. 20 minutes later, it still hadn’t ceased.
The overbearing heat pumping through my vents left me with little choice but to keep my first floor window open. The hot, stagnant air of my apartment was enveloping me, turning all my thoughts into a rage.
Miraculously, the noise stopped briefly enough for the question to ricochet throughout my brain once more. What the fuck are you doing here? 24 years-old, in a ratty, roach infested apartment in far-flung Queens.
I was really beginning to hate this fucking city.
I recall my parents’ voices as they berated me for my move, and I was beginning to dread the fact that they were right all along.
“Acting!?! In New York!?! Are you fucking serious?” My father scanned my large frame to accentuate his point.
“It’s what I want.”
“Your grades were so good. Why don’t you just go to grad school? Medical school?”
“I don’t want to.”
I knew something that my parents were never willing to concede. I was born to be famous. As if deemed from on high, I have just accepted this as fact for as long as I can remember. I knew as a man with my size, girth, and high-pitched voice it would be tough to get roles. However, there was a part out there that needs to be filled by someone with my impressive carriage, and I was going to find it. By making this move from the Midwest, I was taking my first bold steps towards this inevitability. However, after my 8th failed audition in a row and looking around my current lodgings, I was facing some cold, hard truths that night.
“Fuck you, bitch!!!”
All of my decisions over the past year were being called into question, and the screaming outside my window was only serving to punctuate this.
“Help!!! Please!!! Somebody!!!”
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These cries were really starting to grate on me. As if I didn’t already have enough on my mind, it was pushing 3:00 in the morning, and I had an audition the next day. The drunk ass woman from 4C and her fucking boyfriend, like always, were driving me crazy.
However, the whole scenario was beginning to give me pause. The screaming only increased in volume and had a certain intensity beyond their usual row. This concerned me somewhat. Maybe this argument was different, and I should actually do something. On second thought, if it was really that serious, someone else would call or help. How is this in any way my responsibility?
“Get the fuck away from me!!!”
I had finally had enough.
“Shut the fuck up!!!” I shouted at the top of my lungs out my window. My heart raced but then slowed down. All of the anxiety pumping through my veins subsided. The voices stopped. I breathed a sigh of relief and crawled back into bed. Before I could finally close my eyes and attempt to sleep, the front door of my building slammed shut. Footsteps pounded into the tiles of the hallway. Suddenly, an aggressive knock began at my front door.
My pulse quickened again as screams filled the air once more.
“Help!!! Won’t you please help me!?!”
Jesus Christ. Why did she single me out? I should have just kept my mouth shut. I debated my next move. It was fairly easy to distance myself from whatever played out on the street, but now it was at my doorstep.
The pounding continued. I decided on a course of action. I pulled out my phone. I called out, “I’ve dialed the police. Just go away.”
“He’s going to be back any second! Just open the door!”
I was resolved in my decision and had already patted myself on the back for even calling. I had done my due diligence.
“I called the fucking police. I’m going back to sleep. Just leave!”
“It’ll be too late… Help… Help… ” she said solemnly from beyond the door.
The pounding continued refusing to let me find rest. Then, it stopped.
My conscience was getting the better of me. Had this city really made me so goddamn callous? I was having a real change of heart. I looked through the peephole of my door and couldn’t see anything. I opened it to welcome her inside. My eyes were drawn downward. That is when I saw it.
The woman lay on the floor of my hallway with a knife lodged into her neck. The blood continued to flow freely from the wound. It was bright red, a hue unlike anything I had seen before. It was pooling around her tiny figure. Her right arm moved. It was subtle but intentional. Her eyes remained open and stared into me. She began to gurgle in an attempt to speak.
“Help… Help…” It finally came out in a fragile whisper.
Her hand reached upwards towards me and listlessly came to rest as the final signs of life drained from her face.
In panic, I quickly retreated into my apartment.
I called 911 once more, shouting and screeching the entire time.
All of my petty problems ceased. My knees felt weak. My consciousness threatened to slip. Incapable of processing what I saw, I fell into bed and cried.
I could have done something.
I should have…
I should have…
The thought lingered throughout the night and remained in the morning, boring a hole into my skull.
The next day I stayed in bed. The audition I was missing the furthest thing from my mind. Whenever I heard the police roving about outside my apartment door, a fresh pang of guilt came rushing back. I tried to close my eyes and find sleep, but every time, I would see her pale face as the last semblance of life drained from it and was horrified anew. I was plastered to my bed and incapable of leaving my apartment.
By my third day of isolation and insomnia, I had to face the truth. I couldn’t stay in here forever.
I gathered what little courage I had and crept toward my door. I opened it slowly. Drawing a deep breath, I looked downward and recoiled in horror.
Lying at my doorstep was a thick and crimson stain. Remarkably, it was not dry but damp. It had the same indelible hue I had seen three days prior. It was almost luminescent. It seemed… alive. As I continued to stare, a whisper called out to me.
The bloodstain lurched toward me.
I quickly ran down the hallway and furiously knocked on my Super’s door. I demanded that he clean up the blood.
“But Herbert, there’s noth-.”
Before he could finish, I slammed the door and left my building in a huff.
Praying for anything to distract me, I wandered around the city for a few hours in a desperate attempt to lose myself in the crowds of people. I began questioning my sanity, but in the end I came to a conclusion. It had not been my mind playing tricks on me. I heard that voice and… I saw that stain move. I know I did. This was not up for debate.
As the sun began to set behind the buildings, I made my way home. On steady steps I rounded the corner to my unit. A profound relief overcame me as I saw that the stain was no longer there.
I opened the door and was greeted by darkness. I searched around for the light switch. Before I could turn it on, the still silence was broken by a gurgling sound that gave way to a whisper.
I flicked on the light to see the red stain on the floor of my foyer. It had grown in size and luminescence. It was red, viscous, and nauseating in appearance, its very presence revolting. Before I fully realized what I was doing, I put on a pair of gloves and got down on my hands and knees to clean the stain. This proved difficult. The blood seemed aware of my plans to eradicate it and kept moving out of the way of my brush.
After about an hour of scrubbing, the stain was no more. However, my clothes and shoes were covered in red. I took them downstairs to the laundry room. As I pulled them out of the washer, the stains defiantly remained. I chucked the clothes in the garbage with contempt.
I entered my apartment once more. Tiptoeing my way back in, I prepared for the worst. Thankfully, there was nothing on my floor. Relief washed over me. The onus was lifted. I got into bed and sleep finally found me.
I opened my eyes, and she was hovering by the foot of my bed with a smile on her face. The blood erupted from her neck in spurts. The downpour soaked my bedsheet. She floated towards me. The smile grew wider. Her blue lips slowly parted.
“You wouldn’t help me, and I payed for it with my life. Now, you will pay with yours.”
She pulled the blade from her jugular and lifted it. I had no time to react. The knife came down swiftly. It punctured my right eye and entered my brain.
I had no time to feel the relief of being back in the waking world. The voice called to me. I leapt up and ran for the bedroom door. In my haste, I failed to look down. My feet slipped, and I flew into the air. When I landed, I could feel the blood engulf me. Mercifully, I had fallen asleep in a hoodie and pajamas in spite of the heat. The blood only soaked my clothes. However, as I placed my right hand on the floor to help me up, it came into contact with the fluid. I rose to my feet.
This was it. Fuck New York and fuck fame. I quickly changed my clothes and packed. All the while, it moved ever closer to me, threatening to overtake me. The voice was no longer a whisper, but a blood curdling scream.
I slammed the door and found the nearest taxi.
In the cab, I looked down to my hand. It glowed red. The pain was excruciating. It felt like acid eroding the skin of my fingers. I snatched the sanitizer out of the cabbie’s hands and began to violently rub my hands together. I stared at them in horror as the blood stubbornly remained. Scrubbing my hands in the airport bathroom proved fruitless as well.
The entire plane ride, much to my seatmate’s chagrin, I rocked back and forth as the voice continued to call to me and the pain continued. I would frequently steal away to the bathroom to wash my hands but to no avail.
I grabbed my luggage from the baggage claim. My hand was raw and pink, but finally, the stain was no longer there, and most importantly, the voice was no longer speaking to me. This was perfect timing as my mother and father came up to me and hugged me.
In the car, my father turned to me. “There’s no shame in this you know. You need to just be more… realistic.” I sat in silence. “New York, fame, they’re not meant for everybody. We’re here for you buddy. We’re going to get your life back on track.” As the sting of my father’s statements met my ears. A burning sensation began on my forearm.
When I arrived home, I immediately bolted up the stairs. Hesitantly, I took off my shirt and stared into the bathroom mirror. Horror consumed me as the stain had moved up to my shoulder.
I tried in vain to wash it. The burning sensation and the voice were becoming unbearable.
“Herbert, you’ve been in there for an hour. Everything okay?”
I spotted my father’s razor. I sliced into the skin surrounding it. As I began to peel back the flesh, it moved with audacity up to my neck. I slashed at it with the razor, no longer concerned about my own well-being. My mind was focused on one task, eradicating this disgraceful blotch.
My own blood ran down my chest as it moved to my face. I swiped at it. The flesh of my cheek parted.
“Herbert! Open up!”
I watched in horror as the bloodstain moved to my right eye and quickly disappeared behind it. I screamed and fell unconscious to the floor.
I have no recollection of the next two days.
Dr. Williams entered the room to do a follow up. He held up the MRI results (a test he was strangely as insistent upon as I was).
“Herbert, there are no abnormalities.”
“C-Can’t you s-see i-it?”
“Listen, what you’ve been through is very traumatic. Have you ever heard of a conversion disorder? Sometimes, people experience certain trauma, The pain in your head, th-.”
“B-but, n-no y-your n-not l-look-”
“That stutter as well. These are just physical manifestations. This is how your brain is just processing the whole ordeal. This is more common than you’d think. Therapy will…”
He droned on with his bullshit explanation. His words receded to the background as I stared at what he held in his hands. I could see the mass covering my brain. It sloshed around my skull. As it pulsated, it continued to mock me with its red, incandescent glow.
This was all two years ago you see. After a year in the hospital and numerous suicide attempts later, I just learned to tell them what they wanted to hear.
It was all in my head.
When I finally came home, my parents adjusted to the changes readily. Their formerly outgoing son was now a stuttering, jabbering, smelly, and isolated mess, spending all of his time in his room working on various… projects. They were still foolishly optimistic that I was going to get better.
I just needed time. I’m sure they told themselves that. Even when my mother discovered the stray cat with its brains excised, I was able to deflect by revealing that I had applied to medical school. It was just practice I told her. They were so on board that they helped me clean up the entrails in my bedroom without a word of condemnation.
Their denial is almost funny to me.
Her voice still remains with me you know. Her blood is still eating away at my brain. I can feel it like acid boring its way through my skull. However, ending it all, would be the easy way out I’ve discovered. I have something much bigger planned you see. I’ve read the literature. I’ve spent the last year in my room researching, and I’ve found a way. I’ve found it!!! They’ll call me crazy I’m sure. No worries, I’m used to it now.
It’s all in my head they say. Haha, but it won’t be for long.
I’m going to be the first person to surgically remove their own brain.
Looks like I will be famous after all.