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A Late Night Visit to Apartment B

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November 19th 2012  |  2  |  Category: Horror , Suspense , Thriller  |  Author: rmmaltbie  |  1234 views

If I tried to tell you God brought me to this place, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But I don’t know how else to explain it. I woke up from a deep sleep, cold and sweaty, in my home far from the city. I wasn’t dreaming. I just opened my eyes and felt an urge, like an urge to hit the can, but it was more like an urge to just go. I got in my car without putting my shoes on and drove without knowing where I was going. I ended up outside a nameless apartment complex in the middle of downtown Chicago with rain pounding on the roof of my car as if someone were spraying it with a hose. Thunder crackled across the sky, crashing so close it sounded like a mortar shell, threatening to strike me as I sat inside.

Some unknown voice gave me directions. It wasn’t audible like a voice in my head so please don’t think I’m crazy. It was more of a feeling. Every time I came to an intersection, I’d get a twinge in my stomach, a flash before my eyes that’d say ‘Turn left here, go straight here…’ until finally I parked in front of this ominous place.

The building was drab and insignificant. Just a brick facade with a rusting fire escape zig, zagging upward to the gloomy, foreboding sky. I got out of my car, and cringed as the shock of cold water flowed over my feet and between my toes like icy fingers. I fought for air, gasping as I waded across the flooded street to the complex.

I walked up to the main entrance and noticed a placard adjacent to a glass door with a list of names and buttons next to each name. I pressed the button for apartment B and a buzzard sounded, startling me as the noise broke through the pounding rain, loud and annoying like a digital alarm clock going off on a quiet Saturday morning. Again, I don’t know how I knew which apartment to summon, I just did. The name on the label said ‘Carter.’

Suddenly, I could hear static come through the speaker followed by a brief moment of silence and then a low, hollow voice crackling, “Who is it?” I was about to answer, then caught my breath. I wasn’t sure even how to say who I was, let alone why was I there. I pressed the button again, suspecting the system must work like a walkie talkie but I wasn’t sure. “Brandon.”

“Hello?”

“Brandon!” I shouted without pressing the button.

“What do you want?”

“Well,” I said scratching the back of my head. “God sent me.”

“God sent you?”

“Yes. I’m pretty sure.”

I heard a laugh. “Man, do you know what time it is?”

I didn’t have a watch or a phone. I didn’t think to bring one. Come to think of it, I didn’t think to bring my wallet either. I hated it when this happens. “No, I’m sorry I don’t.”

“Bro, it is 3 a.m.”

“Oh, well….” I cleared my throat. “Do you have someone sick in the house?”

“Someone sick? Man, what are you talking about?”

“Well,” I said hesitating. “I wouldn’t be here unless someone was sick.”

“Do we know you Brandon?”

“Um, no,” I talked as I looked at my car. I wanted to leave. I felt like an ass, even though I was there to help. It wasn’t the first time I found myself on someone’s door step in the middle of the night and if I didn’t have a job to do each and every time, I would have thought I was crazy. I knew by now not to question Him.

“Man, I have to be at work at 5 a.m. Get outta here. Stop wasting my damn ti-” He cut out before he finished. I didn’t blame him.

“God knows,” I said, knowing he wasn’t listening. “If not me, he’ll send someone else back here. Well…goodnight.” I started to walk back to my car, my bare feet cold against the pavement in the street. I stared down at the murky, oily water being pounded and pushed about through my toes. I sighed, only now realizing I was soaked to the bone and very cold.

“Wait!” The voice came from the speaker at the door behind me. “Wait, I’ll be right down.” It was a girl. She sounded young, almost like my wife, but…that’s not possible. My wife has been gone for so long. I must be hearing things. Maybe I am crazy.

I was about to get into my car when the door opened. There she was. A young African American girl, maybe 19 or 20. Her hair stuck straight up off her head and she was dressed in long john’s. Who the hell wears long john’s anymore? She was probably a thrift store baby.

“You must be freezing. Can I offer you some coffee?” she asked in a tender voice.

I turned away. I wanted to go home and take off my wet pajamas, crawl into my warm bed naked. Scratch my nether region until I fell asleep. Ah, screw it. “Yeah sure,” I said. “I could use a cup.”

The three flights of wire mesh stairs squawked and clashed like symbols as we walked up to apartment B. The walls were lacquered in a turquoise film that peeled at the edges like aged nail polish and it smelled like a decaying, molded piece of cake left to decompose at the back of a fridge.

“Here we are,” she said holding out out her arm to direct me into the apartment. It was very small and plain. Only a couch and small TV adorned the leaving room with a kitchen to the right with enough room for one person to stand in. Another small bedroom was next to it, across the hall and facing the living room.

The door was cracked open and I could see an older man with graying hair lying on the bed, watching another small T.V. This must have been who answered the bell earlier.

“Is that Mr. Carter?” I asked the girl.

She smiled as she poured water into the coffee pot. “My Dad. He’s always cranky. Don’t mind him.”

I stood there in her leaving room, my clothes dripping wet. I could feel the floor getting damp. “Do you have a towel?” I asked.

She looked at me and noticed the puddle accumulating on the floor. “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. Let me get you one.” She disappeared down the hall and came back a moment later with a towel.

“So who’s sick?” I asked

“Well,” she said, leaning up against the counter as we both waited for the coffee to brew. “No one is.”

I was stunned. This has never happened before. “No one?”

“No one,” she repeated. We stared at each other in amusement, her with a smirk, me with a confused twist to my face. “Then,” I hesitated. “Why let me in?”

“Because she told me you’d be coming.”

“She?”

“Your wife.”

I laughed. It was uncomfortable and so harsh, I made myself cough. “That’s not possible. She died a long time ago.”

“I know that.”

“Then how could you have possibly talked to her?”

“I’m psychic.”

I listened to her words with disbelief, ironic I know, considering the present situation and all, but I refused to believe there could be two anomalies in one house at one time.

“Psychic?”

“Yes.”

“Really?”

“Look,” she said, turning to the counter to grab two coffee cups from the cabinet. “If we’re going to keep questioning each other, this is going to be a long night.”

I sighed and wrapped the towel around my shoulders. It was damp now and didn’t do much good, but somehow having it around my shoulders made me feel better. I stood at the edge of the kitchen, my labored breathing staving off an awkward silence. “Prove it to me,” I said. “What was the last anniversary gift I gave her?”

“She was in the hospital then,” the girl said. “It was a shawl, hand made by your mother.”

“Where did we go on our honeymoon?”

“On an Alaskan cruise.”

“She hurt herself on the cruise. How?”

The girl closed her eyes. She hesitated. Was she communicating? Talking to my wife right now?

“Ice,” she said. “She slipped on some ice someone spilt on the deck.”

“Lucky guesses, all of them,” I said, laying the towel down on the edge of the couch. I looked at the girl as she poured the coffee into the cups, and my eyes lingered on the steam stirring slowly off the top.

“Cream or sugar?” she offered.

“I take it black,” I said.

She nodded. Her brown eyes were reflective in the kitchen’s harsh, fluorescent light. Her skin was freckled. I hadn’t noticed that before.

“I need proof also,” she said, handing me a cup. “Your wife said you were impressive.”

“Of what?” I asked slurping.

She grabbed a steak knife from a drawer next to the sink and swiped it across her index finger.

“What are you doing?” I shouted.

“Shhhh,” she whispered as the blood began to seep off her finger tip. “Don’t disturb my Dad. I want to see.” She stepped over to me and reached her bleeding index finger out to me until it almost touched my nose.

I looked at her and shook my head, but she insisted nearly poking my face with her finger. I gently took her hand in my right hand and squeezing her finger lightly in my hand and wiping off the blood. “See?” I said.

She held her finger up to the light to inspect my work. The cut was gone and there was no sign of blood. “That’s amazing,” she gasped. “I didn’t feel a thing.”

“Yeah well,” I said, clasping the coffee cup in my hands. I was still so cold. “Every time I do this, I get another wrinkle.” I looked at her. She was silent, staring at her coffee cup.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Jade,” she said.

I nodded, sipping my coffee. “So why is my wife speaking to you, Jade?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know why she started contacting me, but I did know her. She was my favorite teacher in high school.”

My wife loved to teach. I remember many times telling her to stop teaching at the high school. I told her she could make so much more money working as a professor, but she wouldn’t leave those kids. “College kids don’t appreciate a good teacher like these kids do,” she’d say.

“She knew I was special,” Jade continued. “Like you.”

“How?” I asked.

“One of the guys in my class tried to pull a prank on her by putting an air horn under her seat. When she asked who did it, no one said anything, but I told her after class. No one was there when he did it and he told no one it was him. Your wife asked how I knew.”

“I see,” I said. “What else did my wife tell you?” I asked.

Jade turned to her eyes to me. They were all I could see as she tipped her coffee cup up to her face. “She said she wants you to stop with your midnight healing runs.”

“What? No, I can’t,” I said. “God tells me when he tells me. I can’t just stop.”

Jade straightened herself and turned to face me. She set down her cup and clasped both my hands in hers and gazed into my eyes. She spoke slowly, giving weight to each word. “Your wife said the orders aren’t coming from him.”

I squinted, feeling a flash of stabbing pain in my head like an oncoming headache. I pulled my hands from hers and sat back. “What?” I chuckled. “Where else would they be coming from…?” My voice trailed off.

“Take a second to think about where you’ve been sent to lately. Who is it that you’ve helped?”

I stood up and walked to the window, slipping the curtain aside. The rain was pouring so hard, I couldn’t see across the street. I went through the names in my head, but there were none, only towns, occupations and other indiscriminate details. I visited a defense lawyer who had a tumor in his kidney, and another kid from Pakistan who had no furniture in his apartment. He’d been shot. And there was another one…let me see…a farmer’s daughter dying from West Nile Virus. I remembered different individuals from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all ages, with nothing in common. “I don’t understand,” I said.

Jade was standing next to me now. “Those people may have seemed innocent enough but they were meant to be stopped, a mission that was thwarted by you intervening.”

“What are you talking about?” I said contorting my face and shaking my head. “I don’t understand.”

“The defense lawyer,” she said, “He was supposed to die, but the following week after you healed him, he acquitted a serial rapist. The kid from Pakistan you healed…he was shot by a store owner who caught him stealing supplies to make a bomb which he used the very next day after you healed him to blow up a bus. And the girl, the farmer’s daughter? She drowned her little brother in the pool after you healed her.”

I felt light headed. It couldn’t be. All this time, I thought I was helping people. She was telling me I was responsible for people dying? No way. “I don’t understand. Why me?” I asked.

“People like you and me are rare,” she said. “There are only a few of us left. So we’re sort of being fought over. But we never know whose actually winning.”

I gasped and tried to speak, but only wisps of air escaped my lips. Jade took me by the shoulders and set me gently on the couch. She took a seat next to me.

“How do I know then?” I asked. “How do I know what I’m hearing in my head?”

Jade laid her hands on her lap and leaned back against the couch. She seemed perfectly calm. How could she be calm?

“You don’t,” she said. “That’s why you have to stop.”

“But I can’t,” I said. “The orders…they come to me like a tidal wave. I can’t sit still. If I don’t leave the house, I can’t breathe. It even feels like my legs are going to twist and snap like twigs. I feel like I’m going to die right there on my shag carpet.”

Jade laughed and nodded. “Shag carpet?”

I shrugged. “I like how it feels between my toes.”

Silence.

I leaned back next to Jade and watched her as she sat with her eyes closed, her hands resting on her knees. Her eyes fluttered and her lips parted. “Jade?” I asked.

“Hold on,” she whispered. A few minutes later, she opened her eyes and turned to me. “Your wife says no matter what you have to stop. God won’t let him hurt you.”

“Who’s him?”

“She didn’t say.”

“Well, ask her!” I raised my voice. I didn’t mean to. I really didn’t.

“She’s said all she had to say,” Jade said. “She told me now that you know, she won’t be in contact anymore.”

“Wait! Get her back. I have questions. What happens if I don’t go? Does she know?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “She’s already gone.”

I sighed. “You have to get her back!” I shouted.

“What’s going on in here? Jade? Who is this?” It was Mr. Carter standing at his bedroom door. Jade stood up and grasped my hands, pulling me off the couch.

“This is my friend Brandon Dad. He was just leaving. Weren’t you Brandon?”

I looked in her eyes. They were pleading with me, weepy and glazed like a wounded animal. “Yeah,” I said. “I just came inside to use the phone. My car broke down not far from here. Sorry to bother you, sir.” I looked at Jade. “Goodbye.”

I don’t remember seeing the road as I drove home. I only remember the sound of the rain pounding on the windshield like thousands of tiny pebbles trying to crack their way through to me. I sulked in silence, leaving the radio off, trying to imagine what I was going to do now. If I couldn’t tell when it was God or something else talking to me in my head, then how could I possibly pray? How do I know I wouldn’t be summoning the wrong thing? My heart filled with doubt and I felt alone.

She’s gone. And I didn’t even get to tell her I loved her.

Jade had the lost moments with my wife. She closed her eyes and communed with her as if they were sitting across from each other at dinner. Why didn’t she just speak to me? Why go through Jade? Then I thought about it. My wife did speak to me in my sleep. She must have been the one who directed me to Jade, who told me to drive into Chicago.

Then I got angry.

What am I, some puppet? Some unsuspecting yuppy who can be told where to go and when by anything from the other side? How the hell did I get stuck being a supernatural gofer? And when did God decide to syndicate me like a damn radio show?

“I trusted you!” I shouted, hitting the steering wheel with my right palm. The car swerved just a bit in response. “Ever since I was a kid, I trusted you, you glorious, you…you!” I couldn’t call Him names. I didn’t want to piss Him off. God forbid I woke up in the middle of the night and He sent my ass to Iran.

When I got home, I stripped my clothes and crawled into bed. I was so exhausted, but I drifted in and out of sleep and the lines between dream and consciousness blurred together. I kept feeling like I was seeing things. Every time I opened my eyes between naps, I could have swore I saw black hooded things circling my bed, tall, lanky and hazy like smoky stick figures. They were everywhere, hovering so close I could touch them. I looked away. Maybe they’d just go if I closed my eyes. But then my legs began to twist.

 

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2 Responses to A Late Night Visit to Apartment B

  1. Avatar of rmmaltbie rmmaltbie says:

    Thank you. It’s my first attempt at a short story. ;) I actually went to Barnes and Noble and bought a short story collection to figure out what exactly ‘short stories’ were. Then I realized they were just scenes with no endings. Pure torture! I loved them! Then I found this site…and I was so excited!

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