I could tell what I was doing was generally phrased "stalking". I was very well aware that it was wrong, and probably even illegal to spy on someone, but if you were in my place, I'm pretty sure you would have done the same.
Let me start from the beginning. Recently, a middle aged man named Nate Durrel moved in the apartment right next to our building. I was never a nosey person, so I didn't even spare him a second glance when I noticed a new face around. However, when piqued, my curiosity had an insatiable appetite, and it was about to be famished.
Mr Durrel was a rather peculiar man. With his enticingly chiseled face and his mysterious dark eyes, he seemed anything but strange. Different, but not strange. However, that wasn't the case at all, as I came to learn in the following days.
It all started on the day he arrived in our neighborhood. The sun dimmed sluggishly in the evening. As soon as I had dinner, I locked myself in my bedroom with the book I was currently reading. My night lamp shone at my bedside table, as I skimmed through my copy of Tell me your dreams by Sidney Sheldon. A psychological thriller which I had been barely able to put down since starting.
Except for the loud crickets out in the street and the occasional howl of the cool wind, there was no sound to be heard. Under normal circumstances, I enjoyed the peaceful silence while reading, but after going through a few chapters of this book, I almost found it unnerving. Which was unusual because I was never silly enough to get worked up and be afraid over a silly piece of fiction.
But this time was different. Probably because instead of usual ghosts and stuff, this book was based on real events. Cold sweat gathered at my temples and beaded down.
After learning that this book was about a psychological disorder, I had browsed through my internet to confirm the facts about this disease, and I was awestruck by what I found.
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), or now referred to as Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID) was indeed a real thing. An illness in which a person literally shuts off while another being or personality or "alter" becomes conscious.
Browsing through the internet alone wouldn't have been enough for me to fully understand how this condition worked, but after reading Tell me your dreams, I almost felt like it was happening to me.
Just the thought of having another person reside in my body and occasionally stealing my time while i was not even aware of it, it was a lot that process. Finding out that it was an actual thing with which people struggled with in reality, was another thing.
Despite my fears, hours passed while I continued to binge through my novel. I was so skittish that even my own shadow would've probably scared me.
Yet I could still not put the book down, since it was so addictive.
This was the eighth time I had promised myself to get some sleep after finishing this chapter, yet some cliffhanger at the end always managed to pull me back from the idea of slumber. I was so engrossed with the story that I might have ended up reading all night... had that voice not interrupted me.
At first it was only a wail. A high-pitched scream, so low that I wasn't even sure if I had just imagined it. But then I heard it again. And again. It was still quite low, so much so that I had to strain my ears in order to determine the direction of its source.
Following the voice, I carefully trudged to my balcony and peeked at the large glass window facing my bedroom. I blinked. Instead of the view of the cuboid room which had always been the first thing I saw, I was unexpectedly facing a large window covered with wooden blinds. I blinked again.
The previous resident had never put on either curtains or blinds, so I was a little taken aback.
Another high-pitched squeal pierced my ear drums. This time I was sure it had come from behind the folds.
Before I could think too much on what it might have meant, the voice continued, now evolved into half-suppressed, hysterical and bizarre cackles.
I shuddered, despite the wind having stilled. Even the crickets quieted in confusion. All that was left was the sound of the uncontrollable laughter.
Now, I myself didn't know anything about Nate Durrel. But my sister, being a gossip, had spent most of the day blabbing to me about our new mysterious handsome neighbor.
From what I remembered, she told me how antisocial he was, because when he was approached by the other residents of the building, he had slammed the door on their faces saying he didn't have time for guests.
So it didn't seem likely he had friends over and was laughing over an amusing conversation with them. Besides, even through the blinds, I could see his silhouette quivering with each chuckle that bubbled out of his throat. He was definitely alone, their was no doubt about it.
Now the question remained, what Mr Durrel was up to in the middle of the night, tittering almost if he was being mercilessly tickled?
Too unnerved by the creepy sound, I closed my book, put on headphones and tried to sleep.
The following night was exactly the same. As soon as the day was over, I snuggled in bed with my book in my hands. The bizarre incident from last night long forgotten, until it happened again. But this time, there were two voices. Both masculine. Bits of conversation were mingled with the sound of the laughter. I strained my ears hard to catch any word I could, although it was impossible with the heavy wooden folds.
The only thing I was sure I heard was a name. Ollie. I still saw the silhouette of only a single person, so I conjectured whoever Mr Durrel's late night companion was must be sitting in some dark corner for me to not see his shape through the folds.
Just like yesterday, I was way too panicked to keep going through my novel because of the threating tone of one of the voices, and the unnerving howls. I tried to get some sleep, but my mind remained busy coming up with dangerous scenarios involving Mr Durrel and his companion.
With my luck, I wouldn't be surprised if he turned out to be a serial killer, just like the one in my novel, who had someone trapped in his apartment and had unnatural and weird fetishes that probably involved high schoolers who loved to read.
Sleep was a luxury I could hardly afford that night, and the next after that, and so on. All because of the creepy voices I heard in the middle of the night. Since it happened way past my bedtime, I couldn't tell anyone about it that I was up at such an unholy hour and risk having my novels confiscated.
I still tried asking about it stealthily, if anyone else had heard him but the whole neighborhood was busy peacefully slumbering to notice anything unusual.
Curious about the second person's voice, I asked around if Mr Durrel had a roommate, or if he had any acquaintance staying over with him. The answer was negative, which freaked me out even more because I knew what I heard. I was sure there were two voices, even if didn't saw both of the speakers.
A week passed, and figuring out what was going on in the apartment next to mine had become my new obsession. I spent mostly the entire days stalking Mr Durrel around the neighborhood, as far as I could, before he drove off in his car. I even spent an entire day keeping watch on the entrance of his apartment door using my binoculars, yet there was no sign of the second speaker.
I considered letting someone in on this, just for the sake of my sanity, but something stopped me. I wanted to figure it out on my own so if I happened to be right about him doing something shady, I didn't want to share the credit with anyone else. Silly and selfish, I know.
Another week flew by, and I was no closer to solving the Durrel mystery. If anything, I was even more confused. From what I gathered after stalking my new neighbor, he was an introverted, antisocial man, who preferred to keep to himself. Another thing I learned was he had quite varying tastes when it came to dressing up. His closet must have been bigger than my room.
One day, I found him in a flowery shirt and bubblegum pants; the next, he was in a dark button down looking like a thug, who shot glares at everyone in his way. One time, he had put on a white fur coat, his lips were unnaturally coloured, suspiciously looking like he was wearing lipstick. The days he did dress normal, he kept to himself like usual and talked to no one.
The others also noticed his peculiar way of dressing, but they dismissed it assuming him to be some bisexual playboy.
Not having any kind of lead, at last, I had no choice but to give up on my unfinished mystety. My holidays were over, and I was supposed to start school again, which meant sleeping early. No more eavesdropping to crazy suppressed laughter and muffled arguments in the night, or chasing potential serial killers to make a name for myself.
It was school night. I was supposed to be asleep, but after ruining my schedule during the entire holidays, I couldn't manage to doze off no matter how hard I tried.
Unsurprisingly, I heard the familiar sound of suppressed laughter followed by another masculine voice angrily scolding the former. Unlike everyday, the voices sounded clearer.
A part of me wanted to press the pillow over my head and ignore the sounds, since their was no way for me to get any closure, but the other, more curious, part of me, snatched up my binoculars and ran to my balcony, hoping to find a small dent in the folds so I could sneak a peak inside and get a glance of this mysterious friend of Mr Durrel, whom I surmised was named Ollie.
Upon reaching the balcony, my eyes widened with surprise. Unexpectedly, Mr Durrel had not put on the folds on this particular night, and I could see every inch of his brightly lit room.
I gasped at the sight before me. With the exception of Mr Durrel, the cuboid room facing my balcony was very much empty. There was no sign of Ollie. Yet, Mr Durrel laughed hysterically in the shrill voice which I had imagined belonged to Ollie. He pointed at something in the empty air, as if it was the most hilarious thing in the world.
All of a sudden, his cackles halted, as if they were cut off, and his face became more aggressive and stern.
"Ollie," he shouted at the empty air. His voice turning into a familiarly deeper one. "You rascal, I swear I'm gonna–"
Whatever he was about to say was cut off again, as his stern composure loosened once more. He started laughing again.
Almost as if he sensed me peeking at him from a dark room in the adjoining building, his laughter was cut off once again, and he swivelled his head in my direction, looking straight at me.
I jumped back. My heart hammered my chest from the inside, as if it was trying to break free. My lower lip quivered in trepidation. As horrified as I was, it all started making sense now. There was a click in my head and the mystery was solved.
I quickly switched on my laptop and composed a very lengthy and detailed email describing my recent observation of my new neighbor. I ended it with my worries about Mr Durrel's mental health, stating how I was absolutely sure that he was suffering from Dissociative Identify Disorder.
All those conversations I heard when there was no one else in the apartment, Mr Durrel's introverted behaviour, it all added up to it. I also mentioned Ollie who must have been one of his alter egos.
In the end, I urged the reader to kindly take some action to help poor Mr Durrel who lived alone and had no one to look after him.
When I was done, I rechecked it before sending it to the head of the neighborhood committee.
That night, having done something worthwhile, I slept peacefully after a long time.
The next day, I was driving home from school when I saw Mr Durrel again.
He was muttering while he glanced at his wrist watch. He stood by his car, which was parked in the middle of the road. A huge puff of dark smoke seeped from its trunk.
After being obsessed with this man for weeks, my inner pathos came out and I instinctively pulled my car over beside him.
A part of me was still scared of him after what I witnessed last night, but I told myself he was sick. I had to help him.
"Your car broke down?" I rolled down my window.
He stared at me with an amalgamation of mixed emotions. Curiousity, suspicion, then anticipation. "You're the kid from the neighborhood." After a pause, he added hesitantly, "Can you please give me a ride? There's something I need to get ASAP."
I shrugged. "Hop in."
Relief flooded his face as he climbed in beside me. "Thanks."
"So where you off to, Mr Durrel?"
"Work," was all he said. He didn't elaborate, so I didn't ask him either. The rest of our conversation only included him giving me directions to where he needed to be.
As soon as we arrived, he disembarked the vehicle after giving me a short, crisp nod, before running in the direction of a huge old building.
I saw him disappear at the entrance, before I followed him to the gate and read the sign. It was a run down studio, the kind that released low budget movies. My eyes flew by the rows of endless movie posters, none of which I'd heard about before, when I suddenly spotted a familiar face in one of the posters.
The title read, Twin Fight, with a picture of two men standing side by side. Both of them were Mr Durrel. In one of the pictures, he had a stern and unsmiling face, while the other one had a creepy grin.
I read the words written below:
Starring Nate Durrel as Ollie and Ash Simpson.
Crap, I thought.