's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Vacuum Hour

Submitted by Corduroy G

Most days I would remember to wear earplugs during vacuum hour, however, sometimes forgetfulness gets the best of us, especially when vacuum hour happens to be at two in the morning. I’m not certain as to how the rest of my family can sleep through vacuum hour, with the distant clicks of the vacuum sucking up debris and bumping into doors and furniture and whatnot. Maybe I’ve always just been a light sleeper. Maybe my parents are just accustomed to sleeping through infants crying and the sounds of commotion from the outside world. Maybe my baby sister has always been used to vacuum hour, that it’s her own brand of a normal night’s sleep. Much to my chagrin though, its not my normal, as vacuum hour only became a thing about four years back. I didn’t really understand it much back then, and frankly, I still don’t really now, but it’s just the same amount of mundane existential confusion I get on a daily basis. We just allow stuff into our home at random hours; most of it is harmless, others we’re advised to stay away from. When the Neighborhood offers to clean your floors for free, you don’t ask questions, even if you’re not allowed to venture outside your room or even look at the thing cleaning your floors.

I haven’t ever been able to get a good look at the thing anyway, save for passing glances brought on by prepubescent, unbridled curiosity. When the vacuums were first deployed, my mother for my safety, locked my door every night. It was probably for the best, since I made it very apparent that I wanted to look at the vacuum, and she didn’t want me to end up like Uncle Josh when he was my age, and curiosity got the best of him when they first deployed toaster hour. He suffers from kinds of burns that I think somehow manage to go beyond third degree. It’s not a pretty sight, but not enough to deter the kind of stubbornness a 12-year-old can have.

How could I not have been curious? I would stay up late even on school nights just to hear the whirring come to life; excitedly waiting on edge as it would pass by my room, the faint outline of its hose sucking the carpet between the door frame’s gap. My imagination stirred so many possibilities that at some point I knew I just had to get an eyeful of it. So, one night I stayed up late as usual, only this time around 1:58, I crept towards my door. It was still locked, but what my Mother didn’t account for was the fact that the gap between my door and the carpet was big enough for a peeping eye to look out of into the hallway. My heartbeat quickened from adolescent rebellion as I heard the distant clicking kick on about two minutes later; finally, I would get to see it and tell everyone what it looked like!

I waited about 15 minutes for it to get to the upstairs hallway, as it always does. What I could see was limited from the dark, but the slow, clicking motion of several fingers brushing the carpet made itself known to me. I had to squint to really get a look at them. They were definitely organic, almost like human hands. Only these hands were much longer, like giant fingers stretched out from a taffy machine, moving and bending in ways I’ve never seen real fingers move before. It was like they could snap and articulate themselves to detect dirt, scurrying along like a mass of insect antennae to find what needed to be cleaned next. The popping noise was drowned out by a long, droning whir of air being channeled into a long, trunk-like vacuum hose from a direction I couldn’t see. The details were blurred; as I said earlier, I couldn’t get a proper look at all the things this creature had, but I know it had way too many of them. My eyes felt so strained just trying to stare at it, it was almost like it was impossible to properly grasp its entire being. Maybe it didn’t like to be starred at, and who could blame it? As it finally neared my door, I drew back, ducking behind my wall so it didn’t brush by my nose. I waited for a minute to pass before exhaling softly in relief, hearing it start down the hallway again to clean downstairs. I was feeling bold so I peered out the door crack again, only to see I wasn’t alone this time.

It was staring at me somehow, even if it didn’t have any eyes, like a rubbery, veiny mannequin head, devoid of any features. I felt my heart almost stop, as I knew somehow it was looking right at me, right into me. I didn’t account for the fact that its neck would be long enough to bend back so far and to the floor, but I suppose where it had many things, they were also all very long. To say it didn’t have any features would be doing it a disservice though, as it certainly did have a nose, if you could count the long, prehensile, and fleshy trunk that slowly reached out to brush my face ever so slightly. A feeling of indescribable dread filled me to the core, like I was in a dream where I suddenly fell and woke up. I was only left with those petrified emotions as it phased away from my sight, continuing on where it had left off to clean the house, as if I was a mere afterthought.

After that experience I learned to start wearing earplugs. Some things are just better when they’re out of sight, and even better when out of ear-shot. After all, the five-inch hose I’ve grown from my face since then, tends to writhe uncontrollably when listening to vacuum hour.