Moving In

Sequel of the previous story "Return". After witnessing the death and return of another tankhead, Altær decides to offer him a place to stay. This short story mostly sets up future things...

The blinds on the living room window were closed tightly, keeping the nightly lights of the street lamps outside. Inside, the main source of light was a bare bulb dangling from the ceiling. It illuminated the small room well enough. The radiators murmured. It smelled like cold cigarette smoke in here.

Despite the only furniture being a desk with a beefy looking computer, a coffee table and a beige couch, a potted plant, and mostly empty shelves, the living room felt incredibly cramped. Standing next to the couch, the T67-head who had only been here for a few minutes couldn't say he really felt comfortable.

His gaze was resting on the plant while he waited; it looked like it was dying. Most of the leaves were brown. The sound of footsteps to his right made him tear his eyes away from the sight. Turning his head, he looked at the leFH-head that was entering the room. Altær. He was holding two cans, one of them presumably the drink he had promised the T67.

"Why didn't you sit down?" the leFH asked.

The T67 didn't reply directly, but took a seat on the couch, crossing his arms.

"Where am I going to sleep?" he said instead.

Altær walked over to the coffee table, swept aside a few polaroids that were strewn about on it, and put down one of the cans in front of the T67.

"Right here," he replied.

"On the couch?"

"Where else?"

The T67 gave a moody grumble, but instead of complaining, he grabbed the provided can and looked at it from all sides. He had a complaint about this, actually.

"Do you have anything else?" he asked, holding up the energy drink.

Altær opened his own can, but replied in a casual voice before he took a gulp.

"Lots of wine."

Seeing as he wasn't in dire need of drinking anything, the T67 put the can back down on the table. He looked at Altær again, who was flopping down on the desk chair on the other side of the room in that moment. They stared at each other silently for a moment; then, the leFH spoke again.

"What music do you like?" he asked.

"Anything," the T67 answered vaguely, not sure how the question was relevant right now.

"Okay, good," Altær hummed. He turned the chair around, put the can down on the desk next to an overly full ashtray, and poked the computer's mouse, which caused it to power up. He waited for the screens to do the same, and typed something into the keyboard. A few moments later, a Christmas song started playing from the speakers.

"Christmas is over already," the T67 noted sourly.

Altær turned towards him again, tilting his head.

"Only since three days, though," he grouched back.

The T67 wasn't keen on dwelling on that particular holiday; not after what had happened this year. He didn't say it out loud, but it seemed like the leFH understood after a moment of silence. With a pensive "hmmm", Altær turned back to the computer and put on a different song - some Rock. The T67 had no objections this time.

"So," Altær then said, looking at him again. "Since you'll live with me now, are you gonna tell me your name or nah?"

Admittedly, the T67 felt caught off-guard by that question. He didn't trust this guy at all yet, but he had a point.

"Just call me Colt," he said reluctantly.

"Alright, Colt. I'm guessing you have a ton of questions about... everything, huh?" Altær went on.

"No," Colt replied deadpan, and now it was obviously the leFH who was caught off-guard.

"Uh... Okay, then."

"I just want to know one thing," Colt said slowly.

As he didn't go on right away, Altær gave him an encouraging "Yeah?" to continue. And continue the T67 did.

"How many people have you killed?"

Altær looked at him as if he had just asked him to chop off his own head.

"You can't just ask someone how many people they killed...!" he complained in a flustered tone. Colt just stared at him until he added a mumbled "About a hundred..."

Now the T67 wasn't sure if he had actually wanted to know. He dropped his gaze slightly. Altær seemed to take his silence as a sign to go on still.

"Actually, it's 98. Exactly," he said in a completely neutral tone.

Colt didn't know what to say, except...

"In a year?" he asked. Hadn't he been told they'd need to eat only about once in a week? Doing the math in his head quickly... Something didn't add up there.

Altær started fidgeting with the sleeves of his hoodie a little.

"Welllll," he said, drawing out the word.

"Oh, forget it," Colt snapped with a dismissive gesture.

Falling silent with a shrug, Altær took another gulp from his drink.

"Aren't those... bad for falling asleep?" Colt asked with a frown. He couldn't exactly check his phone for the time since he had left that behind when he 'died', but it felt pretty late.

"What? The night is young," Altær said, in a cheerful tone that somehow sounded forced. The reason for that became clear as he added, more dryly, "Haven't found the next meal yet... Some works in progress, but nothing concrete..."

"How do you find them?" Colt asked, letting the morbid fascination get the better of him for a moment.

"Different methods," Altær replied pensively. "It really depends. But a lot of the time I just ...befriend random folks on Twitter or whatever and convince them that it's a good idea to meet up."

Colt just knew that he wasn't looking forward to adopting similar practices. He sighed.

"I see," he said soberly. "Well, you go ahead and do... that. I'm going to sleep."

With that, he awkwardly lied down on the couch and tried to get comfortable. There was a pillow and a blanket at least, even though he had to pull the latter out from underneath himself to cover himself.

Altær had turned towards the computer, but looked back over his shoulder.

"You just gonna sleep in your clothes?" he asked.

"So what?" came the grumpy answer.

"Just sayin'," Altær said with a shrug and got up from his chair. He went over to the lightswitch and turned it off. Now the only faint light came from the two screens on the desk. The music was also stopped quickly after, leaving only the hum of the computer's fans and the occasional typing away on the mechanical keyboard.

Colt stared at the ceiling for a long time, thinking about all the things that had happened in the past three days. How his life had been turned upside down completely by his decision to end it... and that he had ended up here in the apartment of a total stranger now. A total stranger who ate people regularly... as apparently a lot of his peers did, just secretly. And Colt was now one of them.

It was a lot to come to terms with.