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There are milestones in your life that you never forget, and renting your first apartment is one of them. What can I say about mine? It was quaint, cheap, and had enough space that I could fit a bed if I really crammed the mattress against the wall. It wasn’t the glorious, romantic idea of moving out, but I could afford it, and that’s what really mattered.
I remember taking the rusted key from my broad-shouldered, heavy bearded landlord, and oddly enough, I couldn’t keep the sting of cold electricity from running up my spine. I’m not superstitious, but I’d be a liar if I said that it didn’t frighten me. I should’ve left there; just let it go and walked away, but I didn’t.
“It’s a nice room. I really can’t understand why no one would want to rent it.” He answered, a frown of confusion lining his features.
I remember giving a shrug, thanking him politely, and scooting my way out the door.
Making my way up the stairs, I glanced between the cracks of each step to see the pebbled sidewalk below. Several of the boards were wound tight with duct tape, holding them together. Even the slightest bit of weight caused them bend precariously, giving an aching squeak. It would’ve been so easy to break them, but luckily, I didn’t.
I opened the door. It was solid wood with a faded brass mailbox, though one thing that caught my eye was a post-it stuck right at my eye-level to welcome me to the building. Apparently, there was one other person living in the building below me, though my landlord never remembered seeing them.
Welcome! I hope you find the apartment to your liking. ~ Your Neighbor Downstairs.
Taking the small piece of paper, I stuffed it in my pocket, before reaching for my key. Finally, it seemed like I found someone who didn’t creep me out, though the good feelings didn’t last long. As I slid the key into the lock, the brown rust specked off onto my hand, and I sneered in disgust, pulling back to brush it off.
With a forced crack of old wood, I saw the inside. Yellow tiles lined the floor, and a white, cracked ceiling was above me. It had a bedroom, a bathroom the size of a broom closet, a living area with a window that only showed the bricks of the building next door, and a filthy kitchen, complete with overflowing ant traps.
Giving a sigh, I could only stuff my hands into my pockets, crinkling the post-it, before setting down my bag. The apartment had already been paid for, and I couldn’t back out then… or rather I refused to, being the stubborn pain in the neck I grew up to be.
I stayed there for several months and after a cleaning storm and some furnishings, it began to look like a home. During the day that is. At night, my apartment was always a different story.
I’d lie in my bed, pull my covers up to my chin and get the most anxious chills. My hands would shake, and my stomach held the warning pressure of an exploding bladder, but that was never the case. Sometimes I’d be paralyzed with fear, never understanding why. In the darkness, all I could see was the white lights of my digital clock, and the single red eye of the smoke detector perched on the ceiling.
I tried to think nothing of it, but the feeling only began to get worse.
One night, as I lay in bed with insomnia’s cloudiness filling my head, I heard noises from beneath my bed. I was used to it, often-hearing music, or the sound of clicking, as my downstairs neighbor used his computer at every hour of the day. I knew the sound of typing keys, and sometimes I’d see the blue glow coming from his window when I came back late at night. However, that night, something about it made me nauseous. I listened to it, squirming with an antsy disgust.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
I threw my legs over the side of the bed, and stood up. I had to stop that clicking. It was driving me crazy, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I couldn’t remember a time when I had been that angry, but lack of sleep tends to do that to people.
I made my way down the stairs, each one giving the horrid grinding sound of duct tape rubbing against itself, but I didn’t care. I was tired, angry, and I’d stop that clicking, no matter what it took. With each step, I felt my heart pounding, but the antsy feeling began to consume me. I didn’t know if I was going to vomit or pass out, but I refused to do either until that clicking was gone.
Going to the door of my neighbor, I was inches from the door handle, when I heard the sound of breaking glass and a scream of pain. Through my hazy mind, I threw the door open and made my way into the apartment. It was dark, and I could barely see anything, though the notes of a song I couldn’t name reached my ears. I saw the familiar blue glow coming from one of the rooms, and I followed it like a moth to a flame.
What I found has burned itself into my mind, and I’ll never forget it. On a wall, wasn’t just a small laptop, but several monstrous monitors that spread across it, there were nine of them, all neatly lined up to surround a single, decrepit swivel chair placed by a desk, with a keyboard.
I reached over, my mind forgetting any weariness it was suffering before, as I touched one of the keys. I recoiled quickly, finding it newly sticky, and I felt my stomach pushing towards further nausea, but within seconds, the monitors lit up bright, leaving me temporarily blinded and blinking back spots. Once my sight returned to me, I stared at the monitors as one by one, they loaded to show different places in my apartment. Bedroom, living room, bathroom, kitchen, front door… they were all there, and I began shaking, looking around for any sign of the neighbor, I’ve never met.
Everything was dead, and I felt around blindly for a light switch, only to find that there was none. The computers seemed to be their only source of light, and I tore my eyes away from them as soon as I could manage it.
Granted, the clicking had stopped, but the music continued to play, coming from the bedroom. The same song looped itself over and over, each time the guitar began with its cheerful chords frightened me further.
I ran as fast as I could towards the door, nearly tripping over pizza boxes and carelessly discarded books. All I knew was that I had to get away from it; the blinding monitors, the overwhelming stench of mold, the sticky keyboard…
Everything that happened for the rest of that night happened in a blur of panic. I packed my bags, and left as soon as I could. Apparently, they never found the creep, he escaped before I could get into his apartment. The only trace of him was that broken basement window, and blood-soaked shards of glass.
My stomach turns just thinking about it, now, to be honest.
One thing I do remember from my experience happened as I went to leave the apartment and my creepy neighbor for good. I had my bags thrown over my shoulder, weighing me down to exhaustion, when I saw a small square stuck to the inside of my door, staring me in the face just daring me to leave.
Written in maniac scrawl were song lyrics that still keep me from listening to the radio. I’ll never forget it. The song that had been looping in the monster’s bedroom that night gave me one more challenge, before I opened the door, never to look back.
If only you saw what I can see,
You’ll understand why I want you so desperately.
Right now I’m looking at you and I can’t believe,
You don’t know,
You don’t know you’re beautiful.
That’s what makes you beautiful.
Credit To – Kim Gabriele