LIghtbulb (Part One)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A mysterious light bulb glowing in a deserted brownstone drives a man up a tree.

Submitted: November 20, 2018

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Submitted: November 20, 2018

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LIGHTBULB (Part One)

 

 

 

It wasn’t a particularly bad day.  Tony didn’t get the job he wanted.  Larreta, the he/she tenant nobody was quite sure of, had beat Chaquita, the landlord’s dastardly yapping Chihuahua, to the top of the stairs, got real pissed and hurled her just-laundered  basket of dresses and men’s work clothes over the balcony of her fourth floor room, sending the yapper high tailing it for the furnace room, and…well, that’s what tonight was all about… so far. 

 

Serena, a tenant on the third floor, for her eighteen years, seemed to carry around the troubles of the world.  She shouldered them well, even if it drove me and the rest of the tenants nuts at times.  See, she wasn’t normal.  Not really.  For 2005, you just didn’t have that many troubles without the markings of the tormented.  But for her, there was no body piercing.  No tattoos.  No dirty hair.  No make-up.  Plain thrift-store dresses and pants.  You know, just plain, plain, plain except when she would come in late at night reciting the day’s events like a fast-forward 11 o’clock newscast.Difference was, it was always what she had seen.  What she had experienced, most of which, none of us in the building understood, or wanted to.  We just wanted her to come home earlier once in a while so we could time out the brushing of our teeth, the setting of the alarm and the proper volume to the Letterman Show.  Instead, too many times we had to wait and listen for the grand entrance.  I guess we all could have donned ear plugs, but we all kinda knew it wouldn’t filter out the aviary she kept in her room.  And, until she was home every night, the screeching of the finch colony would only get louder as the hours ticked on, especially with her homecoming greeting..

 

Well, like I said, it wasn’t a particularly bad day, except, Serena didn’t come home at all and the caged Hitchcock-nightmare was getting a bit much.  Had they all just given birth to another colony?

 

First I heard Tony’s door on the fourth floor open.  You could always tell it was Tony, ‘cause he didn’t believe in WD 40.  And it wasn’t a pleasant sound either, more like fingernails across the chalk board kind of door opening.  Can you imagine such a sound over and above the fucking birds?  Well, trust me.  It was loud 

“Anybody hear from Serena?” he asked.  Tony was a bear of a guy, but talk about a mother hen, or father rooster.  He kept close tabs on Serena, especially when the birds were going crazy.

No answer.

A few slams of Tony’s work boots on the hard wood floor and out popped Loretta from 3B.  Not a sight you want to see at 1:15 in the morning.  With only half a face on, Loretta leaned over the third floor railing and looked up.  “She ain’t here yet, Tony.  Them fucking birds are still chirpin’ so you know she ain’t home.  For chrissake, Tony, of course she’s not home yet.  Maybe she got laid!”  Loretta turned around and bellowed down the hall in my direction,  “What cha think, Tin Head?  Think she got laid?”

I didn’t care for the nickname, but what was I going to do.  Came in drunk one night, passed out, fell down the stairs and broke three supports of the hand rail before arriving splayed on the 2nd floor landing.  Tony couldn’t believe it when he helped me up and felt the plate in my head that had done the damage.  I slurred through the assembly line of rum and cokes I’d downed that night with, “Afghanistan.  Land mine.  Left the top half back there.”  Knuckling my head, I giggled through, “Got the Bethesda Special… nickel plated titanium.”  Then I passed out.

“No… I don’t think she got laid, Loretta,” I yelled back.  “I think she could be in trouble.”

“Well, Sweets,” she laughed, “let’s hope so ‘cause trouble’s where all the fun is.”  As she laughed and disappeared back into her den of God knows what manner of iniquity, it got quiet real fast  All I could hear now was the neurotic growl of Chaquita down in the basement.  That dog had the imagination of a psycho ward at Bellvue.  Was it a cockroach this time crawling across the floor, or was he seeing the landlady naked?  Yeah, that could upset anybody’s imagination. 

I stepped out from my third floor room, quietly tip toed down to the first floor, and stepped out onto the front stoop.  Peering up the street, I could see nothing unusual.  Garbage cans.  Parked cars.  A few lit windows.  The outburst of an argument from one of the other brownstones mixed with the incessant ambulance and cop car cacophony of sirens kept me aware it was 1:30 in New York morning. 

 

That’s when I noticed the light bulb.

 

Across the street, and a couple of doors down, of our gentrification neighborhood was a brownstone in the throws of remodeling.  The obligatory dumpster sat overflowing on the sidewalk below, the neck of a dump-slide extending up to the third floor.  Above on the fourth floor were windowless holes where undoubtedly at the turn of the century old country mothers and grandmothers hung out and had their fruits and vegetables hoisted up by rope and bucket from the many carts that lined the streets back then.  Now they were dark holes waiting for the next day’s further gutting to be flung onto the dump-slide. 

 

The light bulb hung back in the room away from the window.  And, of course I thought it strange.  Wouldn’t you?  It was the middle of the night and a light bulb was on in a building whose power and other utilities had long been turned off.  I don’t know how long I stared at it before I could have sworn it changed colors on me.  It’s normal pale incandescent glow suddenly turned blue.  I rubbed my eyes, thinking I needed sleep, but then it only got worse.  The blue changed to red, then green, then back to pale yellow.  Ok, I told myself, you need to go to bed.  To Hell with Serena. 

I trudged back up the eight concrete steps, opened the ornate mahogany and glass front door and stepped in.  The growl of Chaquita grew louder as the basement steps creaked beneath his Road Runner-like paws.  Knowing what was next, I took the flight of stairs, three-at-a-time, making me just one step ahead of Hell-with-an -attitude chomping air at my heels.  Once inside my room, I caught ny breath and looked out the window again.  Being straight across the street at eye level now, the view was even more precise.  I squinted, looked again.  No light bulb.

 

Now, for a day that hadn’t been all that bad, it was rapidly turning into my all time worst day.  I don’t like hallucinations.  Reminds me too much of trying to grow up eating bottles of pills instead of bologna sandwiches for lunch.  And that was only the 4th grade.  Forget Afghanistan, and any and all the ingested things we imbibed to pad the fear.I looked again.  No bulb.  I guess it was a good time to hear the birds up stairs had stopped rampaging, but …I mean, that usually meant Serena was back.  Huh?  I’d just stepped into my apartment, and that would mean she was right behind me, or better still, behind Chaquita.  I didn’t hear any door open or close, but I did catch an awful sound.  You ever hear a bird get squashed?  Chomped?  It’s not a familiar sound, I know.  Chaquita?  Was Serena’s door open and he just…? 

 

It got real quiet now.  No birds.  No Chaquita.  No sirens.  The argument from the other building...gone.  I couldn’t even hear Loretta and her Tivo playing back the taped Howard Stern show for the night.  Yeah… it was real quiet.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a glow.  It was out my window, across the street.  It was the light bulb again.  Red.  Really red.

Shit, I muttered as I moved to the sink, splashed some cold water on my face and rubbed my eyes again.  Did I imagine that squashed bird as well?  I stepped into the hall and listened once again.  Nothing, save the snoring of Loretta that was usually drowned out by the fucking birds or Stern’s raucous verbiage.  I trudged back to my room.  No birds now.  No late night TV..  Just me and my light-bulb-Twilight Zone moment…without a resolve.

Brushing my teeth did nothing to arrest my alarm with that fucking red light bulb.  I set my alarm, dove under the covers, squeezed my eyes shut.  Open.  Shut.

Shit!  I threw off the covers, stepped back to the window, looked across the street, and…

 

  • CONTINUED -


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