Unit 319

Day one in the new apartment. Got the furniture arranged how I want it, started unpacking clothes. Haven’t met any of the neighbors yet, but they’re probably all at work.

My unit is very long and narrow. When you first come in, there’s a kitchen and living room squished together. A hallway stretches out the back, and that’s where the longness comes from. It’s only a couple feet wide, with doors leading to the bathroom, linen closet, and bedroom lining the left side. The right has windows every few feet overlooking the courtyard at the center of the building, two stories below. Not a pretty view. It’s all concrete, and the few trees they tried planting look sick.

It’s a weird layout, but hey, can’t beat four hundred a month for rent. Well, best get back to unpacking.

I really wish there were more windows.

Got almost everything unpacked today. All that’s left are my clothes. I’m holding off on hanging them in the closet, because there’s a bad smell inside. Trying to air it out first. Maybe I should stick an air freshener in there.

Almost saw one of my neighbors this afternoon. I was coming out of the bedroom and caught a flash of light from the corner of my eye. I looked out the window into the courtyard just in time to see a glass door swing shut.

Should probably get some sleep now. I really wish there was a window in the bedroom. Even on the third floor, I feel like I’m underground.

Think I overheard an argument last night. First sign of anyone else living here I’ve had since moving in. Well, aside from the courtyard door yesterday. Didn’t sleep well because of the noise. It was muted by the walls, but it sounded like a bad fight. Lots of screaming, crying.

Closet still smells. I think I’ll get an air freshener tomorrow on my way back from work. Oh, and I should see if I can get the landlord to fix the hot water. Don’t think I can stand another ice shower, especially this time of year.

Speaking of which, we’re supposed to get snow tonight.

Yep, we definitely got snow. Work was closed today, and I can’t see much out the windows in the hallway.

I know there’s someone living above me. I’ve been hearing them walk around all day. I wonder if they’re new, since this is the first I’ve heard of them.

Been hearing other signs of life too. A door slammed downstairs a few minutes ago, and someone walked by my unit, talking to someone. I guess with the bad weather, everyone’s cooped up inside.

Snowstorm cleared up last night. Picked up an air freshener on the way home from work and set it up in the closet, which by the way smells worse than ever. I also went ahead and put my coat hangers in there. Still holding off on the clothes themselves, though.

The apartment looks a lot nicer in the snow. The cars are just lumps of white in an otherwise smooth blanket. The concrete is all covered up. Even the sickly trees look magical with the icicles hanging from their branches.

Less pleasant, however, are the neighbors. I still haven’t actually seen any of them, but I can hear them. Someone’s yelling right now, in fact. Sounds very angry—now there’s something banging. I don’t like this.

Can’t sleep. The shouter quit around eleven, but I can’t relax. I think…I think every time I start to drift off something wakes me up, like some kind of noise that’s very quiet, but just the right wavelength to get stuck in the back of my head like a worm.

Finally got some sleep last night, but I’m not sure it was enough. It’s weird…I don’t know. When I came home from work, I noticed the only tire tracks coming out of the parking lot were mine from earlier. Does nobody else here work? I guess they could’ve just used the trail I blazed this morning.

As I was getting ready for bed, I thought I saw the courtyard door open again. I looked out, but saw nothing. Too much nothing, actually. Something wasn’t right, but I can’t put my finger on it.

I haven’t been able to get in touch with the landlord, so I still don’t have any hot water. I may just stop taking showers.

Alright, I know I’m not hearing things. It’s two-thirty in the morning, but this has been going on all night. There’s a rattling sound coming from the closet. I should go see what it is, but I don’t want to for some reason.

I checked on the closet this morning. Turns out if I tap one of the coat hangers, they all bump into each other and make the exact same noise I heard last night. Can’t think of what might have done it, though. Maybe there’s a draft.

And while I’m talking about the closet, the air freshener isn’t working. It’s just mixing with the stink and making it worse.

More weird stuff. Ever since the snowstorm, I’ve had this wrong feeling, and I’ve finally pinned it down. The cars. They’re all buried, and no one’s dug them out. I’m the only one that comes and goes, mine are the only tire tracks in the parking lot. But there’s more. I realized it while I was staring at the courtyard this evening: no footprints.

That rattling sound’s started up again. I don’t think I’ll get any sleep tonight.

I think these late-night entries are going to become a regular thing. Heard someone screaming. It was far away, but it drove me nuts and I started pacing my unit trying to figure out which direction it was coming from. I eventually settled at one of the windows; the voice seemed to be coming from the other side of the courtyard. She must have been screaming really loud for me to hear it all the way over here.

I’m writing this in the living room. I don’t want to go back to my bedroom. The rattling noise is going on right now. I tested my draft theory, but couldn’t pick up the faintest breeze. Besides, even a draft couldn’t rattle the coat hangers that hard.

I think one of them just fell off the rack.

Didn’t go into work today. Too tired. Couldn’t sleep. Still no footprints in the courtyard, cars in the parking lot still buried. All my coat hangers were on the floor. I just want to get out of here. I just want to get out. I’ve got enough money to stay at a hotel until I find a new place.

I just peeked into the hallway. One of the coat hangers is there. Why is it there? It should be in the bedroom!

Calm down. Just get your keys and get out of here for a little bit.

But my keys are in the bedroom. I don’t want to go in there.

Alright, I got my keys, and I’m leaving now. Coat hangers scattered everywhere. Also, as I left the bedroom, I was staring straight out the window, right at the courtyard door. It opened. It shut. There was no one there!

Still in my unit. I’ve got the keys in my hand, but now there’s a shadow under the door. It appeared just when I was about to leave, and it’s been there ever since. This is the closest I’ve come to actually seeing someone in this building.

Maybe it’s the landlord. Maybe they finally sent someone to take care of the hot water.

Don’t be stupid. They would’ve knocked by now.

I could check. Look out the peephole.

I don’t want to. Every time I go to look at something, there’s no one there. What if I look out and there’s no one there again? Why is that shadow there?

There was a noise behind me just now. I looked back, and there’s a coat hanger in the living room. It’s one of the metal ones, and it’s bent all out of shape. My eye keeps being drawn to the hook.

It’s dark now. I still haven’t looked out the peephole; can’t make myself do it. I’m sitting with my back up against the door, and I swear I can feel something leaning against the other side. I can’t tell if I’m hearing my own breathing or someone else’s.

I hate being so close to it, but I feel like I need to keep my weight on the door.

Is this how I’m going to spend the rest of my life?

No, there’s another way out of here, I just realized. I could climb out one of the windows in the hallway. The side of the building has enough architectural detail that I could make my way to the ground if I’m careful.

No good. I got my head out, but then I saw one of the windows below me open up. I could’ve climbed down easily, but I’d have had to go right past that window and whatever was inside.

The smell from the closet is leaking into the rest of the apartment.

After being turned away at the window, I wanted to go back to the kitchen. When I got there, however, the door was open.

The door was open.

And the wire coat hanger from the living room? It was swinging from the doorknob. I had a clear view of the corridor outside, and there was nothing there, but…was it waiting just out of view? Was it already in my apartment somewhere?

I’m in the bathroom now. The door’s shut and locked. I don’t know how much longer I can take all this. Maybe someone will notice when I don’t show up for work tomorrow and come check on me. Maybe I can get out with them—

I just heard footsteps. They came through the hall and stopped right outside the bathroom door. I think it’s just standing there. It hasn’t moved in minutes—

It’s scratching on the door. Scratching. There’s a metallic ring to the sound, like…like it’s using the coat hanger.

I can’t stop thinking about the hook.

Oh please no. The light’s flickering. Please don’t go out please—

can’t see whaT ai ’m writin . It’s too darK. It’s sTll scratching scrtChing scratching why wont’ it stoP? PleaSe someon help me! It’s starting b anging on the dOr now I thnk I hear the woOd cracki ng oh pleaSe no no no no

James Colton

Comments

Zainab

January 29, 2017

Came here from the chilling tales for dark nights youtube page! I love the way you build up suspense, james! I wish I could hear the end though but I love open endings all the same. Do you mind if I ask you something? How did you go about writing stories? Did you have to study a degree to guarantee yourself the title as a writer?

    James Colton

    January 29, 2017

    Thanks! My degree was actually in graphic design, not related to writing at all. You don’t need a special degree to be a fiction author, you just need to be a good storyteller. The best way to get good at that is to read a lot, figure out what works in your favorite stories, and put what you learn into practice by writing your own.

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