Pubs tend to be frequented by two types of people. There are those who wish to remember, and those who wish to forget. Most of the time, they just end up finding out how hard it is to do either. There is a local bar, a small establishment that is clearly kept going by the regulars. Like many of the buildings on Wellington Street, it was established a long time ago, and this one shows its age. The tables are covered in layers of scratches and stains, the stools covered in old red vinyl that shows thick splits, revealing the cotton underneath. The bartenders fluctuate from day to day, but the customers tend to stay the same.
One in particular seems to be a consistent regular. Since I started this project I have managed to stop by on no less than five different occasions. Every time I find him sitting in the corner, sporting whatever hard liquor is on hand. His name is Harry, and he looks as haunted as anyone I have ever met.
People in bars like this tend to pretty friendly, and more than willing to share some stories after a drink or so. But in Harry's case it ended up taking much longer. It was only on my third visit that I managed to get him to hold a conversation. It was on a cold night. Frost gripped the windows, the condensation pooling in the corners of the sills. He is a easy person to recognize. He is slightly plump, yet his cheeks seem withdrawn. His head has balding, graying hair, a stubble clinging to his face. His eyes are easily his most stand out feature. They are large, and a very light blue. His eyes are always bloodshot, even after waking up from unconsciousness.
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why he finally decided to talk to me. After formally introducing myself for the third time, I bought him a drink. It didn't take too long after that for him to start talk. This is the story he shared with me, as best as I can recall.
“It was a late night. I used to work at a hospital uptown. There is a train stop near the end of the block. It was normal for me to just take the train. Walk the few blocks to my house. That night was particularly cold. Snow was on the ground. I had the entire sidewalk to myself. Mostly. I kept looking at the ground in front of me. The wind was cold enough to cut right through you, so I just kept my head down.”
A this point he mumbled something. I couldn't really make it out.
“I looked up, and noticed there is someone else on the sidewalk with me. It was dark. Couldn't really make out anything. Just kept watching them. It is more common, watching people, then you would think. That late at night it isn't normal to see people, especially in that weather. They were nearing a intersection. Secretly I just hoped they would turn. They did, but not before dropping onto all fours. Not...not like you would if you were to crawl. They just dropped down, their arms and legs spread out like a spider. They began to move like that. Heavy, lurching motions. But fast. Faster than he should.”
He mumbled again. I tried harder to make it out. Still couldn't. He took another drink then continued.
“It turned, near a corner of some low fence. By the time I got there, it had disappeared...The walk home was a nightmare. At first I thought it was just some creep messing around with me. You get some people like that in this area. Then I began to hear something. It was...like a chittering, with a slight, high pitched cry. Like electrical static, close to a whisper. Coming from the alleys. Every time I turned and looked, would see nothing. Maybe a glimpse of something. But nothing. Just a shadow. Could have been anything.
Eventually I started to run. Didn't stop until I was at home. I was breathless. My heart was pounding in my ears, and my head was throbbing. I took some time. Tried to calm down. Took some breaths. Just couldn't calm down. I wanted to call someone, but I would sound crazy.
I locked the door. Turned on the lights, to make me feel better. After a hour, I just felt stupid. I couldn't believe I had riled myself up like that.”
He took a long gulp of his drink, a deep, exasperated sigh following before he continued.
“And then I heard...a heavy thump. Not from the front door, like someone was knocking. But on the roof. A heavy thump. Then the sound of something sliding, slipping off the edge. Glass broke. Upstairs. The lights began to flicker, then shut off. Then there was the noise again. That chittering...the squealing.”
His voice was getting loud, and people in the bar were beginning to look over. I tried to calm him down, but he kept going.
“I went to go to the front door, but then I saw it. On all fours. Just a hulking, chittering thing. Teeth...” he sobbed. “Teeth where his eyes should be. Just clicking together, over and over. It crawled towards me. And then...and...”
He was inconsolable. For a couple of minutes he just sobbed into his drink.
At last, he looked up at me, his eyes red with tears.
“The doctors. I told them what happened. They say it is all in my head. But you can see, can't you?” he asked desperately. “It took my eyes. Took my eyes and put in teeth. I know. I haven't been able to look into a mirror since. But I can hear it. I can hear it all the time.”
Then he just looked down at the table, chattering his teeth together. He just kept chattering, muttering under his breath. After that, I just sat with him, until around a hour later he passed out.
Harry no longer works at the hospital. Best I can tell he mostly supports himself with disability. Not his choice, at least that's what people tell me. But it is enough.
I don't doubt he believes what he says. And I do think that something truly terrible happened to him. Perhaps at the hospital. Working in conditions like that can have a strange impact on people. Since that night I have never tried to push him to talk further. But after hearing what he had to share, I make sure that anytime I visit I buy him a drink.