By Adam Griem
A building of ancient brick stood lopsided in the slums of Crown city. It had the color of rust mixed with a stained gold. Windows of heavy dark glass stood cracked and chipped. The roof of the building was tin. Rain poured from the fiery sky down upon the roof. It made a metallic pitter patter harmony. Ancient gutters constructed of aluminum groaned liked dying bulls as they struggled to channel the rushing river of water rushing of the slanted roof. Thirteen floors up of the twenty story tall building was a window lit by a dim yellow bulb.
Inside that room lit up in yellow, past the crumbling walls of the halls and up rotted stairs stood a man. He stood in his deep red boxers and dirty white robe. His dust-coated glasses covered his pale green eyes. The stumble of his chin led to his balding short cut hair. His limp lips trembled slightly. A build up of spit slid down his chin and onto his skinny chest. He stared straight forward, not flinching, even as a mosquito landed on his nose and fed.
He stood in the kitchen of a three-bedroom apartment. In one room no larger than a closet his child of three months slept silently. A miracle. In the other slightly larger room his wife lay in on their twin size mattress on the floor. Her hair was curled in pink rollers. She slept in a small black slip. Her red hair matted her damp face. The humidity of Crown City attacked everything. The glass of milk in the man's hand had begun to sweat as soon as the milk touched the glass. Now it struggled not to plummet to the floor as the man held on to it.
His name was Anthony Tobias. He had lived all his life in Crown City. He grew up near the outskirts in a little house with his father. He attended Crown City High where he met the only girl he ever had sex with. He married Laurie as soon as he was free from Crown City High. He went on as a garbage man. Now he stood on the cold tile floor of his seventy's style kitchen staring down at the cupboard under the sink. Above the sink was a half open window. Moths flew in and out as the pleased. Beyond that lie an ocean of black.
The cupboard slowly squeaked open and the shut again only a fraction of an inch every time. Anthony didn't dare move. He knew he had seen something. He knew he had. Anthony Tobias wasn't crazy. He wasn't one to hallucinate. He had his share of nightmares from what he had seen on the job but that was something else entirely. Anthony blinked quickly. He felt an itch blossom on his neck. He fought to ignore but instead concentrated on it. He slowly breathed. He couldn't miss it. He knew it was coming and he had to see it again.
Big drops of sweat slid down Anthony's forehead and down to his eyes. Anthony blinked again. It didn't help. Meanwhile, the itch on his neck screamed at him to be killed. Anthony felt his hand twitch. Maybe if it was quick, he thought. He moved his shoulder up and down to test it out. He might be fast enough. On the way back he might even be able to get rid of the sweat trying to blind him.
He hand whipped out like a talon of eagle and he raked his neck. Instantly the itch died like a fire doused in water. Anthony brought the back of the same hand to his eyes and wiped away the warm heavy sweat. The cupboard door creaked. Anthony froze like a picture. He crouched down slowly. The door stopped moving. Anthony stopped breathing. Slowly the door started to reverse. Anthony lunged forward to grab the door. It slammed shut. Anthony's open palm smacked against the cheap plywood.
Anthony slowly got up. There was obviously something in the cabinet, something that wanted to be left alone. Anthony was not a man of patience though. He turned to the kitchen doorway. There was a gun in a small shoebox high up in the closet. If he had that he would at least feel safe when he opened the cabinet. As he walked away he heard a creaking again. Anthony whirled around. This time the door opened about six inches. From murky black of the cupboard something extended. Anthony forced himself to breath. A small red hand reached out into the light. The skin looked like leather. It was red like a stop sign. It was no bigger than a two year olds arm. It had the appropriate five fingers, each tipped with one inch long black nails. A small slender pointer finger stretched out from the balled up fist and motioned for Anthony to approach.
Anthony whirled around and ran out into the hallway. He ripped open his closet door and jumped up. As he came back down he grabbed the shoebox. A small black revolver fell from the box and onto the stained carpet. Anthony cursed and snatched up the firearm. He ran back into the kitchen. The cabinet door was closed.
Anthony fell to his knees in front of the cabinet and with one arm pointed his gun at it. Slowly, with his other hand, he reached out and grabbed the door. Slowly and carefully he pulled the door open. The light from the low performance kitchen bulb ate its way into the blackened inside. All that lay inside were dripping rusted pipes. Dust coated everything like paint. Other than that, there was nothing. Anthony's shoulder drooped. He lowered the gun.
Slowly he stood up. He shook his head. He turned to the kitchen table and grabbed up his now warm milk. He guzzled it down and slammed the glass back down in frustration. He was losing it. His time in the god Forbidden City was finally wearing off on him. He walked up to the light switch and flicked it off. As he walked away he heard a creaking sound coming from the kitchen. Anthony Tobias froze.