Wednesday, October 27, 2010


An October Moment...

October 2, 1992

I’ll call her Tammy. She was a brilliant young woman who worked for a trade magazine in the Chicago area. Tammy was a very even-keeled, deeply practical and rational woman. Not the sort of person given to flights of fancy, but level-headed, the sort of person who is very good at the sort of work a trade magazine demands.

She was also a kind person, particularly to her coworkers, most especially to new ones, who she took under her wing, showing them the ropes with unfailing patience. She especially helped her colleagues, new and old, when it came to coping with the innate craziness of the boss, a fellow we’ll call Z. Suffice it to say, Z had a tendency to create high levels of stress in the office. He had this way of hounding his editors, of making them feel that their work—and their general existence—were so far below par as to warrant an emotional response from him that was somewhere on the underside of contempt.

Tammy had done an admirable job putting up with Z. All told, she had worked for him for going on five years, and seemed more or less immune to his abuse, which he ladled on her at least as often as he dumped on everyone else. Tammy had some resistance to him because she was already a pretty harsh critic of her own work, which was needless, of course. But Tammy was a bit of a perfectionist, tended to set a very high personal standard, and was consequently merciless with herself. That probably made Z’s rants and criticisms sound like just another echo in an already loud chorus.

So it was something of a shock to her coworkers late that summer, when Tam suffered a rather sudden and precipitous decline. First, she started having terrible stomach pains. Her friends and family and coworkers had begged her to see a doctor, but she was getting ready to travel for the magazine and wanted to get ahead of her deadlines a little. If anything, she was pushing herself even harder.

So it was that one day, while eating lunch in the atrium of her office building, Tammy collapsed. Her coworkers managed to revive her, but almost as soon as she was sitting upright, Tam began vomiting blood, so someone called an ambulance and by the time the EMT squad arrived and loaded her onto a stretcher, she was white as a sheet—well, the parts of her that weren’t covered in blood, anyway. The doctors told her she had a perforated ulcer, and was bleeding directly into her digestive tract. Although, it must be said, they were a bit tentative about the diagnosis, especially since she'd had no previous symptoms or signs of trouble before the most dramatic ones manifested themselves.

Tam was in the hospital for a week before she went home, where she was told to rest and avoid strenuous or stressful activity for another two weeks. At her insistence, her parents took her to her apartment, which was just outside the city of Chicago, in the suburb known as Park Ridge. Tammy lived alone, but she insisted on going there, even though her parents wanted her to come home with them. “I really need some peace and quiet,” she had told a friend over the phone. “Staying with my parents would have killed me.”

Having grown up in Chicagoland, Tammy had a lot of friends as well as coworkers who were only too willing to help her. Several of them took turns bringing her meals or running errands for her. Tammy was glad to see them, and often became anxious as they were getting ready to leave. This seemed quite out of character for her. Tammy liked her own space—even her longtime boyfriend kept his own apartment, more at Tammy’s preference than his own.

Toward the end of Tammy’s first week home, it fell to one young coworker, the rookie of the team, to bring her some soup, as well as a few movie rentals from the local Blockbuster. This fellow liked Tammy, but didn’t honestly know her all that well, so he was intrigued to visit her in her apartment and get some sense of what she was like when she wasn’t at work. Before he left to see her, the young editor was taken aside by one of Tammy’s best friends. “Don’t just drop stuff off and go. Stay with her a little bit. Maybe eat lunch with her. She doesn’t seem like herself and the more people spend time with her, the better,” she said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, she just seems jumpy. And she’s definitely not getting much rest. She’s got dark circles under her eyes and she just seems...not herself. Stay with her a bit. Tell her one of your goofy stories,” she suggested. The young editor nodded in understanding. In his short time on staff, he had unaccountably gained a reputation for relating oddball anecdotes about his life and family, which Tammy in particular seemed to enjoy.

Thus it was, a little after 12, that the young coworker arrived at Tam’s apartment, a second-floor walk-up over a hairdresser’s establishment. He rang the bell. Tammy heard it and buzzed him in from the intercom in her bedroom. Ever since her first night alone back at home, she hardly ever left her room. In the distance, she heard the footsteps as he walked up the stairs to her apartment door on the second floor.

“It’s open,” she called from deep within her apartment. She heard him open the front door. Then all was quiet. Too quiet. And for too long.

Suddenly, there was a soft tapping on the door. She screamed in surprise. “Who’s there?” she yelled.

“It’s MM!” he answered. “Who were you expecting?”

Tammy got up and opened the door.

“Are you okay?” he asked, as he removed his glasses and wiped his eyes. Had he been crying? She decided she was too tired to ask and turned and shuffled back to her bed.

“Sure!” she said, in a forced way that suggested she was anything but. “Sure. I’m just not sleeping well. Must be a side effect of the meds they’ve given me.”

“Well, are you hungry? I can find my way around the kitchen and find a bowl for the soup I brought,” he offered, and began stepping out the door.

Tammy sat up again. “O-okay. But, do you mind if I eat in here?” she asked, her face showing the slightest pink as she blushed. “I don’t usually entertain in my bedroom, but I’d rather—well, I’m just so tired--"

“Sure,” he said, as he backed into the hall and turned to head back toward the kitchen. “I’ll see if I can find a tray or—“ As he turned fully down the hall, he froze, then turned and stepped back into the room.

“What?!?” she asked.

The young editor, never known to be at a loss for words, seemed now to be wrestling with something, trying to find the right thing to say, or perhaps wondering if he should say it at all. In the end, he just said, “Never mind. Be right back.” Good as his word, he returned shortly with Tam’s lunch and they had an amiable, if somewhat subdued meal together. Both of them seemed to have a question for the other, but neither one asked it.

Later, after her coworker had left, Tammy wished she had asked him her question. Asked him why he had lingered so long in the main part of her apartment. Asked him why he was wiping his eyes. Asked him about the smell. Asked him if he had seen or heard anything...odd.

Tammy certainly had. Ever since she’d returned home, she knew something was wrong. In fact, she thought she might be going crazy. She heard voices in her living room. Objects—dishes, jewelry, hairbrushes—had disappeared and mysteriously turned up in different places throughout the apartment.

She had tentatively confided in her boyfriend about this, a big mistake. He had commented on the smell, and so she told him about the other things. He even agreed to sleep out in the living room. But after one night of that he was gone. He told her that morning, in a somewhat shaky voice, that maybe it would be a good idea for Tammy to call the doctor and see if she had suffered brain damage from blood loss or something. That would explain all the other stuff.

But Tammy, rational and level-headed though she might be, thought she already knew what the problem was.

She was possessed...

I seriously was just thinking today that I sure hoped you'd be posting an October moment. Each time you post, I feel like I get a gift. Thanks -- and hope things are going well with your crew and with the new gig. Hugs from windy Michigan.
I must say I am so glad to see a ... because that means pretty soon we get another post. I want to know what happens next and what happened to you! And it is baffling to me how you keep running in to these sorts of situations.

Thanks for the story, MM. Hope you and the family have a Happy Halloween.
Well, you've just creeped me out...
curses! i hate a cliff hanger on one of your stories!! argh! can't wait to read what happens next :)
I was just wondering the other day if you were going to post "An October Moment". Now to find out about that smell.
Argh! What a cliff hanger! I am not complaining though. No sir, not at all. That just means there will be another post...soon, I hope!
Okay, I've read posts here that went on forever (in a good way) and now you're gonna make us wait for the rest of this one?

Not cool, man. Not cool.
I'm with Anonymous, in that the dreaded ellipsis is no longer dreaded. It has become a promise of more posting soon! Yay!
More! More! More!

I'll be right over there, waiting! :)
the big creepy factor for me in this story is the idea of the smell of tammy's aprtment. i am both curious and scared. this october moment is wonderfully mysterious. thanks and happy halloween!
You mean I have to wait for the end of this story as well as the long-promised story of BB and the Ouija board? Now I know how my kids feel when they want something so badly they start to whine.
You'll finish it in October, right? Please? This October?
Best scare ever.
Please feed us more ...

please ...
please ..
please ..
Come on, MM. Not nice to leave people hanging like that! Hurry up and post "the rest of the story" -Please!!!
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