When I was 23, my now husband and I lived in an old Victorian house split up into apartments and studios. We lived in a studio apartment on the first floor that was fairly large, but when we had to share the space with cockroaches the size of rats, well, space became less and less limited.
My husband worked about 30 or so minutes away from where we were living, and I was going to school and working, but typically, I was alone most of the time in the apartment (well, if you call 'alone' me and the 3-4 gigantic cockroaches and our cat, who could care less about them and would much rather attack me at a moment's notice). He would come home after 8 or 9 most nights, sometimes later. I just locked myself in and hoped for the best.
See, we were completely fooled by the neighborhood we moved into the day we went to look at the apartment. It was a beautiful day full of promises and chirping birds. A slight wind blew a warm breeze around us, and the smells of flowers in abundance surrounded us and made us believe that this was the neighborhood in which we had to live. The sky was blue, the houses were old with fantastic history, and nary a person was to be seen slumming up the streets.
And then we moved in and soon found out the neighborhood was a playground for the homeless, the drug addicted, and big rigs using the street next to the window where we slept as a thoroughfare between freeways. At 6am in the morning.
Our next door neighbor was some drunk guy. He was nice enough, but not really my kind of people. The guy across from us dressed like a hobo professor and we never really did know what he did for a living. He tried to help me break into our apartment one day when I locked myself out and my husband wasn't going to be home anytime soon. This was well before the days of cell phones, so I just sat on the porch for a good 3 or 4 hours. There were a few young professionals living upstairs, but we never really talked to them besides saying "hi" in passing. There was an elderly man living upstairs as well, but we never really talked to him either outside of friendly waves and 'hellos' and 'how are you doings?'.
The first time I noticed the cockroaches, I was sitting on our bed, watching TV in the dark, when I noticed something run really fast across the living room floor. The reflection of the TV shone off its back. My cat, bless her frozen heart, tried to pounce on it, but then gave up and left me alone with the creature. My husband came home, and I was still sitting on the bed, having a silent panic attack because I'd never seen anything that big and shiny in my life until that night. I couldn't fathom what it was.
"KILL IT!" I screamed at him.
While he was used to me being slightly melodramatic about things, that was not something he wanted yelled at him as soon as he came home. After convincing him that I wasn't making it up about the creature's size, he finally went to investigate.
When he came back, he said words I never wanted to hear again, "I....I don't know what that is."
But, you're supposed to take care of ME! I thought. I didn't sign up for this. I didn't agree to live in an apartment with a creature much less a fiance who couldn't identify said creature! God dammit, I'm from the suburbs!
"Oh my god. Don't say that. KILL IT!" I yelled while shaking my arms around and squealing.
"Would you stop!" he said. He's always hated it when I shake and squeal about the unknown.
"What IS IT?" I said with my volume increasing to squeal again.
"I think it's a cockroach. But I've never seen a cockroach that big, so I don't really know."
"OH.MY.GOD.KILL.IT!!!!" I think I was crying at this point.
It's worth mentioning that the cat was missing at this point because she was a lot smarter than we were and wasn't going to stick around trying to figure out what the hell that thing was.
My husband did the bravest thing any human could do outside of squashing a tarantula with paper towels (a thought that gives me the willies as I imagine it now), and he killed that creature good and dead, and then removed the carcass to the outside, which was fine by me because who knows if it was really dead and not just stunned. If I were that creature, and someone tried to squish me and throw me in the garbage but I wasn't really dead and just stunned? I would get revenge. Just saying.
From that point on, until we moved, we were being constantly surprised by rat-sized cockroaches here and there, and sometimes even in the corner where the 20 foot wall met ceiling. Like a bat. Out of hell.
As you can imagine, being alone a lot while fearing the appearance of a rat-sized cockroach does wonders for the imagination.
One night as I was waiting for my husband to come home from work, I heard a lot of commotion going on in the hallway. I, being the nosy person that I am, stuck my head to the door to listen and tried to figure out what was going on outside.
I heard someone say, "He's upstairs." I heard walkie talkies. I heard bits and pieces of things that never added up. I was freaked out yet intrigued. I called my husband to tell him something was going on, and he told me to open the door and just look. So I did, and there was a car with lights flashing outside, and I could hear people upstairs, and I was no closer to the truth of what was going on.
My husband came home an hour or so later, and when he was coming in from the back parking area, he ran into the male "young professional." In cases where something dramatic happens, "hi" goes right out the door and two strangers will gossip like elderly ladies sitting on a porch. And so this was how we found out what happened.
He told my husband that he had called the cops because he hadn't seen the elderly man in almost a week, and since the elderly man was, well, elderly and lived in a studio apartment and looked like he was going to blow away in the wind if the wind blew too hard, it wasn't like he was going to just pick up and take a trip to Hawaii. He tried to get the management to do something, but they said it wasn't their place, and to call the cops. So he did. What I was hearing was the cops going upstairs to try to get the old man to open his door.
The building management eventually had to open the elderly man's door because it was either that or the cops knocking the door down, and come to find out, the elderly man had died a few days prior and was just beginning to rot away in his apartment.
Oh, did I mention the smell? Apparently some funky smell was coming from the elderly man's apartment too. Which was another reason to raise suspicions. Since we were on the first floor, we never smelled a thing, but, my husband later said that he realized he hadn't seen the elderly man for a few days before the 'incident.'
Later we found out his apartment was a huge mess, full of papers, money and trash and whatnot.
And, come to find out, full of rat-sized cockroaches.
Which, as you can imagine, explains a lot.