The window is cracked just enough to enhance the feeling of warmth and invincibility provided by the heavy quilts. The fading buzz of withering cicadas carries well over the cool night air. The smell of changing leaves lingers on the damp pavement around the city. It had been a strange day for him, consumed by unprompted self-reflection. A suffocating feeling of inconsequentiality had delivered him into a dreamy detached reality. He found it strange that he was 30 years old. Some memories didn’t seem like his, created by a different version of himself in another reality or a different lifetime. A heaviness in his chest suggested a looming sickness. At least he thought. The feelings were exhausting and the only thing that had subdued the mistrust was the television. The consistency of the programming times was the only thing he could count on today. A vessel to the familiar and comforting state of unthinking.
Now lying in bed the feelings stir once more, inhabiting every seam and stitch of the quilt now pulled tightly around his chin. He falls into an uncomfortably light sleep at a time far earlier than normal. He’s awoken by the buzzer that signifies someone is at the front door awaiting entry. It’s startling but it is not uncommon for someone to mistakenly summon the wrong apartment. He picks up his phone, it’s midnight. It feels as though he’s been asleep for several days and his limbs seem heavy. He succumbs to the weight of his eyelids and loses consciousness once more. He must have fallen back asleep judging by how alarmed he is when the shrill noise of the buzzer rings once more, this time for 10 seconds in his estimation. He examines his clock, it is now 12:30 a.m. Had the person been waiting a half hour to ring again? Was it the same person? He sits up in bed rubbing his chest doing little to pacify the tightening sensation. The pale yellow moon pries its way through the chattering blinds.
The yellowed box on the wall screams again, the buzzes occurring now about three seconds in duration with five seconds between each noise. An unsettling preciseness. He quietly walks to the bathroom as though whatever is outside will be alerted by any movement or noise. Though there is no visibility of the apartment from the front door. He splashes cool water on his face and is now fully awake. He examines the device on the wall that has now gone silent. Another buzz, this one lasting an eternity. The sound can convey no emotion but the duration does. Something about it makes his stomach drop and he can feel his heart beat in his head. It’s almost 1:00 a.m. now. He walks to the box realizing the room temperature has dropped. He pushes the talk button, allowing him to broadcast his voice to the front door. His finger is numb and it takes him a moment to realize the button isn’t fully depressed. “Hello? Is anyone there?” he says, sounding wholly uncertain. Waiting two seconds he presses the listen button. At first inaudible, he listens closer. “Yes.” he hears “Yes.” repeated slowly and purposefully. Static soaked and hollow, completely void of any emotion. There is a slight wheeze and it carries through the apartment. He takes his finger off the button, but the sound seems to linger in the cool night air.
He presses again. “Yes.” he hears again, the absent whisper repeating over and over. His finger mercifully releases the button, as though on its own accord. He backs away and peers out of the window of his second story apartment where he can see the locked front door. Sirens fade several blocks away, now the silence outside is uncanny. The moon is now resting comfortably behind a thick grey cloud. Every light in the building is off including his. Through the darkness there appears a substantial shadow in front of the door. It stands unwavering, unnaturally still. Appearing fixated on the handle of the front door. A breeze seems to disrupt the blackness of the shadow, but it remains otherwise motionless. A light appears to be emanating from the figure, it is as unmoving as the shadow itself. Narrow and concentrated, he stares for several minutes in unbroken silence. The light probes the panes of glass on the front door. The buzzer is silent as though the figure is aware it is being watched.
He sits back on the couch, it is almost 3:00 a.m. and he realizes he has been watching for an hour. He glares back out of the window at first seeing the figure but on closer examination it appears to have vanished. Something appears amiss, one of the panes of glass looks shattered on the front door. On second glance it appears normal. Maybe it wasn’t broken after all. He becomes suspicious of his bleary eyes, ultimately giving into the distrust, and walks to bed. He first checks his door to ensure it is locked, satisfied the unusual encounter is over. The confrontation has left him exhausted and he falls quickly asleep. Through his sleep he hears something. Slow, abnormal, dragging foot steps. A ragged exhale. Silence. A painful subdued moan, muffled and quiet sobbing. Silence. The familiar creak of the warped wood in front of his apartment. He hears everything and is fully awake in his head, though his body refuses to respond. He lies paralyzed, unable to stir his stubborn limbs. The grip of paralysis smothers him, numbing his entire body. The turn of a door handle. Several minutes pass. A dull light washes over his closed eyelids, investigating his face. “Yes.” he hears over and over again.