I didn’t expect my upstairs neighbors to have tentacles, or to have such great taste in music.
All I wanted was to sleep. It didn’t seem like too much to ask, but the people in the apartment above mine were constantly partying. The only upside was the music. The bass that throbbed from my ceiling was endless, although at least they chose good songs.
I wanted to be the cool neighbor. I would pop upstairs, compliment them on their musical taste, and ask them to be quieter. No problem.
That night the music was blaring so loudly that I could hear every lyric of ABBA’s best hits. I wrapped a robe around my pajamas and took the stairs up to the floor above mine.
I trudged down the hallway until I came to apartment 307. Sounds of drunken laughter and yelling came from the other side of the door.
I doubted anyone could hear my knocks over the ruckus. I pounded harder.
The noise stopped.
The door opened slowly, revealing an elderly woman in a nightgown that came down to her toes. “Can I help you, my dear?” she said, her voice trembling.
“Um,” I said intelligently. “Perhaps I have the wrong apartment?”
There was no way this woman could have caused all that noise. “It happens, love,” she said. “Goodnight.”
Something was wrong with her face, something that made me pause. “Are you all right?” I asked.
The space between the woman’s cheeks and her ears was too small, as if her ears had drifted forward during our brief conversation. Her eyes began shrinking to the size of peas. In a moment of horror, I noticed that the woman’s fingernails grew out of the bottom of her fingers.
I didn’t see what happened next. I had turned away, wanting to skedaddle back to the stairwell, when something burning wrapped around my waist and yanked me through the doorway.
Someone had turned the music back on. I never expected to see such a grotesque transformation with Mamma Mia blaring in the background.
The nightgown vanished. The woman’s face became distorted and deformed, as if it were melting with each passing second. Her body condensed into a distended globule.
Then the tentacles came. They shot out of the heaving mass of her body and crawled up the walls like crisscrossed vines.
It was, quite simply, the freakiest thing I had ever seen.
I scrambled backwards until my back slammed into a wall. It was then that I looked to my right and screamed.
The room was full of those creatures, each looking like a transparent jellyfish with freakishly-long tentacles.
Many of the tentacles were holding beer.
“What’s up?” one of the creatures asked. “Do you want to play beer pong before we eat you?”
I couldn’t have heard that correctly. “What did you say?” I yelled over the music.
Someone turned down the volume. “Don’t play with the humans,” another said. “They always try to turn us in.”
There were at least six of these creatures in the room, each of them the size of about two normal, non-jellyfish people put together. The apartment reeked of stale alcohol. There was a couch, a TV, a ping-pong table, and chairs with mysterious stains. A pile of empty beer bottles spewed out from the corner of the room.
“I won’t turn you in,” I managed to say. They all looked at me, their pinpoint eyes looking rather menacing. I realized I needed to change track.
“I’m an excellent beer pong player,” I said.
A jellyfish threw a tentacle into the air. “I knew it!”
The creatures didn’t have much dexterity in their tentacles. Although one of them had been able to wrap around my waist and drag me into the apartment, their fine motor skills were lacking. All that to say, I crushed the creatures in beer pong. I played as many rounds as I could to delay them eating me.
I managed to learn their story in between games; only copious amounts of alcohol helped me process it. They were from a planet that was ravished by war. These six left the planet in search of somewhere else to settle, and had been attracted by the songs they’d picked up through radio waves. They’d learned English through music and TV, which is also where they’d learned about beer pong.
“You didn’t want to help your planet?” I asked. “You just left?”
“Way too hard to help,” one of them said.
“This is more fun,” another agreed. “Besides, your alcohol is delicious. The only problem is getting it. We can’t hold human form for long. We keep having to kill the delivery guys.”
A thought struck me. “What if I buy your alcohol for you?”
“What do you mean?” a jellyfish asked.
I shrugged, trying to be casual about not wanting to be eaten. “Killing delivery guys is messy. Why not hire me? I’ll buy your alcohol for you, and you let me live. How about it?”
They agreed. As it turned out, it rained diamonds on their planet, and they’d brought bags of them in order to pay for stuff. They didn’t understand conversion rates, which is how I convinced them that yes, in fact, the correct price for a twelve-pack was a diamond.
I quit my job the next day and found a guy who didn’t ask questions when he bought the first batch of diamonds. With the money I purchased top-notch noise-cancelling headphones, although I didn’t really need them. Most nights my new friends invited me to party with them.
Finally, I was the cool neighbor.
E. J. Nash graduated from The University of Western Ontario with an Honors Specialization in English Language and Literature and Creative Writing. Previous works can be found in The First Line and The Wondrous Real Magazine. She warmly welcomes you to send pictures of your pets to her at @Nash_EJ on Twitter.