Building Apartment

Raph al Guul

The following takes place on the evening of December 24 of a year close to ours. The place is a five-story building that is somewhere in the vicinity of where you are right now, but it doesn’t quite exist yet.

5th floor.

He was so calm, he was surprised by it himself. Maybe it was the drugs, some of which were designed to help you sleep, after all. But something as monumental as taking your own life ought to be accompanied by at least a fleeting sense of excitement, he figured. But it wasn’t and even though he found that odd, he didn’t actually care. The hallucinations started to get more vivid and even weirder. A leather-bound book on a bicycle waved a dual-stick videogame controller at him, while it was slowly floating towards a bowl of pink soup. The floor was a mirror that didn’t reflect anything accurately and the dwarf in the corner, he didn’t know which corner and of what, was laughing at him. None of it bothered him. It was a peaceful mockery of reality. Cruel reality. Goodbye.

4th floor.

“Honey, can you help me out here for a second?” He had just come home, but his wife was already getting her nag on again. Not like it was bad enough that he had to work until six on Christmas Eve, no of course he had to return to the dragon’s den and “celebrate” while dodging her fiery breath all evening. He didn’t say any of this out loud, of course. “Can you set the table?” Jesus, ever heard of “the magic word”? Like it would kill ya. He went to the kitchen, maneuvering around his wife who was putting on a balancing act with some sort of undoubtedly failed cookery and got the cutlery and the plates. He returned to the dining/living room and just when he was about to arrange the tools of his upcoming torture, the light went out. It didn’t go out in the kitchen, only where he was standing. He went to the switch and flicked it a couple of times. Perfect. “Why did you turn the light off?” He rolled his eyes in the dark. He didn’t say anything, though. He’d have to call the freaking caretaker – and for what? A light-bulb on Christmas Eve.

3rd floor.

It had been her daughter’s idea. This Christmas, we should only have candles, turn off all the other lights. Her daughter was eight and this idea reflected that. But of course Daddy didn’t say no. Daddy never said no – not to his daughter. He did say no to his wife, though, a lot. Never mind the danger of an apartment filled with fire hazards and an eight-year-old running wild in the middle of it, throwing wrapping paper all over the place. Plus, they couldn’t see shit. She was fairly sure one of them would trip and break their neck tonight. And after that, the whole building would burn down. But she was tired of being the bad cop and her husband thoroughly refused to switch roles. And what was the point of saying anything, anyway? Just sit perfectly still in the half-dark and wait for something to happen. Whatever it would be, she was fairly certain it would be bad.

2nd floor.

He didn’t celebrate Christmas. Christmas was for kids and old people. Fuck that. He was gonna take a bath and read a book, just enjoy the fact that for some silly reason his boss didn’t make him come in today. Suckers. He turned on the water to prepare his bath. He wanted lots of bubbles. As the water was running into the tub, he checked the temperature. Obviously the bath would need to be hot, what would be the point otherwise? But even after two minutes, the water still didn’t even turn warm. What the fuck, is the boiler on the fritz again, or what? This sort of thing happened every month or so; the boiler was an old piece of shit, but the caretaker was too cheap to get a new one as long as he knew how to fix the symptoms of the damn thing’s senility. Great. He turned off the water and went to the phone to call him and tell him to deal with it. He dialed the number, but the line was busy. Beeep. Beeep. Beeep.

Ground floor.

The DVD was in the tray, the microwave spat out his dinner, and the massaging chair was fired up. The caretaker was ready for his annual ritual of watching Die Hard. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker, and to all a good night. Just as he sat down, the phone in the other room began clattering. It did that about once an hour on average. These occupants were a clingy bunch and always expecting him to solve their problems. The phone stopped ringing. He knew the procedure. Play chicken with the phone, it always backed out first. He grinned and pressed the play button. Immediately, the phone started going again. But he didn’t care. They could wait until tomorrow. It’s Christmas, god-damn-it!

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