My mother says there’s a pygmy in her ceiling.
My mother says a lot of insane shit: in addition to this ‘pygmy’, her landlord is pouring voodoo powder up her nose while she sleeps, beating her legs with a broom handle (the voodoo powder gets rid of most of the bruises), and her own parents were Russian spies. I know for sure that the local police department are sick to death of her, because she calls 9-1-1 all the time over all the dumbest shit. They’ve put her in mental institutions a couple of times, but she’s getting old, and I’m sentimental, and so now I’m staying with her. I told myself that it’s almost rent-free, because she’s got enough disability checks coming in that I can usurp those and use them to pay rent, and at least I have a roof over my head.
But I hate hearing about her goddam ‘pygmy.’
What doesn’t help, you know, is that we live in an old building, and we’re not on the top floor. So when the people who live above us get a little too enthusiastic when they’re moving around, the ceiling creaks. And whenever that happens my mother looks at me with this big wide look in her eyes like it’s her delusions come to life. God help us if the sink starts running right afterward, because, according to my mother, the sink is where this pygmy comes out. He unscrews the drain and… okay, so I’m not sure how the hell he can fit in the drain, maybe he oozes or something, like he’s straight out of a Goosebumps book or something, but he comes out then and he helps the landlord shove her full of voodoo powder.
I sleep on the couch, because it’s a one-bedroom apartment. Lately I’ve been giving her sleeping pills. I tell her it protects against the voodoo powder. I feel a little bad about lying to her about this, but if she doesn’t take them she wakes me up about a million times during the night to make me check the doors, and the windows, and the sinks, and I have a job. I can’t be getting up a million times during the night to check all these things because she thinks she’s being conspired against.
So it’s not her that woke me up that night.
I thought it was her at first. I thought that I’d have to up her dose, or something; I kept still for a while, hoping that maybe she’d get bored and wander back to bed, but when whatever was shaking my shoulder toddled off, it didn’t sound like her. My mother, she’s old enough that she walks with that kind of shuffle. I guess she’s not really that old, but—she’s old enough and whatever she’s got up in her head has aged her more. I guess she’s fifty-four, but she seems more like seventy-four most days. And the footsteps away from the couch were like a toddler’s. All full of energy, hard little raps on the floor.
I was already facing out, toward the room, so all I had to do was open my eyes.
There was something in front of the TV. My mother has one of those old TVs; you know, the big box ones. Hers is even old enough for a legitimate dial. She doesn’t trust flat-screens. She thinks that they’ve got chips in them that tell the government how many times a day you take a shit, or something like that. And this thing, it had turned on the TV and was messing with the dial. My mom doesn’t have cable. She’s got a VCR, so we can watch as many movies pre-2005 as we want, but she doesn’t have cable. It ran through static.
This TV, see, was on this little end-table. The end-table was maybe a foot and a half off the ground. This thing messing with the dial, it came up maybe halfway up the TV. It was maybe two and a half feet tall. From the static, I could see that it was shriveled and brown and hairless and naked. It was bony and—leathery, it looked like. The fingers that wrapped around the dial were long and pointy, almost more like talons than fingers.
Either crazy was catching or I was going to have to look more into her goddam landlord.
The thing didn’t notice that I was awake, because it just kept turning the dial and giggling. Its voice was all sorts of creepy—high pitched and echoed, even in this place that probably had the acoustics of a nearly-full dumpster. Then it turned around and saw my eyes. I slammed them shut as fast as I could, but it came running back over. I heard it, and then it pried open my one eye with some of its talons, and I swear to God—the feeling of those leathery claws on the soft skin of my eyelids almost made me want to scream. But I was looking into its eyes, which were small and black and empty, and then it grinned. Its mouth was full of teeth. Too many teeth. Kirk-Hammett-circa-1985-except-more teeth. It reached into its mouth with the hand that wasn’t holding my eye open and pulled out a little bag.
It sprinkled a little dust on my eye. In the back of my mind I was checking off another one of my mother’s claims—I was half-ready for the landlord to come in and start beating me with a broom. The static was still going on the TV but everything was going in and out, like this voodoo powder was acid, or something, and the next thing I knew it was morning.
My mother stood over him. “You met him,” she says.
“Yeah,” I said. “Let’s. Let’s move, how about.”
Aurora Dimitre is a young author from rural North Dakota. She graduated from the University of Jamestown with a Bachelor’s in English in 2019 and is the author of several books, including Serial Killers with Cookies and The Crucifixion of Craig Knox.
Table of Contents