's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" A Piece Of My Mind "

Submitted by Nausicaa Harris

I hate living in a duplex. I especially hate living on the top floor. Silly me, I hadn’t reckoned on the chance that my neighbors would turn out to be hard partiers, and, since they’re below me, the chance that whatever they’re doing down there to the ceiling would end up affecting my floor. I’ve tried to talk to them, but they laugh me off! I’m all, “Could you please limit that loud Gregorian chant music to daylight hours? Some of us have jobs to go to in the morning!” or “Look, I’m fine with you painting your ceilings gray-green, but could you try to use a paint that doesn’t soak upwards into my floors?” And they’re all, “Oh, sure, ma’am, disrespect our beliefs; how about you stop putting up Christmas decorations in freaking October?” First of all, I don’t know how I’m being disrespectful by asking them to adhere to the rules of good tenancy; second of all, my Christmas decorations are pleasant, coordinated, and tasteful; and third of all, I’m only thirty-five, not nearly a “ma’am” yet! They’re, what, fresh out of college? How much has changed in thirteen years! I didn’t think you got to “ma’am” until fifty! Maybe it’s something to do with the weird fashions they wear these days, with the long red robes and all. Pfah.

But what I really hate about living in a duplex is when they let their pets get out of hand. I distinctly remember there being a no-pets clause in the contract, but they keep bringing in more and more animals – actually, I don’t even know if I can call them animals anymore! They’re all squamous and rugose and mephitic and I-don’t-know-what; if you’re going to break your contract, can’t you at least have a nice dog or something?


Here’s an example: just last night, I’m sitting on my couch, relaxing with a Danielle Steele novel and some fresh strawberries from the farmers’ market, when the people downstairs start up their Gregorian chants again. Only three of them live there (Jerry, Violet, and Alexis – I at least remember their names, even if they can’t remember mine), but I swear, it sounds like they’ve invited over at least a dozen more. I spit out my strawberry as a tendril of smoke from their weird candles tickles my nostrils. I wouldn’t bet money on it (they keep coming out with new ones every day now), but I’m fairly sure that you can’t get Incense, Tallow, and Haddock from Yankee Candle Company. I sigh and roll my eyes, and get out one of my own wood-smoke candles to combat it, and put in my earbuds and dial up some relaxing instrumental music.

That doesn’t help. Are they killing cats down there or something? Something screeches, at any rate. Something which, a few seconds later, starts making a bulge in my floor.


An actual bulge.

In my actual floor.

Home improvements or illegal pets or whatever has gone too far. That’s definitely not in the contract. I stamp my foot, but before I can start downstairs to try to talk to the neighbors, whatever they’re doing smashes through my floor, shattering the floorboards and ruining the rug.

It’s one of their new pets, and it appears to still be standing on my neighbors’ floor, but its head brushes my ceiling. Its vaguely feline body is covered all over in ragged, patchy black feathers, coated in oil and grime, or ichor from the nether pits; red lights blink and pulse beneath its integument in patterns hinting at forbidden equations and cosmic secrets. Spiked tentacles, gray-green with a purplish sheen, whip back and forth, protruding from its back; looking down through the hole in the floor, I see a thick, feathered tail whip back and forth across its gray, birdlike feet. Its all-too-human hands seize me with lightning quickness, and its smooth-skinned yet twitchily-moving humanoid face leans in to inspect me, a grin split wide with a triple row of teeth. Its eyes are not humanoid at all, however, and burn with three different shades of colorless light in concentric rings. They seem to tear into me, flaying at the bounds of my mind, leaving it tattered and ragged. The monstrous sphinx hisses in a guttural whisper, “Another foolish mortal … and this one, not protected by any wards …

This is the last straw. “Go! Back! Down! Stairs!” I shout. “Look at this! You’ve shattered my floorboards, and you’re dripping … whatever that black goop is … all over my rug! What is this, black, red, gray-greeny-purple – octarine? – and burning absence of color?”

“Um, what?”

“None of this matches on you, let alone matches my décor! I have tried to maintain a pleasant balance of light white and gray, dark muted greens, and bright blues and yellows! Black and red are out of place here anyways, but the color out of space really messes with my color scheme! And your ragged feathers might be a nice contrast to lace curtains, but they’re too complicated for my plain linens, and it just looks aesthetically displeasing! And that smell of ozone and dark caves just overpowers the poutporri!”

“Please, mortal, I beg of you –”

“And those tentacles! You can curl them around dark wood or driftwood, but not around these light oaks! What are you oozing from those? That gray-green is going to stain! And your blazing fire eyes are burning holes in this rug, which was handmade, might I add! Plus, if you’re going to lash your tentacles about like that, you could have some consideration for where you lash them! You’re scratching up my walls and furniture!”

“Just stop, please!”

“And another thing–!” My just fury is cut off by the pet setting me down and disappearing into raw firmament. I kneel by the edges of the hole and yell down at my neighbors and their guests, but they’re all rolling on the ground with wild eyes and drooling mouths and don’t respond to any of my shouts. (Listen, I don’t care what you take to make your brain go bzzz as long as you do it quietly, but don’t try to deal with large animals when doing it!)

I stand back up and survey the damage. Scorched rugs, stained and torn furniture, a clawed and broken floor … I think you’ll agree with me that that’s going too far.

This afternoon, I’m going to go down to their door and really give them a piece of my mind!