Fred moved into the apartment in early September. It was a simple place, not much to write home about. Still, he tried to tout the benefits of being on his own to Lily, requesting her to visit as soon as she was able, but he knew the six-hour drive away from the city would be a hurdle to overcome and she was still immersed in her studies.
Mostly the apartment was just barren and devoid of any life or personality. Other than a large long-dead stained patch over the toilet that the landlord assured him had been taken care of and that looked old, the rest of the apartment was just a white blank slate. It was too bad Lily and he couldn’t add color to the canvas of this home together. Give it time, he thought. It’s part of the plan.
He had finally found a reasonable job and taken it. The competition here was not as harsh and he felt his skills were more in need in the backwash anyway. The city was pretty progressive but he didn’t have the 2-3 years under his belt that he needed to make anything of himself. Not yet anyway. But there was a desperate shortage of therapists and counselors rurally. He could make the biggest difference here. Still, it was going to be awful lonely. He sighed.
The next few months dragged on. Lily and he talked and texted constantly. He had begun to make a little bit of a name for himself, especially helping those struggling with addiction. There was a large need; group therapy only did so much, and not everyone fit the standard mold for treatment. Fred considered the limitations of the deeply religious community influence which impacted the groups even more than where he had come from. He tried to provide alternatives to those who were turned off by this.
Lily’s first visit was over the long Thanksgiving weekend. She had wanted to come sooner, but there was a major exam over the previous holiday and she couldn’t get away. Still, they were grateful for the time that they had, and they made sure not to waste it.
After the first night of unbridled passion after the three-month hiatus from physical contact, Fred found himself called to the bathroom at 3 AM. As he stood at the toilet, something caught his attention.
He hadn’t bothered to turn on the overhead light, not wanting to wake Lily, and he couldn’t make anything out in the darkness.
He looked down but the dim light revealed nothing. He filed it away in the back of his mind to take up with the landlord in the morning and returned to bed.
The next morning, Fred studied the toilet. There were indeed some dark brown spots on the floor beside it. He was certain they were not of his making. they almost looked like old dried blood. He looked up and was taken aback. The stained region was fresh, and it had grown. The musty smell of old decay began to set in. And it was dripping.
Lily stared at the stain. Something about it seemed to upset her even more than it should have. She was unnerved and didn’t want to linger in its presence. Then again, women are always more squeamish about these kinds of things, Fred considered to himself. There was something rather offputting about it though, especially given how quickly it had sprung to resurrected life.
The landlord was of little help. A prudish elderly man, he sized Lily up as soon as he showed up, glancing back and forth between her and Fred. “You know you’re not supposed to have guests unannounced,” he declared.
“My apologies,” Fred answered, trying to mend the rift in the weighted air between them. “This is my fiancée Lily. She’s here for the long weekend.”
The landlord raised an eyebrow. “Long weekend, eh? Just remember, there’s a two-week limit on how long any one person can stay without their being on the lease. And I don’t change my leases. Keeps things quiet around here; I’m too old for any drama.” He bowed his head slightly to Lily in a well-rehearsed gesture of gentlemanly propriety and turned towards the attic door at the end of the hall.
The landlord allowed Fred to follow him upstairs. It seemed the door in the ceiling that led to the attic was unlocked or that the landlord didn’t bother with it. There were only two units up here and no one would have reason to go up there. Fred’s only neighbor, a diminutive middle-aged woman named Debra, kept to herself; he suspected she couldn’t even reach this door if she wanted to. And the landlord lived downstairs alone. It was just the three of them. So there was no real need to lock it.
They made their way over to the corner above Fred’s apartment. The musty odor grew stronger as they approached but there was no evidence of anything being amiss. The roof was intact. The insulation was clean. The attic was dry and dusty as was expected. The landlord shrugged. I’ll put a coat of Killz over it. That’s all I can do for now. My daughter’s cooking for the holiday; they pick me up at 10.”
The smell of wet paint masked the stain but Lily wasn’t convinced. “I dunno about this place,” she said, shuddering.
“It’s only a six month lease,” Fred said. “It’s up in February. We’ll get a better place after that, someplace we can share. Together. I’ll have a better lay of the land by then.”
“Alright I guess,” Lily glanced again at the ceiling.
Over the weekend, the staining emerged slightly from beneath the drying paint, like rust creeping through to oxidize in the exposed air. It restabilized at about the point where it had originally been, when Fred had first moved in. Lily left and went home. The musty smell subsided and the stained patch dried to a dull muted distant discoloration. Fred shrugged it off to the Killz and to time and went on about his life. He had bigger things to worry about.
Lily returned over the December holidays. The semester was over and exams were in; she was free for the week between Christmas and New Years. The end was becoming clearer every day. One more semester and she was done, and Fred would be a half-year closer to the three-years experience he needed for them to move back…
About half a day into her week-long stay, the stain reemerged from its dormancy.
Although it had seemed like a blessing at first, unfortunately the landlord was away for the week. So was the neighbor Debra. Fred and Lily had the place completely to themselves.
Fred went to the local hardware store and bought a gallon of Killz so he could recoat the stained region himself, but it kept bleeding through, more and more forcefully as the days swept by.
On day four, the stain began to cascade down the wall in the corner, pooling at the floor and threatening to overtake the bathroom corner. The smell of decay became pervasive, as if a squirrel or a rat had died deep within the wall someplace.
Lily was horrified and did as much as she could to avoid the bathroom. She even began making twice-daily trips to the grocery store to use their facilities, using the apartment bathroom only when no other options were available.
“We can’t stay here,” Lily sobbed. “It’s disgusting.”
“I know. I’m sorry. It’s a small town,” Fred exclaimed despairingly. “The nearest hotel is an hour away and I have clients lined out and group on Tuesday. I need to be here for them. The holidays are a rough time and I have two people on suicide watch as it is.”
He checked the attic again. Nothing. He applied yet another coat of Killz. He even put down towels to sop up the seepage, knowing full well that said towels would need to be destroyed later. But nothing helped.
On the sixth day, Lily rose from bed at 2 AM desperately needing to go to the bathroom. Her constipated innards were a mess from the constant stress of trying not to go and the floodwalls were coming down. She had no choice. She ran into the bathroom and leapt upon the toilet in the darkness, trying not to wretch as her slipper caught in something sticky that had enveloped the base of the commode.
Fred woke to Lily screaming. He ran into the bathroom and flicked on the light but she wasn’t there. There was no sign of her. Just the gooey stain-soaked corner leached up against the toilet. He looked up at the ceiling and noticed that it was bulging. The ceiling was stretched taut over a lump and it was moving… Something was trapped in there!
Fred raced up to the attic. The area above the toilet was obviously swollen, almost to the point where it appeared transparent. A vague female silhouette scraped at the outgrowth to no avail, a shadow flickering away to darkness. Fred darted over to the form. It was oozing sticky pus-like sap, hardening as it began to recede back into the attic floor. He tore at the form, flinging insulation and shouting. “Lily!”
The bulge continued to dwindle and grow more and more faint. The stickiness subsided. The insulation became drier chaff that dissipated to dust as it was flung. As the bulge withdrew into the attic floor without a trace, Fred raced downstairs again.
His apartment was quiet. Too quiet. The stained patch in the bathroom had receded to its seemingly long-dead dormant state. There was no sign of his fiancée or of the horrors they had borne witness to over the last two days. Everything was static.
For another horrific tale of living conditions gone awry, check out The Portal here on Haunted MTL. Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.