"s 2015 Horror Write-off:

"The Roommate"

Submitted by Rahkshasarani

Look, I'll just come right out and say it: none of us are really in the right. I mean, there were six of us in the same apartment. Most of us weren't even on the lease. But we all made a decent effort to chip in, you know: if you couldn't help with dinner you cleaned, if you couldn't clean, you ponied in some extra cash, etc.

And then there was Ted.

Do you ever have someone you just kind of inherit into your friends group? He's not really a friend, you just kind of let him hang around because it would be too much effort to kick him out?

That was Ted. We weren't even sure what his full name was, or what his job was, or where he got money(more on that later.) He would pick up a few things and put them down again, that was “cleaning.” He would shuffle his feet when it came time to pay rent, only squeaking in at the last minute with a wad of cash. Dude also had kind of a high opinion of himself, like, could not let a conversation pass without butting in and adding his two cents. But the weirdest part of all is the food thing.

Back up: we're all starving college students at this point. It's an egalitarian arrangement: if you're making dinner, maybe make enough for other people. If you get fast food, be prepared to give up some fries. Share and share alike.

Ted never once paid for food, never brought anything edible to the apartment. But the second you cracked a bag of chips, he would be there, nosing in, hoping to take his fair share.

He wasn't overweight. In fact we used to joke about where he stored all the food, since he never got thicker than a tomato stake. But he ate enough for all of us and then some. It was almost like a compulsion. If you were cooking food, he had to, had to have some. And if he didn't, he would throw regular tantrums. He would stomp around and get us in trouble with the downstairs neighbors, or he'd monopolize the bathroom for a few days. It just became more convenient to give him the lion's share of any meal than bear the whining.

Yeah. Like I said: poor college students. Desperate. Probably weak from hunger.

What brought the sea-change about was really a small thing: our roommate (let's call her J) got a girlfriend.

J and D were the only ones on the lease, so they were probably the only ones who could get away with adding another person to the mix. J's girlfriend was actually pretty nice, really quiet and an interesting conversationalist. So J would bring her by often and we had no objections.

Fast forward to one Saturday. We're having a lazy weekend, hanging out, watching movies. J's girlfriend comes over. And she brings takeout.

We all kind of unconsciously tensed.

Ted had been in the room he shared with F, but he smelled that food and was out like a shot. It was kind of comical. He came to stand right by where J and her girlfriend were sitting, sniffing and smacking his lips with an expectant look on his face.

After a few minutes, J's girlfriend asked him to please stop, that was really off-putting.

Ted deflated. That's the only word for it. He watched every bite that went into her mouth like a dog. Really creeped them out. Then he stomped back to the room and slammed the door. Whiny nu metal blasted through the apartment a second later.

The next day, Ted marched out to the den and gave a speech, arms crossed and back to the couch where J sat, about selfish people bringing food into a shared area and making other people uncomfortable. J told him to leave her girlfriend alone and just buy a goddamn sandwich.

Weird as it was, it broke the spell over us. That night, F made a big pot of mac 'n cheese and wouldn't let Ted take a single bite until he washed some plates. Ted “accidentally” ended up breaking three of them, but F held firm. We stopped letting him share our lunches. We tried to make him go shopping, but instead he sat on the ground and refused to take the money.

“You guys are starving me,” he would accuse us, like we were his wardens or something.

D would remind him that he was free to live somewhere else and gather his own food. Well, D was on the lease, so Ted couldn't push it any further with him.

So he started stealing food.

You don't know the pain of waking up to find an entire pan of cupcakes completely devoured. Leftovers weren't safe from him. If you were preparing dinner, be prepared to stand guard over it, or he would have in all in his mouth in a flash, cooked or not. Offer him a bite, he would take half. If you confronted him about it, he would get really indignant.

“You didn't say I couldn't have that much!” he'd say. Award-winning logic.

It also seemed like he started eating more, just to spite us. We couldn't afford to eat at restaurants every night, so we tried to shop smart, get stuff that would store. F once caught him eating flour right out of the bag.

The final straw came memorial day. We decided to have a poor cookout in the park. You know, cheap wieners, cheaper beer, Frisbee golf. Typical college student bullshit.

Ted stood by watching intently as G turned the dogs. G ended up telling him to fuck off until they were done. Ted tried to play Frisbee golf, but we learned quickly that he wasn't a team player and left him to his own devices.

G slid the last dog onto a plate and opened his mouth to call out to everyone. He looked up and shut it again. We all exchanged a silent agreement in that moment. Everyone shuffled quietly to the table and accepted our dogs.

Ted must have been way far off, because we were almost finished by the time he finished playing with himself. He came out of the trees and saw us. He dropped the Frisbee. His face turned so red it was almost purple. And he charged.

Out of all the people he'd go after, we least suspected it would be D. D, in addition to being on the lease, was a pretty big guy. But Ted flew into him like a fucking missile and downed him. We all piled on, because if we lost D we would probably be homeless.

After we peeled Ted off of D, he stood up and knotted his hands into fists and started yelling about how greedy we were and how we were trying to starve him. We were assholes, bastards, and whores.

D, quite calmly, evicted him then and there.

Ted stomped off. Maybe he didn't believe it.

He tried to get in the car with F at the end of the day. F locked the doors and drove away. Ted arrived at the apartment after dark. We think he purposefully stayed out as long as he could to make us feel really sorry because it only took twenty minutes to walk home from the park. He had never had a key to the apartment so he begged to be let in. G told him to fuck off.

Ted wanted his stuff then. He wanted his stereo and futon.

G said, “you mean my stereo? And D's old futon?”

Ted said he'd tell the landlord. D chimed in and told him to go the fuck ahead, the landlord already knew and didn't care as long as they got the rent in on time.

Ted didn't say anything else. He just sat outside the front door and moaned all night. J tripped over him on the way to work the next morning. Ted tried to dash inside. Luckily G was right behind J and kicked him in the head. Ted held his head and cried about how hurt he was, until D came out and told him to get the fuck out or he'd call the cops. Ted left.

We had one of those post-breakup dinners that night. You know the kind where you and your friends just get years of grievances off your collective chest, talking shit without caring who hears you? We fixed a big pasta dinner and drank box wine and traded Ted stories.

Man, who was the unlucky stiff who had brought Ted home?

None of us could remember, but that might have been the boxed wine talking.

How had this fucker paid rent? Did he have rich parents who just emailed him wads of cash?

G spoke up, “you mean my cash?”

Turns out Ted had told G that D asked for everyone to give their money in lump sums, so Ted would collect G's half and add it to his own when it came. Only it never did.

D shook his head. Un-fucking-believable.

G said there was more.

He literally had never seen Ted do anything other than lounge in his futon all day. No job, no engagements. Ted would pick the dead, dry skin off his arms and eat it.

We were all pretty much done with dinner at that point.

It gets worse: G said Ted would chew in his sleep. Like, audible grinding noises, slurping, the whole deal. And he never believed it the next day. G was so desperate he considered smuggling something to record the sound when we kicked him out.

We all toasted to good riddance.

A week later, we noticed a cardboard box in this municipal ditch across the road. You could see it from the kitchen window. Someone had painted “look what you did” on the outside. We didn't have to see Ted to know he was living there. It creeped all of us out, to be honest. We lived on the fourth floor, though, what could he do?

Well, J's cat went missing right around then.

J searched through the whole apartment, but there wasn't a whole lot of places he could hide. She set out a bowl of food on the fire escape to lure him back. When the food went missing a few nights in a row, she got all hopeful. But then, one morning someone left a bloody package wrapped in newspaper on our doorstep.

It was bones and whiskers. The ends of the bones had been gnawed and marrow sucked out.

D got together a posse and led the charge to kick down Ted's shelter. They stomped the box and it went flat like there was no one in it. D pulled it apart. There were all these written notes: “feed me–or else!” “I'm coming for you,” and “you're next.” Ted's clothes, the one's he'd been wearing when we kicked him out, were rumpled on the sidewalk.

D had watched the shelter all day. He'd seen it move when Ted moved, hadn't seen anything leave. But there was no sign of Ted.

The only other thing was that the shelter was on this sewer drain. But even though Ted was not a solid guy, the drain was probably too slim to even fit a four-year old.

Well, we left it alone after that. D jammed the cardboard into the drain and forgot about it. Every once in a while, we'd have one of those “wow, remember this?” moments, but we just got used to life after Ted.

Since this is a story with college kids, you know it can't last forever. We all moved out at the end of a five-year lease, three of those Tedless. J was no longer with her girlfriend, and was moving back to her parent's town to study glass blowing. D had a job in the city. F was moving to an apartment with his girlfriend. G was welcome to crash, but first he wanted to explore the sewer around that storm drain. He had a cousin who worked for the city and had low work standards. We all called him an idiot, he called us losers, and we had our last group laugh.

G called F the next day and said he'd find other arrangements. He left the city and our lives.

Then the other day I saw him on the subway. He'd had a haircut and gained a few pounds, but I was still happy to see him. He wasn't unhappy...more reserved. He seemed like he'd had a troubled life since moving out. When I invited him to lunch, he seemed to want to refuse but couldn't think of an excuse.

We went to a bistro. I got tea and a sandwich. He got iced coffee and fiddled with the straw.

What had happened with him? How had he been? Why hadn't he stayed in touch?

G wouldn't look up from his coffee. I really wanted to hear about the sewer, didn't I?

I didn't deny it.

G sighed and started talking. Real quiet, so I had to lean in close so I wouldn't miss any of it because I had a feeling he wouldn't repeat himself.

The cousin had showed up late and drunk, G said, with about two other friends. Though he was kind of annoyed at first, it was probably good in the end to have more people.

They got lost because none of them could read a map, but eventually they reached the junction right below the storm drain.

There was Ted's second shelter.

G told me about the smell. How he could smell something besides the sewers, something that reminded him of fire ants. How big the shelter was, and how the walls were pasted with old magazine pages. Something had been clawing at the cardboard clogging the storm drain, but hadn't been able to remove it.

The cousin and his friends thought it was great fun, barreling through it like Godzilla. They tossed Ted's stuff into the sewer water, daring him to come out.

G kind of poked through the wreckage, but there was very little that was worth seeing. Ted had painted FEED ME onto the wall with...something. Best left to the imagination.

I finished my sandwich and he picked up his coffee and we walked to the station.

I asked if he was afraid that Ted would show up.

G shook his head. Whatever state Ted was in, he probably wasn't much of a threat.

The three guys were done kicking cardboard into the sewage and wanted to go. G had bent down to examine what looked like an old leather jacket, but he immediately agreed and they left the sewer at their leisure.

I asked, hadn't he been worried that Ted would follow after him and seek revenge?

G shook his head. He was on the train platform, waiting for the doors to open up. I wasn't going to see him again for a long time, so I had to hurry.

I asked how he knew.

G shrugged. The doors opened and he stepped on.

“Because,” he called back to me, “leather jackets don't have hair.”