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The Door At The End Of The Hallway
Author's note: I really wanted to write this after I thought of the title. That's how it usually starts with me though. I thought of a creepy title, then I actually built my story from that. Keep in mind though, this is just a rough draft. I have not had time to edit it, since I don't have the edited copy in my hands. soon though, soon...
Jeremy Bowens was curious to see what his new tenement would look like. Yet, it being a tenement, his curiosity was not born of high expectations. His knowledge of the world outside that of his hometown, high school, parents home, and regular hangout spots with friends, was limited at best. Yet it wasn’t completely nonexistent. He knew what a tenement was, and he knew he would be staying there due to his ineptitude at choosing an appropriate career to follow. Always expecting to get that big break right out of college whilst relying heavily on his writing skills to pull him through, he majored in literature, all the while answering the unending probing of questioning friends about what he will do with his life. And the answer was usually the same: “I’ll figure it out”, or, “It’s fine; I’ll get a job easy”, or, “What do you mean ‘wasting my life’?” Yet despite the great amount of support he was not receiving from his friends, he continued down the path of several page long essays, late nights reading up on long dead poets and authors, and an overall sense of dread that his friends were right. Yet that last obstacle was not fully known to Jeremy, as he kept it locked away, into the farthest corners of his mind, refusing to acknowledge it. So, here he was, looking up at the large, dark, and overall decadent building with a growing sense of “what the hell have I gotten myself in to”. He wrapped his coat more tightly around his person, as to protect himself from the mid-winter chill that came with living in New York. Having moved here from his hometown a few hours away, he was anxious to finally get a taste of big city life. Unfortunately, this is not what he had in mind. Glancing up and down the street, as if to find some sort of escape to his troubles, he stared long and hard at what was to be his new home. It was an old building, that much was obvious, with a sort of dirty and grimy feel to the entire expanse of the buildings face. Almost as if touching it would leave you wondering what alien life form was clinging to your hand. Almost all the windows were boarded, which would have led most to believe it was abandoned, yet some were free of such barring, letting light spill out of the occupied rooms, revealing that this place was in fact, habitual. All of the windows, none excluded, had and even darker shade of either filth or scorch marks around the edges, leading one to wonder if said building had endured a fire many years before. Jeremy made a mental note to ask the land lady. All in all, it was an almost magnificent sight, in the sense of foreboding macabre that washes over all of us from time to time.
And so, with one last sigh of defeat, the young man whisked up his bags, and entered through the unlit entrance, letting the darkness envelope him fully.
Once inside, he looked around grudgingly, trying to make out what dark shapes he saw in the grim hallway. And then almost immediately, he decided he didn’t want to know, as he passed by what he was sure was an unconscious homeless person. He had been informed his room was on the fourth floor, very far end of the hallway. And so, as he was instructed, he trudged up the seemingly ancient and untrustworthy stairs, to what he affectionately referred to as, “his doom”. Of course, this may have been heard incorrectly, as he was in fact heading to “his room”, but one can never tell in these cases. Once he had traversed the stairs, navigated the dimly lit hallway, and finally found his door, he was ready to turn and run out the front, back to the safety of his parents and friends. Yet just as he began to seriously contemplate this, he was ambushed by a woman who seemed to be as ancient as the building he was standing in.
“Why hello young man, you must be Jeremy, the one I spoke to on the phone! It’s so nice to finally meet you.” she greeted him, in the most precious old woman voice Jeremy had ever heard.
“Ah yes, hello Ms. Weeks. Its, uh, it’s great to meet you to.” He said with a little less sincerity then he had intended.
Even though she was a harmless old woman, he was still unsure about her. She was odd, as if ever too happy. At least, that’s what she sounded like on the phone, and just now Jeremy mentally kicked himself for jumping to conclusions after having only conversed with her twice.
“It’s so great to finally get some people in here, apart from the usual tenants. We’ve had so little business the past few years. I’m not sure what’s wrong.” She frowned at him, as if expecting him to corroborate her statement.
Yet Jeremy was sure she at least had an inkling of what was wrong with her building.
All Jeremy could do was smile and nod, hoping to get this awkward exchange of dialogue over as quickly as possible. Ms. Weeks sighed, produced a ring of keys from somewhere on her small frame, and plucked one off.
“Now listen Jeffrey, this key goes to your apartment, and it’s very expensive to make extra, so don’t lose it.” She said, her eyes boring into his, as if peeping into his very soul was the answer she was looking for.
“Yes, of course! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.” Jeremy assured her, trying to get away from the woman as soon as possible. She smiled at him sweetly, and focused her attention on the door.
“Well then, with that out of the way, let’s get you into your new home!”
And, with an expectant look on her face, I took the small silver key she gave me, and slid it into the lock. The key had caught my attention from the second she drew it from the key chain. The length of it was a cylindrical shaft of metal, with a few smaller pieces branching off at the end at a ninety degree angle. It was an old fashioned key, that much was for sure. Which meant this building was indeed, very old.
After a few seconds of forcing the key in, it finally slid all the way in, and with a bit of force, I turned it in the lock, with an audible click. I grasped the rusty iron door knob, and turned it, letting the door open with a long, ominous creaking sound pervading the hallway.
The room beyond was bathed in thick darkness, as if entering it would send me swirling into the unknown. Oddly enough, that’s exactly what this entire endeavor was: the unknown. I was a college kid, fresh out of school, barely past the age of twenty, and not entirely sure I was ready to “Take on the world” as my parents put it. But, I was here, so I decided to try and make the best of it.
Ms. Weeks hurried past me, disappearing into the dark void for a few seconds, her shoes clicking softly on the wood floor. I merely stayed at the doorway, wondering if I should follow her. After several seconds, the lights within the apartment blared to life, revealing a beaming Ms. Weeks by a light switch on the wall. I stepped into the threshold, taking in the surprisingly modern suite I was to be living in. mind you, it wasn’t a penthouse or anything, but much better than I expected. The walls were a strong, yet not distasteful, light coffee brown, with red trim upon the bottom of the wall. The floors, as I said, were hardwood, treated, and shining as if new. By the looks of the place though, it wouldn’t surprise me. I walked cautiously down the entrance hall, into the living room, taking in the pleasant sight.
Ms. Weeks had informed me that furniture would be provided, and that was what I dreaded most. Someone else’s used furniture, left to collect dust and parasite. Yet the furniture before me now was beautifully rendered in modern taste. A large three cushioned couch lay in the center of the living area, with a similar, yet not exact, light coffee color to it. A recliner was in the corner, facing what was to be the entertainment center. The only thing missing was a television, but I wasn’t really into television, so I didn’t mind. I dropped my bags near the door and moved to the recliner. Just as it’s dark, clean caramel color suggested, it was extremely comfortable. I could definitely get used to this. I glanced to the other end of the living area, and noticed that the kitchen, while small, was in the same fashion as the rest of the apartment. It all seemed too good to be true…
“Ms. Weeks, I have just a slight little question.” I said to the still beaming Ms. Weeks, who had apparently noticed how impressed I was with the status of my new home.
“Yes dear, is something wrong?” She replied, her smile slowly ebbing, worried that something was not to my liking.
“What’s with this place? Seriously; the outside looks like it can barely stand, there are vagabonds in the entrance way, and the lighting is reminiscent of a Dracula movie.” I proclaimed, not entirely thinking of how she might take that negatively.
And of course, I’m sure she did. But to my immense surprise, she merely donned the smile once more and uttered a short little laugh.
“Oh, that, I was afraid you were displeased with the residence. Well, it’s a bit of a long story.” She conceded, as if I wasn’t at all intrigued. And I was, of course.
“Ms. Weeks, I have the time, as long as you do.” I said, hoping that was enough.
Ms. Weeks sighed, and said, “Well, if you must know.” She then walked over to the couch diagonal from where I was sitting in the recliner, and settled in, as if the story was going to take a while. I started fearing that it would, remembering just minutes ago when I wanted to be out of her company. Too late now, I realized.
Ms. Weeks cleared her throat and began in a low, slightly melodramatic voice.
“Several years ago, when my husband was still with me, and we were running this building together, we were the talk of the town. Well, not really the talk of the town, but we were popular nonetheless; People who moved in, stayed, and people who left usually didn’t want to. Business was at its best, and we had been partners in crime for the better half of fifty years.” Ms. Weeks’ eyes had drifted beyond me, to memories drifting past and better times with a man she had known most of her life. It really was sad to see the old, albeit lively woman, act in such a way. I almost missed her regular self.
“For more than twenty years we lived the good life. Plenty of friends, plenty of money, financially sound in every way, and we were happy, with our business and each other. So naturally, because we had had so much good in our life, we were destined to have some bad.”
I sat up straight, as a warning from my brain telling me I might not want to hear the rest, sent an ominous chill up my spine.
“One day, in the middle of winter, there was a fire; Simple as that. Yet, what wasn’t so simple was that it took my husband from me. He didn’t die a noble death though: asphyxiating on smoke, dying in his sleep, something like that. He was burned alive, right in front of me.”
I was utterly shocked. This was not what I had been expecting at all.
“That explains the scorch marks around the windows.” I said softly, hoping she wouldn’t take offense at the fact that I had noticed.
“Yes, that’s right, very observant of you.” She said quietly, a bit of her old self returning to her.
“Now where was I?” She asked no one in particular. “Ah yes, husband burning alive right in front of me. Anyways, that’s what happened. We were living here at the time, in the best suite that we had, feeling we had deserved some luxury. I’m still not so sure what caused it: a socket short circuiting, someone left the stove on. No idea. But, we noticed the smoke, and jumped out of bed. I ran to the door to get it open, but it had problems sometimes. George, that was my husband’s name, had said a hundred times he was going to fix it. So before I knew it, the fire was all around us, and there was nothing we could do. Then suddenly he grabs me and lifts me up towards the vent on the ceiling. I hadn’t even noticed it in the panic. I barely managed to open it and crawl into the ventilation, before George fell. I also hadn’t noticed that while he held me up, the fire had tasted him, and wanted more.”
“I sat in the ventilation, as my husband writhed on the ground, aflame, and there was nothing I could do. After the fire, everyone moved out. They knew what had happened to George, and they were all close to him, as they were close to me; we tried to be as friendly as we could. But, they knew what happened to George, and none wished to remain. I knew this place would never be as popular as it once was, so I never bothered to fix the exterior.”
“Yet, I fixed up some of the rooms inside, in the event anyone would want to live here, so that they would at least have a nice place to stay.”
I sat in the chair in complete and utter horror. The fact that such a gruesome even had happened to this sweet, creepy old woman, gave me cold chills. I had never talked with someone who had witnessed the death of their spouse. Sure, I knew people who lost a brother or dad, but that was usually due to car accidents or disease. This woman had witnessed her own husband’s demise, and such a gritty death at that. After a few moments of silence, and of Ms. Weeks staring forlornly down the hall that led to the rest of the suite, I finally broke the silence.
“I’m so sorry, Ms. Weeks, I had no idea. Really, it was foolish of me to bring up such a topic.” Ms. Weeks finally snapped herself out of her melancholy trance, and looked at me as if nothing happened.
“Oh don’t be silly, I’m just an old croon with no one to talk to. You’ll forgive me if a few dusty memories come tumbling out from time to time.” She flashed another trademark smile, showing off all her teeth, all gleaming white, despite her age.
With that, that she stood and stretched, starting off towards the rest of the suite.
“Now, on with the tour!” She proclaimed in an overly optimistic voice. I suspected there was more to the story, yet I didn’t push it, not wanting to offend.
I stood too, already missing the comfort of the recliner, and followed her back there. Once I reached the hallway, I stopped in my tracks.
It was an ordinary hallway, as ordinary as they come, with a door leading to the left, and a door leading to the right, presumably to a bedroom and bathroom, or perhaps a closet. Yet, at the very end, was a door unlike any I had seen so far in the suite. As I stepped towards it, I noted all the odd markings around the edge, the blackened appearance, and jagged cracks that ran throughout the frame. And then, the door knob: blackened as well and just as rusty as the one outside, and on the other doors. I assumed the blackened appearance was from the fire. Yet I had no idea why, in such a pristine living space, where everything was as modern as possible, this one door would resemble all the others.
With Ms. Weeks chattering in one of the bedrooms about the history of the neighborhood and all that, I extended my hand to the handle, feeling the suspense in the air. My heart was beating in my chest, for I knew something I most likely did not want to see was behind this door. I grasped the handle, which was oddly warm, and began to turn the knob.
It was locked.
I looked at it in confusion, rattling the doorknob in frustration; all that buildup and nothing to show for it. I sighed, hoping Ms. Weeks would tell me. And as I turned to ask her, I found a very happy looking Ms. Weeks standing right behind me. I hadn’t even noticed the chatter stop.
“Is there something you’re looking for dear?” she said sweetly, yet at this point I was more than a little bit freaked out.
“Um, yes actually, the key to this door.” I said, trying to look as innocent as possible.
She glanced past me at the door, shrugged and said, “Doesn’t have a key.”
I stared at her for a few seconds, wondering if she was pulling my leg or not.
“What,” I asked incredulously, “All doors have keys. Or, at least, I would imagine they do, if they’re locked.”
“That one doesn’t.” She remarked, nodding to the door. I didn’t know what to say, so I just stood there, letting the awkwardness seep into my very clothes, hoping she would just leave.
“So then, what exactly happened to the door? I mean look at it, it looks like it’s been through a war, let alone a fire.” I said, motioning to the jagged cracks that ran throughout The Door.
“I’m afraid the last tenant that was living here went a little, stir crazy; he ended up tearing the door down” She replied. This was a very odd building indeed.
“So what happened to him then?” I asked, eager to find out. Ms. Weeks just smiled and simply said:
“He was evicted.” I looked at her for several moments, wondering what to make of her strange ways of describing past events. After several more awkward moments, she finally burst into a wide grin, unable to control her laughter.
“Oh my, you must lighten up Jeremy, really kids these days, no sense of humor. The door has a key; I just don’t know where it is I’m afraid.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment, I was worried that I’d be living in an apartment building with a surprisingly threatening old woman.
“So what’s through the door then?” I asked, anxious to hear. She glanced at it once more, taking in the question before finally answering:
“Memories, I suppose.”
I stood there, taking in her oddly philosophical answer, and wondering exactly what it meant. She smiled again as I thought, and patted me on a cheek, as all old people do.
“Well, that’s the tour. Don’t fret about this door, it’s nothing; like I said, only memories in there. It belonged to a couple before the fire.” She said to me, turning to walk back to the living area.
I followed her, strangely comforted by those words.
“So where do you live now? Still staying in one of the suites?” I asked.
“Oh no, I’ve long since moved out, couldn’t face this place every morning. But that was close to ten years ago, I don’t know why I don’t move back in. could do me some good, facing my past.”
I smiled, secretly hoping she would. She was indeed a very sweet old lady, even if our first encounter proved to be somewhat, odd, or creepy, either one.
“One more thing, Ms. Weeks, before you go.” I said, just as she was about to get up and leave, off to do whatever she needed to be doing. She looked at me, expectantly, making it clear I could go on.
“Why, though, keep the place so modern, so nice looking.” I said, expecting an answer as odd as she was. What I got surprised me a bit. She smiled as she stood, and began walking to the door, stopping just in the hallway, turning to face me.
“Because dear, I miss having this place so full of people. If someone moves in, I want to make sure they’ll never leave.” She flashed another brief smile, gave me a small wave, and continued down the hall, the door sliding shut behind her.
I had to think about her last comment for a few moments, for it was so odd, so out of place. But, I pushed the thought aside, writing it off as something odd old people say.
With her arrival and departure being the height of my day, I settled into a general laziness that enveloped my life over the next week. I managed to get a job at a small time newspaper, writing an article here and there, nothing too big. The money was ok too. It paid the bills, and even left me with enough to get the occasional book I had been yearning for. Overall, my life was finally starting out. people at the newspaper were starting to notice my above average writing skill. I was being offered more and more chances to write articles, and the money was increasingly better.
Yet as all this was going on, something was still off with my new suite. And when I say something, I mean The Door. Every day I would approach it, and inspect the intricate carvings along the edge. I’m not even sure how to classify them besides “odd”. I would try the handle every day, to no avail. Then, I would turn away, defeated. Yet every time I did, just as I was to the living room, I swore I could hear something. Nothing specific, just something: a change in atmosphere, a click or tap, maybe quiet scratching; but just barely enough to penetrate my ears with the strange sound.
And it was growing to worry me.
I kept my eye out for Ms. Weeks, yet she seldom appeared at the building. She obviously didn’t need to be here often, as there were few tenants to look after. But even that worried me, for I never saw them either. Sure, I heard them, or rather, the sound of them living. A television as I walked past their door, footsteps, a muffled voice. Yet that was it. I wasn’t too eager to try and meet them either.
I just filed all this off as nerves though, for pressure at work to complete increasingly more difficult work was mounting. I slept badly at night, with nightmares of people in the walls. And those weren’t even the bad ones. The worst involved The Door. I would approach it in the complete darkness of the hall. And the thing I dreaded most was opening The Door, because it opened in my dreams. Suffice it to say, I did not enjoy what was beyond. The door would creak open, penetrating the silence of night. I would step through to the pitch black room. Once my eyes adjusted, all I could see would be a single figure, crouched on the floor. He would look up at me, with glassy eyes, and outstretch his burnt and blackened arm. He could not stand, for his legs were fused with the wood, and his face was a twisted contortion of pain and delirium. I scream and back away, yet as I do, I bump into a solid figure. I turn to see Ms. Weeks, standing, unmoving, and smiling broadly, a sickly pale look to her.
And staring straight into my eyes.
“Problem?” she would say, yet not in her own voice. It was deep, and cracking, and far too slow.
I run past her to the front door, all the while her screaming drowning out my thoughts:
“You opened The Door! You opened The Door! You know what this means don’t you?”
I turn to look at her, fearing the worst. Her face is shrouded in shadows. Yet not for long.
She steps forward as she says the next words, revealing a face that can only be described as: Not hers.
“It means I get to feed you to George!” She cackles with glee, gripping her hands together in delight. I hear an equally maddening laugh from behind her: George. Before I know what’s happening, she’s in front of me with my arm in a death grip, and is pulling me towards George. She’s still cackling and yelling as she drags me to George: He’s laughing and cackling and gurgling, and laughing some more. My vision blurs as Ms. Weeks forces me to my knees in front of George. The last thing I’d see before waking is the mangled face of George, as he opens is his mouth wide, revealing blackened teeth filed to points.
And that’s all I’d remember. Yet I didn’t have this dream every night. Like I said, sometimes it was of the people in the walls, whispering to me as I tried to sleep, peering out at me from peepholes.
Sometimes, I find Ms. Weeks standing over me, staring at me. Then I jolt out of bed, realizing that I was just dreaming. Yet I’d always remember her face. Just as it was in the dream, her face would be different: A very sick, clammy look, with her veins showing through, her lips never completely closed, as she’s always whispering. Behind her lips, her teeth are yellow, and, like George’s, filed to points.
But it’s the eyes that always get me: Wide, and angry, almost furious. The pupils resemble that of a dog’s, enlarged so there’s very little white to show. Yet they aren’t black like a dog’s, they’re yellow. And full of madness.
I was hoping that these nightmares would end after the first month or so, but to no avail. They kept haunting me at night, and in the waking light of day. Work was the only place where I found solace. I couldn’t stay in the apartment for too long. Sure, I would see Ms. Weeks occasionally, but only ever long enough to say hello; she always had to be somewhere. So, one can imagine I was having misgivings about living here. At first, it was great, but after a while, I feared that I was starting to lose my mind. So naturally I spent much more time at work, and because of that, I was earning more and more money. And people were beginning to notice. Pretty soon, a good portion of New York was reading my articles, and I was finally able to afford an apartment that wasn’t possibly haunted.
Of course, to that moment, I had no real reason to suspect it was haunted, only that I was having nightmares. Yet I shrugged that off, telling myself I was just being a baby.
Yet day after day I was racked with nightmares, and was ultimately relieved when he received word he would be getting a raise.
Which meant a lot more money.
Which meant he could now afford a different apartment. And as much as he hated to have to break the news to lonely Ms. Weeks, he knew he had to. And, just like her habit of not appearing for days to weeks on end, I had to stay until I finally managed to get a hold of her, and break the news to her.
Gently, I might add, as I still wasn’t sure whether or not she was in fact some sort of demon, or if living in such a strange place, with such a strange relic was finally getting to me.
And one day, I realized it was.
After a long day of work, I came home to find the usual: furniture where it’s supposed to be, lights off, as per how I left them for work, and door securely locked, and not budging. I wasn’t surprised, as it had been for the past few months. I approached it as I usually did, ran my fingers lightly over the markings around the edge, put some weight on it to see if it would budge (never did), and finally, tried the door knob. And, just as every day, it was locked. I know that anyone hearing of such a strange ritual that I honor every day couldn’t help but wonder why. For me, it made perfect sense. This door, that stares at me, unmoving every single day since I moved in, is mocking me. It does it every day, because every day I try to open it, to learn what memories or secrets are behind it, and every day, it denies me entry. It jeers at me with its jagged scars as cruel smiles, its markings dancing around the edge with snickering laughter. I turn my back on it in defeat and it has the gall to laugh at me. Me! What did I do to deserve this? Nothing: that is what I did. I did what I was supposed to do. I was born, I went to school, I discovered my talent, and I chased my dreams to the point in which I questioned my own actions. I did everything life asked of me, yet now, all it does to repay me is to throw a door in my face (figuratively, as we all know it’s not opening any time soon). This monstrosity, sitting in my home, taking up room and board here, where I live, owes me everything. And I don’t even ask for much. I ask that it opens up, that is all. Just a tiny crack so I may see what secrets are beyond it.
I find myself standing in front of the door, eyes fixed on the dead center of its frame. I think upon all the disgust and disease it has brought to my mind. It’s revolting, this door, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I want to tear it off its hinges, yet I can’t. All I can do is think about the door, and how much I hate it, with every fiber of my being. I think back to the long hours I’ve spent sitting in front of the door, staring. How many times I’ve yelled myself hoarse, trying to coerce it, to appease me. And then, a thought all together new to me hits: the other tenants.
All they have done is sit in their apartments, and listen to my shouting and crying and begging and pleading. And all the bastards did was sit in their rooms, and laugh. Laugh at young Jeremy, the kid who just wanted a quiet life, to settle down and write; but not anymore. Since this Thing has entered my life, all I can do is think about how powerless I am to do anything about it. And while all the others laughed, I spiraled into blackened hatred for something so simple: A Door.
I spin on my heels towards the door, feeling the need to finally have a word with the neighbors. I step into the grim hallway, walking towards the room just to my left, towards the stairs. I grab a fire axe off the wall as I pass, for I was certain some negotiation was in order. What would I negotiate? I wasn’t so sure; possibly nothing, possibly just some friendly chit chat. About sports.
Or the weather.
The first door breaks before me with the utmost ease. The axe slices through as if it hungered to taste the pine for too long.
“Don’t worry, my friend.” I whisper in its ear, to comfort it. “You will have a gracious meal before you yet.”
I knew that there were people in here, for I always saw lights on, and muffled talking. I kick through the splintered door, and step into the suite. It was the same design, yet not nearly as modern. It looked exactly as a tenement suite should. Like a complete hole. Yet none of that mattered. I had to cleanse this place, it had to be done.
“Hello, Anybody home? Neighboooor?” I called out. No answer, yet the muffled talking was clearer now.
“Just thought I’d bring over a little present: Tuna fish casserole, I made it myself.” With that I drove the axe deep in the wall, giving my friend a quick meal before the real work begins.
“I just know you’ll love it.”
I passed through the living room, spotting several signs of someone living here. Pizza on the coffee table, a television, drinks. Yet something wasn’t right. At all.
The pizza had deteriorated to a black sludge, as if no one had been around in years. The television had long since burnt out, with a scorch mark along the wall behind it, yet due to the fire previously, there was little damage it could do. The kitchen was also a very curious sight: the refrigerator had long since stopped working, and all the food inside resembled the pizza. And the sink only spat out brown liquid in spurts. Yet, most curious of all, was on the table: a tape recorder.
And it was playing on a loop, with nothing but muffled voices blaring through. It was surprisingly new, as if it had only been here a short while. Barely more than a few months-
And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Frantically I searched the entire place for life. Yet it was deserted. The first place I went was the door at the end of the hallway, as it was identical to my suite. As much as I wanted to tear the door to pieces, I simply opened it, relishing the feeling of having control over something again. My eyes swept over the room, analyzing all I could, and realizing that this is what the room looks like. Tears welled up in my eyes at the intimacy of the moment. Yet it was short lived, for this was not the room, merely a copy. Now, only tears of rage greeted my eyes.
I left the room, and this time, my axe tasted the buildings flesh. The door lay in heaps of splintered wood, and the last if my innocence. I destroyed the other two doors, giving my friend a feast it would not soon forget.
Then I moved on to the next suite. I was not surprised to find it empty as well: and the next one, and the next one. A few had tape recorders, playing the same recording, yet at different speeds and tones.
After I was done with all the suites I believed were inhabited, all that was left was my own.
I walked slowly through the door way, and from the entrance I glared at the door at the end of the hallway, as it was clearly visible from where I was standing. I let the door see me, and realize what I was about to do.
And then, I started forward. Slowly at first, simply walking towards it, as I called out,
“Don’t try to apologize; it’s useless at this point. Although, it would be a nice gesture.” My voice was rising to a yell as I went from a walk to, to a jog, to a sprint at the door, the last word emphasized as my axe bit into it with all the ferocity I could muster. Months of ineptitude leading up to this, my anger and hatred and fear and happiness, all flowing from me, through my arm, into the axe, and finally, through the door.
It was difficult, at first, for the door had been reinforced with a sheet of metal, so no one would get any ideas, like the one I had now. Yet it didn’t matter. I was almost free, and such a feeling I had never experienced before. Tears of joy flowed freely, as I felt the axe begin to bite through the metal. We danced my dance of rage, and emotion, the door and I, until I bathed in sweat and the axe tasted the blood of my hands. It had deserved something more substantial than mere wood, so I gave it blood. And it feasted like a king. We both did, in that moment.
I never tired for a second, and such a tiresome action would have worn most out, but not me. I needed to end this doors life. I needed to kill it, to send it from this world. For it represented what I, a writer, feared most. It was a door that could not be opened; at least, not within the safe waters of sanity. Yet I knew what separated me from the rest of my kind. I was not afraid to cast aside such restraining shackles, and dove, headfirst, into enlightenment.
Finally, the door gave way, and I sobbed a sob of relief, of hope, of happiness, of freedom. My vision blurred as I stepped through the door, and breathed in the smell of musty old curtains, mothballs and- and something else.
This room smelled different than what I had imagined it would smell like. Among all these things, I caught the scent of death. Not death, as in a coffin, that lingers for years. It was almost fresh.
My eyes adjusted to the darkness, and I squinted through the heavy curtains of black, until finally, I found what I was looking for.
And I felt my core physically shake. For in the middle of the floor, hunched, on its knees, was a single figure. Legs, fused to the equally burnt hardwood floor, arms, curled inward with the flesh that still clung to the burnt bones yearning for freedom against its bonds. What clothes that were left were in tatters, and were forever melded with the withered figures pitiful scraps of flesh. It turned its head to look at me, and I saw in the glassy eyes, my reflection. Yet, for some odd reason, I was no afraid of this thing, for I had finally broken down the last barrier between me and it, and I felt we were connected. I was not afraid of this being, for I pitied it. No longer could it enjoy the streaming light of day, or the sweeping fields of green upon which to rest, and watch the sun set. The tears were back, yet only in sadness. I wept silently for the creature, vision blurring before me. I watched as my tears fell upon the floor, glistening for a moment, before fading away.
It was then I noticed the peculiar shape, in chalk, upon the floor about the creature. As I stepped back, I noticed the creature was directly in the center, with a crisscrossing pattern throughout. It took me a moment before I realized what it was: a Pentagram. I looked around the room, noticing for the first time the blackened shapes that used to be furniture, sporting a large amount of candles, all having been used before. I was then that I realized what, or rather, who, this creature was, and what I was looking at. And then, the rest dawned on me. All I could think about was what Ms. Weeks had said the day I moved in: “We were living here at the time, in the best suite that we had, feeling we had deserved some luxury.”
I realized now, that she meant my suite. I thought back to the nightmares, of people in the walls. There weren’t any people watching me, just one person: Ms. Weeks. I then noticed what else was horribly wrong with what I was looking at. All around the room were figures, each more or less along the line of decomposition. All were hung on the wall by hooks. That was the scent I had first noticed. And suddenly, a light fell on both me, and George.
“Problem dearie?” said the sweet voice of Ms. Weeks.
I felt my entire body grow cold. I slowly turned to face the sweet old lady in the door way. She was not like in my dreams, evil and demonic looking. She was the same old Ms. Weeks that I had grown to know. Yet her eyes were definitely different. Not yellow, or dilated: just cold, and angry, and more than slightly amused.
Yet again, I realized I was not afraid: I was angry.
“What have you done to him?” I asked, the blood pounding in my ears.
“Whatever do you mean dear?” she asked, toying with me.
“You know damn well what I mean. What did you do to George?” I said, motioning to the figure on the floor. Yet now, I noticed, he wasn’t like in my dream. He wasn’t the large, monstrous, cackling figure as I imagined. He wasn’t even trying to get to me, or harm me. He just sat there, forlorn at his predicament. He was barely capable of moving. All he could do was tap the floor with a long blackened nail, or drag a withered hand across the floor.
“Oh god.” I whispered to myself, realizing now that every time I tried to open the door, he was trying to signal me. The look in his eyes told me everything I need to know: he wasn’t some malicious creature out of a young man’s nightmare; he was in pain, that was all.
Ms. Weeks noticed that my attention had been drawn from her, and quickly amended that.
“All I have done here, though it’s none of your business, is help my poor husband through his struggles.”
I stared at her blankly, not fully understanding. She sighed, frustrated. All sweetness was out of her voice now.
“I was so distraught with losing my husband, and my business, that I decided to get them back. Though getting my husband back was ultimately they easier of the two. Go figure. So, I simply turned to some necromancy, a bit of devil worship, and a few sacrifices, and voila!” Her voice rose an extra octave, and lathered on the sweetness, with the last word.
“Unfortunately, the sacrifices, former tenants, were only good enough to keep him, well, sort of alive. I haven’t been able to find a pure enough soul to fully pull him out of this dilapidated state.” I narrowed my eyes at here with every other word. After all, even though I had momentarily lapsed into insanity, I still found even this hard to believe. Before I could voice my incredulity, she continued:
“Luckily though, I have found a good enough sacrifice: You!” her last words sent me staggering.
“Wha- What?” I blurted out, unable to believe.
“Yes, you! You’re young, handsome, and you have a very pure grasp on both life and emotion. Simply perfect! Do excuse me if I gush somewhat, I’m just so excited!” she was grinning again, all happiness having returned. Yet it was such happiness that left me uneasy. Here was this frail, old woman, barley 5’6, yet she was so confident about “sacrificing” me. I was easily 6’3, and the better half of a 170 pounds, and a good portion was muscle.
“What makes you so sure of yourself; after all, look at the two of us. Also, I have an axe.” I said, holding up the axe, as if that would be sufficient proof that whatever she was planning was folly.
“Well, whatever wasn’t enough for my husband to regenerate with I sort of, well, absorbed myself!” As she said this, she stepped forward, grasped the hand that held the axe, and with strength that should not belong to a woman of her age, ripped it from my hand and sent it into the wall. I staggered backwards, hands in front of me, trying desperately to find an escape as she continues advancing.
But she was surprisingly quick as well: before I knew what was happening, I was on the floor next to George with a knife at my throat.
I looked frantically into Ms. Weeks eyes, hoping to find some sort of resolve there, that maybe she could change her mind.
I realized she wasn’t going to the second I felt the steel of the knife entering my neck.
My eyes began bulging and the pain seared through my entire body, and blood flowed freely from the wound, both onto the knife, and into my throat. I began choking almost immediately. After a few moments of struggling against her iron grip, I felt my body start to go limp. My head lolled to one side, and the last thing I saw was George, a look of utter defeat in his blackened, burnt face. And just before I slept, I swore I could see his face growing less blackened, his eyes returning to normal. But maybe that was just the blood loss. I was happy though, with what I got to spend my dreams with. He had green eyes, and they were pleasant.
Samantha Kirk stepped out of the taxi, and, with a look of utter distaste, eyed the tenement that was to be her new home. It was a dilapidated old building, with grime along the front, and scorch marks along the windows edges. She was fresh out of college, having studied literature, and was ready to take on the world. She was fairly confident that she would get a job at a local newspaper. After all, apparently one of the best writers they had had disappeared. No one knew where he went though. A shame, she though. He sounded like a nice guy. She had also learned that he lived here too; and If he was so successful, why not her? As she approached the entrance, adorned with new paint and workers busily scrubbing away the grime, two elderly folks stepped out to greet her. One was a sweet looking old woman, barely chest height, and the other