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An Unusual Stain

Christopher Miguel Flakus

I moved into a new apartment in Colonia Lindavista on calle Bogota. Not the most chic neighborhood in Mexico City, I admit, but quiet and relatively safe. I needed somewhere quiet to work. My editor had already paid the advance on my new book and though I assured her things were coming along smoothly, I hadn’t written a word.

I am very meticulous when it comes to big purchases and, had I seen the stain, it would have certainly made the difference between my purchasing the space or not. I am sure that at that time, the stain had not begun to form.

I noticed it three weeks later, still in that early stage of living in this new space, but with boxes and books unpacked. I had a fairly large living room with big windows that let in plenty of sunlight and heavy curtains for when I felt like blocking the light out. My bedroom, austere but comfortable, held a king-sized mattress (I move fitfully in my sleep and have fallen off smaller mattresses). Apart from this was a kitchen and a small guest room.

I left the guest room empty but for a few extra boxes and books that didn’t fit on the shelves. It had a closet that swiveled open on hinges with venetian style blinds made of wood running down the length of each segmented part. The walls were bare. I’m sure of this. At least they were when I’d first been shown the apartment.

It must have been that third week that I first noticed it. I went into the guest room for reasons I can’t possibly remember and saw a dark patch on the wall to the left of me just as I walked in. I felt immediate anger, suspected a leak somewhere, and got close enough to inspect it.

Strange. Flat as paint. I ran my hand over the stain and it didn’t seem raised. It was a dark, reddish brown that grew darker by the day.

Within a week a great, yawning black spot had affixed itself to my wall and I called in mold specialists. Mold being the only reasonable conclusion I could reach.

The specialist shrugged and told me, “It isn’t mold Mr. Montevideo; it looks more like paint.”

“What do you mean it isn’t mold!? What else could it be?”

“To be honest, I have no idea. It’s flat to the touch, slightly wet, and it seems to leave a film of grease on my gloves. Here, see for yourself.”

I touched a latex gloved hand to the stain and indeed, it had grown soft and wet.

“Could it be a leak?” I asked.

“I’ve never seen a leak do this, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask your landlord.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do?”

The young man looked genuinely sorry for me. He scratched the back of his head and nodded.

“We can install fans. To dry it out. You just run them with an extension cord and point it at the stain. This should at least help dry it out somewhat. It’s how we normally treat mold, along with chemicals, but since this isn’t mold, or at least unlike any mold I’ve ever encountered, I can’t say that the chemicals would help. Not with certainty.”

I thanked him and tipped generously. An hour later he returned with two waist-high fans that I pointed directly at the stain.

It was then I noticed the shape of it. What used to be a circular, reddish-brown stain had become black as ink with a bulbous new section spreading from the top. Beneath it stretched an elongated shape. It dumbfounded me how this stain could appear out of nowhere, change color and shape, and continue to grow.

I closed the door to the room and left the fans whirring all night.

That night I had a terrible dream of someone or something that had sat itself on the end of my bed. In my dream I couldn’t move. I felt fully aware. but paralyzed. I kept waiting for the figure to come into focus, to do something to me. But all it did was watch.

The next morning I entered the room for the last time. The fans had done nothing. I entered the room with my morning coffee and upon seeing what had become of the stain, I dropped the mug to the floor where it shattered.

The stain had sprouted limbs. Two arms, much too long to be human arms. with fingers three or four times the length of human fingers. Its legs, in contrast, were much shorter. The bulbous spot I’d seen before could now clearly be identified as a head and the main trunk of the stain, as a torso. I felt the hair stand on the back of my neck and had the unmistakable feeling that this form, this stain, was watching me.

I locked the guest room door and never entered again.

I have to move. Most of my things are back in boxes and I’ve found a new place, much smaller and more expensive in Colonia Roma. I can’t sleep at night for fear of the dream, always the same, the weight on my bed and the total immobility that’s taken over my body. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a dream at all.

Inside the guest room I hear steps. Not full steps, not the steps of a man, but something lighter and padded, almost a whisper. I see shadows move under the door and once, a long-fingered hand slid underneath, flat as paper.

I need to get out as soon as possible. I’ll stay in a hotel if it comes down to it. I’ve told no one because, who would ever believe me?

The scuttling grows louder and my sleepless eyes feel heavy. Tonight will be my last night sleeping in this place.

Tomorrow, I’ll be gone.

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