“How many roommates do you have?” Blaine asked, pushing an unrecognizable sculpture with his finger. It teetered precariously toward the edge of the shelf and he reset it on its stand quickly before anyone noticed.
“Three,” said Lars, returning from the kitchen with beverages rattling on a tray.
“And you’re all art majors?” Mason asked. “That must get wild.”
“You have no idea,” Lars said, and Nate snickered.
“Lars says nothing goes on, but if I was living with three crazy art chicks…” Nate said, but he stopped when Lars whipped an ice cube at his forehead.
“Do you guys have a studio here?” Blaine asked, peering down the hallway that led to bedrooms.
“No,” Lars said, “unless you count the projects we do in our own rooms.”
“Hey did you hear about the weird lights the other night?” Mason asked, obviously bored with the direction of the conversation. “Didn’t they come over this way?”
Lars and Nate stopped smiling.
“No man,” Lars said, and he turned his focus to his drink.
“No, come on, they had to,” Mason insisted. “I didn’t see anything but the whole campus is talking about it. Lights hovering over Arnolds Field and then over in this neighborhood.”
“We didn’t see any,” Lars shrugged.
“Hey I love this song,” Nate said, raising the volume on the speakers until conversation was impossible.
Blaine walked to the window and gazed out at the evening sky. The sunset might have been beautiful somewhere else. Here it was just a graying of the day’s light blue into what would be the night haze of the lit city. Some wash of grays and oranges against black. When Mason had suggested visiting Lars he hadn’t indicated how long they intended to stay, and already Blaine was considering bailing on the evening’s plans. He’d met Lars a couple of times before, and he was always surrounded by artsy chicks. Blaine didn’t have a better way of labeling them. They wore their artist identities like masks, dropping names he didn’t know and seeming to strive toward who could be most extreme in their thinking. Blaine had never figured out how to connect with any of them, nor was he sure that he wanted to.
The music softened and Blaine looked back to see Mason, Lars and Nate with their heads close together, talking with enthusiasm, though he couldn’t make out the words. Mason was laughing. He turned back to the window, framing his exit speech in his mind. Mason knew he’d finished his homework so that excuse was out. Laundry wasn’t going to impress anybody, though he had plenty that needed doing. He knew they’d argue him out of it, though, if he went that direction.
His thoughts dissolved away for a moment as he watched something viscous drool down outside the window. The day hadn’t been rainy, so it wouldn’t be water. It looked like silly putty or some similar form of goo. It stretched down from somewhere out of sight above, swelling into a bulbous teardrop shape at the bottom, just above eye-level. He was about to say something to the guys when an eye opened in the bulbous bottom. The fibrous lines outside the dark iris shifted as it presumably focused on him.
Blaine almost felt foolish for not having reacted. He hadn’t dropped the drink in his hand. He hadn’t yelled out or jumped back or sucked in his breath, though the shock and strangeness were no less than if he had done all of those things. By the time it occurred to him to have a reaction, though, all of the options felt insincere so he stood there, frozen and mute staring at the ooze eye while it stared in at him.
“Um, guys,” he managed to say through a thick throat, but the others kept talking over the music, which though quieter than before, was loud enough to make conversation a competition. “Guys,” he said finding his voice and turning to get their attention.
All three glanced up and he pointed. They looked confused. Blaine turned back, but the eye was gone. He pressed his face against the window trying to see up but his view was limited by brick embellishments on the outside of the building.
“You okay?” Mason asked.
“Yeah, I uh, where’s your restroom?” he asked Lars.
Lars waved his arm toward the hallway to the bedrooms and Blaine followed the general direction, finding the restroom on the first try. He shut the door and ran water, splashing some on his face but mostly buying himself time. What had just happened? He stared at his reflection in the mirror, commanding himself to get a grip. The light shifted, or… that wasn’t right. Straightening slowly, he realized that there was something moving behind the shower curtain.
He turned to face it, and inched toward the door, feeling around for the knob. The shadow behind the curtain didn’t look… human. His fingers found the knob and he began to turn it, slowly, quietly. The shadow was shifting around, pushing against the curtain. The movements were clumsy, or agitated. A tentacle shot out and Blaine was out the door.
“Dude, what’s up?” Lars asked, watching Blaine with bewilderment as he snatched up his jacket and lunged at the front door without a word.
An artsy chick was fumbling for her keys on the other side and she looked up, relieved when the door flew open.
“Thank you,” she said in exasperation. “I’ve been knocking, jerks!” she yelled over Blaine’s shoulder at Lars, Nate and Mason, who Blaine noticed, were doubled over laughing.
“Why is the water running in the bathroom?” the artsy chick asked, pushing past Blaine and heading for the open bathroom door.
“Don’t go in there!” Blaine shouted, his voice trailing off when Lars, Nate and Mason howled with a fresh wave of laughter, wiping tears and clutching their stomachs.
The artsy chick hesitated midway across the living room. “Why?” she asked suspiciously.
“We set up Sandy’s alien puppet in the shower,” Lars confessed haltingly between bursts of laughter. “We turned on the limbs and… and… didn’t tell… wahahahaha…”
The art chick shook her head and ducked into the restroom. A second later, the water was off and she was re-emerging.
“Nobody mentioned that Sandy does animated puppets, huh?” she asked Blaine.
“No,” Blaine said, suddenly working on a strong desire to throw something at Mason. Lars and Nate he didn’t really consider friends. Acquaintances more like. But Mason… “I know where you sleep,” he snarled at his supposed friend, and he hoped that he’d think of some kind of decent payback soon. It was maddening that Mason was still laughing.
“They’re idiots,” the artsy chick said, rolling her eyes. “I’m Silver.”
“Do you want to see the puppet? Sandy’s work is actually really good.”
“Thanks, no,” said Blaine, deciding that now was a perfect time to make that exit he’d been considering earlier. “I’ve seen it, outside the window. Amazing quality, getting the iris to expand and contract like that. And totally creepy goo material, whatever it was. Anyway, nice to meet you Silver. Lars. Nate.”
He nodded farewell, giving Mason one last ‘I’ll get you’ glare, and left. On his way out of the apartment complex he thought he saw a flash of light, but when he looked up the sky was its nighttime orange hue. He remembered how quiet Lars and Nate had gone when Mason had asked about the lights from the other night. Blaine hadn’t seen them either, but everyone was talking about it. He crossed the street and began his hike back to his dorm.
There was some lingering thing still bothering him about his encounter back there. Something that had remained off, though all was explained. He ran through it again as he walked, and realized it had been Silver. More specifically, the look on her face when he’d mentioned seeing Sandy’s work out the window. At first she had looked confused. Then her eyes had widened with realization, and that was the problem. Her eyes. He had seen one of those eyes before. And the movement coming from the restroom behind her as she stood there looking as if she were making a decision, that movement had not been the jostlings of a mechanized puppet, no matter how good Sandy’s skill at her craft.
He stopped and looked back at the apartment building, counting floors up to where Lars and Silver’s apartment was. At this time of evening most of the apartments were lit up, glowing slivers of student activity out onto the light like stacked television screens each on a different show. Where Lars and Silver’s apartment was, though, all was dark.
Written by W. C. McClure. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome at http://www.farsideofdreams.com. Also, please help support this indie author by buying W. C. McClure’s books http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!