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Summers in Ireland are short and sweet, two weeks of blazing sun and then back to the rainy images known around the world. On this particular day, the heat was beyond comprehension for this nineteen year old lad, he'd never understood quite why people enjoyed holidays abroad, all he did in a foreign country was burn, peel and go back to a sickly pale. Avoiding the sun was not on the agenda for today, especially since his move to a new apartment in the centre of the city. The move had been a God send as his grandmother required constant help in her twilight years, and the apartment beside her had become vacant.
So with boxes filled to the brim with every belonging he had, Joey bid farewell to his parents who were so proud to see their son take such responsibility. Throwing the last of the boxes into the back of his battered Vauxhall Corsa, its red paint faded in the two-week sun to a fabulous pink, he put the key in his driver's side door. Jumping backwards as a shadow dashed from beneath the car, he stifled a scream. He dropped one of the boxes, slicing along his hand and leaving a rather nasty cut. Nothing serious, but Joey hated blood.
"Feckin' cats!" he roared into the empty cul-de-sac.
Shaking off the scare he opened the door to the car, the blast of heat built up within nearly made him faint, he could not wait for summer to see its conclusion. Adjusting his seat and turning on the ignition he took a deep breath, it was a new adventure, living on his own. A few minutes into the journey he looked to the radio, usually his cringey pop CD would have kicked in by now, blasting out the latest craze amongst twelve year old girls. Joey loved cringey pop, and had no reservations about singing at the top of his lungs with the windows down. He pushed eject, only to be greeted by the familiar, 'NO CD' message on the dash. He couldn't remember changing the CD, or taking it out. He peered around the car, no sign of it.
Pulling over at the side of the road he began to panic, not so much for the CD, but incase his car had been broken into. He scoured the inside of the car for anything else missing, then reluctantly got out and moved to the trunk. His hand quivering he put the key into the lock and opened the back of the car, only to find all his belongings right where they had been. Nothing else was missing. Joey was an only child, there was no little sister to claim the CD, and his parents never had a key to his car.
"I'm being ridiculous," he said to himself.
Clambering back into the car he pushed on, saddened by the loss of his favourite CD, but nothing worth crying over. The trip from home to his new home only took twenty minutes, a comfortable distance for his first time living alone. Then again, he had family right next door, so it felt almost as if he was cheating. The excitement of arriving had put all negative thoughts out of his mind, especially as he spotted another of his new neighbours, Abby. They'd been best friends since they were in nappies, and she'd been the one to tell him about the vacant apartment.
"Took you long enough!" she scolded in her mocking tone. "Get lost as usual?"
"No, you twerp. I had to pull over for a second."
He loved her sense of humour most, it reflected his to a T, as it would growing up with someone. They could have an entire conversation made of unspoken gestures, and well placed eye movements. Their repertoire of inside jokes rivaled the big book of Dad jokes that Joey had gotten his father for Christmas. The two of them hauled what little Joey had brought up to the third floor, tossing it all onto the living room sofas, it was smaller than home, but it was cosy. It went without a hitch, except for Joey who nearly tripped over a rat on the way up the stairs, he screamed so loud the building must of thought a new Soprano singer was moving in.
"Wow, this place is a lot nicer than mine," Abby remarked.
"Isn't it great? Listen, I'm going to make some lunch, wanna hang around?" he said.
"Nah, I gotta head to work buddy! Say hi to your Gran for me!"
And with that, she was gone, but the warm feelings she left in Joey would last all day, Abby was like his sister, and a daughter to Joey's parents. Abby's mother and father didn't speak to her, and her upbringing was spent staying at Joey's home because she'd been locked out of her own. She'd even been taking care of Granny while he organized his accommodation. He needed to pop next door, just to let her know he'd arrived, but the rumbling in his stomach made him remember that he hadn't eaten all day.
"You win, food first, then next door," he chuckled.
Without time to do any decent shopping, Joey was left with two options, a sandwich or a very suspect looking apple. He weighed up the options and felt the jam sandwich was the safer route. Setting out two slices of hard, but workable bread, he began to butter each piece. The kitchen was small, though as it was an apartment for one person, it was perfect. He set the knife down and turned towards the fridge, all that was within was the apple, and the jam. Picking out the sweet, sweet jam he turned and reached for the knife.
"Huh?" he exclaimed.
The knife had vanished, he looked round him, then onto the ground. Confused he stared at the bread, had he just imagined buttering it? Nope. There it was, butter on each slice, and even an imprint on the counter where the buttery cutlery had touched down.
"I am losing my mind," Joey whispered, worry carried in his tone.
Stepping out of the kitchen he looked into it, to see if he missed anything. Without any clues he simply took another knife out of the drawer and spread the jam, convincing himself that he'd put it back in the drawer, his mind ignoring the butter mark on the counter top. Quickly finishing the tasty morsel he grabbed his new set of keys and went next door, his Grandmother as usual was watching some god awful soap. There's always the stereotype of the Irish granny having no room for anything on her mantelpiece, because Jesus and Mary have already gotten the best seats. It was definitely true for Granny McCann, who had every table, cabinet and even windowsill covered in knickknacks. Usually Jesus or Mary but occasionally magnets from foreign countries or the occasional genuinely beautiful piece of china.
"Alright Gran?" Joey beamed, leaning down to her level.
Smiling the old lady pushed herself out of her comfortable position, and turned the television off.
"Awk darlin', did you come up to see me? Sit yourself down. Do you want a cup of tea? Or a sandwich? You look like one of those there kids off the tv, the African ones. So thin!"
Rolling his eyes are her incredibly offensive language Joey could only laugh, she was a product of her generation, but had a heart of gold. Unlike Joey who had grown up in a city, Granny McCann came from a small village near the west coast, where her superstitious, and very religious upbringing had made her some kind of wise woman in his eyes. She'd often tell him stories of the Banshee who would wail when someone was to die, or how to stop leprechauns stealing your change, by always keeping an iron coin in your wallet. Joey had grown up on these stories, but naturally only pretended to believe, for her sake.
"I'm alright Gran," he replied. "I had a sandwich next door, that's me all moved in. So if you ever need anything, you just throw your shoe at the wall, mm?"
"I'm not damaging the good wall! You'll just have to get the psychic sense my boy!"
The two shared a laugh as Joey reclined on the sofa, staring over at all the little figurines scattered around the place. His favourite was a small man in a bowler hat who had fallen in a puddle, the man's expression of sheer sadness oddly made Joey feel better. He stared intently at the table where it sat, only to sit up and take a closer look.
"Gran?" he spoke up.
"Where is the puddle man?" His eyes widened.
"The who?" Now even Granny was leaning forward, trying to look.
"The man who'd fallen in a puddle. I think it was Charlie Chaplin."
"Oh, those go missing all the time. Never worry."
"All the time? Gran, is someone stealing from you?"
Suddenly Joey got incredibly angry, he'd been suspicious of the meals on wheels service that had been looking after her dinners, and if they'd been helping themselves, there'd be hell to pay.
"Nonsense, it's just the Goid making their mischief," she said, as if it was the most rational answer in the world.
"The who? This isn't some fairytale Gran, if people are stealing from you-"
"Stealing? They don't steal child, they take. Goid, it means theft in our true tongue, but you wouldn't know anything about that. You kids don't care about our mother tongue, not when you have your text speak."
Eager not to lose the subject, Joey pressed on.
"Tell me about them." He could sense that like his childhood, a new mythological epic was about to spew from his grandmother's lips.
"The Goid are fairy folk, you see, before man started to tax one and other, the Fairy Queen decided she was owed something from everyone in her realm. So, she sent out her Goid to take something from everyone, every so often. But when mankind got too powerful the Fairy Queen could not rule over them. The Goid lost their purpose, and instead of only taking something every now and then, they'd pillage people! If you were picked on by a Goid, you'd be marked for life. Until they stole everything you ever had."
Joey raised his eyebrow, looking towards the empty spot on the table.
"So you're marked eh? Aren't you worried?"
"Nonsense, Goid are harmless as long as they don't know you know they are there. Never look at a Goid my boy, they're small, but they're still fairy folk. And they'll send you packing before you can beg for mercy. I've collected little tidbits my entire life, little keepsakes, 'cause I'd rather they took them, than me."
Joey nodded slowly, in utter shock he was believing what was coming out of this lady's mouth, he snapped back to reality, making a mental note to always be here while the meals on wheels people were.
"I have to head back next door Gran, gotta unpack and get an early night, but I'll stop by tomorrow and we'll have a good dinner, just the two of us, sound alright?"
"Sounds lovely darlin', take some fresh milk with you, I'll never get through it."
So with milk in hand, and a kiss on his Granny's cheek, Joey moved back next door to his new abode. Flicking on the light he gazed towards the pile of boxes, groaning and rummaging through them for his blanket and pillows. He'd deal with the unpacking tomorrow, for now he just needed the sweet embrace of sleep more than anything. Tossing the bedding onto the mattress he picked out his toothbrush and headed into his bathroom, it wasn't dirty, but it wasn't sparkling either. A full scrub down was in order once everything was settled. He started to brush his teeth in the darkness, staring into the mirror, only seeing the illuminated hallway. Peering round he finally saw the cord for the light, tugging on it the place exploded in light, and with a loud long squeal, the light bulb exploded.
For a brief moment, Joey was so sure he saw the lamp on the table in the hallway move, just as the light bulb broke. As if something had been scared, and jumped up. He turned slowly and called into the hall, his mouth still foaming from the brush.
"Abby? Gran? You in here?" he managed, before spitting out the contents of his mouth into the grit stained sink.
With one foot carefully placed before the other, he crept through the small apartment, peering into each room before throwing on the light in an attempt to catch out anyone trying to hide. After a few minutes of this Joey sighed, his exhaustion was getting the best of him, and the humid night wasn't helping either. Double checking the lock on the front door he slunk into bed, pulling the blanket round him, and laying his head on his pillow. His single pillow. He sat bolt upright, scrambling around for the second pillow he'd left on the bed.
"This isn't funny anymore Abby!" He called out into the darkness. "Stop messing with me! Did Gran put you up to this with that Goid shit?"
From the darkness came the quietest grumble, Joey honestly thought it was his stomach. He didn't sleep for quite some time, he just lay on his side, watching the door. The summer days were long, and the nights were extremely short. As the clock on the side table read '04:43', Joey could feel his eyes become heavy. His anxiety had robbed him of a long sleep, but he was determined to get some rest. Leaning back he looked at the ceiling before drifting off to the land of slumber.
Joey awoke to a sharp pain on his hand, he swore loudly into the still dark night, clearly sleep would evade him yet, especially if these bugs had their way. It definitely felt like a bite, he thought to himself. He raised his hand to inspect it and saw the cut he'd given himself earlier was bleeding. Hanging by a thread, was the meagre scab that had grown that day, as if something had tried to pull it off. He began to shake, gazing over towards the clock, for some reassurance that this was the waking world. The clock was gone, as was he noticed, the sheet that was meant to be around him. He leapt out of bed and dashed into the living room, throwing on the lights in blind panic. Nothing happened, squinting through the darkness he saw the light fixture was empty, without a bulb.
He ran at the door, attempting to pull it open, frantically scrambling to find the keys that he'd left sitting on the side table. Screaming at this point, he saw something move in the shadows.
"This isn't funny! Stop it! Stop it!" His screams had to be heard by his neighbours, especially his grandmother. She'd send for help. She had too. From the corner of his eye he saw something dart across the living room, throwing the box of belongings it had sheltered behind all over the floor. Weeping now, uncontrollably, Joey dashed back to the bedroom throwing the door closed and sitting, his arms wrapped around his knees. He would have sat on the bed, had it been there. Everything in the room was bare, then he heard it. The scratching, but not like a cat on a door. The scratching of a screwdriver on screws, he gazed at the handle on the door, one by one, the screws were pushed through and onto the floor. Impossible.
"Help," he managed to whimper.
Abby released her charcoal black hair from its tight bun as she pulled herself up the stairs towards her apartment, that was when she heard the shouting. It was definitely Joey's vocie, she charged up the extra flights, her exhaustion overtaken by adrenaline. His door was locked, she rushed next door into Granny McCann's, using her spare key without a thought. It took her all but a few minutes to find the spare key to Joey's flat, but by the time she entered it was empty. She looked round at the rooms, nothing was left. Not a box, not a scrap of evidence he had ever been there. She felt tears prick in her eyes, someone had hurt her friend and taken his whole life.
She reached into her pocket to call the police, she had to take action. Her hand found only the inside of her pocket, she'd definitely brought her phone, she'd had to use it to buzz into the building. Gazing round for it she could have swore she saw something move out of the corner of her eye.