Apt #301

"Do you want to hear this story? You want to know what really happened?"

It's about a mile between my apartment and where I work. The convenient thing is, there's a straight road that connects the two, you see. O'Hara Street, following it will lead right to the hospital. Every morning I walk along this street, and the same way every evening after work. It's reasonably large enough, two lanes in either direction. Since it's a campus route, the University tries to keep it clean and tidy. No run down buildings, no riff-raff loitering around…just plain old University halls. Nice lawn space, planted trees, overzealous meter maids…everything is great.

Except for that old apartment building near my place. It always gives me the creeps when I walk by it every day.

Right from the start, you'd think it was a shithole. Walls caving in, roof tar melted and hanging grotesquely above pedestrian heads, lawn unkempt and filled with trash. It actually used to be a house before it was converted, but that's beside the point. The place should be condemned, but by some miracle there's people living in it. Well, not a lot of people, judging from the boarded-up windows. From the looks of it, there's probably only a handful of livable space in that three-story crapfest.

To the right of this place is an alleyway that goes around to the back, well hidden by the three taller, nicer apartment buildings on either side. It's not really even an alley, simply what used to be green space now overrun by weeds. It gets very dark there at night since there's no outdoor lighting, and when I walk past I usually do so kinda fast. You never know what might be lurking in there; not ghosts and monsters, like you'd think of if you were a kid. More like the psychotic hobos and deranged junkies you'd expect in urban life.

Funny thing is, the alley was where I first started seeing the weird-looking guy.

It started a few weeks ago, when I started coming home around 1 or 2am in the morning. As always, when I got near this old house I wanted to walk past it as quickly as possible. So I did just that, as usual. The alley was coming up; I stared straight ahead as I walked, trying not to look to my left.

But that night, there was something different. Out of the corner of my eye, there was one spot in the pitch-black alley that seemed lighter than the rest. A dull glow, like those glow-in-the-dark toys you get in cereal boxes. I couldn't help it…I gave a quick glance over.

There was a man standing right in the middle of the alley, and he was the one glowing. Well I know that sounds impossible…he just looked lighter than the darkness around him, you know? You could see him in the black shadows. Not very well, but you saw him. I glanced for only a second, but it creeped me out. What was creepy about him? He was turned, arms at his side, his left side facing me, and it looked like his head was craned upward toward one of the apartments. Just like that, standing there and staring up at one of the windows.

I didn't wait around to see what the story was…I kept on walking.

The next morning I went past the same alley in bright sunshine. Remembering the previous night, I paused to check out where I saw that strange scene. The alley was deserted as I expected, smelling of booze and piss. I looked up the side of the old house; curiously enough, all of the windows on that side were tightly boarded-up.

I continued my walk to work, wondering why anyone would stare at those windows like that. I concluded that either he was a drunken homeless guy, or that he was waiting for something to happen. God only knows what.

Work ended and I started home again. I had all but forgotten about that whole weird episode in the alley, as work consumed all of my thoughts. It was only when I came near to the old house again that I remembered. I felt anxious all of a sudden the closer I got, but then laughed to myself. I had yelled at my boss earlier that day; I wasn't about to be scared by bogeymen in dark corners.

But when I looked into the alley, I did feel scared. Truly scared.

I saw the same man again, staring up at one of the windows. God, how long had he been standing there like that? Same spot in the grass, same window on the third floor, same dull glow. That's what killed me: the glow. I really began to believe I was seeing a ghost or something.

I sort of ran a bit until the whole ungodly scene was out of view. I leaned against the wall of the next building, glad to see some street lights, and took deep breaths. It was getting ridiculous. There was probably a perfectly logical reason for the man to be doing what he was doing…whatever it was. There was no need to be scared…it couldn't have been just me who saw him all the time. So I was determined to prove this to myself. I was going to see if I could find out what was really going on, from the strange man himself.

When I turned back toward the alley, my chest pounded for me to run away.

There was nothing. No man, no glow…just that foul, black darkness of the alleyway. He had simply disappeared, and there was no way in hell I was going in there to look for him.

I didn't think something like this could shake me up, but it did. The next few nights I found different ways of getting home. Shuttle, bus, carpooling, different streets, whatever. Anything but walking past that old house.

One day I met a person on campus who knew someone living in that house. Her friend rented space there with a few roommates, and she'd been inside once or twice. I asked her if anything was out of the ordinary; she answered that besides the dilapidated condition, nothing was at all strange. She couldn't say about anyone else who lived there, though.

Then one night, on a whim, I decided once more to face my fears. This was really getting childish of me to be so afraid. I walked home that night, chest puffed out and fists balled. I was determined to get some answers in any case. The whole night was silent, as if it were waiting for what came next.

I started to feel less confident when the house came into view. Breathing deeply, I peered around the corner into the alley.

The man stood there again, same as always. My nerve left me completely; I thought I was going insane. There was something different, though.

He was no longer glowing…he looked as concrete as you or me. Average height, dark hair and pasty complexion. He wore a sweatshirt and jeans, and his hands still dangled at his side.

I mustered enough courage to approach. Slowly, but I approached. He didn't seem to notice me. In the blink of an eye, I was suddenly standing behind him.

I cleared my throat. "Hey man…are you ok?"

No response. He just kept staring up at the same third-floor window.

"Hey! Can you hear me?" I didn't dare touch him, but my voice was near shouting. Frustrated, I walked around to face him...and I wanted to scream.

His face was inhuman. Mangled, fleshy and bloody, as if someone had beaten him to death. Only one good eye remained, the other poured out of his head in a wet, continuous stream of gray pus. More blood stained the entire front of his body. Despite the horror that his face conveyed, there was a sad look as he continued to stare upward.

There was something else, too. Nearby, I heard a low voice, chanting something from within the darkness.

I wasted no time. I got the fuck out of there.

I couldn't sleep that night. I was actually afraid to. All I could do was try and reason the whole damned thing out. What if it was a ghost? It sounds absurd, but right then I seriously believed it. I had heard stories about spirits coming back to give the living a message, to tell them something. Usually it would be about something bad, like a murder. Everyone's seen that movie, the "Sixth Sense." Maybe that was it. Could it be that something had happened to that man in the alley? Did that third-story window have anything to do with it? Did he need my help?

I decided what I would do: skip work the entire next day, and come back to the alley around dusk or so.

And that's exactly what I did. Only problem was, there was no ghost in the alley at the time. So I waited at the bus stop bench across the street.

I must have dozed off for a few hours, due to the lack of sleep. When I woke, I wasn't surprised anymore to see the strange man in the alley.

This is it, I thought as I approached the apparition again. I came forward to meet him. Again, he was no longer glowing but I didn't hear any of that chanting going on. I tried to look at his hands, his feet…anywhere but his face.

Then, the ghost turned its back on me and started walking into the black alley. And as it did so, it started to glow again. Normally, I would have run away, as I always had. But this night was different, I felt it. I couldn't run away, not anymore. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen tonight. So I followed it, staying a distance away and wishing I had an M16 rifle or some other weapon.

It seemed like ages for me to reach the end of that alley. And I was terrified the whole way. The ghost finally stopped at a closed back door to the house. It paused, not looking at me, but waited…for something. And then, just like that, it walked through the door and disappeared.

I got near the door; it was open, of course. There was a small bulb hanging from the ceiling, lighting a stairwell that went upward, probably where I had to go.

The moment I stepped inside, I felt sick. Something did not feel right about being inside that house. It felt wrong…it felt evil. That's the only way I can describe it. Near the door was a thick 4x4 wooden beam with a sharp nail poking out of it, just like in the old violent cartoons. It wasn't a rifle, but I hoped it would do.

The stairwell was cramped and dimly lit. I was sweating, my hands shook, and my vision was starting to get less clear. And then, I heard that strange chanting again. I stopped, hoping it would go away. It didn't. The noise became louder the higher up I went. I held my weapon at the ready, finding comfort in its weight and density. I prayed aloud to God I would have the strength to do what needed to be done. Past the second floor, the chanting became even louder. I couldn't distinguish the words, the voice sounded less and less human. I wished that I had a priest—somebody—to be with me then.

I finally got to the third floor. There was an intact window nearby, and from its orientation I made my way to where the ghost had been staring up at. The third floor was much smaller than the ones below, with few apartments…and none looked occupied.

The chanting suddenly became another sound, like a million crickets. I turned a corner and found myself in front of the only door left on the floor, where the window should be.

Apt # 301.

I listened carefully for any movements that may be inside, but the strange sound was incredibly loud now. So this was the room where the ghost had been murdered. I really didn't know what to expect at all. At my feet, I saw thick blood pouring out from under the door, soaking the dirty carpet. Whether this was real, or whether this was an illusion by the ghost, I didn't know.

With all the courage I could summon, I pounded loudly on the door and then stepped back with my wooden club ready.

The noise stopped. I heard my own breathing.

And then I heard footsteps approach the door.

Oh god, oh god, oh god…

The door opened. And I saw an ordinary man in the doorway. No monsters…for that first second, I was relieved.

Relief soon gave way to terror. He was the ghost I had seen these many nights.

I saw that he was normal. I saw that there was no blood, no wounds. And I saw that he was smiling at me. Grinning at me.

I saw pure evil in that face. His eyes were black…liquid black. They stared into mine, and I saw evil.

And I heard the chanting again. I heard the words clearly now, and the laughter that came with it.

Kill him kill him kill him kill him now

I couldn't stand it any longer. I raised the heavy 4x4 high and swung down on him with all of my strength. He was still smiling at me when the nail drove through the top of his skull, piercing his brain with a sickening crunch. He stumbled forward a bit as I pulled the club back, and remained grinning at me.

I swung again, cracking his face and skull open from the front. Blood washed over his whole face, looking hot and alive. Another swing, and the nail impaled his left eye. He finally fell to the floor, and began laughing. It was his laughter I had heard all along.

The 4x4 smashed down on his head again and again. Blood splashed everywhere, flying through the air in droplets, staining the walls and even the ceiling. The crunching sounds soon became wet, sloshing sounds as my weapon pounded brain, flesh, and bone.

There was so much flesh and bone.

"So that's my story, you've heard all of it. Now tell me, Mr. Attorney-man, how can we overturn this murder conviction?"

fini