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The Noises from the Heater-Vent

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Clink, clink, clink, whoosh. The noise must have come from the heater-vent on the floor on the other side of the room, across from the end of the bed in which the young man laid reading. Slowly lifting his head up from his reverie, he peered about to reacquaint himself with the room from which he’d been teleported. The curtains of the window next to his bed were two-thirds of the way to be completely shut, and the third of the window that was not concealed behind wispy azure cloth revealed pitch, cloudy skies from which neither moonlight nor starlight shone.

The only illumination outside which let the young man see the clouds was the distant, flickering light of a single large, rustic streetlamp, which was in need of some repairs and perhaps a replacement, on the dirt road leading to the suburbs from the young man’s humble, sparsely-populated area surrounded by pine trees and with no pavement, but rather just dirt and the occasional patch of grass. Inside the room, the only light was that of an adjustable office lamp, which was curled in the direction of the head of the bed, leaving the rest of the room in shadows.

The young man glanced at the heater-vent from which the sound must have emanated, but then decided to think nothing of it, and he returned to his book. In the relative cold of late February, some malfunctions were to be expected, and even though the young man’s lack of mechanical knowledge prevented him from having any idea of what the possible exact nature or causes of such malfunctions might be, such noises had risen from the apparatus at that hour earlier in the year, and he remembered that they had ceased to rise from it after some time.

Moments later, however, while the young man was accompanying two gentlemen walking down a fusty wine cellar in the same area as several sepulchres, the clink, clink, clink, whoosh returned, more rapidly than the first time.

Sighing, he rose, bedsprings creaking, sheets rustling as they slid down from his chest, and put his open book face down on the indented, exposed mattress. He ambled over to the heater-vent, gave it a few light punts with his socked foot, and returned to his bed. However, just as soon as he’d returned to the catacombs, the clink, clink, clink, whoosh returned from the vent, with variations in the amount of times it arose from the vents and the speed at which it crept into the young man’s eardrums. Whatever the issue was, it mustn't have been as severe or lofty as it was persistent, as there never seemed to be any perceptible vibrating or rattling of the heater-vent apparatus when the sounds arose, let alone any slight shaking of the floor around it.

Perhaps there were many small pieces of debris of some sort in the house’s heater-vent system, and the only option would have been to let the vents’ infrastructure undergo its function, which must, of course, have been normal, and the fragments of dust, asbestos, or whatever material of which the sound-culprit was composed would eventually find a place to stagnate or be expelled from the apparatus. With this in mind, the young man rejoined the two voyagers, moving deeper and deeper into that dungeon, and, with some effort, managed to ignore the clink, clink, clink, whoosh.

About an hour passed, and the young man had been able, amidst that incessant, unrelenting tapping from inside the heater-vent, to witness the immurement of Fortunato, who had been none the wiser until his traitorous friend had departed from the catacombs, which had just acquired another eternal inhabitant. Satisfied with the story he’d just finished, he closed the book and placed it on the end table next to the office lamp, which he was about to switch off until he was reminded of the clatter, which still went on from the vents in its irregular pattern. Sleepily, the young man got up again and gave the vent another kick or two. The noise stopped for a few seconds but resumed yet again, slightly more slowly than before.

The young man was rather frustrated and almost out of ideas when he noticed that the slats were pointed all the way down, sealing off any access to the interior of the heater-vent. This must have been a major part of the problem, he though, and so he clamped onto the ends of the lengthwise, metal heater-vent slats, and, with some creaky grating of metal, budged them up so that the vent was open. The young man figured that this might reduce the possibility of debris in motion hitting metal, and even if the now-open state of the heater-vent meant that debris could exit the side of the vent, unblocked by the slats, and land on the floor of his room, he could just vacuum the room in the morning. Sure enough, the noise had ceased once the slat was opened, and the young man complacently slid back into bed, flicked the switch to turn off the light of the office lamp, and laid his head on the pillow.

Clink, clink, clink…

The young man lifted his head just enough to be looking in the general direction of the heater, from which he now saw an irregular, dim pattern of orange light. With each new clink, of which there now seemed to be dozens tapping in unison and growing slightly louder and more high-pitched, it seemed the odd, uneven light was getting a little bit brighter… closer…

The young man’s escalating uneasiness immediately inflated into terror when he saw countless pairs of bulging, bio-luminescent eyes the color of the Sun right before its setting move up, over the edge of the open space of the narrow heater-vent under its open slat, and down onto the bedroom’s floor, as hundreds of tiny legs scuttled towards him in the dark, the eyes getting larger and brighter, more eager, as they approached his bed in the dark, and, with a whoosh, they all pounced, lunging upward towards the young man.

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