The cold wind made him clench his unzipped coat and crouch his head. Danny walked down the sidewalk that faced his apartment building and wondered how soon he’d move back in. He’d leased the new luxury pad less than a year ago. It was in the middle of Prospect neighborhood, close to Coors Field and Union Station. Living there had allowed him to meet and impress Brooke at a nearby bar one night. Little did he know at the time that he’d eventually move in with her. It wasn’t because Brooke’s place was nicer. It was more to keep her out of his life just in case.
Just in case she turns out to be boil-the-rabbit material.
He’d once used that term around her and the twenty-something didn’t get it. Danny understood. He was thirty-one years old but knew enough about pop culture to understand the reference from the ‘80’s film Fatal Attraction about a psycho lady. Danny was proud of his knowledge of films and music and books and anything else related to media from the last fifty years.
Brooke had stayed angry at him last night and had even decided to sleep in the guestroom. Her guest bedroom. He’d made one attempt to make up, but he seriously didn’t have the energy. Danny didn’t care. He honestly didn’t. This was why he’d moved in with her. Why he was going to lease the apartment again even if things were going along fine. There was a reason he wasn’t married by now. It was because women always, always turned into Brooke. Needy, wanting, griping babies.
His suitcase was packed for his trip and he was ready to go to the airport, but he remembered one thing he needed to pick up from his office. He still came in to work just like anybody else would. The difference was he was self-employed and his office was in his apartment.
Danny reached the fourth floor and unlocked his door. The silence that greeted him was actually soothing. He dropped his phone and keys on the island in the kitchen, then checked the fridge to see if there was any kind of food inside that could get funky while he was on his trip. Everything appeared just like it had yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. Brooke called him a neat freak and a germaphobe and someone with OCD. But coming from a chick who was clearly cuckoo, these insults didn’t mean much.
The inside of the refrigerator agreed with Brooke. His milk was in its regular place facing outward, the bottles of beer lined up with their labels all front and center. Lots of rows and items that seemed to fit side-by-side. He usually only ate lunch in this apartment, but still he needed to maintain order and cleanliness.
Brooke’s right but whatever.
There was a folder on the town he was heading to in North Carolina that he’d forgotten in his office. He didn’t have to come by and get it—most of the info he had could be found in links online and in information he’d already placed in a Word file called SOLITARY. Right now he was finding out facts and rumors and anything else that would be noteworthy to find. The folder contained articles he’d printed out and also random notes he’d either made or found, but most important was the photo inside. The picture of the retired sheriff who had been on record talking about the events that made national headlines in this town just a few years ago.
Before heading into his office down the hall, Danny picked up the framed photo of himself standing between his parents. The bald, round man with a big smile on one side and the petite, curly-haired woman with a look of pride on the other. It had been the day he’d signed his publishing deal for six figures. Two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars, actually. For two books, one that he was still currently working on. All because of his wonderfully witty blog Brooke never read.
Four years ago. A lot could change in four years. A father can die of a massive and sudden stroke. A mother can suddenly start to go senile. Your two biggest fans can suddenly be gone.
The sound of static suddenly caused him to look up. It came from down the hall where his bedroom and office were located. It reminded him for a moment of his parents’ old television that actually had the good old static on it anytime they messed up something with their all-in-one remote. Danny had not only written one of his favorite blogs about that damn remote but it kept coming up in other blogs as well. He told everybody that he knew beyond a shred of doubt that the remote control was possessed by a demon. The demon’s name was Gertrude and she was an angry demon who kept forgetting when she’d last haunted them.
Danny put the photo back in its exact place on the corner of the kitchen counter, then kept listening. A low ruffling fuzz of a sound that didn’t seem to go away.
He walked down the wood floor and heard the sound continue to get louder and louder.
It came from his office. As he opened the door which he always kept shut, the static stopped.
Danny felt a wave of cold come over him. He kept the temperature low in the apartment, but it never went off. At least it never should go off.
The two lamps in the office went on but didn’t reveal anything that might be crackling. Danny walked over to the desk in the middle of the room. A large monitor sat on the desk but it was black. He would bring his MacBook Pro in and connect the two. Danny swept the room with a glance but there was nothing unusual or on in the room.
A chill seemed to coat him like blast of wind during a blizzard. He shivered and couldn’t remember the last time he’d done that. Danny wasn’t the goosebumps sort of guy. Things didn’t get him all tingly-feeling. Déjà vu or inspiration or fear or anything.
So what’s wrong with me?
He found the folder on top of a series of them in the corner of his desk. All very neat and orderly in different colors. He picked it up.
A rattling sound ripped through the room. Then it turned into more of a buzzing, whirring sort of noise. Danny laughed and shook his head and then peered under his desk and then
He jerked and banged his foot sideways on the floor somehow in the most awkward sort of shocked jump mankind had ever seen. The folder went flying as Danny bolted away from his desk. The rattling continued.
All Danny could picture were the coiled layers and the black diamonds and the snake’s tongue.
A freaking rattlesnake’s under my desk.
The sound continued but Danny didn’t stay to continue listening to it. He clipped the side of the doorway as he got out of the room, then shut the door and almost felt his morning coffee rushing up through his throat and mouth. He felt dizzy and nauseous. His mind shook with thoughts as fast as the tail of the snake in his office.
How’d one of those get in there?
He thought of the neighbors who loathed him. Then of Brooke. Then of some of his biggest haters. But would somebody plant a snake in his office? Really? Especially that kind?
That was a black diamondback rattlesnake.
He breathed in and out and tried to slow down. The rattling started up again. Danny rushed back down the hall to grab his phone.
Do those things even live around here?
As he picked up his phone he yelled out a big fat curse to let the snake knew exactly what he thought. His heart was still thumping through his sweater. It was adrenaline, and he could literally taste it.
The voice on the other end didn’t answer so quickly. Maybe 911 was having a slow day.
“Yeah, I just found a rattlesnake—a real rattling rattlesnake—in my office. In my apartment. On the fourth floor.”
Just then a thought came to Danny’s mind. This was going to make a great post. A fabulous one. The kind that most people would think was made up. But nope.
This is real, folks. Yours truly almost died seconds ago. But I’m here to share the story and put a bit of comedy into it.
He’d have to wait a little while to find any humor in this. But it would come. The comedy would always arrive and Danny would always be left with the last laugh.