Every house has its quirks. Some have doors that don’t shut just quite right, others have yard sheds full of old lawn equipment that has passed from homeowner to homeowner, and some have ivy growing from foundation to roof enshrouding it into a aura of mythicism like something out of a fantasy story. Our house has the man who lives behind the potted palm.
Todd and I purchased the house knowing quite well of our strange roommate as the realtor made it quite clear when giving us the tour. “Oh that,” she said pointing at the potted palm. Behind it a man with daffodil yellow eyes, Lima been colored skin, and a long limbs so thin that you’d mistake them for sprouting stems hunched shrouded in darkness, even though the windows let in ample light and the overhead lights were on. “That’s just the man in the corner, don’t worry he’s as harmless as a spider. At least to humans.”
“I don’t like spiders,” I said.
“Hmm, then he’s as harmless as a faux potted palm tree. Anyways, that’s the living room, I can’t wait to show you the kitchen!” We followed her across the room and into the kitchen, while I heard the deep panting of the man in the corner behind me. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck.
Despite the strange tenet we ended up taking the house, having out bid three other prospective buyers and paying a hundred grand over asking price to do so. The schools in the neighborhood were just too good to turn down and with a seven year old daughter and another on the way we couldn’t turn down the opportunity. The city had been booming over the past seven years and we had missed out on buying property at the upswing, and the prices were only getting higher. We had to take the first chance we could get.
Over the weeks after moving in the enshrouded man became a bit of a blind spot to me. Like the scuff marks on the wall, over time my brain had rendered him invisible. Something you could only notice if you looked at the room in unfamiliar lighting or when a guest pointed out the strange dark corner and the unnerving huffs coming from behind the artificial palm tree. Todd would always reiterate the relator’s words “like a harmless little spider” and the question asker would usually respond with a simple “hmm” or “I see.” Todd just had this way with words. And then the dark corner and the man within it would disappear back into the background like a magic trick in my mind.
The first time I really noticed the Lima bean colored man since we moved in was late one night after a PTA meeting. Our daughter had gone to bed and Todd and I were hanging out in the kitchen. PTA meetings always seemed to stress Todd out, so he had a beer while I had a simple chamomile tea. I don’t know what it was about that night that caused me to noticed the man behind the potted palm, perhaps it was the lighting, or the fact that I sat where Todd usually sat during dinner, giving me a perfect view of the man in the corner. But, when our conversation lulled my eyes caught those yellow eyes peering from behind the plant. The man’s long fingers gripped the palms in anticipation of something I could not quite make out. Well, less of a thing and more of a phenomenon. A strange hazy ball like a swarm of gnats orbiting a dark mass in the center floated before those yellow eyes. I watched the man’s yellow eyes follow it, focused like a cat ready to pounce at a passing rat. And then, like a frog shooting it tongue towards a passing fly, the man’s left arm punched forward towards the hazy ball and grasped it. The man pulled it towards it mouth, opening up to a cavern of undulating white flesh and jagged red teeth assembled in a circle. The man closed his mouth and smiled in satisfaction.
Our eyes met and I nearly fell out of my seat. Todd looked at me, concerned.
“What is it Wren?” Todd asked.
I pointed towards the man in the corner, no longer just a strange fixture to our house, but a predatory being. Todd looked towards him.
“I saw his mouth,” I said. “I saw it eat.”
“Hmm,” Todd looked at the man. “You know I could use a snack right about now. Cheese and crackers do?”
I said nothing. Todd left the table to go to the pantry, and the man behind the faux palm tree smiled and winked at me. And then the darkness overtook him, as my brain pushed the strange being back into my mental blind spot leaving me with nothing but the hairs standing on the back of neck and a cool shiver.
This story was inspired by a writing prompt. You can read the original submission along with other great stories for the same prompt here.