When I went off to college, the only people I'd ever shared a home with were my parents. In the end, the fear of the unknown was no match for the thrill of autonomy.
My suitcase full of necessities, along with my cat, Stan, were the only reminders of home life I had taken with me.
My first room-mate was "Lucky", an okay-looking dude with a few annoying habits that kept me on my toes. At first, I'd begrudgingly clean up after him, taking out the trash and mopping up spills. After a while, I learned to just leave it as-is until he noticed it was piling up.
Lucky was an archeology student, and as such I'd often get a brief vacation from his absent-minded antics. It was time enough to get things just how I liked them before he'd come roaring back in, throwing his coat wherever and popping open a can of beer distinctly marked as mine.
On one such occasion, I'd finally had my fill of his behavior.
"Lucky!" I snapped as he wheeled in the door.
He tossed the coat, stormed to the refrigerator, and began digging past all of his health drinks, toward my bottles of ale.
"Lucky!!" I repeated.
"Huh? Oh, what?" He mussed his hair a bit, stroked his stubble, and took an awkward pose against the fridge.
"We need to talk. About how things have been working out... or rather, how they haven't.”
I could tell that sentence had left him completely lost as his eyes bugged out and his brow furrowed.
"Listen, man. I can't think about apartment stuff now." Lucky shook his head and blew past me, out of the kitchen.
"Exactly!" I followed, "That's what I'm saying in a nutshell."
Lucky continued on, never looking back. When he reached his room, he placed one hand on the "I got a bone!" poster affixed to his door and pushed it open.
"You know, I've been taking up the slack ever since I got here..." I shouted.
Lucky wheeled around quickly, jammed one index finger into his chest, and shouted right back at me.
"I just saw someone DIE, okay?"
At that moment, I decided not to press the issue further. Not until later, at least.
I wouldn't hear the full story until the next morning, but as it turned out Lucky wasn't exaggerating. He'd gone on an excavation trip... the reason he'd been gone up until that point... and someone had indeed passed away.
His Professor, someone he'd spoken of quite kindly, had stepped away from the group for a moment when the sand shifted. In an instant, he was gone.
Lucky and his classmates tried digging the old man out, along with others working the area. It was no use, since the sand filled in quicker than they removed it.
At first, I assumed he would take a few days to get over it before moving on with his life. At that point I was sure we could address how he'd been treating me like his personal maid.
Unfortunately, fate... or some other force... had other ideas.
One of Lucky's classmates, a girl named Clara, passed away within days of the first freak accident. She'd been driving home in a rainstorm when her car slid off the road and down an embankment.
The vehicle landed head-first in a bog. The rain had destabilized the already loose muck, and the car went in up to its trunk. She must've been knocked unconscious... or at least I hope she was.
After that, Lucky floated the idea that he and his friends were cursed. They hadn't unearthed anything special during their excavation, but something odd had occurred. When he returned to the hotel one night, there was a gold amulet lying across his pillow as if someone had placed it there for him.
"It was encrusted with all these jewels. Even the chain was gold." He explained, "There was an icon at the center. The face of Horus."
"What'd you do with it?" I asked, half humoring him and half interested.
"Huh?" He mussed his hair, "Oh, yeah... uh... You can't keep stuff like that. I gave it to the Professor. He must've had it on him when he... uh, you know..."
I had to admit the story was almost believable. Two deaths, vaguely similar, after a trip to Egypt... folks have been snookered by less.
Then, Lucky's best friend was killed.
"What happened THIS time?!" I threw my hands in the air, exasperated, as Lucky sat on the couch, wide-eyed and quiet.
"Sink hole," he mumbled, still looking at the wall, "He was asleep. In his bed. Sink hole took his whole bedroom like it was never even there."
"Of course." I shook my head.
"What if it's real?" Lucky whispered, "What could cause something like that?"
"I'm sure it's not real," I lied, "Coincidences happen all the time. Twins get separated as babies and live identical lives... Lottery numbers come up 666... it's just the Universe being a dick."
"I hope you're right." Lucky put his head in his hands.
At this point, Stan came in from the balcony with a freshly massacred sparrow in its mouth. The cat strolled across the living room, stopped at Lucky's feet, and spat the tiny corpse onto his shoe.
"Sorry about that, he-" I started.
"Horus," Lucky gulped, "Horus. That face on the necklace. The bird face."
That was my first clue that he was about to change for the worse. Much worse. He dropped all of his classes over time and left the apartment less and less. Before long, I was the only one buying groceries and doing basic errands.
Lucky became a shut-in. He'd mumble and whisper to himself, arguing with some unheard voice in his head. He stopped bathing and almost never ate. His white robe soon took on a decidedly beige hue.
As much as I wanted to take him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him, there never seemed to be an appropriate time.
Another one of his classmates was standing on the sidewalk, minding his own business, when a dump truck swerved to avoid a dog. It rolled onto its side, dumping a few tons of construction site soil right onto the poor kid.
He must've been pulverized in an instant.
That same night, a girl at the beach tripped and fell into a hole left by some kids. A wave came up, the sand washed in, and she was dead before anyone could reach her bare, flailing legs.
Buried alive. All of them.
Not Lucky, though. No, he was too smart for all of that. I kept reminding him, over and over again, that our apartment was on the fourth floor. Any sink hole that came for him would have to be absolutely stupefying large... as long as he stayed in the building, that is.
"Why do you think this is happening?" Lucky wandered into my bedroom one night, in the middle of the night, stirring me out of a dream.
"Huh? God... I don't KNOW, Lucky." I groaned, in no mood for the umpteenth nightly reassurance.
"If I did something wrong..." he let out a heavy breath through puffed cheeks, "Do you think I did something wrong?"
"I don't know, man. Maybe!" I raised one hand in wonder and let it fall to the bed.
He wandered back out of the room, and I got up to lock the door. I had been doing this out of necessity for several weeks. Fatigue had gotten to me that night, causing the lapse in personal security.
A scream stopped me from turning the lock.
I threw the door open, fearing Lucky had finally cracked and tried to kill himself. Instead, as I ran out into the darkened living room, I heard the sound of clawing on the wood floors.
"Lucky?" I shouted, flipping on the light switch, "Did Stan spook you again?"
The light illuminated what no man should see.
Lucky was splayed out on the floor, face down, one leg drawn back across the floor. Something gripped his ankle tightly.
The hand... the claw... was almost human. Its skin looked hard, lined, like that of a large bird. Each of its four fingers and thumb ended in a long, razor-sharp black talon. Blood was drawn from the man's foot.
"Help!" Lucky cried out as the hand pulled him back quickly.
Pulled him back.
Pulled his leg into the cat's sandbox.
Lucky's body bent and snapped as he quickly disappeared into the small box. At times, he seemed stuck until a sharp tug broke something within his frame.
Thankfully, I think he passed out from the pain within moments.
I recoiled in horror and disgust. Racing to the bathroom, I threw up until there was nothing left inside of me, and I was sure I'd cough up my stomach. When I was finally able to get up off the cold tile and stumble out into the living room, I gave the cat's box a cautious tap with my foot.
Only bare floor could be found beneath.
Less than a week later, there was a knock at the door. I had to report Lucky missing, and the Police peppered me with questions... but to my credit I never lead them to believe anything odd had occurred.
I was already in the process of moving out, and was only in the place to get some things. I couldn't sleep there since that insane event.
I answered the door, sure it would be the cops, trying to get me to say Lucky and I had been arguing or we liked the same girl or whatever else would make their jobs easier.
Instead, I found an average-looking man in a sharp suit.
"Can I help you?" I asked, confused.
"Do you know-" he started.
"Lucky," I finished.
"Yes. Right. His friends called him that. Has he returned as of yet?"
"No," I ranted, exasperated, "As I've told ALL the other Officers-"
"Oh, I'm not with the Police!" the man laughed, "No, I'm trying to get in touch with him concerning a missing artifact. An amulet."
I relaxed a bit and nodded.
"Ahh, I know about that. But no, I never got to see it. Lucky said his Professor had it on him when he disappeared, or something."
"Well... uh..." the man stammered, "This is kind of awkward. Your friend actually stole the artifact from an excavation site. The market value, you see, would be pretty high..."
"Well, I don't have it." I started getting testy again. How many accusations would I have to face before I could put this horror behind me?
"I know," he chuckled again, "we have it. We have Lucky on security footage the night before his Professor suffered that tragic accident. We think he was going to come back for the amulet once he knew no one noticed it missing. Basically, he took twenty paces out into the hotel garden..."
I felt woozy as the man in the suit explained. I put my hand to my head as tunnel vision overtook me. Suddenly, it all made sense.
"...And buried it."