Eve Connor (she/her)
There is a black patch in the corner of my room, a dark militia advancing across the ceiling. It has grown since the first day I moved in, when I stacked my boxes along the wall and noticed it. That morning it had worried me. Every so often I would consider reaching for my phone to call the landlord, but by the time the food had gone rotten after only a day in the fridge and the water ran from the tap cloudy and laced with grit, I had developed a strange sort of apathy. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that it should sicken me—elicit a surge of paranoia that with every breath I’m allowing microscopic spores to infect my lungs, multiply, asphyxiate me. It doesn’t. Somehow, I sense within that sea of splotches—some large, others barely more than specks—that there is a pattern. I think it can be read, not as words but as an image, an elaborate painting speaking through form and intensity. It is drenched in nostalgia. It reminds me of a childhood scene: tucked in bed, read to by my mother. So calming. I’ll let it flourish.
I’m lying in bed, staring up at the map they have drawn on the ceiling, when I hear the door. There’s another knock before I manage to get up, then another before I reach the hall. The fourth knock is louder. I ignore it. They are warning me not to answer. Not with words but with their trailing form, surrounding the door frame, blacking it out, erasing its existence.
The silence that descends upon the room would have been discomforting in the past. I needed the patter of rain, the occasional sound of cars or footfall, voices to find solace in. Now that all of it is gone, I realise it was a distraction, pulling me away from the quiet and the peace that I find in the sight of their spread and the sound of their approach.
They have covered the windows, falling over the panes of glass like a lace veil. There is just enough light for us now. It comes through in pinpricks, tracing constellations across the mattress and floor, the unpacked boxes and my skin. They tell me stories through the shapes, making me laugh, and cry. I had wanted to paint the walls yellow, to diffuse happiness throughout the room—nauseating now I think about it, the colour of sunshine and bile. I’m happy they’ve chosen for me, covering the walls with their dappled black body. They understand the place, having lived here since the foundations were laid and the first inhabitant discovered them. I am one in a long line of tenants to whom they have revealed themselves. They assure me I am one of the special ones, but I haven’t completely earned their trust yet; they still guard their secrets from me. Sometimes, from the corner of my eye, I see movement, subtle though I’m sure it’s there. They breathe in unison and I make a point of trying to match them, but I can’t hold my breath long enough. I resign myself to staying as still as possible, watching in the dim light to catch their motion, track their progress. They’ll be starting across the floor soon.
There are no bugs in the room. It’s a relief. I used to have an unusual obsession, a fear that would rear its head as I slept. Bugs were the fuel of my nightmares. But I don’t dream anymore, I don’t even close my eyes. All my fears are in the past now. There will be no critters scurrying over me, biting me, crawling into my ears, up my nose, down my throat or burrowing under my skin. It’s just me. Just them. It will be more intimate this way. When they reach me—cover my fingers, wrap around my ankles, clamber up the strands of my hair—it will only be us. Many to one; to many again. I will stay as long as they do. Doors and windows locked, fortified and safe from the contaminants of the outside world. We have found our home, forever.