Orange Rhymes With: The roommate who wasn’t there

I have a problem.

I’m not talking about my television obsession, my chemical addiction to caffeine or even my complete inability to interact with people in a social setting. (Though I will be addressing those problems in my next group session.)

No, I have a far more serious problem. An invisible problem.

You see, it’s recently come to my attention that I may have a fifth roommate haunting my living room. The man is a specter of sorts — never appearing directly, but instead lurking in the shadows, unbeknownst to us all.

The signs are subtle, but to the trained eye they are unmistakable evidence that something nefarious is afoot.

Roommate number five, or “The Phantom” as he will henceforth be known, has left several distinct traces over the last week. But today it appears that the trail has gone cold. Perhaps he feels me pursuing him, drawing ever nearer to discovering his dastardly secret. And, like all phantoms, he has gone to great lengths to cover his tracks for reasons unknown.

I’ll start from the beginning.

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It all started during an unfortunate cooking incident, in which I inadvertently redecorated my kitchen with the remains of vaporized egg matter. The spontaneous explosion engulfed every wall, appliance, and surface within a 10-foot radius.

As I spun in panicky circles, attempting to catch the gooey egg drips as they slowly oozed from the ceiling, an innocuous pile of debris caught my eye.

A small pile of clothing topped by a lone bag of beef jerky, which would have gone unnoticed by a lesser man, had appeared in the midst of our broken, run-down dorm furniture. Not being prone to paranoia, I initially ignored this new discovery, instead returning my focus to the egg-coated kitchen.

But in the days that followed, signs of The Phantom began to pile up like awkward similes in an amateur-ish humor column. Soon the clothes were joined by a rumpled sleeping bag, a pair of shoes and a sinister looking laptop.

As the days progressed the entire apartment began to smell of beef jerky as the vapor from the empty bags began to permeate every crevice of the dorm. The signs of life — unmistakable, yet just out of my grasp — had begun to appear with startling regularity.

But still no sign of The Phantom.

Yesterday a fifth toothbrush appeared amongst our cluttered counter, taunting my inability to find its owner. “Show yourself!” I roared with frustration as my terrified roommates peered nervously out of their rooms, no doubt as frightened by The Phantom as I was.

Still no sign of the clever beast.

It’s been weeks now. Weeks of fruitless searches and late-night hunts. I’ve gone nearly insane through the feverish attempts to find The Phantom, and I’ve come to wonder whether his existence might be my own subconscious playing tricks upon my weary mind.

I’ve yet to make contact with The Phantom, but when I do, I have but one message for him:

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills — skills I have acquired over a long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for phantoms like you.”

— Hey, it worked for Liam Neeson. But I will find him. I must.

And I’ve got to get my hands on some of his damn beef jerky.