The Craigslist Roommate
For six healthy, happy years… my buddy Bryan and I had a good thing going.
Our apartment was a rent controlled gem located just outside Manhattan. Two bedrooms, two baths, a luxurious view of the city… and nobody to whine about our equally shitty eating habits, bachelor lifestyle, and bad hygiene. What more could you want?
That ended when the dickhead had to go and get himself married.
Bryan gave me the heads up two months ahead of time. The plan was that he would propose to his girlfriend, Olivia, and then surprise her with their very own new home. I was happy for the guy. But, at the same time, I knew that made my options for a new roommate were pretty slim. We didn’t have a lot of other friends.
I had heard it was not uncommon for young, working professionals in the metro area to find room mates on Craigslist. In my case, that option was an unfortunate necessity. While the rent was reasonable, it was more than I could ever afford on my own. At that point, it was either find somebody else… or move back to Mom’s house. At age thirty.
I hit the classified sections with full force. The weird thing was that almost nobody responded. I have to be honest, my marketing skills were not amazing. It was hard to think of the ad as anything different than a Tinder description.
“Thirty year old male looking for cool, understanding roommate. Keeps normal hours and must have employment or means to pay rent.“
I waited a month and a half until hearing anything back at all.
The guy who eventually answered seemed normal enough. The email said he was a young professional like myself, and worked at a financial firm in Brooklyn. After a couple messages back and forth, we agreed to meet at a breakfast spot in town.
I was nervous that meeting. Bryan and Liv made fun of me for my outfit, which was nothing more than a button down shirt and some khakis.
“I hope your new girlfriend can keep you happy, Matt,” Olivia said.
I muttered some witty retort, but I was a bit worried. Bry and I had become brothers over the years, and this new guy sounded a little weird from his last email.
“There are some complications with my sleeping situation. We can discuss in person.“
It was raining the morning of our meeting, but the restaurant was only a block away from my place. I ran down the block in a hurry, aware of the fact I was late. When I walked up to the front door, there was a man standing outside in a gray trench coat, with his eyes on his watch.
I would have ignored him entirely if he didn’t address me directly.
“Craigslist user FirstBreath1? Its 10:05.“
I spun around awkwardly to greet him.
“Hey, sorry about that, lost track of time. Mike – right?“
The man nodded and lifted the brim of his cringe-worthy bowler cap. Other than that, he was normal looking, with mutton chop sideburns that met a thinly groomed beard. A modest gut stuck out of an old Star Wars shirt. To be honest, he looked like every guy from my high school, minus the weird m’lady business.
We went inside and ordered breakfast. To my surprise, he ordered the same thing as me. Two pancakes and a side of extra crispy bacon.
The conversation was pleasant and normal enough. The rent was right up Mike’s alley, the commute was close, and he would be able to bring and park his car in the lot. After a half hour of pleasantries, mostly about work, we finished our breakfast and agreed he would move in next week.
Somehow, the topic of his sleeping habits slipped his mind. I guess I was too scared to ask.
Move-in day was chaotic. Somehow, we screwed up the schedule so severely that Mike was moving in during the time Bryan was moving out. By the end of the night, I was exhausted, and went to bed around ten, with the two of them arguing about security deposits and scuff marks on the wall.
When I woke up, the watch on my nightstand was the only light, and it told me it was well past three in the morning. Its not unusual for me to get up in the middle of the night. Usually I stumble to the kitchen for a glass of water. Then its right back to bed.
I shook the sleep out of my eyes. After a moment of contemplation, I stood and nearly tripped over my dog, Lola.
That was unusual. The door to my room was closed to keep the dog out.
As I walked past the corner of my bed, I saw a muted shape in the armchair. Thinking one of the roomies left a bag on my bed, I walked right up and poked it in the darkness. To my surprise, it replied.
“Cut the piggy, and save some for me,” said Mike.
I screamed out of my skin. Not ashamed to admit that. I tried everything from shaking him to kicking his feet. I didn’t want to insult the guy too bad. Maybe it was just really bad sleep walking? But, nothing woke him up.
“Cut the cow, its blood can be sold in town.“
Mike repeated the phrase over and over again from the armchair. He never moved or flinched an inch, and barely responded to my attempts to my restrained kicks, shoves, and subtle slaps.
After five minutes, I gave up, and brought my bedsheets down to the living room.
He wasn’t violent, at least. He just sat there. It was creepy… but possibly explainable.
After settling in on the couch downstairs, I was over it. I was prepared to write the whole thing off as the weird sleep issues described in the email.
Shortly before falling back asleep, I heard footsteps leaving my bedroom. I called out to Mike to not-so-nicely tell him off for waking me.
But nobody answered.
Soon enough, the footsteps dropped melodically down the padded carpet steps to our living room. Then they stopped at the bottom.
“Cut the little piggy, and save some for me,” the voice said robotic-ally.
“Oh, for fucks sake.“
I got up from the couch, grabbed my keys, and sprinted out the door. As I opened it, I caught a glimpse of Mike down the hall. He was staring at the microwave in the kitchen, mumbling the same words to himself.
I resigned to spend the rest of the night sleeping in my car outside. It was uncomfortable. When you’re a teenager, sleeping in your car is a lot more manageable. As an adult, I felt like an asshole. I should have known the guy was a weirdo from the start.
I got about two additional hours of sleep before the rising sun peaked through my windshield. That day was a workday, but I was unshaven and disgusting. I needed to go back inside to change and wash the stink of the morning off my skin.
When I opened the car door, Mike was standing on the other side.
He was wearing his corny bowler cap on top of his best bedroom gear, which was boxers and a white tee-shirt. He wasn’t wearing his glasses.
“Cut the piggy, and save some for me,” he said again.
I punched him in the face.
Honestly, after being woken up three times in the night by the guy, he’s lucky it was the least I did.
As soon as my fist connected with his nose bone, Mike let out a high pitched shriek as he fell to the sharp gravel grounds of the parking lot.
“What the fuck, man?!” he said, bewildered from the floor.
I went to the rental office this morning and asked them to evict him. They refused. The contracts have already been signed, and his rent and security deposit have been paid.
It is hard to explain the uneasy feeling in my stomach right now. I’m at work, waiting and hoping for somebody to find a solution to get this guy out of my house.
The time is currently 1:24 and Mike is still there. He texted me that we need to talk. I got a lock at Home Depot.
But… I am terrified to go to sleep tonight.
After work last night, I was greeted at the front door by my fully conscious Craigslist roommate. He was wearing clothes, this time, and a look of uncompressed embarrassment.
“Look, man, I am really sorry about what happened,” he offered to the stale, empty, hallway air.
When you and I last spoke, I was a little freaked out. I took the day to reconsider.
Some of your comments really helped with that. The Internet is full of seemingly supernatural shit when it comes to sleep-walking. The possibility that the situation was explainable in a rational, non-crazy way still weighed heavily on me.
So after seeing Mike’s remorse and good intentions… I was open to giving the guy a second chance.
“Did you get pizza?“
That was a good start.
There was no aggression in his tone, whatsoever. If anything… he sounded a little freaked out himself. He had always had a problem with traveling in his sleep. When he was nine, his mom caught him walking around the neighborhood in pajamas at three in the morning. That was just one instance. As an adult, he usually took the time to put a lock on the outside of his door, but that night he was so exhausted that he didn’t bother. There had not been any episodes for months with his new medication.
The creepy things he said were explainable too.
Mike’s grandmother was a weird little old lady that grew up on a farm somewhere in the mid-west. At night, she would sing these creepy ditties to him before bed. They were designed to help children adjust to the harsh circumstances of growing up near a slaughterhouse. She started to lose her mind a bit, towards the end. Mike just thought it was her way of comforting him to sleep.
“Cut the little piggy, and save some for me,“
“Cut the cow, its blood can be sold in town.“
The two of us actually had a pleasurable chat throughout the evening. After a couple hours of actually getting to know Mike, with the aid of a case of Miller Lite, I learned he was not half a bad guy. He grew up in a Jersey town twenty minutes from mine. Our mothers, coincidentally, went to the same high school in Brooklyn back in the sixties. Our families had a lot of ties over the years just by being from the same area. With a little background, he was nowhere near as menacing.
Soon enough, it was time for bed again.
To give you a little more information on the layout of our apartment, the living room is downstairs, on the first level. Our two bedrooms are upstairs, on opposite ends of the hallway, with a mutual bathroom in the middle.
So when I drilled the indoor lock on my door… it was not exactly subtle.
Mike gave me a sheepish grin as he installed his own from the other side of the hallway. After a few moments, I waved goodnight, and took Lola in my room, this time. For precautionary reasons.
It was only an hour later that I heard his fists smack through the wood like a drunken zombie.
Somehow, he got through.
Lola started to growl by my side as the wooden frame splintered and collapsed under Mike’s considerable weight.
His footsteps stumbled forward lazily down the hall. They paused at the intersection of my staircase and room. I reached for the bat beside my bed, but to my relief, the steps strolled downstairs.
Even in his sleep, Mike was able to unlatch the chain from our front apartment door. In the stillness of the evening, I thought I heard him repeat his favorite phrase.
“Cut the cow, its blood can be sold in town.“
And then he was gone.
I thought about chasing after him.
In fact, Lola and I even got up to survey the damage. But before that could happen, the door downstairs opened again.
Two voices laughed nervously as they entered our apartment.
One was female.
She giggled in the cadence of a girl being wooed. I almost laughed myself in that moment. He was asleep, and gone for two minutes, but still Mike had still managed to scare himself up some company.
Two pairs of feet scurried up the stairs excitedly.
They hung a sharp right turn at the top and headed for Mike’s room. The woman laughed hysterically when she saw what must have been Mike’s shattered door.
“Cut the little piggy, and save some for me,” he offered aloud.
She giggled, again, and said;
“Stop it, you.“
The noise suggested that they climbed over the misshaped door frame and landed somewhere around his bed. After that… how do I put this delicately…
They had sex.
The noise they made was horrible. There was some rhythm to it, sure, but they sounded more like two barnyard animals completing the basic requirement for life. I guess the fact the shattered door made it all the more easy to hear… but they were loud. The moans and groans that emanated down the hallway barely sounded human.
After two and a half minutes, their romance ended with a rather rough thud against the wall.
Lola started to growl again.
One pair of feet got up from the bed.
The owner was quiet as they grabbed a seemingly large object and began to drag it by their side.
I feared the worst, and geared up by grabbing my bat and my sixty pound German Shepherd. We sprinted across my bedroom and undid the lock in half a moment.
When we opened our door… Mike was standing in the hallway.
Covered in blood.
His back was turned to me. He was crouched and struggling. It looked as though he was trying to drag something along the carpet. His arms were outstretched in exactly that mannerism, but when I poked my head to see more…
Nobody else was there.
Hand-prints and markings were smeared on the wall in every which way. I screamed out to Mike to explain what the fuck was happening at that moment. He turned around slowly. There was a maniacal look in his once trustworthy eyes.
“Cut the piggy, save some for me!“
Then he tried to charge me.
When Mike ran… he was already crouched down. So it could have been considered natural that he skittered forward on all fours. But the way he licked his lips and bared his teeth suggested something a lot more sinister and disturbing.
Whatever it was… Lola did not like it.
She was on top of him and ripping at the blood covered tee shirt before he could travel five feet.
The voice that laughed during this attack was not Mike’s. It was that woman. In a high pitched giggle, he repeated the same line from earlier in the night:
“Stop it, you,“
After a couple moments hesitation, I pulled my dog off his back and bolted her back in my bedroom.
Mike looked like he might try to make another run at me.
His face was covered in scratches, and the cloth from his shirt was ripped in several places. He looked more rabid than Lola.
Following my own advice, I landed a solid punch to his already shattered cheekbone.
He woke up after that.
Mike immediately tried to apologize in his confused stupor. The blood was explainable. He opened his hand to reveal a large cut that ran across his palm. He claimed to know nothing about leaving the apartment, or the voices, or attacking me, or anything at all. He also begged me not to report it.
I haven’t. Yet. I took my dog and left without a word.
The time is 7:20 PM, on a Saturday. I returned to my apartment to pick up my stuff.
The blood is cleaned up. Nobody is here.
Instincts and everyone else will tell me to leave. To get a hotel. To give up.
But wherever I go… I sure as hell will not sleep well tonight.
When I signed off on Saturday night, something in the house did not feel quite right. I don’t know how to describe it… the apartment was empty and dark. There was not a soul or anything suspicious in sight.
But sure enough, around 7:30, the lock downstairs clicked and slipped suddenly to the left. I could hear the familiar patter of four feet skittering across the wood floor. Without assuming too much more, I knew I was trapped the moment it opened the door.
It was not my new roommate. That was clear. The voice that spoke, at first… was confident, feminine, and free of fear.
“Tut, tut, tut” it said while walking through the kitchen. “This place is filth, defined, Michael. Do you clean?“
Mike’s sheepish voice replied.
“I am sorry, grandma,“
Grandma. Suddenly the puzzle pieces started to connect.
The door slammed shut and locked behind while Lola quietly cried.
“I will not lie to you. This is dirtier than the farm. Truly. Who is responsible for this mess? Does your father know?“
“He is a nice man, grandma, please don’t hurt him,” said Mike.
“Not like last time,” he added.
“Nonsense. A nice man does not leave his house in such a pigsty. That better not be alcohol in the corner.“
Grandma did not like that.
“Are you keeping a filthy fucking mutt in this house, too, Michael?” she shrieked.
“No, ma’am, the animal is… his,” Mike said apologetically.
“I don’t care if you are protecting the Pope’s pet, Junior, we do not keep animals inside. Animals are food. You know a heck of a lot better than this, boy. Or do you need another smacking as a reminder?“
Mike paused. Then he seemed to agree, regretfully. “Cut the cow, it’s blood can be sold in town.“
“Very good. Now let’s go and cut the piggies together.“
Fuck this, I thought. This is my apartment.
I decided to call downstairs with a warning. I don’t know why I thought that would work. Call it a sudden inclination of idiotic bravery.
“Mike, you need to get the fuck out of here. I am upstairs behind a locked door. I am armed, and neither of us want a repeat of the last couple nights.“
Both voices paused in response.
Then they skittered up the stairs in record time.
I wrapped the metal bat around my shoulder, like it would do something, when faced with full-on crazy. I had never been a fan of guns, but in that moment, I would have felt a lot safer with one in my hand.
As soon as the four feet got to to the top of the stairs, they slammed the full brunt of their weight into my bedroom door.
It didn’t budge. But the framing and wood did start to splinter.
The monster formerly know as my roomy shrieked horribly. He sounded injured. Or just angry. But neither stopped him from slamming into the door a second, third, and fourth time.
Somewhere in between, I pulled out my phone and called 911. I turned on speakerphone, let it ring, and threw it back on the bed.
Then I got ready to fight.
The Grandma/Mike hybrid broke through on the fifth try.
There was blood on his shoulders and arms. Bits and pieces of splintered wood stuck out through the holes on Mike’s tee shirt. But that did not seem to bother him one bit. He stood to his feet and stared me straight in the eyes; glasses askew and wide awake.
He had taken steps to cover up the injuries on his face. Honestly, that was not that weird.
But… he did not stop at a simple touch-up. Mike’s face was completely caked in make-up; from the blush on his bruises to the eyeliner all over his black eye. He wore a knee-length, flowing skirt, too… with a lily white, shoulder cut shirt.
Mike took a minute to consider his surroundings. When he, or they, spoke; the voice was still shrill and high.
“Ah. So you are the bastard who beat up my Mikey.“
I tried to reason. But I was scared. So was Lola… she whimpered from under my bed and watched hesitantly.
“Mike, you are not yourself right now,” I said in my best steady voice. “You told me that your grandmother passed away. She is not here. You are not her.“
He smiled at that.
Then he produced a long kitchen knife from behind his back.
“Cut the piggy, and save some for me,” he said.
“Cut the cow, its blood can be sold in town,” said his grandmother.
The glasses on Mike’s face were crooked and to the side. I knew he was nearly blind without them. When he lunged at me, I aimed the bat at that spot.
Mike caught caught it in the air.
I struggled with him for a few moments. He was impossibly strong. In a moment, Mike had me pinned to the bed with the bat in his hands.
The last thing I saw was the metal logo clip the side of my face.
The last thing I heard was a vicious growl rip across our shared space.
I woke up to a pair of big brown eyes by my side.
“Sir, are you with me now?“
I nodded groggily to my hazy surroundings.
“Good. I can promise you we don’t normally allow dogs along for an ambulance ride. But maybe we can make an exception.“
The woman came into a focus. She was a nurse. I breathed an audible sigh of relief. That was harder than it sounds.
“My understanding from the detectives is this little girl was a hero tonight.“
What happened to Mike? Where am I? Where is Mike? When I asked those questions, the words whistled through cracked teeth and cotton balls and sounded like jargin.
“Easy. You were the victim of assault, Sir.“
“From what I understand… that call you made was very lucky. The operators were able to hear a fight in the background.“
Is my dog okay? She understood that question.
“Lola is fine. She is next to you.” The nurse laughed. “I’m sorry, I don’t see this kind of happy ending often. She had the suspect cornered in your bedroom until the police were able to arrive.“
“Like I said, she’s a hero.“
I was discharged after a ten hour hospital stay. My head still feels on fire today.
If this update is not perfect, and the verse sounds lazy and rehearsed, you must forgive me… based on the fact my entire body feels like I belong in a hearse.
Mike is in prison. My limited understanding, after a limited amount of questioning, is that he was a suspect in several other incidents.
Two years ago, his paternal grandmother passed away under mysterious circumstances.
Two months ago, his previous roommate went missing. She was only twenty-three.
He is being asked about both incidents extensively, now that he is in custody. I am not sure if they’re interviewing Mike or Grandma. Hopefully both.
I am back in the apartment, now. I am alone. But who knows for how long. Unfortunately… I still need a new roommate.