(Alice makes a difficult, dangerous choice in dealing with her discovery in 106)
Chapter 9: A Desperate Solution
I paused. A lot was going through my head. I could tell from the way she asked that caring for Grandpa was not an option. When she started quoting the Bible, she was serious and argument pointless. In this case, I was smart and broke a commandment with my response.
“Yes, Grandma,” I said, hoping I sounded agreeable.
“I know it is scary, dear,” she said, trying to reassure. “Grandpa is terrible and the storage is an unpleasant place, but don’t you fear. Grandma has tricks of her own.”
“What tricks, Grandma?” I was genuinely interested now.
“Well, when Grandpa started getting sick, he always fussed about the light, especially if it was strong. That’s got worse since he’s been downstairs. The flashlight is bright and makes him uncomfortable, especially if you shine it in his eyes. If he gets excited, I use that on him.”
“Okay. Thanks, Grandma,” I said absently. I was forming plans of my own, and that bit of information might help.
I snuck down, early the next morning. This time I brought the flashlight and raid can. A little raid in the eyes wouldn’t tickle if he got too close.
I opened the door a crack and peeked in. Nothing had changed. I went carefully along the corridors until the final turn. Everything was quiet as I crept up to the dead end at 106. I turned on the flashlight before I rounded the corner. The bucket was close to the locker again, but the stick was roughly where I left it.
“Grandpa,” I said calmly, “I know about you now. Grandma told me everything. I’m sorry I said mean things to you. I understand now. I’m just going to bring the bucket back, okay?”
There was a bit of gurgling I didn’t understand. From through the wooden bars of the storage, the flashlight caught two, red eyes in the darkness. “Pretty Alice,” he said in that gross voice. “Grown ap now, big gurl.”
“Yes, all grown up,” I said, reaching down and grabbing the stick. “I’m just getting the bucket now.”
“Shtay. Shtay and visat wish mee.”
I reached out with the stick, going for the bucket. “I’m really busy, Grandpa,” I said. “Grandma’s a little sick, so I have to care for her. Maybe I’ll have time to visit later.”
A tentacle lashed out from between the bars and grabbed onto the stick, giving it a sharp yank that pulled me down. I dropped the flashlight as I fell, and he sprang from the locker with speed I never suspected. The flashlight had fallen so that it pointed to the wall, blinding me. The thing, Grandpa, was like a bunch of octopus legs coming out from the bottom of a human chest. The legs would grab the ground in front and pull it along. The human arms were long and gangly, with freakishly big hands and long fingers. I couldn’t see his head very well, but it seemed to have shrunk into his shoulders. Even in the dark, I could see his red eyes as those slimy tentacles grabbed my arm so tight it hurt.
My free arm already had a hold of the raid can and I sprayed it straight at his eyes. The outcome was better than I had hoped. In one motion, Grandpa sprang back and released me. He was making noises that were a combination of screaming and moaning. I got to my feet, grabbing the flashlight and bucket before I ran. Grandpa lay on the floor, tentacles twisting and coiling almost franticly as I got away.
“Just for that, food will be late next time!” I called back at him.
Grandma was asleep when I got back. The tentacles left a greasy, grey slime on my arm that smelled bad and grossed me out. I took an extra long bath before school that day.
The days that followed are something of a blur. All I remember was plotting the end of Grandpa. I didn’t think of him as my grandfather, of course; he was just a monster that had been my grandfather a long time ago. Even before he tried to grab me in the storage, I knew he had to die. I got lucky the last time, but sooner or later he would catch me and, well, I still don’t like to think about that. My basic plan came to me quickly; the details kept me thinking and honing the plan to a deadly point. I slept lightly on those nights. The apartment had old, heavy doors and decent locks, but the thought of Grandpa getting out was more than I could bear. I even had visions of him crawling up the wall to the balcony.
Grandma had to be kept out of the whole thing. She was determined to care for Grandpa until he died. I figured she would try to stop me if she knew what I was up to. I didn’t talk about Grandpa with her, other than agreeing to bring the bucket down until she was better. Her knee continued to improve, but the strength was gone.
I waited until Tuesday to bring the bucket down; and so began my plan. It wasn’t really late, but later than usual. The plan was brutally easy. I slipped a pain pill into Grandma’s tea that evening, just to make sure she slept through the night. Her sleeping habits had been odd since her injury, and she was prone to falling asleep early, anyway. By nine o’clock, she was out like a light.
I got all of the remaining packages of her pain medication together in my room. They were all the samples left from the doctor. I opened them up and used a ladle to crush them in a soup bowl. There were six pills worth of powder in the bowl when I was finished. I sprinkled the powder over the meat in the bucket, and stirred it up. Body weight and dosage were not really concepts I understood as an eleven year old, however, I guessed six pills would be more than enough to make him sleep.
My next task had already been started the previous night. My trusty stick was nearly sharpened to a point. I spent the next hour making the point sharper, and hopefully more deadly. At the appointed time, I took the bucket to the storage.
I was more concerned about this trip than the last. Grandpa never seemed to wander far from 106, if the tracks in the dust were any indication, but I was very worried he would try to ambush me from one of the lockers along the way. I approached the end of the storage by shining the flashlight ahead of me with great care, checking every locker. I left the bucket as far from 106 as I thought I could get away with. There was no point in giving him an easy opportunity.
“Alice,” his gross voice came from around the corner. “I sarry. I bad. Alice good gurl.”
I was shocked that he would try and play for sympathy. He must have thought I was an idiot, or a much younger girl. My sympathy had dried up already, and there was nothing left to offer a monster. I left, offering him a false acceptance of his apology to keep him believing there was hope from me. Eat up, asshole, eat up.
I didn’t sleep that night. I fussed about the point I’d whittled into the stick and practiced using it like a spear. I was a monster slayer, or about to be. If the plan worked out, I wouldn’t have to do much more than jab a stick into the thing and leave. Six of those pills might have killed him, too, if I was lucky; but the thought didn’t occur to me. I let three hours pass before I went down to face him.
As I rounded the last corner, there was no sign of him. He could not have gone far. I crept to the light nearest 106 and peeked around. He was asleep or being extremely quiet, and I already knew how quiet he could be. The flashlight didn’t do enough to light up the inside of the locker. I took a deep breath and tip-toed closer. I was halfway there when I noticed sweat dripping down my forehead, already; the place wasn’t even warm. I was getting scared without noticing.
The bucket was in the usual place. The door to 106, now that I could see it up close, was a grungy thing. It was covered in stains and mold. It had no lock, so I used the edge of the stick to pull it open. The flashlight beam picked up peculiar forms and shapes inside the locker. I couldn’t see the inside very well, but something was definitely in there. I took two steps in before I figured out what I was seeing.
The place was filthy, I could smell that; but the coating of slime and mildew on the walls gave away the reason. There were several blankets on the floor, and one hanging on the wall facing the corridor. The odd bit of bone and rubbish seemed to be pushed up into corners around the wall. Lastly, in the far corner, huddled in ragged blankets, lay the sleeping monster.