Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
“Grandpa, you’ve never told us how you got that huge scar on your arm!”
“Yeah, tell us, tell us!”
“Alright, but you kids might want to take a seat for this one. That’s right, nice and comfortable, now… Where to start… Ah yes.”
“Well you see, it all started way back in 2015 and it has to do with this one word: subtle. Subtlety is an interesting concept. It’s all about the tiniest of changes that are almost undetectable to the human mind. Almost. See, back in the day I was quite an observant person and I often times picked up on the small subtleties of life. It is that skill of observation, however, that got me into a bit of an issue. Well, more to say, the issue was already there, but because of the fact that I noticed the small subtle changes I picked up on said issue earlier than most people would in the same situation.
“I was an Engineer; and it is the fact that I was an engineer that lead me to be sitting at my desk, in my bedroom, working on my computer. That’s when I first noticed it, the subtle difference. It’s a perfect example of the concept, really, I kept a metal cup on my desk filled with writing utensils. Pens, pencils, and such, I had kept quite a few of them in there- two dozen at least. Well, when I was working on my designs I often stared at my cup, lost in thought. I worked from home so, when I woke up the next day and went over to my desk I was able to immediately get back to work. And the next day, and the next day, and so on. That is, until I once again found myself lost in thought staring at the cup of utensils, and that is where the concept of subtlety comes in to play. Four pens, five pencils; that is all that the cup held. Nine pieces remaining of the original two dozen. It was like looking at one of those images that starts off as one color and fades into another: you begin by looking at red until you follow the flow of the image, changing ever so slightly shade by shade, and suddenly you’re looking at blue. That is subtle change, and that is what happened to my writing utensils.
“At the beginning of the week my cup had been filled with them, but every day the contents of that cup had been ever so slightly different. One pencil disappearing at a time; a pen there one day, gone the next; it is the insignificance of the disappearances that made them so easy to miss, even for me, but that sudden realization of their disappearance had tipped me off.
“I know I sound like some crazy old fool, but it was not possible for me to have lost the pens, I never took them away from that desk; therefore the knowledge that my pens went missing also meant that someone had taken them, which is a very interesting thought considering I lived alone.
“Missing writing tools was one thing, they’re mere pennies to replace, but now that I was hinted towards the disappearance of some of my objects I started to notice quite a few more subtle disappearances around my home. Socks disappearing on laundry day is not an uncommon occurrence, but I was quite certain that mine were being taken, not lost. And when I went in to the kitchen and opened my drawer, there were four forks. Four; when I undoubtedly owned five, and I never took my silverware from the kitchen. There was something going on that I was unaware of, but the reasoning for it remained unexplained.
“I thought perhaps I should call the police, my things were clearly being stolen; but I believed I would be viewed as more of a fool than anything else. Even now I do not think the police would appreciate the ravings of a man claiming his socks and pencils are being stolen. So, if I couldn’t go to the police I had to think up my own solution and the first logical thing that came to mind was to change my locks. It sent a shiver down my spine to think that someone might have been in my house unknown to me, but after I had the new locks in place I felt like I could sleep easy that night.
“Unfortunately, I did not sleep well at all that very same night, considering that’s when learned it was not some00; font-style: italic; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>one taking my possessions, but some00; font-style: italic; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;”>thing. The memory of that night is engraved into my mind, and how I wish I could forget it. Everything is just so clear, I had crawled into bed and burrowed into my warm covers, resting my head on a nice soft pillow. But despite all these comforts I found that I couldn’t sleep at all, there was something nagging at the edge of my mind. I still don’t know what it was that kept me awake, but after half an hour of tossing and turning I heard something that set my heart racing. I am a finicky sleeper, so I kept my room completely pitch black, door closed blinds drawn, and as silent as possible, which is why my heart nearly stopped when I heard a noise in the dark.
“It was no louder than a few coins jangling in your pocket, but in the silence of my room it was deafening. The noise, nothing more than a tiny metallic rattle, came from the corner of my room where I kept my desk. I stared wide eyed into the darkness, hardly daring to breath, not able to see a damn thing; the door and blinds were still shut so there was no way anyone had made their way into my room. It was gone after a few seconds, but I still did not get a wink of sleep that night. There’s not many things out there that are more terrifying than realizing you have an uninvited guest in your bedroom at night, but when I finally managed to force myself out of bed the next morning I discovered that it was almost just as terrifying to realize that the uninvited guest had taken one of my remaining pens.
“That’s when I began to sink into my own mind, really, I ignored the incident of the previous night and went about my usual business. Another day of mindless work, the very next day after that I woke up to an unusual creaking in my home, and the house was not the type of building to groan in the wind. No, the noise seemed to come from overhead, almost like something was crawling around in my attic. Of course, there was no way in hell I was going to stick my head up there to see what was waiting, so I just forced myself to go about my daily routine.
“I ate breakfast with one of my three remaining forks, took a shower and discovered my shampoo bottle to be missing, pulled on my clothes- minus one sock- and sat down at my desk to work. It may seem crazy to try to ignore what was going on around me, maybe I was in denial, but at the time I had been quite stressed with a big project at work. That same project is probably what managed to keep me sane over the following week.
“I would stay up working on my project until I got tired enough to fall asleep instantly as soon as I hit the bed, so I would never have to face my guest in the dark. I started to make a habit of looking very carefully at my room as soon as I woke up to try to discover what was missing, it was always something small; a book, a belt, and even one of my shoelaces at one point. Yet I would still get up, eat breakfast, and work on my project; all the while the noise in my attic continued to grow louder. The sound of a house readjusting, but with a much different implication.
“Like I said, this continued on for about a week, my pitiful attempt to ignore the situation. It all ended on a Sunday, oddly enough. I rolled out of bed after a night of unsatisfying sleep, walked to the kitchen and ate a bowl of cereal with my bare hands -all of my silverware had been whisked away- then I went to plop myself down at my desk and toil away mindlessly at my project. I didn’t even bother changing clothes because all of my laundry had slowly vanished.
“I said that project kept me sane, but maybe I had already gone crazy at that point; I sat there working on that project for fourteen hours straight, no food, water, or bathroom usage, only work. Then I got up and fell face first into my bed, expecting to fall asleep immediately. But I did not.
“It was that same uneasy feeling, the kind of thing that sets your hair on end, that prevented me from falling asleep. So I just laid there on my bed, listening to the creaking boards in my attic, but that night it was different. Like always, I kept my room pitch black, so all I could do was pay attention to each individual groan of the wood. Occasionally there would be the faintest popping noise, I was too braindead to think into it. That is, until one of the popping noises occurred directly over my head and it was loud, it was also immediately followed by a much louder SNAP!
“The straining support beams had reached their limit and they broke. I had no idea what was going on, it was dark and all I heard was a massive rumble, something like thunder. Even so, I still managed to roll to the side, and that instinctive roll is probably what saved my life.
“Even the neighbors heard the crashing and they all hurried over in the middle of the night to check on me. When they managed to force their way past my locked front door they eventually made it to find me in my bedroom. That’s where they saw me with my arm pinned under one of my home’s support beams- as well as a massive pile made up of every single one of my missing items.
“Like I said, subtlety is interesting. One second you’re looking at the color red and then a slightly less red shade of red. And all of those little changes add up until you’re dealing with something else entirely. You find that you’re not longer looking at red, but at blue.
“And I found out that something, I still don’t know what, had spent days on end stealing tiny little items from me and piling them up above my head. Adding all of those subtle little disappearances together into one large clump, all in the hopes that it would come crashing down onto me while I slept.
“What I learned shortly after is that it was not the first time something like that had happened in the neighborhood, there had been multiple similar incidents spread out across a decade’s time. Probably the ghost of some little brat shit kid hell bent on causing trouble, but another thing I know is that whatever it was it failed to get me- it tried to drop my own damn house on my head, but I survived, and that is how I got this scar on my arm, kids.”
“Grandpa, there’s no way that story is true!”
“Heh heh, sure kiddo, sure…”