Excerpt from “The Vacuum Cleaner”

The Beginning

      Danny Deegan had just gotten home from making a short haul from Boston to Bangor and back.  Danny was a trucker by trade and used to be called in for the long, cross-country jobs.  But, now, short hauls were all he could handle, age and alcohol having taken their toll.

It was 7 pm when he arrived at his small apartment and he was hungry.  He decided to make himself some scrambled eggs and bacon.  He had always enjoyed having breakfast for dinner.  As he cooked, he became aware of a noise in the background; a sort of droning sound, coming from somewhere outside.  He went to the front window, but the streets were dark and empty.  He shook his head and went back to his cooking.  When his eggs were done, he got himself a beer from the refrigerator and sat down at the dining room table to eat.  He always ate at the table, none of this “in front of the TV” for him.  He was raised right. His mother always set a fine table.  His wife and kids always sat down at the table too, at least until she up and left.  She said he was a drunk and a brute.   Well, he didn’t believe in sparing the rod if that was what she meant.  She took the kids and everything else he had, leaving him with just this lousy apartment.  He hadn’t seen the kids or her in years.

As he ate, he noticed the noise had gotten louder.  Was someone running some sort of machine outside tonight?  Were they working on the road?   He didn’t know and he really didn’t care.  He just wished it would stop.

When he finished eating, Danny took his plate to the sink and let it soak with the fry pan and the utensils.  He got himself another beer and went into the living room to watch the game on TV.  “Maybe the sound of the TV will drown out that damn noise,” he thought.

He sat in his easy chair, nursing his beer and watching the Sox game.  The noise was getting louder and seemed to be coming from inside the apartment now.  Maybe the fridge was on the blink.  He started to get up to check, but found he couldn’t push himself out of the chair.  The droning sound was all around him now and louder than ever.  He tried to lift his arms but they stuck to the chair like they were glued there.  The noise had reached a deafening level.  He tried to get up again, but it was like a cement block was sitting on his chest, holding him down.  The noise intensified even more as he tried to move.  Was he having a heart attack?  Was this what it was like?

He started to panic and opened his mouth to scream.  When he did, the noise stopped.  He breathed a sigh of relief.  He was going to be okay.  Then, as he began to relax, another noise began to build, a loud sucking sound, like a giant vacuum cleaner had been turned on.  He felt a tugging on his left hand and he looked down at it.   What he saw was beyond belief.  It looked as if all the bones, flesh, and blood that made his hand a hand were being suctioned out.  In an instant, all the meat and bones were gone, vanished or –maybe– devoured.   His heart pounded as the sucking sound got louder.  He was afraid to look at his right hand, but he couldn’t help himself.  What he saw was the same story, nothing left on the arm of the chair but skin.  The sound was so loud now it hurt.  Strangely, that was the only thing that was painful.  The rest, well, that was just a tugging feeling, now at his feet and ankles.  He tried to scream, but somehow his mouth was frozen, open wide like at the dentist.  The tugging at his feet intensified and, despite his fear, he glanced down at them.  His shoes were empty, just skin hanging where his feet had been.  He felt the tugging move up his legs.  The sound got louder still.

Unable to stand the terror any longer, he closed his eyes.  As he did, he thought to himself,  “Something’s sucking the life out of me.”

And then there was only darkness.

 

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