20 Jul Nobody Lives Here But You
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"Nobody Lives Here But You"Written by Ashley Rose Wellman
Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
About half a year ago, I moved into a new apartment downtown. It’s hands-down the most upscale place I’ve lived in—rooftop access, a fitness center, a pool, huge windows with beautiful views of the city… this place had it all. My leasing agent said apartments in that building were going fast, and when I found one on the eleventh floor in my price range, I signed a year-long lease immediately.
And the building was wonderful! At first. I thought it was strange from the very beginning that I never seemed to see anyone taking advantage of the amazing amenities—there was never anyone in the pool, on the roof, or in the fitness center. I didn’t mind, of course, as this meant that I had these things all to myself! I joked with my friends that I was starting to think no one lived in the building but me, while I enjoyed what seemed like private access to all the great things in my building. But still, after a few weeks, it went from slightly weird to definitely unnerving. There was never anyone in the hallways, in the lobby… this is a huge building, twelve floors, and probably hundreds of people, yet I never saw anyone. Just the doormen that worked in the lobby of the building. After a few weeks, I talked to the night doorman about the lack of people, and how strange it all seemed to me.
The doorman chuckled and said, “Nobody lives here but you.”
“What?” I asked, unnerved.
He laughed again. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Of course other people live here. The building’s almost completely full.”
“Then why don’t I ever see anyone?”
“Who knows? Maybe you’re always walking around during quieter hours?”
“I guess.” I said. The building had to be less full than he implied—maybe they just pretended to be near capacity to drive the prices up? Either way, it seemed like something shady was going on. But I tried to ignore all that, and enjoyed taking my friends for an uninterrupted swim, or a private evening stargazing on the roof. Everything started to feel normal again, and I started to feel lucky that I had these things all to myself. But that feeling didn’t last for long.
One night, my friend Brian came over for drinks, and when I opened the door, I was shocked. I had never seen him like this before. All the color had drained from his face, and he was visibly shaking. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“The number. Your apartment number, I—I… I got it wrong. I got your apartment number wrong. I went to the tenth floor instead of the eleventh. I… I went to apartment 1030, not 1130. I went to apartment 1030.” He sputtered.
“What? Brian, that’s fine. I don’t care. Now you know I’m on the eleventh floor.”
He grabbed my arm, and said “No, no, you don’t understand. Someone lives in 1030, and she looked… she looked exactly like you.”
I laughed, “Oh, maybe I have a secret twin! Awesome!”
“No,” he said. “She… she looked exactly like you. I can’t tell you how much she… and she sounded like you. We were talking, I thought it was you, I—I walked into her apartment, she was talking to me like she knew me. I started looking around her apartment. Everything was different. Everything was out of place. Everything was… stranger. I don’t know. I can’t describe it. She looked like you. She looked exactly like you.”
I got chills. “You… you thought she looked like me enough to go into her apartment and talk to her?”
“And she talked me like she knew me! It wasn’t until I looked down at my phone and saw you had texted me ‘1130’ instead of ‘1030’… jesus, I just bolted out the door and didn’t go back. I ran up a flight of stairs to get here, and, and… she looked like you, she sounded like you… and she’s right below us right now.”
“I think maybe we should go down there.”
“Are you insane? I’m not going down there. You shouldn’t go down there either.”
“I think we need to, Brian, we—“
“I don’t want to go down there! And I want to stop talking about this.”
The rest of the evening, I kept trying to steer the conversation back in that direction, but Brian refused. Even after a drink of two, he still hadn’t calmed down, and he ended up leaving early, still very shaken up. As he left though the lobby of my building, he turned back to me, looked me dead in the eye, and said. “Don’t go down to 1030. I know you’re curious, but do not go down there. Don’t go down there. Don’t.” Despite his dire warning, I had to know. I had to! I got back in the elevator, and pressed the button for the eleventh floor. As the elevator slowly passed the eighth floor, I pressed the large illuminated “ten”, and the elevator creaked to a stop on the tenth floor.
As I got out of the elevator, I already felt the air shift. It was much colder on this floor. And darker. But otherwise, it was almost identical to the eleventh floor.
I walked the route I’d taken so many times to my own door, only on this odd, darkened floor. It felt like looking at a copy of a copy of a copy—the similarities were there, but it was murkier, blurrier, and distorted. I arrived at 1030, and suddenly got the distinct feeling that I should not knock. I knew I shouldn’t. I knew it was a bad idea.
I heard footsteps approach the door, and a hand starting to turn the handle. Then, in what I can only assume was whatever was behind that door looking through the peephole at me, the handle stopped turning. I heard the sound of the door locking and deadbolting, and footsteps moving quickly in the other direction.
I knocked again. Nothing.
Whatever was in there was willing to open the door until it saw me. I took the stairs back up to the eleventh floor. I would try again tomorrow.
The next evening, I walked back down again.
The lights in the hallway flickered. It felt like the floor was getting darker by the second.
I knocked on 1030’s door. The same exact thing happened: footsteps approached the door. The handle started to turn, then immediately stopped, and the door was locked. I started knocking louder.
“Excuse me!” I said loudly, “Can I speak to you for a minute? I just want to speak to you! Hey! Open the door! Open the door!”
There was a full minute of silence. Then the footsteps approached the door again, and in a loud, clear, voice, identical to how recordings of my own voice sound, spoke the words:
“Nobody lives here but you.”
The figure, whoever it was, whatever it was, retreated from the door. I walked back to my own apartment, probably looking as shaken up as Brian had looked the night before.
I knew I had to find out who lived in that apartment.
I took the elevator downstairs, and walked up to the night doorman. Too frantic for pleasantries, I asked him, “Who lives in apartment 1030?”
He paused for a few seconds. “I… thought you did.”
“I’m in 1130. Who is in 1030?”
“I thought it was you.”
“Can you look up who lives there? I need to know their name.”
“I’m sorry ma’am. That would be a breach of privacy protocol. I can’t do that.”
“I need to know who lives there!” I said, raising my voice.
“There’s nothing I can do.”
I went back to my apartment. I had to form some kind of plan, some kind of way to find out who lived in that apartment.
That night, I dreamed I was walking down the tenth floor hallway, every door wide open, exposing the skeletal emptiness of the building. Every door wide open. Every door except 1030. I tried the handle. Locked. I got down on the ground, trying to look through the crack between the door and floor. My eyes focused in on the inside of the apartment and I… I… I woke up screaming.
I called in sick the next morning.
I had to know. It was eating me alive inside. I had to know who lived in 1030.
I sat in the hallway, just outside of the view of the peephole in 1030’s door. I was off work anyway. This was how I would spend my day. They had to come out sometime. It got later. And later. And later. It was past midnight. They hadn’t left or returned all day. They had to. Soon. They had to. Night crashed into morning, morning became afternoon, afternoon became night, and before I knew it 48 hours had passed. I hadn’t eaten. I hadn’t slept. I had to know.
When I realized I had been there for two full days, something inside of me snapped. I stalked up to 1030’s door, and started banging the door endlessly with my fists.
“Let me in! Let me in! Let me in! I’m not going to leave until you open this door! I’m not going to leave! I’m not going to leave! Open this door! Open this door right now!”
This continued until my fists were red and raw, but I’d keep knocking until my hands were scraped down to the bone if I had to. I had to know. I had to know.
After about fifteen minutes of this, I heard footsteps approach the door.
One lock clicked open.
The other clicked open.
The door slowly opened, revealing a man in his seventies or eighties. “What are you doing, trying to break into my home?” He asked, bewildered.
“The woman. Who is the woman that lives here?”
“There’s a woman who lives here. She looks exactly like me. My friend mistook her for me. And she sounds like me. I heard it with my own voice. She spoke to me! She spoke to me through the door! Where is the woman that lives here?”
“I live alone.” The old man said. “I haven’t had a woman in this apartment for two years. There is no woman in this apartment.”
“There was! Three days ago! My friend saw her! I heard her! Who is she?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nobody lives here but me.”
Nobody lives there but him.
I had no choice but to go back to my own apartment. I kept my eyes on the tenth floor for months. I confirmed with Brian a million times: it was apartment 1030. It was apartment 1030. He ran up the stairs, one flight, from apartment 1030. She had to be right below me. She had to be! I tried to forget apartment 1030. I tried to imagine I’d never been there. After a while, the thoughts became less and less frequent. Then they disappeared altogether, even when I’d look at the “ten” button on the elevator, I wasn’t filled with the pure, liquid, dread that I was months before.
It was a misunderstanding. Just a misunderstanding.
One night, my friend Chelsea came to my door, as we were going to spend a little time at my apartment before we went out on the town.
She was pale. Shaking.
“Your… your apartment, I thought… I had the wrong number, I went to the wrong apartment and I—I—this woman, she… she…”
My stomach dropped.
“She looked like you. Sounded like you. She was talking to me like she knew me, invited me in, and I—I thought it was you. Until I looked, I looked at the number on the door, and it wasn’t yours, I realized you had said you were in 1130, and, and, and…”
“You went to 1030?” I asked, memories of dread bubbling back up through my body.
“1030?” She asked.
“1030, you went to apartment 1030?”
“No… I… I went to apartment 1230.”