I won’t blame you if you think this is fiction. So much of what’s posted here is believable, but not real. Obviously it’s a stretch for me to expect you to think something as unbelievable as this is real. But I’ve got to tell someone. And seeing as how I no longer have any friends, that someone is you.
I’ve had a pretty rocky past with alcoholism, ever since my freshman year of college, so I tend to be more understanding when it comes to other people’s substance abuse problems. I guess that’s why I offered one of my lifelong friends a room to crash in when he finally ran out of money — and the means of feeding his heroin addiction. He was pretty much burning through any notion of rock bottom.
His name was James, and I had known him ever since elementary school. He came from a good family, so I was pretty surprised that he was even in the predicament.
For the first week he was crashing at my place, I checked in on him as much as I could. It wasn’t nearly as often as I wanted to, but I had just started a new job and I was putting in over 60 hours a week. So checking on him pretty much came down to right before work at 9:00AM, and then again right before bedtime at 11:00PM.
For the first week I hadn’t gotten much sleep because he was always up, moaning and tossing and turning. It sounded like hell, whatever he was going through. All I could do was bring him soups and water Tylenol. He had asked me for weed, but I haven’t had access to that in years.
After the first week though, he started keeping his door locked. All of the time. He barely even replied to me when I would knock and ask him if he was still alive. I didn’t know a whole lot about withdrawal, but I knew enough to leave him as much space as he needed and wait it out. So I was satisfied to start each day asking him if he was well, and being met with a grunt as an answer. Then, I would leave food by his door and come back from work to find it gone.
It sort of became a ritual. I was too geared into work to deviate from the same daily routine. But at the start of the third week, things started getting really weird.
First, I started getting something they call sleep paralysis. It’s where you wake up from a deep sleep, but are unable to move your body or open your eyes. The first time this happened, I was pretty sure I was about to die or something.
Secondly, James started pacing in his room. Like a lot. His bedroom was converted from my office space, so it was all hard-wood floors. Strangely enough, it sounded like he had boots on or something. As I would be drifting off to sleep, I could hear the thud, thud, thud of his shoes on the floor. And yet he still would not unlock his door.
And third, after the third week I started catching slight glimpses of James, as though he was an exotic fucking animal or something. I would come home from work and see him barely slipping back into his room and latching the door shut. Or I would wake up in the middle of the night (after battling sleep-paralysis for God knows how long) to see him in the kitchen, without any lights on.
I would see his eyes like dim lamps floating in the darkness, his hair a mess. I would say hello and go to the turn the lights on, but by the time I reached the switches he would drop whatever he was eating and dash back into his room.
But even that wasn’t the last straw. The final breaking point for me, was when I woke up in the morning to find a large kitchen knife on my bedside dresser, with the tip of the blade pointing right at me. When I found that, I lost my shit and banged on his door until he answered. I was about to kick the door in, but then I heard him throwing up or something, making some kind of awful regurgitating noise.
“Relapsed,” he said weakly, in a voice that did not even seem to belong to him. “Sorry.”
“What the fuck does that have to do with the knife on my dresser?”
“Sorry. Got high.”
“Got high and stood over my sleeping body with a knife?!”
He started throwing up again and moaning miserably. Even his moaning seemed different from the first week that he had moved in with me. I felt a little bad for him, but then I remembered the whole point of the thing. It was all reaching a point of senselessness.
“You got high and ruined everything you’re supposed to be working towards?” I called, banging on his door again. “Open this up, you’ve got to get out. Now.”
“Out of the room?”
“Out of my fucking house. Okay you relapsed, but the knife was too much. I want you gone by the time I get home from work tonight.”
Work gave me enough time to cool down before I got home. By the time I pulled into the driveway, I was actually relieved to see his shadow hunched over through the drawn curtains.
“I’m sorry I got so upset,” I said through his door.
“I’m sorry I relapsed.”
So that night I cooked steak breakfast burritos, an old favorite we used to love in high school. I didn’t remember buying the steak, but I found it in a paper bag in the refrigerator. I left two burritos on a plate by his door and told him to eat them whenever he wanted, then went to bed.
That night I had a really bad nightmare about being locked in a room, punctuated with the incessant tap, tap tapping noise of boots on hardwood floor. Suddenly, I woke up and found myself, once again, unable to move. But this time was a little different. This time I felt like I had some kind of inexplicable vision of the room, even though my eyes were still closed.
I thought I could feel hard, rasping breaths being taken inches away from my head, as if someone was hovering over me, just breathing. Then I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my side. I immediately thought of the knife, but still I could not wake myself. I tried to scream but my mouth would not open.
“Thanks for the burritos,” whispered the ragged voice that was unlike anyone’s I had ever heard.
Then, it was gone: the inexplicable face hovering over me, the pain in my side and my paralysis. I opened my eyes to find the room empty. There was no one there. I checked my side and found that I was not being stabbed by anything. It was a little difficult, but I was finally able to fall back asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, I found the knife there on the dresser again, except that it was coated with a thin layer of blood along the edge. I scrambled back in my bed, as if withdrawing from some invisible monster, and instinctively checked myself for wounds. But there was nothing on me.
I flew out of bed and pounded on James’s door harder than ever. I was furious and scared at the same time, filled with this white hot kind of adrenaline. I pounded on the door more and more, but there was no answer.
Still filled with the adrenaline, I started kicking at the door. Still, there was no response. So I turned around with my back to the door, drew my knee up and slammed my foot into it as hard as I could. Little splinters of wood went bursting away from the frame as the door flung open.
Like a brick wall, the sick smell of decay hit me full in the face as I found James’s shrunken body lying on the bed. I could tell just by the look and the smell of him that he had been rotting there for what must have been weeks. His fluids were staining into the mattress in an inky black mess. There was a belt lying loose beside him, while his hand was still clutching a syringe.
Then it hit me. If James had been dead, then who was living in his bedroom all those weeks? A chill crawled up my spine and left me feeling naked and exposed. Suddenly I was swiveling around to look over every opening in the house. I was too afraid to move, so I just crouched down and looked frantically from one corner to the next.
Finally, I summoned the courage to move again, only to find his bathroom empty and the space beneath his bed empty as well. Methodically, I checked every cupboard and behind every door in the house. I made my way to the kitchen and found that the window was wide open. But as I made my way to the phone to dial for the police, I found a big chunk of meat on the cutting board, dripping blood over the counter and onto the floor.
Beside the cutting board was a small piece of paper, with a note written in a shaky hand. It read:
Here’s another piece of your junkie friend. You seemed to enjoy the first one so much. I did too. Have another round of burritos ready by the time I come by again tonight?
What little bile there was in my stomach threatened to come out as my stomach lurched and tied itself into knots. After dry-heaving over the sink for what felt like hours, I got to the phone and dialed 911.
When the police and the paramedics arrived, they only had to smell James to confirm my suspicions about him having been dead for a while. It took a lot of explaining to convince them that I couldn’t have known sooner. Sure enough, when they flipped him over, they found two large chunks of meat carved out of his back.
Even the police looked like they were going to throw up when I explained the burritos, the bloody knife and the note to them.
I had to take some time off work and move back in with my parents for a while. But sometimes I still get sleep paralysis, and I sometimes hear the breathing over my head. Sometimes I even look outside my window at night and I can almost see the two lamp-like eyes and the messy head of hair that I thought had belonged to my best friend.