I was roused by a premonition, a psychic pulse from that occultist netherworld of 3am.
Check your phone…
Somewhere, in the chasm of the bedroom, was a patch of vaporous luminosity, like the halo of the moon.
It’s your phone…
Tangled in bedsheets and the filaments of dreams, I drifted toward the light until clonking my foot on the desk chair.
“Goddamn…” I hobbled to the desk where my phone was laying, its screen upturned, radiating with an incoming call.
I answered, “Yes… Hello? Hello?”
“Were you expecting this call?”
“Sure Sure…” I yawned.
“This is Telvin Oakenwood… I’m your tenant over at 11 East drive?”
“Sure Sure, Tevlin…”
“I had to call. It’s a ravenous infestation. Vampiric.”
“Sure Sure, I can call someone in the morning…”
“But, it is the morning…”
Uh? My hand swivels the phone’s screen from ear to eyes, “It’s three-thirty…”
I return the phone to my ear, “I’m—I’m…still not awake.”
“This isn’t fleas, Sir… I have no pets, in accordance with the rental agreement, nor do I allow anyone with pets to enter the premises…”
Who the hell is this guy? I flounder in the darkness until locating the desk chair, plonking myself into its seat. “You have bugs?”
“This is something unholy, Sir. Indeed, they're flea like, but they’re slightly larger, highly intelligent, voracious nibblers, who, during this cold stretch, are seeking warmer climates and infiltrating my bed. Also, they’re burrowing into my skin…”
What the fuck… “Uh…”
“I’ve done some research, Sir and I’ve found that this species of flea is an evolving, if not mutating strain that thrives in this Northeast ecology. Also, I’m hypothesizing here, but over the last two weeks, I’ve witnessed an intense amount of chem-trailing—or, geo-engineeering—in the skies. This species may either be a biological, chemical-weapon or simply be exacerbated by the atmospheric alterations… Either way, Sir, I assure you, am I not a lunatic. I’m in the postdoctoral program at—”
My sigh interrupts his explanation, “Telvin, again, I thank you for the call, even though it’s very late, but, I will be over—”
“Oh, no, Sir, I could no longer withstand this attack. It’s been ongoing for the last week and only accelerating in its magnitude. I’ve utilized a multitude of over-the-counter insecticides, but to no avail. I do apologize for the belated, and dramatic plea, but I will gone by five this morning—”
I yawned, “I’ll send someone over…”
Harry’s voice was modulating between irritation and bafflement, “Look, man, I’ve been doin’ this for thirty-three years, and I’ve been takin’ care of your properties, for what, seven? But, man…there ain’t shit in this kid’s room.”
“Did you just give me the wrong key or what?”
I adjust my phone, signing some documents for a departing contractor. “East drive, right? Room eleven? The red and black key ring?”
“Yup. And, there ain’t no fleas. None. Nothin’ with super magical bitin’ powers. You remember that is the place that you just renovated, right? It’s all hardwood floors, my man…Little fuckers can’t be livin’ in that.”
“Oh, shit. I’m sorry… I mean, that kid called me at like three in the morning or something.”
“I’ve wasted like three house here…Layin’ traps, sprayin’, recheckin’… I mean, the dude tore off his bed sheets and left a note askin’ to spray them. So, I did.”
“I’m sorry, man…”
“Nah, we cool… But, I did find somethin’. A weird lookin’ bug. I gotta inspect this thing later.”
My intuition was being mischievous, conveying scenes of another early morning call, that assured, scholarly voice of Telvin’s summarizing his experimental night of man versus the rabid bio-technology of The Deep State.
I smiled, sipping from my beer just as my phone began to chirp with the incoming call of Harry.
“Hey, man, I’m sorry for botherin' you so late…”
“Nah, don’t worry, I’m still up.”
“Okay, cool… Hey, you remember from earlier today, I said I found a weird bug when I was at that kid’s place?”
“Oh, yeah… I forgot.”
“Well, I got this insectologist, or whatever, he is, a guy whose looked at the weird shit I’ve found over the years and, I gotta admit, he was stumped on that weird bug I found. Got weirded out on it. Like, he was incriminatin’ me in some way.”
“Yeah, man, it was fucked up.”
“Did he say what it could have been…?”
“He got real secretive on it. Especially when he placed it under his microscope. He works in the lab at the pharmaceutical place, so, I mean, this is like a hobby to him, but… I dunno. I’ve never seen this guy act a fool before. Kinda kicked me out of his place. Just between you and me, his little lab in his basement ain’t little. He’s cookin’ up more than just ideas in that joint.”
“Wow… Alright man, well, keep me in the loop on this.”
“Awww, I will. I have a feelin’ I’m gonna get a call from you to head on over to that place again.”
Three days after my initial call with Telvin, he sent me a text message:
I do not want this SMS to be representative of some sort of unprofessionalism on my part, but I did not want to interrupt your day, so may I call you at this moment?
As soon as I responded, Telvin’s phone number appeared on my screen.
“I would like to say thank you for your promptness in calling the exterminator. Other landlords I’ve had over the years have been quite lackadaisical.”
“I would also like to say, that the attacks have subsided. But, yesterday, I went to the doctor to have a bite examined. During the assessment, their professional opinion determined that this was a peculiar wound, one that required excising. Once that was performed, eggs were extracted—”
“Yes. It was quite a curious specimen, one that was sent for testing. I’m on some antibiotics to reduce swelling and possible infection. I’m also self-medicating with various herbs that my mother and her coven have prescribed.”
Coven? “Telvin, I don’t want to pry, or question your, uh…”
“Sure. But, did you say your mother is in a coven?”
There was only regretful silence…
“I’m sorry, Telvin—”
“No, Sir. That’s alright. May I call you if the situation worsens or becomes untenable?”
Above me, is some sort of celestial orb haloed in pale, winter light.
Around me, there is the sound of splattering water.
This is a dream…
When I sit up, my bed is floating in a dense, velvet sea.
I turn to the voice, my eyes drawn from the immensity of the sea…
Before me, on this raft of a bed, is a shadowy apparition.
‘Again, I want to say thank you for all you’ve done. You’ve been an exemplary landlord…My mother has taken me away. It was time she said. But, I’m well, Sir… I’m very well to have departed this realm and return to Source.’
I’m interrupted by an insidiously blaring trumpet…
My eyes open to the white paint of my bedroom ceiling.
I recognize the trumpet as my phone’s morning alarm.
Later that afternoon, in the office of my property manager, my phone begins its familiar Harry chirp.
“Steve, I gotta take this…”
“No, go for it… I gotta run to the printer and get your paperwork, anyway.”
I accept Harry’s call, “What’s up?”
“Look… I’m makin’ this shit quick. But, I got a visit from some dudes today. Guys who wear black suits and sunglasses. Drive black Mercedes. Government. I’m not sure.”
“Are you in trouble?”
“We are in trouble, my man.”
“These dudes wanted to know where that bug came from…”
“Dude, you gotta be joking.”
“Naw, motherfucker… These guys are serious.”
“Also, when I was headin’ over to your place this mornin’ to drop off the key for that kid’s apartment, I thought I’d stop and inspect his place before you called me again…”
Harry laughs, “Kid’s gone. Everything. Cleaned. Out.”
“Uh-huh. Dude, I’m gonna stop at your place this evenin’ to drop off the key, but shit, we gotta get our story straight…”
At the coffee shop, while scrolling through the emotional debris of Twitter, I inadvertently accepted a phone call…
Shit… “Uh, hello…”
“Is this Mr. Cole?”
“Telvin Oakenwood’s landlord?”
“Yes, yes it is…Is he—”
“Mr. Cole, this is Telvin’s mother.”
“I would just like to say that Telvin will no longer be your tenant. And, I would like to triple his early termination fee so there are no legal complications. Would that be acceptable terms, Mr. Cole?”
“Uh, sure… Of-of course. May I ask if everything is alright?”
“Telvin is not doing well, Mr. Cole. He’s had some ongoing issues. We’ve had to seek some emergency care.”
“I’m sorry for any issues he may have caused you of late.”
“He told me he was at the doctor’s recently for some type of bug bite. He had a minor flea issue in his apartment.”
“Mmmm… Well, I can assure you, Mr. Cole. There were no fleas. There was no doctor visit. Telvin has not been well of late.”
“But, he’s fine now, Mr. Cole. He’s returned to the peaceful place.”