Why Won't The Crocodile Leave Me Alone
Rodrick Vargmann was an odd man, to say the least. He wasn’t harmful or anything. At least I’d like to hope so. I liked Roddy. Regardless of what anyone thinks of him. Again, he was a very weird man. He cut most of his ties with friends and relatives once he left for college. As far as I know, he didn’t bother making any friends throughout his adult life. Those he did befriend were coincidental and usually consisted of people who had similar interests to his, like myself.
Roddy was a recluse. He’d stick to staying in his apartment and doing his thing from home. Reading this, it’s easy to assume he was some bloated neck bearded redneck antisocial clown who blamed the world for his problems. However, that’s not the case. His problems mostly consisted of him being overweight and avoidant. It’s hard to even call him a misanthrope. It’s not that he hated people, he just never liked human company. Other than that, he was the average Joe, physically speaking, mentally - not so much. The guy was an artistic genius according to some people. That’s how he made a living, various artistic commissions and payments he was owed for letting others use his creations.
While creating art was his job and a thing, he was fairly decent at, his true passion was the critique. He loved fiction, but his standard for what should be considered a good piece of fiction was impossibly high. He’d criticize and riff on everything he could get his hands on, regardless of the genre. To be totally honest, he used to write some too, but his work was largely not great. He knew how to build up a plot really well up to the climax, but then he’d pull an unrelated or unsatisfying twist and kill the suspense with no reward. People called him out on that but he, in his usual spirit, remained dismissive and opted to excuse his lackluster writing as something he does for the fun of it.
I met him online after he had given me one of his rare positive reviews on one of my stories. We’ve chatted for a while and ended up realizing we’re neighbors. That’s how my friendship with Roddy Vargmann began.
He’d constantly tell me about how this piece of internet fiction or another was absolute garbage. Most of the time he was just overreacting. Like most things in life, most amateur fiction is average. My own included, I’d say, but Roddy thought most of it was equivalent to nuclear waste. For that attitude, Roddy got himself a fair share of haters. Most people would dismiss Roddy as the asshole he was, while others loathed him to the point of throwing a fit whenever they’d see his internet alias, Demoncanine. Someone even tried doxing him once but ended up getting the wrong information and probably ended up exposing some poor innocent soul. Roddy found that amusing, I remember telling it wasn’t funny, and he said that he was laughing at what he called “the losers who would attempt to hurt a guy over a few words online regarding their shitty fanfics.”
That’s how this man has always operated. In some senses he saw himself as superior to everyone else. He didn’t carry himself like he was the best at everything, he just looked down at people most times and made excuses for his behavior. The guy was truly an awful individual at points. He helped expose some guy who was embroiled in a “feud” of sorts with him as a financial scammer which was good. He made it seem like it was all about helping the victims get justice. However, he declined on doing the same when it came to any other piece of shit out there that was mentioned to him. He’d say, “Oh, I don’t know this person…” and switch the topic to avoid having to deal with that.
I’m not here to speak ill of the person, though. Roddy Vargmann was actually a respected member of the neighborhood, by all accounts. He was surprisingly pleasant to people in person when he was forced to interact with others.
We used to hang out about every other week, but these hangouts turned less and less frequent in the months leading up to his demise. I remember one day we scheduled to meet at the bar for a couple of drinks. I showed up before Roddy and waited for him. When he showed up, he looked like he’d seen a ghost. He was all pale and covered in sweat, his breath was erratic and seemed blown up. I remember jumping up from my seat to ask him what was up, and he said he was Ok. Professing he’d been having a little trouble with anxiety and plagued by bad sleep. That evening, he was unusually docile and quiet. I had to force the conversation to keep going because he wasn’t entirely there. I remember asking him a few times if he was sure he was alright, and he’d snap at me with an increasing anger that he was actually alright. So, I let him be.
After that evening, our interactions became less and less frequent. His behavior towards me and online became more and more erratic. We’d start a normal conversation and suddenly he would either go silent or stop replied to my messages only to come back later stressing how he’s sorry and that he wasn’t feeling well.
His critique and ridicule of amateur authors had become harsher as time went by. Even things he deemed acceptable before had turned into “rancid verbal filth” in his eyes. From insulting people’s works, he started dishing personal attacks towards anyone who dared ignite his ire. While he remained fairly friendly to me and his other friends, being associated with him came to be somewhat unpleasant. People knew I was friends with the guy and would pester me to cut him off before he’d hurt me too.
I stuck with him. Something about his slow progression into oblivion was fascinating and terrifying. One day he told me out of the blue about a dream he had. In his dream, Roddy found himself tied to a blood-stained table, naked and gagged. He said he tried wriggling out and screaming for help but couldn’t. According to him, the room was dark and dimly lit by a single light bulb emitting red a faint red light. The door in front of him flung open a massive creature stepped forward. It was a massive crocodilian mountain of a man that marched towards him, sending waves of anxiety through his body. The beast ended up shoving its clawed hand into his chest, breaking through his skin, muscles and rib cage before grabbing his heart and crushing it in its hand before pulling it out and devouring the bloodied organ.
Roddy said he woke up feeling like his chest had been caved in. He had mentioned not being able to force himself to get up for a few moments before he finally managed to sit up. A sharp pain coursed through his rib cage. He concluded his story by saying he woke up with a bit of blood smeared on his lips.
I told him to see a doctor, but he refused to listen, assumed he was just being anxious and biting his lip during his sleep.
I tried talking some sense into him, but he wouldn’t listen.
It all went downhill from there. His critiques became more frequent and more violent, outright violent. Insulting and verbally battering any flaw he could find in a piece of fiction. He also turned more anxious, it appears, because he deleted most of his social media accounts. I kept seeing his alias pop up in forums and sites I frequent at an alarming rate. A few long posts a day. He was probably skipping work to write his reviews. I’ve decided to not bother with the guy anymore. He had some serious health condition and ignored my advice. Why should I bother with making sure he keeps his income steady? Wasn’t my problem.
After a month of silence, he video-called me shaking and visibly confused. His room was dark and completely silent. He looked at me through the camera lens and whispered, “Can you see it?”
I was confused, “huh? Dude, are you alright?”
“Can you see it?” he motioned to the left with his eyes.
“I can’t see anything other than your wasted mug, are you high on something?” I responded.
“The fucking crocodile’s here…” he whispered, nervously looking to the left without moving his head.
“You need help man, there are no crocodiles in there. You’re alone. I’m going to come over, and we’ll have a chat about your health, buddy.” I told him.
“N-n-n-no no no,” he mumbled before turning off the video chat.
He did look heavier than the last time I’d seen him, and he was being paranoid about some crocodile. He was definitely losing his mind. The guy needed help, and I opted to give it to him. Even if he’d hate to admit it, he needed medical attention. Both mental and physical.
Without thinking too hard, I grabbed my coat and made my way towards Roddy’s apartment. It was the third apartment complex away from mine, virtually a two-minute walk at a snail’s pace. I got to his place and found his mailbox filled with bills. He wasn’t the kind of person to skip on not checking his mail, he was too meticulous for that. I climbed up the stairs and knocked on the door. There was no reply. I knocked again, still nothing. Worried, I started banging on his door, but the only response I’ve gotten was an eerie silence.
One of his neighbors came out asking me what all the commotion was about. I told him about the video call and Roddy’s overall situation. The neighbor said it was weird because nobody had seen or heard anything coming out of Roddy’s apartment in weeks. Not even the occasional blaring of music they had gone so used to.
I yelled out, “Shit!” thinking something might’ve happened to the guy. I pushed the handle as hard as I could and the door open slightly with a chilling creak.
“Son of a bitch!” I hissed, before kicking the door open and screaming out Roddy’s name as the neighbor followed behind me. A smell of cat feces hit my nostrils as I stepped foot into the apartment. “Roddy, why don’t you clean the litter box, you sick bastard?” I yelled out as I was walking through the house. His apartment was neat and orderly. A bit of dust had collected on some of his furniture.
The closer I got to his study, the worse the smell of rotten eggs became. My heart sank to my heels when I finally found him in his study. The smell was unbearable inside that room, but the sight was far worse. found Rodrick slumped over his desktop, which was still running. His skin was pale-green, blue, and green and his body was beyond bloated and some parts of him were outright starting to decay. His Savannah cat, Edna, was trying to tear a chunk of meat from his arm. His neighbor ran out of the room screaming profanities at the sight of Roddy’s corpse while I screamed at him to call 9-1-1.
I held back the urge to throw up and pushed onward, swatting at the renegade feline. After scaring the cat away, I’ve noticed most of his face was gone. Facial muscles and bits of his skull were exposed. The urge to throw up returned, and I looked away. Facing his screen, I noticed he was writing a review, one of his critiques. Something about a story involving a demonic entity inspired by the Egyptian crocodile-headed god, Sobek. The review was all over the place in terms of pacing, point progression and language. It wasn’t really bad either, he tried to make it as scathing as he could, but I guess he had no typical Roddy-spice left within him. The one thing I noticed was the closing line, “Why wont ur stupid crocodile leave me alonee!” It seemed like Roddy had lost his mind before he passed.
I was caught up in thought for a moment, wondering how long it must’ve been since he’d passed for Edna to start eating him. That’s when something hit me. Something ignited a fire in my mind and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for quite some time.
As it turned out, Roddy suffered a heart attack and died as a result of that. He was found to have suffered from hypertension and the early stages of diabetes. He died some two weeks before I showed up.
I threw out the web cam just in case, because I still don’t know how on earth did Roddy video call me that day – he was supposed to be dead.
submitted by BloodySpaghetti