He opened his mouth and a goddamn serenade burst forth. It filled the dank, windowless room, a melancholy violin to shake your head to, and a piano accompaniment keeps a steady pace. That’s when he began telling me the story of some hustler who fell in love with a man imprisoned for murder. Similar with the rest of his stories, it was dreadfully sad. But, it’s the way he tells it, as if he’s reciting from a book. Nonetheless, he sits there in the corner of the spartan room, hands on his knees, his head obscured by looming shadows and a glitchy body fading unpredictably.
Exactly two weeks was all I got in my new apartment before he moved in, without anyone’s fucking permission. Ghosts don’t need anyone’s fucking permission, after all. He referred to it as his old haunt, his favorite, his beloved home. For several days he’d simply stand and stare at the new lightbulb I’d installed. He hated it, he said. I would stare at him while he did that, admiring his infinite ink scribbles which formed his body, his featureless face, his silhouette that lacked precise detail.
The first story he told me was about a writer who realized he was slowly going insane. He didn’t ask me if he could narrate it, he just began. I had to close my laptop and listen to him tell the long and detailed story, because if there’s one thing I can never say no to, it’s a story.
Even on that first day, I could feel it. My stomach was lighter, I was feeling fatigued, hungrier, more lonely. He didn’t inform me what was happening back then. I found the pattern only a month later. Every time I heard a story of his, I felt worse, even if I somewhat took pleasure with the story.
“It’s a trade,” he stated, sitting perfectly still in his chair. “A story in exchange for sustenance.”
The lightbulb became dimmer as the days passed. It was quite luminescent when I first installed it. Now it was causing long and menacing shadows. It became exceptionally difficult to read in the room—my eyes would tire far too easily.
“You’d take away what I’ve eaten, just like that?” I rasp on an empty stomach.
“Do you want to hear a story?” he asked.
I did. I prepared a simple fruit salad for myself, sat at the table under the dim light, and ate its entirety, paying close attention. I slowly chewed the food, felt it turn to gooey pulp, swallowed, washing it down with tepid water. It was inside me now, and soon it would be gone, just like that. All the nutrition sapped. All the calories, proteins, carbs, you name it, whatever food is made of, whatever is in it that keep you alive: all sucked into the opaque vortex of my roommate.
“This story is about a writer who lost his muse,” he began.
The lightbulb flickered, blinked a few times, and then went out with a pop. In the cool darkness, I couldn’t see him at all, however I could still hear him garrulously continue his story. I could feel myself being sapped. I lay on the floor, too weak to stand.
I feebly roll over to face the stained ceiling and listen to his story until I was gone and I knew at that moment, I hit the point of no return.