Freeline Productions has released the mysterious fiction novel “Koby’s New Home,” the story of a man, a stray kitten … and an eerie apartment complex. Check out this free sample chapter from the book.
There were mysteries in the apartment.
One morning Grabinski went over to the small desk in his bedroom where he kept his laptop and papers. He turned the laptop on and was about to sit down to start working, when he noticed it.
On the corner of his desk, at all times, was a sentimental item, one of his favorite ornaments, a snow globe. Inside were mountains and a sign that read “Welcome to Colorado.” Grabinski had purchased it in a gift shop during a vacation in the Centennial State, and in addition to bringing back plenty of happy memories, on blistering hot summer days, he liked to pick it up and shake it and watch the snow scatter everywhere inside the watery globe – letting him imagine for a second that he was someplace delightfully cold, rather than in the oven known as July.
On this afternoon, the snow globe was gone.
And in its place was something else entirely: a green sponge.
Grabinski stood there a moment, trying to make sure he was seeing correctly, wondering if months of joblessness and anxiety had suddenly left him prone to weirdo optical illusions. He reached over and picked up the sponge – and yes indeed, it truly was nothing more than a routine cleaning sponge. And it was a dirty one, that obviously had been used many times. It was moist, which Grabinski discovered as he gently squeezed on it, and water dripped onto his papers. Disgusted, he turned and went into the kitchen, tossing the sponge in the trash bin.
Irritated, he went back to his desk and started searching for the snow globe. Was it possible Koby had been playing and knocked it to the ground? Grabinski got on his hands and knees and crawled along the bedroom floor, looking everywhere, including under the bed. But there was no snow globe to be seen.
It made the most sense that his feline roommate was the culprit here – although that didn’t quite explain how a sponge ended up on his desk. Could Koby have found the sponge and carried it in his mouth to the bedroom?
Grabinski went to the bedroom closet, opened the door, then got back down on his hands and knees to poke around in there. Outside of his shoes and clothing, there was no snow globe.
And yet … when he stood up, he happened to notice something on the top shelf, above the rack holding his shirts. He reached up, felt around, and … took hold of his beloved Colorado snow globe. He stared at it a second, even shook it to watch the snow fall over the mountains.
This was, to say the least, perplexing. He could fully accept the notion of a Koby who plays with his snow globe. But a kitten that manages to place it on a shelf that nearly touches the ceiling?
He placed the snow globe back on his desk, then sat there, staring at it, looking mystified, like he had started a particularly difficult crossword puzzle and had gotten stumped.
That wasn’t the only strange occurrence. He started noticing that other things in his apartment had disappeared – for a while. Invariably, they seemed to show up again the next morning. In each case, they were seemingly trivial items – a washcloth in the kitchen, a small box filled with Q-Tips in the bathroom, a pair of thick winter socks in his bedroom. Everything that vanished was small, insignificant. It’s not like he came home and his rug or couch was gone. But still …
He had no idea what made him go looking for these particular items in the first place, only to stand there shaking his head and saying Now, didn’t I leave that right here? or why he had suddenly decided to wash his dishes or clean his ears or warm his feet. But something definitely seemed one step ahead of him at all times.
As this was happening, one source of salvation for Grabinski was getting to know his roommate – and the many quirks and antics this kitten brought to the apartment. On days when Grabinski desperately wanted to purge himself of this hostile environment, Koby always seemed capable of cheering him up.
The kitten was endlessly entertaining, in delightfully unpredictable ways. There were Koby’s rather opinionated moments in his litter box. If Grabinski happened to be nearby and glanced over as Koby was digging in the dirt, sometimes the kitten would cast a look of … well, how about irritation, as if to say Do I watch YOU while you’re on the throne? A cat’s got his dignity, you know?
But other times Koby looked more relaxed, more sanguine in that icky box than on the clean couch, emitting mellow vibes, with a serene look on his face that said I do my best meditating in here.
“Yes, Koby,” Grabinski nodded, “you truly are my Waldorf salad.”
Then there was the evening Koby was lying on Grabinski’s chest as he laid in bed – and that kitten actually seemed to … wince? Grabinski could practically read the kitten’s mind: Can you say … halitosis, boys and girls?
“Everybody’s a critic,” Grabinski sighed, as he got up, went into the bathroom, and brushed his teeth.
Koby loved finding new things to play with. Glass items on shelves, that would shatter when they hit the floor, were a big hit with him, if less so with Grabinski. But even with all that, Koby had a way of pulling Grabinski out of his mental slump, and back to normalcy, on a regular basis.
Late one afternoon, as Grabinski was getting ready to do some work on his laptop, he stopped to do some window gazing, looking out at the gray sky. The sun was setting, but down below he could see it lighting up the face of a little girl, strolling through the courtyard. She was protectively clutching a doll, then stopped to hold the doll in front of her. They started to have what appeared to be a rather serious conversation. A scolding of the doll, perhaps, for being late for tea? Then, satisfied with the results of their frank talk, the girl disappeared into the building.
Grabinski walked into the bedroom, sat down at his desk, and turned on his laptop. He was several minutes into his work, when it came over him – like a fever that suddenly gives someone the chills, like a wave of nausea in his stomach. But in this case, it was neither of those. So what was it?
It started as a restless feeling, then built up in its intensity. It was a strange and overwhelming sense that something was happening right behind him. His gut instinct was telling him – no, screaming out loud — that someone was standing there, doing something so quietly and surreptitiously that he couldn’t hear a sound, couldn’t perceive even the slightest movement … but his senses were sending off alarm bells at a hysterical rate.
It all seemed ridiculous, but the ominous feeling powerfully controlled his emotional state now, warning him of an unknown presence in that room.
At the same time, there was simply no possible way that he could turn around to see if this was true. Suddenly, as he sat there motionless, staring at the laptop, listening but hearing no sounds at all, he was frightened stiff. There was no curiosity in him, just terror. The fear was too big to even think about turning around. He knew that if he did tilt his head in that direction, he wouldn’t be able to tolerate what he saw, because he knew it wouldn’t be just a shadow lurking in the corner. It was like a door opening, with the understanding that something truly horrifying was about to walk in. Now he felt certain that this ghostly silhouette, something completely menacing, was just inches from him ….
… and then …. blink … the feeling passed. The fear, the anxiety, the panic was now gone. It was as if someone had flicked a switch in his brain – paranoid to chilling. The intense feeling seemed to have crawled out of his ear and gone slithering off. Grabinski no longer believed something was behind him – and he did in fact turn around now, with a considerable amount of confidence in what he would see.
And what he saw was his bed, and the door leading into the living room. It was just the quiet, still interior of his gloomy apartment. The room was brightly lit, there were no shadows anywhere, and his vision focused on absolutely nothing that seemed threatening.
He sat back down in his chair and shut his eyes for a moment. He now felt as calm and relaxed as, a moment ago, he had seemed caught up in an iron grip of fear.
On another quiet, uneventful afternoon, that feeling returned, this time as Grabinski was seated on the couch with an open book in his hands. Uncontrollably, it swept over him once again – the morbid sensation that something was just a few feet away from him, lurching dangerously close to him.
This time, Grabinski knew there was no way to fight off these obsessive thoughts, no singing a happy tune or blocking his ears with his hands. Turning around was out of the question – there was fierce resistance in every fiber of his being to doing that. Now his nerves were rattled, and he knew the terror would build up, uncontrollably.
Without turning his head, Grabinski stood up, and walked to the kitchen table. He was ready this time. If this horrendous apartment was revoking his citizenship like this, he would fight back in the only way possible.
He still refused to look behind him. He was so terrified of doing that, it was out of the question. Instead, he sat at the table. He had prepared for this moment days ago, having placed on the table scores of small white tablets next to a tall glass of water. He imagined the sight of roaches nibbling on these tablets, not knowing the hideous effect this meal would have.
But Grabinski did understand that. He was fully aware of it as he took a handful of the tablets, put them in his mouth, and then gulped them down with the water. He repeated this pattern until there wasn’t a single tablet left. Then he sat there patiently, to wait. He started to feel a dull ache in his head.
Part of him suddenly wanted to panic, and say this has been a mistake, he shouldn’t have done this, what should he do now. There was an alternate voice in his head screaming no no no bad idea run to the bathroom and make yourself sick you got tons to live for people love you snap out of it –
A thought crossed his mind and he smiled: This is the first time in months I’ve wanted to live. Now I’m worried that I’m getting soft.
Grabinski opened his eyes to feel Koby, sitting next to him on the bed, swatting his face – rather aggressively. The slightest hint that he was closing his eyes, and – whack! Truly, this kitten meant business. Koby kept tapping the man’s cheek with his paw, until Grabinski turned and said “Okay, enough already.” Only then did Koby seem satisfied. A damp kitten nose butted against Grabinski’s forehead.
Grabinski glanced at the clock by his bed; it was 1:27 a.m. For whatever reason, Koby had decided that Grabinski really, truly needed to be awake right again.
HOW TO ORDER IT:
“Koby’s New Home” is 132 pages and is available to purchase for $7.98 in paperback and $3.99 as a Kindle download. The novel, written by author, playwright and journalist Michael W. Freeman, is available on Amazon, as a Kindle eBook, and through the Freeline Productions online bookstore.
WHO WROTE IT:
Michael Freeman, a resident of Orlando, has been a journalist since 1988. Throughout his career, he’s worked at some of the Sunshine State’s largest newspapers, including The Orlando Sentinel, The Lakeland Ledger, The Sun-Sentinel and The Jewish Journal.
Michael is also a playwright, active in Central Florida’s fast-growing theater community. He wrote and produced the original plays “Hooked,” “Copping a Craigie” and “Murder Sleep,” which premiered at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival. A passionate lover of theater and the arts, Michael is a guild member at The Orlando Shakespeare Theater and a member of the Playwrights Round Table in Orlando.
Michael is also the founder of Freeline Productions, a writing and editing service that distributes his fiction novels “Bloody Rabbit,” published in 2013, and “Koby’s New Home.”
Michael was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, and has lived in Orlando since 2002. Michael now works for the Orlando Magic basketball team. He enjoys reading, traveling, the music of The Monkees, catching re-runs of the 1970s TV series “Kolchak The Night Stalker,” and the great art of comic books.
Michael is also the proud papa of his cats Fluffy, Midnight, and Peaches.
Contact Freeline Media at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..