Emerson jolted up in bed. Panting. Sweating. Blinking chaotically, trying with all her might to erase the image from her sight. She carefully pushed the heel of her right hand into her right eye as the room slowly started filling itself in.
It took a few moments of excruciating heart palpitations, but her vision finally came back. The tattered gray comforter had been violently pushed down to the end of the bed. The black steel bedframe caught it and the not-so-white sheets before they could meet the ground. The wall was a deep gray, half from the countless previous tenants and half from the midmorning gloom. A brown dresser sat snug against the wall at the foot of the bed. Well, a sorry excuse for a dresser really. A desk sat next to it and the front door followed close thereafter. There weren’t many pictures that adorned the walls, but the ones that did were crooked and all the glass had been dulled over with dust for quite some time. The queen-size bed took up the middle of the room. To the left, a window spanning the entirety of her humble studio apartment. To the right, the kitchen and bathroom. An exposed, dimming yellow bulb swung slightly as the trains outside blasted through this side of town. The cupboards were barely screwed into the walls, they had shaken loose over the years. She feared one might fall soon. The bathroom was also next to her bed. The mirror was dirty and broken. The sink had trails of brown and orange crawling up from the drain. The tap was perpetually tapping. Plnk. Plnk. Plnk.
Emerson slowly peeled herself from the bed to stand next to the window on her left. It was bleak outside. Living on the edge of New York City, it was a normal occurrence. Her apartment looked down on the train yard across the street. They came through every fifteen minutes or so and painted the sky a puffy gray or black, depending on the company. So, there wasn’t much to look at.
Emerson sighed as she pulled her eyes back to the room. A small clock read 6:47 AM on her desk. Rubbing her eyes again, she stutter stepped to the bathroom sink. She couldn’t remember the last time she had had a full night’s rest. It had become a routine to wake up in a panic and throw cold water on her face before it hit seven. And most nights she drank away the fear until two or three in the morning. The less time I’m asleep, the less I have to fear.
If only that was true.
She stared into the web of cracks that spawned from the bottom right corner. A drunken rage had done that. A few pieces were scattered on the tile below, no thanks to the trains. A yellow bulb flickered, dust sank down from the cracked ceiling, and hundreds of Emerson’s stared back at her. The dark circles under her eyes had grown, her eyes almost unrecognizable, being as bloodshot and tired as they were.
She shook herself from the staring contest and bent down, shoving her hands in the icy water. Closing her eyes, she brought them to her face. Her whole, boney body shook. It was freezing. She hadn’t paid the bills to get the heat back for a few months. The alcohol would warm her up instead. She put her hands back in the water and then back to her face.
Leaving the bathroom, she went to the kitchen to the stack of unopened letters that had accumulated on the counter. Shuffling through them, she sighed. Bills she couldn’t pay, a letter telling her to move by the end of the month, and a letter from her ex-husband telling her that while he still loved her, he couldn’t be with her until she quit the bottle. Tossing them back to the counter, she grabbed the half empty Jameson bottle and took a swig.
“He thinks I’m crazy. It’s not the bottle making me see what I do, I see what I see because it’s real.” She half-heartily laughed sitting at her desk. A dainty gold ring with a humble diamond sat next to the clock. She glanced at it as she took another drink.
He was great man, he still cared but he thought her to be crazy. Whenever Emerson had an episode, his anger grew more. Why couldn’t she be normal? It was the damned bottle. It poisoned her mind. He thought.
Emerson could never bring herself to hate him. But she knew what she saw. It was real. And he never believed her.
Every night, since she was little, The Man would be there. In her room. When she was little, she would crawl into bed and hear a wheezing breathing coming from under her bed. She never moved; in fear it might hurt whatever it was. She had hoped it was a puppy. She was sorely mistaken.
Eventually, as she got older, the wheezing became a chuckle. But it wasn’t happy, it was distorted and sinister. It sent chills up her spine. She always had her mother or father check under the bed for the source in the mornings as she stood back, fearing she might see a hand with claws grab one of them by the face and drag them to the unknown underneath. But they simply stood back up and patted her on the head, congratulating her on her active imagination.
And once she had met John, things got even worse. They would crawl into bed together at night, as married couples do. For a while there was nothing, and Emerson was relieved. But a few weeks into the marriage things took a turn. A hand would appear at the foot of the bed. Yellowish-gray and rotted, it would caress the covers as it searched for one of their feet. She would scream and scream until John woke and checked, but to no avail.
About a year into the relationship, she finally saw it. Or him. He was a tall man, about six foot seven if she had to guess. He wore a darker suit with a fedora type hat. From a distance he looked like a normal businessman. And then she saw his face. His eyes were abnormally shaped, the right one bigger than the left. There were no irises to them, just the black soulless pupils. His mouth was V-shaped forming a hideous smile only to reveal grotesque teeth. His nose protruded from his face in such an offensive way it almost balanced the smile. His fingers were long and pointy. He stood in the corner of the room and stared, humming a disturbing tune no one would know.
That was the day John stopped. The day Emerson felt her life ended. When her drinking became a bigger problem than it had been. Normally, when her and John were together, she would only have one or two before bed every night. Claiming it would help her to sleep better if she drank. But that day was the day that she began going to the drink for comfort. The weeks after that she began as soon as she woke up in a fit. Those weeks were a blur for her. And by the end of the month, John was fed up and done. He had left her mentally and emotionally that fateful day, but by month end she came back from the liquor store to an empty apartment and the letter from the counter was on the bed.
I love you, but your heart favors another. Whether it’s the bottle or this thing you see, I don’t know. But until you favor yourself or us, I can’t be here Emmy.
He was the only one to ever call her Emmy. And a normally endearing name hurt so much then. “Bullshit.” She muttered in tears. “Flat out bullshit. ‘Til death do us part’ bullshit.”
It had been over a year now. She picked up the ring and admired it, setting down the bottle. The diamond slightly glinted in the light. It needed cleaning. It hadn’t moved since that day. She took it off and set it on the desk, picking up the bottle instead.
As she admired it, a tune she didn’t know came from behind her. It was raspy, with a slight whistle. She whipped around to find the source, but there was nothing. No man stood in the room. She put the ring down without turning around and went to the door, hoping it had been someone outside in the hall, but she heard nothing. She checked the clock. Eight AM. No one would be up at eight on a Saturday and she knew it.
She turned back to the room and caught a slight shadow disappear into the bathroom. Fear and anger surged through her body. She had to end this and she knew it. It’s ruined everything. My husband left me. The bottle does nothing. My life is ruined. She approached the slightly closed bathroom door, put her hand on the door and thrust it open. Nothing.
Emerson put her hands on her head and began pulling her brown hair. Tears streamed down her face, reality setting in. It wasn’t just in bed she was being attacked anymore. This was too far.
“Show yourself you fucking monster!” She screamed. She turned back to the room. A rope sat on the dresser that hadn’t been there before. She stared for a moment and hurriedly began looking around for the man. Finally she turned back to the bathroom. Nothing. Still fucking nothing. When she turned back around, the rope was tied to the ceiling ending with a noose and the desk chair faced her directly under it. And then she saw it.
In the corner by the window his yellowish gray flesh was decorated with gaping holes. The suit was pristine and the hat perfectly in place. The wheezing breathing from when she was a child was all she heard. He didn’t move, not even blink. They were locked in this staring contest. But when she blinked, he was gone, but the noose wasn’t.
The police chief and John stood outside the apartment. John had asked for a wellness check, having not heard from Emerson in over a year. The landlord had given the police chief a key at the front desk to let themselves in if need be. Neither of them knew what was on the other side.
Her feet swung three feet from the ground. The desk chair lay next to her shadow on the floor, obviously kicked out from underneath. There were empty bottles filling the trash can. There was one half gone bottle on the desk. The bed was not made. The bathroom was in disarray. The kitchen was falling apart. John and the police chief stood in the room in horrified awe. Tears welled in Johns eyes as he looked at his blue wife.
“I’m gonna be sick,” clasping his mouth, John ran out. The police chief walked to the desk looking for a note only to find an engagement ring on top of a letter dated from a year ago. “I love you but your heart favors another.” The chief, careful not to touch anything, stepped back out to call for help to clean up the scene.
Emerson hung alone now. She slightly turned as the chief was waiting for backup. The air was still. Nothing moved. A train sounded off in the distance.
And while the train sounded all that was left for the corpse to hear was the small raspy tune that mirrored a child’s tune. The voice was raspy and whistly, but the words rang clear.
Emerson woke up in the morn-ning.
Emerson drank again.
Emerson woke up in the morn-ning.
And now Emmy is dead.