I loved the new apartment from the first time that I saw it. It was on the 7th floor of a high-rise building that had 10 floors. I was so eager to move in that I couldn’t wait for the building to be officially opened in on the 1st of September. On 29th of August, the House Manager allowed me to move in after-all everything was already set.
My apartment was really beautiful and spacious with lovely finishing. It also had two large balconies that could be accessed from the bedroom and the kitchen. Needless to say, the view from the balcony was breathtaking. From the bedroom, I could see tall trees and a river with this little wooden bridge. From the kitchen, all I could see were miles and miles covered by trees. There were no other houses within a ten kilometer radius of the house. This was exactly what I needed; peace and quiet.
As the first tenant, the building felt eerily quiet and the only other people there was the Caretaker and a Security guard on the ground floor. I decided to enjoy the solitude and silence before the other tenants started moving in.
It was 8pm when I happily looked around the apartment. I had done a great job of unpacking and settling in and the place now looked like home. I put up my last painting as I stood book smiling at the transformation. The plain white walls were now looking beautiful covered with my art, just how I liked it. I decided to go downstairs to the garbage deposit point and get rid of all the packing papers and boxes that looked messy. I then planned on settling down for the night with a good dinner and a book.
“Is everything okay?”
The security guard asked soon as I got to the ground floor. There was something off about him, he looked quite shifty and kept looking around even as he spoke to me. He never maintained eye contact even once.
“Is she okay?” I heard the caretaker ask as he came out of his ground floor. He was addressing the guard despite the fact that I was standing right there within earshot.
“Thanks for the concern guys, I really love this place.”I said as I gently brushed them off.
I could feel their eyes piercing my back as I walked to the elevator.
“Don’t use that, the lift is still being tested.”The caretaker said nervously.
I wasn’t too keen of walking up the seven flights but I was getting a weird feeling from being around the two men that I couldn’t get away fast enough.
I was on the 5th floor when suddenly; I felt the hairs at the back of my neck stand on end. The air around me started feeling thinner and I had to take big breathes. In addition, my heartfelt heavier as if it was pressing down on my chest. I tried to move forward but my feet wouldn’t lift off the ground.
I slowly turned around looking down the narrow hallway lined up by doors on each side. At the end of the corridor, I could see a figure moving at a very slow pace towards me. From the outline, it seemed like a very old woman. Suddenly, my feet gave way as I sunk to down on my knees. As she moved closer, my breathing became labored and it felt as if someone had a grip around my neck and was cutting off my air supply.
“I could see her clearly now, she was an elderly woman walking with a slight limp. Her dressing was a bit odd; she wore a long frock, a dressing style that I had only seen in old movies.
Her face was contorted in anger as she yelled, “Get out”.
She moved closer to me and brought her face down to my level. The smell, I will never forget that pungent smell. She smelt of rotting garbage but ten times magnified.
“This is not your home, get out.” She shouted and then just like that, she started walking away.
At end of the corridor, once gain she was swallowed by the shadows and disappeared from my sight. Everything went back normal after she was gone, my breathing was okay again and I got back on my feet feeling confused. I doubted my sanity; could I have imagined the whole incident?
I ran down the stairs taking two steps at a time, screaming.
“There is someone-else in the building!”
I was met by the guard and the caretaker once again on the second floor. We went down to the security office where they sat me down and offered me a cup of tea. I tried to explain to them what had happened all the while trembling and crying.
“I think you are just tired.”
“We would know if there was someone else in the building.”
“It’s your imagination; sometimes the mind plays tricks on us.”
I listened to them once again wondering if I had imagined the whole experience. Like a zombie, I quietly allowed the security guard to walk me back to my apartment. On the fifth floor, he walked up and down the corridor to prove to me that there was nobody there. However, I started having my suspicions again. The guard kept looking over his shoulder and laughing nervously, his demeanor far from comforting.
Inside my apartment, the feeling of calmness was now long gone. The silence was tomb-like and I wished there were other people in the building apart from me. I went to the bedroom balcony which only hours before charmed me with the scenic views. However, being at night, I couldn’t see anything beyond the security lights, a heavy blanket-like darkness had fallen on the building.
From the corner of my eyes, I noticed a movement. Someone had moved across my bedroom. I stood rooted to the ground once again scared out of my wits. The movement was too fast to have been the old woman. I wanted to turn my head but instead I found myself staring into the darkness in front of me unable to move.
I have always been scared of heights so I really can’t explain what made me get up on the ledge holding onto the rails for support. However, one minute my feet were on the ground and the next minute, I was on the ledge. I then let go of the rails and had one foot up on the rail while the other was still on the ledge.
“It’s okay, just let go and jump.”
I childlike voice behind me started chanting over and over again. It sounded like a little girl. I couldn’t turn around and look at her, instead, I found myself staring at the darkness below me. I had the strongest urge to go over the balcony and into the darkness. The wind was now blowing hard; I could hear the trees swaying against the wind making a whistle-like sound.
Then Sadness came down on me, a heaviness that reminded me of everything that wasn’t working in my life. The death of my baby, the end of my marriage, everything in me told me that I had nothing to live for. I now had both feet on the rails with one of my hands holding the rails as I tried to stand and let go. I wanted to see the world before I jumped although there was nothing in front of me apart from darkness.
Suddenly, the door bell rang.
I looked down horrified, what was I doing on the rail? My heart was beating as fast as I gingerly balanced on the rails before managing to get down on the ledge and then the floor. My heart was racing and I doubled over retching out my guts. I felt so weak that I could hardly move. The doorbell kept ringing for a while until I gathered my strength and walked to the door.
It was the security guard. I grabbed onto him and wouldn’t let go even as he guided me all the way down the 7 steps.
“How did you know?” I kept asking him.” That doorbell saved my life.”
He kept looking at me not saying a word.
“I don’t know…I can’t explain why I came to your door; I don’t even remember what coming up the stairs…”
Nothing was making sense at this point. However, one thing I was sure about is that I wasn’t going back to that apartment even if it meant losing my deposit and first month rent.
It took sometime before the guard finally opened up to me. He told me of other sightings in the buildings, in his case, there was an old man who he always saw at the parking lot. However, unlike me, he had never been harmed by the old man. He told me that the construction workers had complained of seeing people walking around the building, hearing voices, singing, missing working equipment and some reported to having been hit by random things such as tennis balls who nobody could explain where they had come from. One painter and a plumber had committed suicide.
The next story that the guard told me sent shivers down my spine. The foreman came one day for a normal shift. However, by the end of his shift, four of his crew members were dead before the foreman took a machete to his own head. The construction was stopped for over a year before it resumed.
I asked him why all that was happening and he kept quiet before answering, “This used to be a burial ground.” Rumors have it that there was man who lived on the property where the building stood and who used to kill people and then burry them within the property. It took years before he got caught and even much longer before the police discovered the burial grounds.
“There are claims that not all the bodies were recovered.”
We sat in silence in the security office until dawn. I have never been so been so glad to see the first rays on sunlight. It took me a short while to pack my belongings since I just hurriedly threw everything into the moving truck. I didn’t even have a destination in mind but I knew that I wasn’t spending another night in that building. Just as my moving truck was about to leave, I saw another truck coming in. I watched it as it pulled in and a young woman got out. She looked as excited as I was when moving in.
“Are you moving in also?”
“No…I’m on my way out.”
“Anything I should know about the house?”
“You will love it, it’s amazing!”
I got into my truck and waved at the new tenant as she got into the compound no doubt excited about the new place. It was only after we had left the property that I was able to speak normally again. Whatever had taken control of my speech and made me lie to the new tenant was gone. I looked back trying to see the building for the last time but all I could see was a heavy mist over the trees that surrounded the building.