Tastes Better

My second year of college I lived in a two-story apartment with two other guys. It was located on an isolated street out in the sticks, so rent was dirt cheap; there were only five other apartments around us. My roommates were dating and shared the master bedroom while I got the other smaller one, I didn’t mind though, as it had enough room for my computer and mattress. I was never really into bringing girls home from bars or, more accurately: I never really learned how. Being a social introvert was my bread, with late night video game sessions as my butter. I was a full-time student and barely saw my roommates, as they both dropped out of school and had night jobs. Our schedules were so mismatched that I was lucky if I managed to pass by one of them while getting something to eat.

The first few months there was relatively peaceful, and the apartment on one side of us was vacant for renovations. The one next to us was occupied, but none of us even saw the man who lived there till the fourth or fifth month. I had ordered a pizza from a 24-hour place at around 3:00am and had walked outside to meet the driver; he had called me and was unsure if he was in the right place. I hopped out the door and onto the sidewalk, immediately seeing the delivery car and waving it down; that’s when I first heard him. His apartment was unlit, and the windows were shuddered, but I heard him loudly grunt from behind the creepy looking red door. Not a ‘ouch I need help’ kind of grunt but more like the ‘GET THE #$%@ OUT OF HERE!” variation, followed by something heavy hitting the other side of the door. I looked back at the delivery car and realized that the lights were off, and no one was in it. I surmised it must’ve belonged to another neighbor. I called the delivery driver back but got his voicemail; I guess I’m not getting my pizza tonight. As I got back to my front door, I heard him grunt again. This time he sounded like he was in the bushes between our buildings, and it was followed by a creepy slurping sound. I quickly shut and locked the door.

The next morning, I made it a point to tell my roommates about the incident. They shrugged it off as some wild animal and told me to relax. We were talking in the kitchen when someone knocked on the front door. One of them went to answer it but we all looked to see who it was. The door opened to reveal a decrepit, grumpy looking man in a heavy buttoned coat and scarf; it was 75 degrees and sunny outside. His mouth was covered, and he had gloves on his hands. His eyes were barely visible beneath the bill of some old-timey fedora, and he was holding a pizza to his chest, next to a nametag. He didn’t look at either of my roommates, just me. He began mumbling something that my friend that opened the door understood, as he was much closer. My roommate nods suspiciously and the man falls silent and lingers, all the while his eyes never leaving mine. He then quickly hands the pizza to my friend and scurries off, my roommate closing the door in perplexity.

“That was the weirdest delivery guy I’ve ever seen,” my roommate declared. “Hey, I guess it’s better late than never, right?”

“What was he saying?” I asked, still a little unnerved by the way he stared at me.

“He said: Next time order from the place downtown,” he handed me the pizza box, “tastes better

“Kind of odd to recommend the competition,” my other friend chimed in.

I took the box and opened it. The pizza was cold and had been jumbled up a fair bit, like the box had been dropped on the way here. I was no longer hungry and decided to just leave it on the table as I got ready for class.

“Oh, and his name’s Fred,” my roommate called as I headed upstairs, “according to his nametag.”

I walked outside and noticed the delivery car had gone; the old man must’ve left for work. At least someone’s getting their pizza on time around here. I got to my car and looked back at our neighbor’s house. One of the upstairs windows was open now, Fred staring down at me just from under that hat. I guess the delivery car wasn’t his. I waved and got into my car, still a little anxious and not caring if he waved back. It wasn’t until a few days later that I heard about the missing pizza delivery kid named Freddie. He and his car had apparently vanished the same night I didn’t get my pizza. I also realized that every other house on that street was vacant. Missing delivery kids has been somewhat of a recurring mystery in that county.

I called the police and told them everything I saw: the delivery car, the hat, the nametag. They arrived within 20 minutes with a swat team and kicked our neighbor’s door, but he was long gone. The landlord apparently told them no one’s lived there for years now. The investigation did manage to turn up a bloody baseball cap from between the bushes; it belonged to the pizzeria Freddie worked at and had bite-sized chunks ripped out.

I moved the next week.