Monstrous Memories Short Story Series
Story 1 Part 2
Nel limps slowly after her neighbor. His hair is a dark blonde shock against his sun stained skin, neatly combed despite a day outside weeding, planting, mowing, removing vines, and digging. His grey shirt falls loosely over him billowing when a breeze sweeps in through a half shattered window. Nel starts at the jutting glass as they approach the only elevator in the building. Had the seventh floor not been destroyed and forgotten they would have to take the stairs, but the unstable flooring made it nearly impossible.
“Thank you David.” Nel speaks in but a whisper as the dull, grey doors slowly slide shut.
David smiles some leaning back against the wall furthest from the cobweb riddled corner. He presses the button for the eighth floor several times before a weak light flickers on.
“Well you need to eat Nellie, Shyla would be furious if you weren`t fed a decent meal at least once in a while.” He tries to hide the bitterness in his tone with a smile, but many knew of David`s frustration with Nel`s parents.
Nel says nothing more as the elevator begins its upward crawl in awkward, jolting movements. The metal box bounces so much and creeps so slow initially that they nearly drop an entire floor before they start to move up towards the eighth floor. The buzz and soft screeching of the turning gears trying to inch the box up ring through the tight space. David tightly grips the metal bar, the last one still hanging on the wall, to keep from falling. Nel stares up at the flickering light unbothered by the slow and violent ride up.
The doors finally part about an inch too low on the eighth floor. The flooring here is glossy tile and several apartment doors have been removed to open up the rooms. The deep teal walls blaze under a single golden light that takes more power than most of the rest of the building. Once this floor had been in tatters, nearly uninhabitable, stained with urine and bird excrement as the windows were always wide open and it was never difficult for someone without a home to sneak up here. Shyla bought the floor out when she moved in with David six years ago just to prevent her parents from buying the building and displacing all the tenants. Such luxury does not belong nestled like a hidden gem among the filth of the area, but Shyla who works long hours with great success can`t seem to hear those words. She became part of the community and is not going to abandon it to the mercy of her parents to buy and tear apart.
In the dying heart of the area Shyla is the last working vein.
David leads Nel along to the silvery door on the other side of the room. Despite the flashy external appearance, the small room they enter is much more home-like. The walls are painted a soft orange and the furniture is all in shades of muted orange or warm brown. A few pictures dot the walls and a flower vase with bright yellow sunflowers sit on the coffee table in front of the sofa. A bookshelf rest against one wall overflowing with an array of bright covers and shimmering titles. A glance over a low wall reveals the kitchen painted more of a honey yellow with deep brown, oak cabinets. Everything sparkles and smells distinctly clean yet not of chemicals.
Shyla hums as she glides around the table setting it up. She glances back with wide, nearly turquoise eyes. Her brown hair falls in bouncing ringlets around her head still slightly misshapen by the ponytail that had held up her head during her work hours. Her skin is pale as moonlight. Her dancer frame is hidden behind a grey suit from her week job. A warm smile stretches across her face as she heads over wrapping Nel into a hug. Bones poke from her tiny frame and pull Shyla away in a second in fear she will crush the tiny girl to dust.
“How are you doing sweetie? How has school been?” Shyla smiles once more at Nel as she asks questions she knows that Nel`s parents aren`t asking.
Nel, whose voice is frequently caught in her voice, responds with the slightest of motion and a downcast gaze. Shyla runs her hand along the dirt brown hair before rubbing the girls back with the utmost care. Her spine pokes out straining the skin that clings tight to Nel`s ever withering frame. In good times, when money is not so difficult for her father to obtain, she may be a well-built, beautiful girl, but starvation has plagued many of her days recently.
Shyla guides Nel to the table and pulls out the chair for her. She glances at her boyfriend with, pity wavering in her watery gaze. The three sit to a silent meal enjoying food better than Nel had ever tasted and, likely, would ever taste again. Any conversation held is done so through gazes and nearly unnoticeable gestures. Upon its end David made the trip back to Nel`s small home under an even heavier blanket of silence. The discomfort in the air is stifling, weighting heavily in the already rundown elevator.
The door opens in a delay with a soft creak. The sound edges David back towards a mold speckled wall the dots nearly fading in the “marigold” yellow background. Nel limps back across the hall to her room alone, dragging her leg a little less than when she initially departed with David to head upstairs to eat. The door is fussy and takes several tries to pry out of its frame before she can return into the dark room.
Away from the grandeur of Shyla`s and David`s apartment the moonlit swaddled room feels even less like a home. The cluttered and tight room barely gives space for Nel to move yet provides ample hiding spots had anyone snuck in while she had been upstairs. That thought did not bother Nel. Nothing worth stealing is in the building unless one makes their way up to Shyla`s floor. The girl does not waste time locking the front door nor does she risk leaving her parents locked out of the apartment, especially with how hard her father is trying to get them back onto their feet once more.
Nel`s eyes sweep over the heavy shadows against the pools of silver light. Her bed is bathed in the glow highlighting every old stain and uneven lump along the mattress. She gradually rolls in the bed to avoid jostling the springs too much. The metal coils creak and groan underneath the slightest of movement, digging right through the thin fabric guard to jab Nel`s sides. The blanket is scratchy against her skin chasing off the chance of sleep for but a moment. The uncomfortable cloth eventually finds its way to the floor. A chill lingers in the room leaving Nel to curl up under the oversized jacket in hopes of retaining some warmth. The pillow is flat against the bed. It has the same dull grey shade and faded, lifeless demeanor as the rest of the apartment.
Nel`s eyes slip shut as the moon draws ever higher. The desolate world outside whines and screams only as wind tangled up in old buildings can. No living thing actually roams the streets bellow. The sounds are like a twisted lullaby tormenting the depths of Nel`s mind with their painful squeals and shrieks. They lull her further to sleep with the secretes they whisper and the past of life they still hold.
As darkness finally falls in the mattress gives a steady jolt. A creak crackles against the cries of the mournful wind disrupting the peace of the tiny apartment. Even in her knot of human form Nel feels the force of the jolt and is pried further from slumber. Her breath catches somewhere in her throat, the foul air further polluting her lungs. With eyes like saucers she inches along the painful mattress. The truth of her reality swirls along in her head as possibilities, all very realistic and incredibly likely, start filing down a line in her thoughts.
In her younger years Nel did not fear the place under the bed. When light fell into the empty apartment almost always lacking the presence of parents she hid beneath the coiling springs and tattered couch. The metal legs worked as bars to hold off the external world trying to claw in. While everyone was cloaked in black and cursing the existence of life and the monster of death Nel would hide as far back as she could in her own little world. The embrace of the blanket took the place of arms that could no longer envelop her in their warmth and protection. Her pillow became her only friend to listen to her joy and woe. She need not have her parents check beneath the bed at night because for the extent of daylight hours she was the only thing to lurk there.
Then Nel grew up and realized that monsters, real ones, hide anywhere and everywhere. The space beneath her bed became less of a safe haven and more of a new spot for crooks and murderers to hide. Even after she just lays the bed out, when she is certain no one has had the time to slide underneath apprehension swells in her gut and she checks once more bellow her place of sleep. Tonight she does not have that bravery on reserve. She left he bed alone and the apartment unlocked because nothing in it is worth stealing or protecting, but Nel feared that she may be worth something if even just an object for anger to be released on. She throws herself off the bed that night leaping as far as her little legs can carry her before bolting to her parents` room. The heavy fall of her footsteps are the only sound in the night beyond the creaking springs of the mattress.
Nel launches herself into the room in the very back of the apartment where her parents very rarely sleep. The door slams shut, the sound rattling through the walls. She is panting some more in fear than exhaustion as she lay her head against the cool, smooth door. Nothing. The apartment has once more sank into the peaceful folds of the night in the Apopto apartment complexes. This does not fully quell the young girl`s fear and she drifts off at the base of the door still listening for the thud of footsteps, the whoosh of breath, or the creaking of the old springs in her sofa bed. The apartment remains completely, unnaturally quiet.
Morning comes with yellow streaks slipping through Nel`s eyelids. The golden glow is given a red hue by the thin barriers of flesh as she finally starts to break from her slumber. Soft footsteps pierce the morning air as birds do not sing waking songs. A soft knock rings against the door providing just enough time for Nel to pull herself back, sliding easily on the hardwood floor, before the door creaks open. A head with greying, light brown hair and sky blue eyes over which clouds of exhaustion drift over.
“Nellie? You ok Honey?” The rough voice speaks, or at least attempts to speak gently.
Nel nods as she picks herself up from the floor. She tightly hugs the aging man in a tight grip that he does not return. The closest thing to comfort her father provides is resting a large hand over her knotted and tangled hair.