Written and Performed by Nate Metz
Edited by Richard Childers
A Stove Leg Original
October 9th, 2017
Chicago in Autumn- it’s hard to beat. The lakefront weather hasn’t totally kicked in, and I can hide my scrawny biceps beneath long sleeves without getting too hot. Indeed, it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Hi, my name is Thomas Charity, but my friends back home in Connecticut call me Thom- you pronounce it like, “Tom,” but I like keeping the “H” in there- it makes it unique. Anyway, I’m a writer who just moved to the big bad Windy City. It isn’t nearly as bad as everyone back east told me it would be. This is my first day in my new apartment on Wacker Drive, and I wanted to journal everything about my transition from eastern time to central time, I mean, they say that writing is a muscle, right? I doubt I’ll write in this blog every day, but it’ll be a good way to help keep my mind sharp. If there’s one thing for certain, all of this has to do with my crippling fear of being a one hit wonder.
That’s right, I’ve had one, sort of, hit in my very short career. I’ve written three novels, but I’ve published only one, and after a viral showing, I’ve made about a hundred grand from my writing. I always thought that my first two were better than the third, but that was the one that brought home the bacon. This qualifies me as some 27-year-old big shot for the year 2017, but I know that this money won’t last forever. I’ve got to nail down my next big hit soon, otherwise I’ll have to get back to the nine to five grind, and there is no way that I want to go back to working for a living. Plus, since I’ve already moved into the big city, having to move somewhere else would be a huge step down, and I don’t want all of my family and friends to be asking questions. What business is it of theirs? Anyway, this is my blog, and this is where I’ll document my transition to Chi-town.
October 11th, 2017
The only noteworthy encounter of the day was meeting the woman whose door is catawampus from mine. My unit is probably smaller than the other two in my corridor, but I have the view. The view of downtown is like a performance enhancing drug to my writing, and if there is one thing that the city of Chicago is good for, it’s PEDs, although, I don’t suppose my Yankees are much more innocent. I was coming back from meeting a girl I matched with on a dating app for lunch (notice what I wrote about only having one noteworthy encounter today) when I saw an old woman carrying some groceries down the hall in front of me. She stopped in front of a door in the hallway with a large cursive “J” on it- the same corridor as mine. I helped her open the door and assisted her to her doorstep. She was maybe 5’3 if she were to stand upright, but the hunch in her back brought her to below 5 feet. She had eyes that were dark as night, and she spoke with a harsh Eastern European accent. Her name was Katarzyna, and I had to have her spell it out for me to know what her name actually was. She invited me for dinner tomorrow, I assured her I’d be there. Let’s just hope she doesn’t cook up some sheep’s head, or something.
October 12th, 2017
Well, thankfully Katarzyna didn’t make boar’s head or whatever I was afraid she’d make. I found out that she’s Polish. Her apartment unit was slightly larger than mine, cluttered with paperback and hardcover pieces of literature. Some I recognized – Dostoevsky and Koestler stuck out to me. I always told myself that I’d be able to write a political novel one day, but with the way the world is right now, I don’t see that happening any time soon. The meal she made was essentially polish sausage over peppers and onions. Despite how simple it was, it did not lack in taste. She mentioned that this was her favorite meal, and making it took her back to her childhood. I could tell those were bittersweet memories by the way she moved on quickly after bringing it up.
Our conversation turned to my career. I told her that I was a novelist, and her dark brown eyes ignited. She asked me about my writing, my inspirations, and my future plans. I told her that the book that really put me on the map was a thriller. She laughed when I told her this, and the conversation took an almost eerie turn. She mentioned that the scariest stories are not the ones that we read or see in the movies, but rather the ones that live in our own heads. The little shadows moving in the corners of dark and empty rooms, the random bump in the night, the fragments of insanity that we convince ourselves to be true. I decided to change topics, as the conversation was getting a little too dark for I think either of our enjoyment. I asked about our other neighbor, whom I had yet to see in my first week of being in the new place, thinking that was going to be a lighter conversation. Things only got more cryptic. She told me to ignore him, mostly, and how he won’t leave you alone if he gets a good look at your… eyes? I wasn’t sure if this was just a poor translation, or what. Either way, the fantastic meal and white wine are starting to make me nod off. Until next time.
October 14th, 2017
Things got weird today. I woke up at 3:25 this morning. Sometimes I sleep lightly when I drink, nothing out of the ordinary. What was out of the ordinary was what I heard that woke me. I heard a door open and shut. Is this my other neighbor? Or is someone trying to break into one of our apartments? I got up and grabbed my baseball bat. I opened my door and fumbled in the hallway for the living room light switch. I heard a train whistle in the distance, I could feel my palms starting to sweat. Wincing at what I might see in my room, I turned on the light. Nothing. Everything was exactly where I had expected it to be. I walked to the peephole in my front door, resting my palm against its heavy black wood. Was Katarzyna up this early in the morning? I peered through the peephole, and to my surprise, a bald man stood outside of Katarzyna’s door. He didn’t seem very hostile, he just stood there. He was scrutinizing the paint like a Russian judge watching an ice-skating routine. Is this our other neighbor? I had so many questions, but I was too creeped out to open the door and ask anything- especially at that hour. A few minutes later, when I went back to check and see whether or not he was still standing out there, he was gone. I didn’t hear the noise of a door opening and shutting like what woke me, just a dimly lit hallway. I’m probably just letting the crime rate in Chicago get to me. My heart was pounding, but the palpitations have slowed. Writing this has made me sleepy again.
October 18th, 2017
I decided to take a trip to East Lansing, Michigan this coming weekend. I was just a little spooked by that odd man that I saw through the spyhole on my door, figured that a weekend with some old college friends would do me some good. My friends are finishing their doctorates at Michigan State, and now that I live within driving distance of them and have some time on my hands, I can visit them again. I’m going to take a quick break from this blog and focus on having a good time with my friends this weekend. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find a good Midwestern girl to invite down to Chicago. It gets lonely sometimes. I feel as if I’m doing well, the book certainly didn’t hurt my finances, but once that runs out… if I don’t follow up with another hit I’m just a has-been. No girl wants to go home with a has-been. At least being an outright failure would have had some weird sensual charm to it, always failing and trying again and again. Sometimes I wonder if the success I’ve been given is like a time bomb. Writing this down has simply proven to myself that a weekend away from writing is just what the doctor ordered.
October 22nd, 2017
I came back from Michigan today thinking I had cleared my head. All of that went out the window when I saw paramedics loading what seemed to be a small body into the back of an ambulance outside of my apartment building. Upon arriving to my hallway, I realized exactly who the, presumably dead, body was – Katarzyna. I noticed that a few paramedics and a police officer were chatting in her apartment, with the door cracked open. I knocked and poked my head inside to ask what happened to her. The lone officer mentioned that it was nothing for me to be worried about, that she went peacefully. I turned to leave when I noticed that her peephole was covered with black electrical tape. Odd. I also heard the group in the apartment mention that she’d been there for a few days. Could she have passed away because of that man outside of her door? Or was that just a coincidence? The man wasn’t intruding, he was just… standing there. It all seemed so strange, but now I think I know what I’ll be writing about for my next novel. I got wind from my agent that Arrowhead Publishing has a 50,000 dollar advance with my name on it if I can provide them with a “good start” in the next 6 months, it’s time for me to start focusing on putting something down on paper that isn’t this blog. It’s been weeks since I’ve written anything substantial. I’m sure I’ll be back to writing in this to salvage some of my sanity, especially if anything else weird happens out in the hallway.
November 3rd, 2017
Halloween has come and gone, but no more mysterious visitors. I don’t hear any random doors open. I don’t hear any strangers roaming through the night. Mostly nothing. I’m still trying to gain inspiration for this start on my next book, but the words don’t seem to be sticking. It was only one scary moment in my life- hardly enough to base an entire novel on. I’ll try to write my way through it. Something’s got to give.
December 14th, 2017
Still nothing, but I think my luck may be turning. I heard a door open in my hallway at 3:25 again this morning. I woke up, and almost eagerly went to the peephole to see if my neighbor, or whomever, was coming back from a late night bender. When I looked through the hole in the door, I realized that someone had turned the lights off completely. No light shone in at all from the outside. I didn’t even think there was a way for anyone to turn the lights off in these hallways, but I guess I was wrong. No sign of the guy, still, but I’m going to find him. I’ve got to find out more- my clock is ticking on this advance.
January 29th, 2018
Christmas is over, and the new year is here. January is just as brutal in Chicago as I had been told. More weeks have gone by and I still haven’t gotten anything worthwhile done as far as my writing goes. I’ve spent my days exercising, going on shallow online dates, and hitting the bars every now and then with my friends. It’s so hard to write something thrilling when life is so mundane. Sometimes in the middle of the afternoon, I’ll hear someone come into the hallway, and when I go to the peephole, the lights are turned off again. I wonder if someone is playing a prank on me. There are 4 million things to do in Chicago, can’t they find something better to do than turning the hall lights off on me? One thing is for certain- I will get this writing done by March. I’m growing restless about it. It’s driving me up the wall.
March 23rd, 2018
Still no writing done. Just this stupid blog, but this is going to be my last post for a while. I’ve been up all night. It’s very early in the morning, and I heard the door to my hallway open and shut. I’m catching this bastard. I have to. I have to figure out what he wants- what he’s doing. I need to find something for my story. I have to.
March 23rd, 2018
Today was the day. I decided to open the door. I decided to go after the mystery man. As I opened my door, the door to the main hallway was closing. I followed him down the stairwell. Through the lobby, keeping a safe distance. I watched him as he went through the revolving doors and onto Wacker Drive. I entered the revolving doors. No going back now. The hairs on my arm pricked up as the chilly winds of March rushed over me. I took one step outside, when I saw him. Staring back at me. His brown trench coat shimmered in the glow of the early morning street light. His face, pale, and his eyes… black. I must have just seen them in the wrong lighting, but they looked like two magic eight balls staring back at me. Either way, I was caught. I jumped back in the revolving doors, as he took two quick steps toward my direction. The elevator was at the lobby, so I hit the button and scampered into the lift. The door seemed to sit open for an eternity as the bald fellow in a faded fedora and trench coat made his way through the revolving entrance. Patiently and deliberately, he closed in on me. I mashed the close door button. The elevator doors sealed up with the man still ten feet away. I was terrified as I watched the elevator tick up floor after floor, eventually reaching the 16th. For some reason, I had a gut feeling that he would be waiting for me when the door opened. I winced as the door slid open to an empty hallway. I knew I didn’t have much time to lose. I darted to the right, headed about forty feet down the hall before turning into my own corridor.
Inside I turned the deadbolt, grabbed my baseball bat, and cleared my apartment. Checking every closet, nook, and cranny of my domain. I turned back to the peephole, and saw that someone had turned the lights off yet again. Whatever – even if this guy has been messing with me this whole time, at least I’m safe in my apartment with my doors double locked and my windows 16 stories off the ground. I’m ok. I am ok.
March 24th, 2017
I am most definitely not ok. This morning I woke up, after what seemed to be a good night’s rest. I went downstairs, discussed to my property manager that someone was messing with me, and how I thought it might be my next door neighbor. She informed me that no one had lived in that unit for three and a half years. This made my blood boil. So many questions. Still no book written. I was a nervous wreck heading up the stairs, wondering who or what was staking out my hallway, and why? I made it to my doorway when it hit me. Katarzyna told me that this man never leaves you alone if he gets a good look at you. But he hasn’t had a good look at me, right? Then, at 3:25PM, I heard the hallway door open, and sure enough, someone had turned the lights off again. This time I stared back, hoping to see something move or trip in the darkness. It seemed like I was there for half an hour, in reality, it was only about a three minute wait. At the end of that three minute stare down with the blackened hallway, I saw a little light begin to peer into the corner of the peephole, and I watched in horror as the bald man, eyes blacker than death, backed away slowly from the peephole. What in God’s name was he doing? He walked through the hallway and out of the door.
After he had been gone for a while, I decided to look through my peephole from the outside. Fearing the worst, I peered in the hole. I could see the entire front room of my apartment. That’s why Katarzyna had her peephole taped off. She told me never to let him get a good look at my eyes and he’s had an up close view this entire time, so I’d say that’s out of the question.
If Katarzyna’s story comes true, he will never leave me alone. He’ll never leave me alone. He will never. Leave. Me. Alone. I think I just heard the hallway door click again. This has to end.