Drabblecast 335 – To Whatever

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Cover for Drabblecast episode 335, To Whatever, by Mike DominicTo whatever lives in the walls—

Please stop taking my half & half.
Let’s get this out of the way: I know you’re there. Don’t think I’m unaware of the scrabbling sounds, the walls creaking from your bulk, the way my razor in the morning is never exactly where I left it last night. Richard always said it was the building settling—as if a building, however old, could take apples out of the fruit crisper—but he was as wrong about that as he was about a lot of things beyond the scope of this note. And since he moved out I feel you’ve gotten bolder.


To Whatever

By Shaenon K. Garrity

To whatever lives in the walls—

Please stop taking my half & half.

Let’s get this out of the way: I know you’re there. Don’t think I’m unaware of the scrabbling sounds, the walls creaking from your bulk, the way my razor in the morning is never exactly where I left it last night. Richard always said it was the building settling—as if a building, however old, could take apples out of the fruit crisper—but he was as wrong about that as he was about a lot of things beyond the scope of this note. And since he moved out I feel you’ve gotten bolder.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do. About living in the walls, I mean. I don’t own the building. But when I come into this kitchen to pour my morning cup of Ethiopian roast and the carton of half & half in the fridge is empty—well, that ruins my whole day. It’s no good with milk. I need half & half.

Who returns an empty carton to the fridge? Do you know that’s rude? That’s very rude in our society.

Anyway, that’s all. And I’d feel better if you stopped messing with my razor.

The tenant in 3B

To whatever—

You didn’t have to do that. Really, I just wanted to not be left with an empty carton when I need some half & half in the morning. But this morning I come down and in my fridge is a brand-new carton. So thanks for that.

Tell you what. You need something, my fridge is open to you. I’m guessing you get hungry. You sound pretty big. My only demand is that you not leave me with empties. I’ve got my needs too, you know? And, you know, maybe you can do a little shopping once in a while. Or whatever it is you do.


To the tenant in the walls—

I’m so sorry about Tuesday. When I called the landlord about a funky smell in the apartment, I honestly thought it was the sink trap backing up again. It never occurred to me that it might be you.

You’ve been coming around more at night, haven’t you? Are you here during the day while I’m at work? What do you do? Never mind, I know you won’t answer. You never answer when I talk to the darkened living room, even when I can see the shadow in the corner that isn’t shaped like my chair. I just find things in the morning: polished stones and iron tools (sculptures? utensils? is there a use for the knobs, the spikes?) on the coffee table, fresh apples in the crisper.

And on Tuesday the super found clumps of hair and scales under the sink. I told him it was a friend’s dog. He gave me the no-pets lecture but I don’t think he believed me. He left in a hurry.

I hope I haven’t compromised your safety. You must be worried about the same thing, because every night since Tuesday has been quiet here. I understand. Probably you have other apartments. Other buildings? Or is this your only home?

No, forget the questions. I just wanted to let you know, if you happen to pass through and find this note, that the super has not been back and I will not call the landlord again. I have, however, purchased family-size bottles of several shampoos and conditioners which you will find in the closet outside the bathroom along with the towels, and if I happen to hear the shower running in the middle of the night I will not get up to investigate.

I’m sorry, but the smell was starting to cling.

Sorry again,


To wall guy—

You may have noticed that today I rearranged the living room. The loveseat is now behind the sofa. The small lamp table is next to the loveseat, with just enough room for a bowl of apples, a gallon of milk, and several beers.

The Golden Globes are tomorrow evening. I was going to watch them with someone but there was a cancellation. Never mind the details. So I will be watching alone, on the sofa, with my own beers. If anyone sits behind me I won’t turn around.

The red carpet coverage starts at seven.


Hey there—

“Amazing Race” again tonight? You bring the beers. Or whatever it is you bring—you know, in the green bottles. The salty undertaste takes getting used to, but it’s got to be at least 7.0, so no complaints. I’ll be home at the usual hour unless something comes up at the library, but I don’t expect any trouble once the senior book club meeting clears out.

I’ll be ordering a pizza. Don’t panic when the doorbell rings. Last week when the Thai delivery arrived there was a sudden stench like a skunk exploding in the kitchen, and afterwards I found symbols scrawled in damp charcoal all over the walls. The param pak and pineapple fried rice I left on the lamp table disappeared while my back was turned, though, so presumably you don’t have anything against Thai. You just get shy around people, huh?

Anyway, anchovies on your half. I know how you like it.

Be not quite seeing you,



Just a heads-up: tomorrow I’m getting drinks with the new guy in 4C. No high hopes, just being a friendly neighbor. His name’s Willem, so you know. Grad student in physics or something like that. Cute accent. I helped him carry boxes of books up the stairs, and you know how I like a fellow reader.

So, basically, I have to take a rain check on Parcheesi night. Maybe Thursday?




sorry fr coming in late. early. whatev. hope didnt wake u up. leftovrr risotto in frigde. plz clean up slime trail in case company.

good to get out of apt. sometimes right? funnnn!


Hey roomie—

Willem says he’s been having vivid nightmares about a five-dimensional city where cats with clown faces pursue him through Klein-bottle alleys, nipping at his legs. He showed me the little bite marks all over his calves. I only bring it up because it sounds suspiciously like those places that sometimes appear during the commercials when we’re watching TV. You remember last week when I had Hulu on, and it switched away in the middle of a Geico ad? Five-dimensional cat-man city. I assumed that was you changing the channel. It was, wasn’t it?

Well, I’m cool with having it on our TV, but the dreams are freaking Willem out. I don’t know how it is where you’re from, but around here we don’t change the channel in people’s heads.

Oh, and have you seen that crystal spiral you gave me a while back? The blue one. It’s perfect for unclogging the washing machine downstairs.

Your roomie,



Look, I apologized for missing dinner. I didn’t know you were making spaghetti and trapezoidal prisms– I’m not very good at reading those runes that only appear in the bathroom mirror, you know. They’re backwards, and also runes.

Yes, all right, I did promise to be home for dinner, and then I didn’t, and that’s on me. I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you.

But it’s unfair of you to take it out on Willem. Last night he woke up screaming and babbling about the city again. I tried telling him to ignore the man-face cats and get to that green mandala neighborhood that’s always hovering over the iron bridge, because it looks like it has nice bars, but he just stared at me. Now he’s in a mood and I don’t think he’s even noticed the mark branded on his back yet. There’ll be hell to pay when he sees that.

It’s immature of you, is all. He doesn’t need this. He’s got to defend his thesis next month. And his car broke down. He’s under a lot of pressure, is what I’m saying, without getting teleported into bad neighborhoods.


Excuse me—

It’s none of your business how I know what Willem screams in the dead of night. That’s not the point.

It’s not.

Your roommate


Cereal (Life or Grape-Nuts, no sugary stuff and no grey flakes in a pouch)

Half & half


Frozen peas/baby lima beans


Gelatinous ovoid things

I’ll be out for a couple of days, and you never clean so the least you can do is pick up some groceries while I’m gone.



Slight problem you may need be aware of. Now that the medication is keeping Willem’s night terrors manageable and we found a hairdresser who is a wizard at covering the recent white streak in his hair, he’s had space to think. Now he’s asking questions. The scientific mind, I guess. He keeps demanding to know how I knew about the mandala and the bridge. I told him I saw them on TV, which is true, but he isn’t satisfied.

He’s been poking around the building, drilling into walls. I don’t know how long he’s been at this. Possibly longer than I thought.

Again, DO NOT PANIC. DO NOT RELEASE THE FACE CATS OR SEND HIS MIND TO THE RED ALLEY. That is not cool, and anyway it’ll just raise his curiosity even more. I’ll try to get him focused on something else. The medication helps with that, and once the bites heal he won’t be reminded so often.

I’ll be home tonight. You want Thai? Let’s order Thai and talk. Or I’ll talk, and you’ll hover in my blind spot, watching, your eyes reflecting like torches off those odd green bottles. Just like old times.




He found the brand on his back. It’s been spreading. Gotta smooth this over. Not coming home tonight.

Dear Roomie—

I know this isn’t going to be your favorite idea, but I’ve got to come out and say it. Would it be so bad if you showed yourself? Or at least let the neighbors sort of know you exist? What would the actual fallout be?

It’s just that Willem thinks he’s going insane, especially since you left whatever it was you left behind the toilet in his bathroom, and I feel terrible about it. I hate the lying and the sneaking around. He’s a great guy if you give him a chance. He can be overbearing, I guess, but that’s part of his charm. And, again, he’s already stressed out from his thesis.

I’m not saying we should all have dinner together. Or maybe I am saying that. I don’t know. I want to make this work, for all three of us, and the current status quo is not healthy. The dishonesty is getting toxic, you know?

Please get back to me. Lately your runes have been cryptic.

Your friend (?),


Dear Roomie—

I’ve made a terrible mistake.

Let me back up.

No, never mind. I’m no good at long explanations. I may as well start with this morning after Willem ran out the door, late for a semiotics class. It always seemed a little weird that he took so many humanities courses for a physics student, Gnosticism and linguistic anthropology and stuff about Joseph Campbell. But, you know, to each his own.

I thought it made him multi-dimensional.

After he left I noticed he’d left his laptop behind, which he never did, and it was on, which it never was. So I went to turn it off, definitely not trying to invade his privacy or anything like that, you know me, just doing a favor. And that was how I saw his thesis.

He chose this building over two years ago, turns out. It’s mentioned in some 16th-century manuscripts and identified on old maps, and there was a poem by a minor Romantic who died of madness and consumption—“Étude de la Désolation,” I think was the title—but maybe you already know all that. It’s probably old news in the Elder City St’betnet.

Anyway, it looks like Willem’s been studying this for a while. Studying our home. I can’t say I understood his thesis paper—it mashes the quantum gravity research I thought was his main field with a bunch of alternate-universe models, Egyptian-Berber mythology, syntactic theory, complicated math, and stuff I think he got out of old Tor paperbacks, to be honest. The best I could make out was that he discovered some kind of gate and came here to study it. He was expecting the noises and smells and the dreams. He just wasn’t as prepared for them as he thought he’d be.

He wrote about you.

I should wrap this up. There’s only one page left in our “We’ve Got a Latte to Do Today!” magnetic refrigerator notepad.

So. I told him I read his thesis. It turned into a scene. I’m embarrassed to say it escalated to me going full-on Oscar Moment and demanding to know if our entire relationship was just part of his research.

He said, “Once I realized you’d been touched by They Who Walk Between, what else could I do? The department has been demanding hard evidence.”

He said, “You understand. I’ll be defending my thesis in less than a month.”

And that’s that.

I’ll get a new notepad tomorrow.

Your trusting idiot,


Dear Whoever,

Did you always suspect there was something up with him? Did you catch him skulking around collecting his precious data?

Or did you just not like him?

I liked him.

I passed him in the lobby this morning. He didn’t say hello, but he looked fine. Like he was fresh off a good night’s sleep and a plate of French toast.

I’m surprised you didn’t send him to the city. I know you promised not to do that anymore, but this whole situation has got to have you on edge. Good work resisting the temptation. It would have been petty.

But I have to admit, I was tempted to ask.

Your roommate,


Dear Whoever,

Please stop by tonight. I haven’t seen you in days—okay, I’ve never seen-seen you, but you know what I mean—and we need to talk. Willem’s been avoiding me in the halls. That’s fine with me, but I get the impression he’s up to something. Probably just me being paranoid. It’s just me being paranoid, right?

What will we do if he publishes this thesis?

Will you have to go?

Leave me some kind of message. Burn runes into the kitchen floor or scrawl on the walls in bile. I don’t know what to do.



Dear Whoever,

Where are you?



Dear Ethan:—

As I seem lately blocked from your cellular-phone and social-media accounts, perhaps the antique practice of the note slipped under the door will prove a more efficacious means of contact. I confess, in honesty, to feel peculiarly comfortable expressing myself in the epistolary mode, to the point that I quite prefer it to common speech. Possibly my queer and curious course of obscure study, combined with my extended stay at this legend-haunted pile known to more mundane thinkers as Perelman Apartments, has intensified this natural tendency to the point of eccentricity. This, I leave you to judge.

My purpose in contacting you is not, as you may fear or hope, to reopen our prior relationship. I think that well behind us. I must instead address your disturbing reaction to your discovery—and our subsequent less-than-fruitful discussion—of my thesis paper. To be brief—“Be brief, Willem!” I hear you, and any nameless reader who may by chance come across this correspondence in some future tome of scholarly letters of note, beg—you should seek help of a psychiatric nature.

Whether you believe it, my feelings toward you remain those of friendship—of friendly concern—of avuncular well-wishing—of regard. Knowing firsthand the grotesque magnetic pull of this place and its more squamous inhabitants, I fear for your psyche. Over the course of mere weeks I began to feel these uncanny effects, as well you know—and you, Ethan, have resided far longer than I. Nor is your mind as strong as mine, as honed by long study in the hard sciences to withstand affronts to Euclidean logic and to comprehend even the sublime. More than comprehend, but capture, dissect, and expose it to the disinfecting light of science! …But I digress.

There is no question in my mind that you have been in communion with one of They Who Walk Between. How deep this communion, and how long it has been allowed to continue unabated, I do not know. But from my research I know the power of the Walkers and the clutching effect the presence of such entities may have on the ordinary, unschooled human brain. I believe, in short, that you are not yourself, that you have developed an abnormal fascination—an attachment to something uncanny, something beyond your understanding.

You are in danger, Ethan. The particular attachment to which I refer may not be an issue at present, but if you persist in inhabiting this forsaken temple to the unearthly, allowing its unreal geometry to remold the very shape of your mind, you will only fall further from the normal capacity for human relationships. I tell you this only as a friend.

Leave this place. Find a therapist.

Best wishes,



Christ, you’re an asshole.


Dear Ethan:—

Your reaction only proves my suspicions correct. What I wrote, I wrote strictly out of respect for our former relationship and what lingering tender concern I might harbor toward your well-being. That you chose to respond so irrationally tells me I can do no more, not that I had any intention of continuing our correspondence.

Just as well. My thesis is almost complete; I present on Friday. And, as intimated in my previous missive, the particular entity that has of late polluted your spirit and your apartment is no longer, for you, an issue. Feel free to do as you please.



P.S. I learned some weeks ago, with the aid of the dread grimoire Tore von Schatten, my copy of which was reportedly unearthed at Salem, how to block the dream-paths of the Elder City. The method has quite cleared my mind and guarded my sleep. I may be willing to loan you photocopies if you find yourself troubled by similar afflictions from another of They Who Walk—as you doubtless will be if you stay here; but only if you apologize first.






Please get back to me. I’m begging you.

You have him. I know you have him. Whatever you’re planning to do with him, don’t. He’s so shy. He just wants to be left alone, watch some TV, have his coffee in the morning the way he likes it. Half-and-half, no sugar, stirred with a wand of yellow bone. Little things.

Tell me what you want in return. Anything. Just talk to me.

Promise you won’t hurt him.


Dear Mr. Lanigan,

Sorry to bother you, but for once I’m not writing about the missing recycling bin or fixing the sconces in the lobby.

There seems to have been a break-in or something at 4C. I only glanced in, but it’s a real mess: books and papers everywhere, furniture overturned, burn marks. No idea how much was stolen. Maybe it was teenagers messing around. We get goth kids trying to talk their way into the building sometimes. Apparently they think this is some kind of mystical site? I don’t know anything about that stuff, I’m just a librarian.

One weird thing: there’s a big cage or crate in the apartment. From my glimpse of the thing it looked like it was broken open and empty. I certainly hope the tenant in 4-C wasn’t keeping some kind of big dog in there. I’m very aware of the building’s no-pets policy. I read all your notes about those cats people keep spotting.

Anyway, the tenant hasn’t been back—I think his name was Willem, we talked a few times—so please contact the police. Or whatever the procedure is for this situation. As a resident, I’m concerned for my safety.

Your loyal tenant,

Ethan (in 3B)

Dear You,

Let’s hope this teaches both of us the importance of communication. I should have been more open about Willem and the red flags he was sending up, yes. And you really needed to be clearer about a lot of things. Don’t sulk (I can picture your spines rising as you read this), you know it’s true.

If you’d let me know how to open the gates to the Elder City and walk the paths Between, just the basics for emergency situations, I could have gotten you away from that asshole so much sooner. For God’s sake, he almost managed to exhibit you to his stupid thesis committee. He almost had proof.

Good thing for both of us, not to mention the structure of reality, that he’s such a blowhard. He may think his skin-bound, written-in-blood edition of Tore von Schatten is oh so special, and okay, it’s probably a very impressive piece of incunabula. But it’s hardly the only copy. I tracked down a grimy 1970s paperback translation through interlibrary loan and learned exactly the same damn incantations he did, and then some.

Thanks to the illustrations, I realized the thing I’ve been using as a salad tong is in fact the Key of Tssil, which helped open a lot of paths. Thanks for giving me that. You really could have let me know what it was for, though. This is exactly what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I didn’t leave Willem in the Red Alley. That seemed excessive. I put him in that tower with the orbs. I figure by the time we let him out, he won’t be in any state to come off as a reliable witness.

Trust me, no one on the earthly plane is ever going to find his thesis.

You’ll notice I’ve rearranged the living room again. The loveseat is front and center, just enough room for two. I’m making spaghetti, and there’s a bottle of Pinot Noir breathing on the coffee table.

Sit down. We’ll see what’s on TV.




This story is a Drabblecast original.
Episode Art:  Mike Dominic
Read by:  Nathan Lee

Twabble:  “The marionette boy dreamt of a world enveloped in string, from city to tree to cloud to moon. The freedom to fly anywhere. ”  by  bryanwitha_y

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