Cleaning up the mess left behind by her drunken friends, Sara swayed in her own inebriated state. The party had lasted eight hours, with everyone in costume and good cheer. She’d dressed as an angel and was now regretting it due to how cold the apartment was. She’d been forced to open the sliding glass doors to air out the smell of cigarette smoke, and the chill of the night had crept in like a burglar.
“Stupid Halloween…” she mumbled.
Her friend Marge had put her up to throwing the party, as a way of getting over her latest break-up with Stephen. The on again/off again relationship had been burning hot for the last year and a half, but as of late the embers had been dying out.
She’d sent him packing a week ago, with the order to never come back. He’d cussed her out, sworn up and down, and even threatened her. A call to the police had gotten him a night in jail, which had calmed him down.
Now, she stood emptying ash trays over the balcony into the night air, bundles of trash tied up in plastic hefty bags stacked high for disposal in the morning.
A bump in the apartment made Sara turn to look back, eyes wide. She glanced at the front door, still closed and locked. Part of her was worried her ex would try to barge in on her life. While he wasn’t big, he had muscle, and a gun collection that put most militias to shame. If got the inclination, he could be a threat.
Sara walked back into her apartment and locked the deadbolt on her front door, just to calm her nerves. Looking at the clock, she sighed.
“Happy Halloween indeed,” she said as she spied the hands landing at three in the morning.
Another bump caught her attention, which gave her pause. It sounded as if something was pushing its way through her walls, something heavy and clumsy.
Walking into her bedroom, she looked around. The modest bed was lit up by strings of Christmas lights over the headboard, a side table with the latest Tom Clancy novel dog-eared and a glass of water decorating the surface. Her bathroom door was closed, which wasn’t unusual. She would close it at night as the dripping of the shower would often keep her up.
She almost turned to head back into the living room when another bump, this time louder, echoed from the bathroom. It sounded as if something heavy had fallen onto the tile, and a thud against the door made Sara think of a log falling in the woods.
“Hello?” She called out.
Instead, there was a scuffling within the darkened bathroom, and an oozing of water coming out from under the door. Sara stared in fascination, morbid curiosity overcoming her dread.
“Did the pipes burst…?” She asked, stepping forward to go investigate. The apartment building was old, and it didn’t seem as alien an idea as she would have thought ten minutes ago. Her bathroom had seen some abuse tonight, so who knew what all the party-goers had done to the pipes?
Stopping at the door, she paused when she heard a wet splash in the bathroom, the sound a beached fish would make as it flopped in search of new water to swim through. Sara shook the image from her mind, and instead opened the door.
Flicking on the light, Sara let out a shriek as a hand wrapped around her ankle. Half emerged from the toilet bowl was a thin old man, wrinkled and naked, glistening with sludge from the pipes. His angular face and narrow limbs made him look like a waterlogged scarecrow, yellowed teeth irregular and crooked. Wide blue eyes stared madly up at her as his feet unfolded from within the toilet bowl, cracking and popping back into place.
The man said nothing, but breathlessly began to wheeze as he reached up with another gnarled hand, jagged fingernails dragging across her skin. His rancid stink filled Sara’s senses, and his long nails tore at her flesh, pulling back her skin where it could reach.
Sara kicked at the man, but his grip was surprisingly strong, and she instead fell backward with a grunt. Bloody from the nails, she screamed as the old man bit her ankle, loose teeth sinking into meat with wild abandon.
A loud crash from behind distracted the old man, who tore his mouth away from Sara fast enough to leave three bloody teeth embedded in her ankle. He hissed at something over her shoulder before Sara’s hearing was shocked into deafness. A ringing noise overtook her hearing, but the old man’s face burst open in a shower of gore that left him twitching. A calloused hand grabbed her arm and drug her back, away from the nude figure.
Looking up, she stared into Stephen’s eyes, the smell of cheap whisky mixing with his Old Spice cologne. Not knowing what else to do, she hugged him, and he hugged her back. She knew he hadn’t come to save her, but she didn’t care.
For now, she was safe.