He wasn’t there and then he was there.
We were leaving the apartment, leaving to catch our ride to a party. We were both at the door. I turned, looking down the hallway. It was dark and stretched East from me, the runner connecting me to the end of the building. No one was there. Bobby tried to lock the door but was having trouble in the darkness.
Then he was there. He was tall—taller than he should be—and in his forties. He had a slight pudge. He was a not-young man and was neither fat nor skinny, a common round city skink. You saw his door open and him glide out, toward me. Bobby kept fumbling with the keys. He was wearing all white, lightweight clothing, house clothing, pajamas. Maybe they were linen. Maybe they were actually beige. He had on no shoes but he wasn’t touching the ground. He floated. He rolled. He was on one of those stupid fucking hoverboards just feet from me.
I was still. I could not move. Bobby finished with the keys and stood next to me. He turned back to the door. He had locked it but he did not want to look forward, at this Man Wheel Thing. It was the same move done when you open your apartment door and your neighbor, the one directly across the hall from you, opens his door at the same time. You both can’t exit together. One of you has to close the door or pretend to be caught up. You can’t walk out at the same time. In the darkness, I could see Bobby blushing. I was blushing, frozen.
The man kept rolling toward me, in fast slow motion. He was whirring. The under light of his fucking dumb ass hoverboard glowed blue, blinking a hollow LED sequence. It felt like static. You could see the carpet bend unnaturally under the wheels. He leaned forward, perhaps exaggerated, perhaps in practice. His legs were wide. He was coming at me.
Bobby finished playing with the keys and we realized we had to walk. I could not be frozen and we could not fuck with the keys anymore. Maybe he would turn around? Maybe he would go? Maybe he would bounce down the stairs on his wheelie thing and be gone?
We took a stop forward, Bobby pushing me by the lower back. We came to the staircase that divided the hallway. He was there. He had stopped inches from us and spun around, going the other way. He nodded his head, as if he were a normal man. He winked or it looked like he winked. It felt like he winked.
“Hey,” he said. “How’s it going.” but it wasn’t a question that he asked. It was the kind of thing that you say to push someone away, the type of phrase you say to only acknowledge that another person is near you—above or below—as you slip past them. It’s that moment where two walls meet or where a foot hits the ground. It’s touching, yes, but it is not the same thing. You are your thing and I am mine. We walk on the ground and you wheel around.
He moved away. He left a cool wind of his sweaty funk behind him. Had he intended for anyone to see him? He made his exit into his apartment much faster than he had appeared to us. We were down the stairs, walking numbly. We were both blushing now. The railing felt cold and stung the metalwork in my mouth. It was a private itch that needed scratching but you are in public and cannot access that area: you deal with your discomfort.
We walked outside. “What the fuck was that?” Bobby asked. I was had no answer. That man on wheels, on that stupid ridiculous hoverboard, had taken my words and rolled them back into his apartment. The complex was different. It felt cheap.
“They’re here,” was all I could think. “The monsters are in our house.”
What will we do? What will you do when they come? And they will come.