ONE LOST SOUL
by Del Gibson
This is my worst nightmare, and this is the reason why…
So there I was, moving the rest of the boxes from the boot of my Audi, into my new apartment – when I first saw the lady standing at my bedroom window. She appeared as an unsubstantial fog upon the glass. Do you ever wish you had have listened to your instincts? You know, that gut punch that warns you something isn’t right? It shivered right through me but I brushed it off . There was no going back, and nothing to go back to. This would be my new beginnings, a fresh start. Away from pushy parents and an abusive ex-boyfriend. After slamming the boot shut and with the last box in hand, wrestling with a bag of groceries, I entered my new abode.
When I found this apartment on a realters website, I paid the deposit immediately, because rental properties are fairly hard to find in the CBD. I was fortunate this one had recently become available. The photographs showed a small tidy flat, with lots of aluminum steel, wooden flooring and one double bedroom. The fact it came fully furnished was a great advantage. The complex itself looked nice, with identical apartments, balconies overlooking a large front garden and a residential outside pool. I was surprised it was quite a lot cheaper than some of the other properties I had searched online. I signed the contract. Done deal.
It had been a full-on day, unpacking and rearranging furniture. Exhaustion overcame me, desperate for sleep, I climbed into bed. That is when I first heard the scratching sounds coming from within the walls. I jumped out of bed in fright, flicked on the light switch, but nothing happened. I tried again, to no avail. I followed the scratching around in the darkness, believing it was rats or some other rodents making their home inside the walls. I remember thinking there might be an infestation, perhaps that explained the cheaper rent?
I gave up and tried to sleep, slightly confused and a little unsettled. I should have been terrified, but I wasn’t – not yet. My brain said it was rats. They were eating my toes in my nightmare...I woke with a scream lodged in my throat. I tossed and turned, in a discombobulated state of slumber, so my first night sleeping in my new flat was fractured. The persistent scratching continued for a week or so, until they turned into little knocks and taps all over the place. Inside the cupboards, wardrobe, the walls and even in the ceiling. It continued for weeks on end. I couldn’t sleep, my appetite was completely obsolete, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a shower. Then the knocking and tapping suddenly stopped one night, and the silence was wonderful. However, I could feel a high tension and pressure building, like it does right before a storm.
Then I started to notice that items were disappearing, and being moved around my flat. I searched for my hair brush; which I finally found in the freezer five days later. The TV remote I found on top of the bookshelf, I had to reach it with a chair to retrieve it. This was beginning to disturb me. I started to believe that someone was getting into the apartment somehow, and was intentionally moving things around. I didn’t take it any further, in fact I had no idea what to do about it. In my scared state of mind I decided to talk to the neighbours. I had been here for weeks and hadn’t come across anybody. I knocked upon every door in the complex, but no one answered. Thinking everyone was at work, I went back to my flat, and it all turned to shit after that.
The shadows came. They followed me everywhere, and each time I tried to see them face on, they would disappear. I was petrified. I started to think I was going crazy! They stopped hiding after some time, I would see them in the hallway, glance them in the mirrors and most terrifying of all, they would be in plain view watching me. One night I woke to find someone standing at the bottom of my bed. In fright, I turned on the bedside lamp, but the figure had gone. When they started moving furniture, opening and shutting cupboards, slamming closed the inner doors; I knew I was out of my depth. But there was no one to tell. My cellphone battery was dead and I couldn’t find my charger, so there wasn’t a chance for me to call anyone for help.
One morning, I woke to find the table stacked with items from the pantry. The cans were piled on top of one another, almost reaching the ceiling. The glasses, cups and crockery from the cupboards, were also stacked precariously in the same way. As I stood in the doorway, confused and scared, I heard banging at the front door. When I went to answer it, a little old lady was standing there in the pouring rain.
‘Hello,’ I said.
‘Yes hello there, isn’t it a beautiful day? I love the rain,’ she said in a quiet, gentle voice.
We stood there; me not moving, holding the door between us, and her staring at the sky – she was drenched from the downpour. I got an instant feeling that there was something not quite right with this person.
‘Can I help you?’ thinking it must be a neighbour, I softened my fear.
The clouds were moving in and fog appeared from nowhere, surrounding us.
‘Well dear. That is the million-dollar question.’
The conversation had got a little strange.
‘Are you looking for someone? I have only recently moved in.’
‘That is nice dear. No I am not looking for anyone. I am looking for you.’
Her face changed suddenly, she was no longer quiet and old, she looked menacing. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she inched her way closer towards me.
‘Let me in, dear,’ she said. ‘I have something for you!’
My flight or fight senses were triggered, so I slammed the door shut in her face. In a state of utter shock I fell backwards, terrified. I watched her slam her forehead into the glass panel in the door, over and over again. I scrambled back into the dining-room, only to discover all of the items were gone from the table. I rushed around searching through the cupboards and the pantry; everything was back where they should be.
After some time, the insistent banging stopped. By that stage I had had enough, so I grabbed my keys, wallet and cellphone; thinking I would charge it in the car. I peeked out of the lounge window, hiding myself behind the yellow curtain. The old woman was gone. At the front door I was baffled, the blood was no longer there on the glass. I closed the door behind me and started to make my way down the staircase to the carpark. My flat was located on the second floor. But when I finally got to the bottom, the staircase didn’t stop, they kept going down. I didn’t have time to ponder this, I just kept running down the steps. It was all in vain. Every time I thought I had made it to the bottom; I would end up back in front of my bright red door with my apartment number, 23. After a while of doing this and getting nowhere, I was exhausted.
I went inside finally, sunk down on the couch and cried, giant sobs engulfed me. I remember thinking I was stuck there forever – there was no escaping this hell hole of a building. I tried to leave every single day for weeks; it became habitual. But the same thing happened, over and over. The knocking, scratching and furniture moving around the rooms had increased. The shadow people watched me from the darkest corners of the rooms. They had glowing red, orange or white eyes, but the ones with silver eyes terrified me the most.
One cold night the power went out, plunging me into sudden terrifying darkness. I found some candles in a kitchen draw, but soon enough they all burned down to nothing. Hours turned into days; days turned into weeks. I stayed inside my flat for months. Every now and then a new person would arrive, begging me to let them in. Around and around my life went on. My days got twisted, everyday blurring into the next. I had lost all concept of time.
Then one day, I woke to find people in my flat. I could hear their muffled talk through the walls. I hadn’t heard voices in so long, it startled me. They slowly walked around, assessing the flat walking room to room. I didn’t know who they were, or why they were there. But they scared me, so I tried to remain hidden. I hid in the bathroom. When I got sick of that and curiosity got the better of me, I started following them around. When I entered the lounge, loud alarms screamed; I had to cover my ears. Glaring bright white lights blared at me. I ran from the room and hid under the staircase.
‘Is there someone here with us? Come out and talk, if you come near one of these devices we will be able to hear you. Can you make a noise, so we know where you are?’
I decided I would, because I hadn’t spoken to anyone for god knows how long – it had felt like years and years. I knocked on the wall in the hallway and they all came running, there were four people; one woman and three men. Due to my instinctual fear of men, I tried to stay as far away from them as possible, but they stalked me through the apartment.
‘Who is here with us? What is your name?’ the woman asked.
With the small amount of energy I had left, I answered.
Hearing my voice come out of the little box she was holding, intrigued me.
‘How long have you been here, Elizabeth? Can I call you that or would you prefer to be called Liz or Beth?’
I always hated that name, Elizabeth; it made me feel old.
‘Beth,’ I answered.
Once again I was enthralled by the box that said my words. But I started to become upset, because these people were intruding in my home, and I still had no idea why they were here. How the hell did they get inside? Suddenly a loud beeping sound screamed from one of the devices, and the lights on it flickered from green to red. I was mesmerized and somewhat excited by this.
‘Wow, she is here right in front of us. Keep asking questions Michelle, she seems to want to speak to you. After what happened here, to her, it doesn’t surprise me.’
A distant memory entered my mind…
There was a man inside my apartment, and he did something horrid to me. The memory dissipated when the woman’s voice shattered the silence.
‘Beth, how long have you been here?’
My energy was draining fast, so I used the energy from one of the devices to give me enough strength to answer.
‘Who killed you Beth?’
I didn’t want to say it, but I did.
‘The man downstairs.’
‘It really is her! She knows who did it. Simon Klass.’
Hearing his name made me angry, feeding my energy, so I threw a broken bowl across the room. They jumped from the mouldy dilapidated couches in fright, standing in the middle of the room, looking around, confused and clearly startled.
‘Michelle, you scared her. Here, I have a question,’ said the fat man.
‘Beth, my name is John. Do you know you are dead?’
I was beyond anger, and something fierce was building inside of me.
‘Get out!’ I screamed with all of my might, but it came out a garbled mess of noise.
The tall man with a beard, picked up a device with a bright light and a small TV screen attached to it. I had never seen anything like it before. I was curious, so I wandered over to get a better look. Then I scrambled away when the lady started talking again.
‘You can show yourself on the device in Tony’s hand. It is called an SLS camera and we can see you if you stand in front of it.’
It didn’t make any sense to me, none of it did, but I decided to play along. I stood on the shelf in the lounge, although it was broken I managed to do it.
‘There she is. Look, she is on the shelf.’
Hearing this, I darted away – making loud noises as I stomped along the hallway, knocking on the walls.
‘Did you hear that?’ one of the men asked.
I slammed the bathroom door shut, hoping to scare them out of my flat.
‘Get out! Leave!’ I yelled, as I shoved the woman, nearly knocking her over.
‘What the hell? Something just pushed me and the devices are going nuts! Look at the REM pod, she must be touching it. The K2 meter is spiking to red too,’ she said aghast. ‘Beth, we are here to help you. We can free you from here, you don’t have to stay here anymore.’
I didn’t trust them, because I didn’t know their intentions, but perhaps they could help me leave this building for good?
‘Beth, I feel you are still mad about what happened to you. What he did to you was terrible. But he is no longer here, he is dead now.’
Then I remembered...
I was struggling with the last of my gear from the car, when a man approached me and asked if he could help. I noticed he came from the flat beneath mine. I gladly accepted. He took the heavy box from me, I carried the groceries, and together we entered my apartment.
‘Where should I put this?’ he asked.
‘Just in the bedroom on the bed please. That would be great.’
As I fluffed around in the kitchen, packing away the shopping, I noticed he still hadn’t come out of my bedroom, so I went looking for him. When I entered, he was standing in my closet, going through my clothes.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked, giving him a fright.
‘Nothing, just wondering if your wardrobe is the same size as mine.’
Instantly, I didn’t believe him because he had a pair of my stockings wrapped around his hands. This confused me to no end, raising goosebumps upon my skin. Instinctively I recognised there was danger, but I didn’t want to inflame the situation, so I laughed it off, not wanting him to see how scared I actually was in that moment.
‘Thank you for your help…how rude of me I don’t even know your name.’
‘Simon Klass, lovely to meet you! Are you sure I can’t help you unpack? Four hands are better than two!’ he chuckled.
‘I’m all good thank you. I will let you get on with your day. Thanks heaps for your help, Simon.’
Suddenly, he grabbed me, and with my own stockings he strangled me to death. Then he did other things to me I wish I could erase forever.
I snapped out of my reverie when the woman started talking again.
‘Beth, if you need help to leave here, please knock on the wall, or make a sound.’
I had no energy left, so I drained the battery from one of the cameras.
‘Hell, my camera is flat! I just changed the battery; she must be using it for energy.’
With all of my remaining strength, I screamed through the device, ‘help me!’
So they did. I watched as they walked from room to room, splashing water on the damaged walls. I could hear them praying as they languished in my bedroom, spreading smoke from a bunch of sticks they held in their hands. The woman made the sign of the cross in every doorway, banishing any spirits who weren’t supposed to be there. One of the men splashed more of the water on all the smashed windows and the ruined floorboards in every room. At the front door, the lady was saying she was opening a doorway for me to go through.
‘Follow the light Beth. You will find peace; you can move on if that is what you want. Just follow the light, and at the end you will be free,’ her voice was soft and gentle. I trusted her.
I followed the light to the end of the tunnel, not knowing quite what to expect. Someone was walking towards me, she seemed very familiar.
‘Hello my darling, Beth. You made it. Come with me sweetheart and I will take you home.’
I hadn’t heard my mother’s sweet voice for over twenty years. When finally I melted into her arms, the tears fell hard. She held my hand as we walked away from the old abandoned apartment complex. I was finally free from the hell I had been living in, roaming the place where I’d been murdered – trying to escape. I didn’t even know that I was dead.
Copyright (c) Gibson, Del 2021