Becky wasn’t quite sure what to make of the corpse lying in her bathtub that Tuesday morning. At least, it might have been a corpse. It probably wasn’t, but last night was kind of a wild night, and with a roommate like Innominata, anything could have happened. She thought she saw the corpse breathe, but at any rate this was all going to have to wait a minute because right now she really had to pee.
Somewhere nearby on the streets of Portland, a siren wailed, not giving a second thought to the fact that it was 7:30 in the morning on a Tuesday, when no self-respecting 24 year-old should even be awake. Becky glanced over at the body in the bathtub, and wondered for a second whether they were coming for her.
As soon as she flushed the toilet, though, the corpse in the bathtub began to moan. “Awww, man,” it said. “Jesus . Where am I?”
“On Flanders Street, in Portland. In my apartment. In the f**king bathtub,” she answered, standing over the bathtub with her arms folded like a disapproving mother.
“Oh, right. You’re one of those Goth girls, from The Lovecraft. Sorry, I don’t really remember very much after the fourth or fifth shot of tequila. I’m Todd,” it said.
Todd, right, that was it. “Beck- err, Natasha,” she said. Becky still sometimes forgot to use her Goth name. Out of sheer habit, she stuck out her right hand as if for a handshake, but Todd was still wedged unnaturally into the bathtub, so they just looked at each other awkwardly for a moment, until Becky cleared her throat and ran her hand nervously through her hair.
“You look like hell,” she said as Todd slowly unfolded himself and struggled to stand up. She didn’t mean to be unkind, but he really did look like hell. His clothes were all wrinkled and stained by something the color of rusty nails, his hair was a disaster and he looked kind of pale. Like, really pale.
“Well, thanks,” he said. He gave Becky the quick once-over. “You look a little rough yourself, there, “Natasha” ” He even made little quotation marks in the air when he said that. Becky decided at that moment that she hated Todd.
When she glanced over at the mirror, though, she saw that he was right. Embalmers’ shade of pale foundation and tons of liquid liner might look fabulous at 2am at the club, but after a wild after-party and a couple of hours with her face in the pillow, she looked more like Alice Cooper in a car wash than the Queen of the Damned. Not pretty.
She let out a tiny shriek and feebly tried to hide her face with her hands. “Ohmigod,” she said. “Go make us some coffee, will you? There’s a Keurig in the kitchen.”
“Yeah, OK,” said Todd. He found his way out of the bathroom but it almost seemed to Becky that he had to lean on the walls or something for support. A little wobbly. Well, it had been kind of a wild night.
As she washed her face, she tried to piece together the events of the night before. She and Innominata had gone to see Rat’s Ass at The Lovecraft. The crowd was kind of lame, just the same old poseurs from Tacoma and the heroin addicts zoning out and drooling in the corners. Innominata kept bitching about “new blood” and then her attention latched on to Todd and his frat buddies who were acting like they were there on a dare or something. Ridiculous.
But she reached into that seemingly bottomless purse of hers and kept sending over rounds of drinks and shots, and before Becky knew it they were all drunk and buddy-buddy like it was Mix-With-The-Freaks Night at Delta Phi. Then it was last call and Todd and a couple of his “bros” were coming over for cocktails. Becky had managed to stay up for half a cocktail, but was starting to feel a little nauseous. The last thing she remembered, one of the frat boys was asleep on the stairs, one was leaving, and Todd was sitting at Innominata’s feet looking like he was in some kind of trance. Innominata herself had a kind of hungry look in her eyes, and Becky thought to herself that she didn’t really want to be around for wherever that game was going.
Funny, she thought to herself, how this sort of thing seems almost normal since Innominata had moved in. Before that, the wildest thing that had happened was the time her friend Melissa had puked in the movie theater when they went to see “Breaking Dawn”. Then, four months ago, Becky placed an ad on Craig’sList. She had worked on it for hours. It started out with “Single Pale-White Goth Female seeking Crypt-Mate in Portland,” and it ended with “Undead preferred, but not mandatory.” And in walked Innominata, like something out of the Perfect Roommate catalog, with a Goth girl’s dream wardrobe and a pocketbook full of hundred-dollar bills. She had moved in two days later.
She even had the ideal name. “Innominata VonDrakula” How perfect! Becky didn’t even know what Innominata’s real name was. Even her checks had Innominata VonDrakula printed on them. How cool was that? Becky still hadn’t even settled on her own Goth name yet. So far the best she could come up with was “Fatale”, but she thought that it sounded too French or too X-Men, so for now she was using “Natasha” but hopefully nobody realized that it was actually the name of a character in the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons. She hadn’t even dreamed up a Goth last name yet.
She finished washing her face. Alice Cooper was no longer looking back at her from the mirror. Neither was Natasha, really. It was just plain old Becky from Baltimore. She had moved clear across the country and still couldn’t outrun that identity.
She gave herself a little sigh, pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear and walked out to the kitchen.
Todd looked a little better. He had sunglasses on and he was holding a cup of coffee up to his mouth. When he saw Becky, he glanced over toward the counter where a cup waited for her.
“Thanks,” she said, holding the mug with both hands and taking a deep breath, smiling slightly before taking a giant gulp of coffee.
“Umm, she getting up any time soon?” said Todd. He meant Innominata.
“Probably not,” said Becky. “She kind of likes to sleep in. I hardly ever see her before dark.” Like, never, she thought to herself.
Todd nodded and took his phone from his back pocket. When he looked at it his eyes went big and he sort of snorted some coffee out through his nose.
“Sh**! 7:43!” he said. “I have class in fifteen minutes. Sh**. I have to go. Nice meeting you, Natalie,” he said, simultaneously putting the coffee mug into the sink and putting his jacket on.
“Natasha,” said Becky. She noticed that Innominata had given him a humongous hickey on the left side of his neck.
“Natasha,” said, Todd, closing the door behind him.
Thank God it’s my day off, Becky thought, taking another grateful gulp of coffee and taking a hesitant look at the apartment around her. Disaster. Beer cans. Red plastic cups toppled onto their sides and fused to the counter by whatever was once inside. Half-smoked joints leaving little scorch marks on the coffee table. Inexplicably, a black feather boa hung from the ceiling fan, which was creakily turning at the lowest possible speed. This was going to be an all-day cleanup.
Becky finished her coffee and made herself another. Despite all her attempts at being “Natasha” or “Fatale”, at being a strong, fearless, Woman of Consequence, she still ended up being the one who cleans up after a party she didn’t even get to enjoy. As she got the Swiffer and the Dyson out of their closet and pried the red plastic cups off of the counter, she kept looking over at the door to Innominata’s room, and she found a little ball of resentment forming in the pit of her stomach.
While she vacuumed up potato chip crumbs and stepped on a bottle cap with her bare foot, the little ball of resentment began to grow a little bigger. And when she found both a cigarette butt and a condom in a potted plant (she didn’t know which one disgusted her more), it had become a very large ball of resentment indeed. It had become the kind of ball of resentment that causes soccer moms to run over their husbands with the minivan. It had become the kind of ball of resentment that was about to make Natasha go Fatale.
She stood for a moment in front of Innominata’s room. “Stop! Do Not Enter! Undead Sleeping!” said the cheesy sign on the door. Please, thought Becky, my little brother Petey had one that said “Genius At Work”. I didn’t pay attention to that sign, either.
“Do Not Enter Before _____,” said the sign. Innominata had written “7:53PM” in the space. Becky had no doubt that that would be the exact time of that day’s sunset.
At first, she knocked. Old habits die hard. She knocked again. Becky croaked, softly, “Ummm, Innominata..?”
Then, Natasha pounded on the door. “Innominata!” she demanded. “Wake up! You need to help me clean up this mess!”
She tried the doorknob. It was unlocked.
She turned it and opened the door, just a couple of inches. It was completely dark inside Innominata’s room. If it were possible for darkness to ooze, Becky would have said that darkness oozed from the cracked door.
She opened the door completely. The windows had been covered over and the darkness in the room was so dense that it absorbed all the light coming in through the open door; so dark that Becky couldn’t even see the other side of the room.
“Innominata?” she said. “We need to talk for a minute.”
She walked over to the window and opened the curtains wide. Crisp, bright morning sunlight poured in, flooding every corner of the room.
The first thing Becky noticed was a huge pile of cash on the dresser. Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars, just sitting there. And she couldn’t even pay the cable bill on time, Becky thought.
The next thing she noticed was Innominata herself, on the bed. The sunlight had fallen across her body. She was wearing a beautiful, black silk nightgown, and for a second Becky thought to herself how odd it was that her body seemed to be on fire underneath the glossy silk. Then she looked at Innominata’s face as she lifted her head and looked Becky squarely in the eye. At that moment, thought Becky, she looked very, very ugly. And somewhat angry.
“Becky!” hissed the writhing succubus on the mattress. “What did you do? You stupid f**king b-”
She’s calling me a bi**h?, Becky thought to herself. But Innominata never got the chance, because at that moment the skin on her face liquified and her bones turned to dust.
“Sh**,” Becky said, aloud.
She stood there for a while, motionless, silent, contemplating the enormity of everything that had just happened as the last wisps of smoke dissipated from what was once her roommate.
Her eyes found once again the pile of cash on the dresser. Looks like I’ll be needing a new roommate, thought Natasha. In her mind, she was already composing an ad for Craig’sList.