Author's note: It would definitely be more convenient to write this as a book, but this is a website, not a book, so, yeah. There will be a second part to this, but it won't fit the word count. I put it in Google Forms, if that would make it easier. This is the link: https://forms.gle/ZjraApvoGaEYUpoe7. I hope this makes sense-I've never done anything like this before. Hope you enjoy, happy reading! 😉
You wake quickly, sitting up fast and gasping for air. Your long, auburn hair is draped over your shoulder and you toss it back with a flick of your hand. Beads of sweat just begin to dot your forehead when from the apartment next to you, you hear a loud thump.
It shakes your walls, and the vibration reaches your bed in seconds. You think that you should go and check on your neighbor, but as you glance at the LED alarm clock stationed on your bedside table, you realize that it’s only 3:30 in the morning.
If you choose to knock on your neighbor's door, go to paragraph A.
if you choose to ignore the sound and go back to bed, go to paragraph B.
A. You decide that something must be wrong, and if they drop something, they might need help. Fitting your feet into your pink fuzzy slippers, you shuffle to the door and pull it open sleepily, your eyelids heavy. The flickering hallway lights of your run-down apartment building greet you, but your eyes are half-open, so you don't notice. Instead, you take the few steps needed to reach room 345, the one just to the left of yours, 344.
To your surprise, you find the door slightly ajar with a thick package wedged into the crack. It really is none of your business, but you're already here, and this early, it's highly unlikely that the mailman just stopped by. You're quite curious about what was in the parcel, but if someone catches you, you could be charged for trespassing. Besides, you could always ask the other neighbors about it when they wake up.
If you head back to your room, go to paragraph B.
If you open the package, go to paragraph C.
B. You shake your head and glare at the wall between you and room 345. It's a wonder that some people simply don't understand the meaning of peace and quiet. Getting back in bed and throwing the covers back over your head, you sink into your memory foam bed and let yourself drift back to sleep. Almost. Two sharp knocks on your door knock snap you out of whatever dream you were falling into and your eyes fly open. Who could that be?
You swing your legs over the edge of the bed and stumble around in the dark for your slippers, which you seem to have misplaced. Finally, you find them and open the door to reveal your next-door neighbor with a large saw in his hand. “If it's not too much trouble,” he says, “it would be wonderful if you could come by and help me steady my ladder. One of the feet is a bit wobbly, and my bathroom light bulb is out.”
Looking him up and down, you notice a small stain on the hem of his wrinkled t-shirt that resembles ketchup, but by the looks of it, could very easily be something else. You're not sure what to do.
If you ask him what the stain is, go to paragraph D.
If you say no and leave him to himself, go to paragraph E.
If you help him and don't ask anything, go to paragraph F.
C. Looking around to make sure no one's watching, you slide your foot into the crack to keep the door open and pull out the package. It's in red and white Air Mail packing with a bubble-wrapped interior, which makes you wonder why it was stuffed in the doorway. Slowly, you tear away the adhesive seal and peer inside, gasping at your findings.
Money. Hundred dollar bills stacked in piles and rubber-banded together stand neatly in the bottom of the bag. At your estimate, it couldn't be less than two grand, but the pieces in your head don't fit together. Nobody would leave this kind of money just in the crack of their door – it's nearly begging to be stolen.
Something is wrong. You're about to drop the bag when suddenly the elevator behind you opens and your neighbor from room 345 steps out, a pistol in his hand.
“What are you doing?” He says, his eyes flickering from your horrified face to the package in your trembling hand. His finger finds the trigger and he begins to walk faster. You stumble backward, and that's when it catches your eye. The door to your room is still open, and while it would entail you move towards him, it would provide shelter for the time being.
But further down the hall in the opposite direction is a stairwell that hasn't been used in ages. You're certain it's unlocked and the stairs are in good condition, plus it leads outside. You're bound to find somewhere to hide.
If you make a break for your room go to paragraph G.
If you turn around and run to the stairs, go to paragraph H.
D. Something about the stain doesn't feel right, and you fiddle with your fingers as you debate what to say. "Had a little fast food?" you tease, motioning towards the red blotch on his shirt. He nods and offers a small smile, but it doesn't quite meet his eyes. A bit suspicious, you clumsily stumble back and begin to close your door when he steps forward, sticking his foot out to stop it.
"Is anything the matter?" he whispers, the low growl adding an edge to his voice. You panic and push harder, but the door doesn't budge, and neither does his foot. He grabs you by your wrist and you open your mouth to scream, but before you do, a gust of wind tussles your hair. You turn around to see where it came from and realize that your window has been wide open since yesterday afternoon. It's the only means of escape that you can find after a glance around the apartment.
Go to paragraph I.
E. "I'm sorry," you say, tucking a loose strand of hair behind your ear. "It's a bit early, you know. I wish I could, but you know how these things go. " His eyes go dark and his grip on the saw tightens." Is it too much to ask a neighbor for a little help? It’s just a small favor. Not much." With every word, his voice gets louder until it’s just below a yell, and it becomes clear that if you don't go with him, he will use the saw against you. You tear your eyes away from him to look around the room, but there's nothing to defend yourself with that's a match for the weapon in his hand.
Go to paragraph F.
F. Reluctantly, you sigh and pull the door open to let yourself out. A faint "Thank you" is muttered under his breath as he leads you into his room, stopping by the door to pick something up and tuck it under his arm. Turning back to smile at you, he holds the door open, allowing you to step in. You take a few steps forward and turn around only in time to see the door shut your neighbor walking away.
"What's happening?" you whisper to the darkness around you. This apartment seems to be different from yours, as the light switches aren't in the same places. You fumble around, tripping over furniture and losing a slipper as you touch your fingers to the wall and search for the light switch. In the corner of the room, you finally find one, but as you flick it, nothing happens.
Remaining in darkness, you try your luck at finding your way back to the door you came through. You retrace your steps the best you can, but still, end up on another side of the room. Exasperated and frightened, you rest your back against the wall and slide to the ground.
After a few minutes, you hear a small voice sniffling from behind you. Jumping up from your seat on the floor, you stretch your hand out into the void of blackness in front of you and strike something hard.
A handle. You jiggle it, but, as you suspected, it's locked. You kneel and put your mouth up to the crack at the bottom of the door to make sure whoever is inside can hear you. "I'm coming, okay? Just hang in there." You feel around not too far from the door until your fingers wrap around something resembling a metal pole. Lifting it above your head and slamming it down hard, you whack the handle about 10 times before you hear a snap and the handle falls to the ground by your foot.
Carefully, you push the door open and in the center of the room is the silhouette of a young girl. The light switch is just where you expected it to be, and when you flick it the lights come on. She's small – couldn't be much older than 10 - and her hair is wild but the same color as yours, which makes you smile. You have never seen her before, yet feel a strange sort of connection to her.
Go to paragraph J.
G. You’re near scared to death, but somehow you manage to move your feet and bolt for your room, throwing the door open and slamming it behind you. His footsteps echo through the hallway behind you, and your heart rate quickens as they get closer. Tiptoeing out of your room and into the kitchen, you draw a knife out from its stand and grip it tightly in your fist.
Abruptly, the footsteps stop outside your door and you freeze, the knife in your hand. All you hear is a click and a jiggle before the door swings wide open and he stands just a few feet in front of you. Now there's nowhere to run, and all you have is a kitchen knife and your two fists. He lines up the already loaded pistol with your forehead and steadies it with his other hand. Fighting doesn't come naturally to you, but you put one foot in front of the other and charge anyway…
To be continued...
H. You can't risk it. If you get too close, he could line up a shot and you'd be a goner. Instead, you turn and run for the abandoned stairwell, throwing a creaky door open and stumbling down the steps. They're in surprisingly good condition for old stairs, you think, but your thoughts are interrupted when the door opens behind you and your neighbor barges in.
You're only halfway down the first flight and he's not slowing down, so you pick up the pace, dropping 2 stairs at a time. Soon enough, you reach the end of your level and look between the remaining two floors worth of stairs and the door leading to the second level of rooms. It wasn't the original plan, but if you exit the stable now, you might be able to shake him, although you never took the time to explore the other floors since you moved in about 2 or 3 weeks ago and you're not sure of what may lie ahead. Then again, even if you take the rest of the stairs down and get outside, you left your car keys on your dresser, and slippers in pajamas, you'll barely be out the door before he catches up. You'll have to choose quickly, he's coming up behind you…
To be continued…
I. Without a second thought, you bend over slightly and sink your teeth into his hand, the blood leaving a sour taste in your mouth. He cries out in pain and jerks his hand back. No one has to tell you to hurry.
You use the opportunity to punch through the netting and lower yourself feetfirst onto the edge of your roof. Since you live on the 3rd floor, the height and your perfectly imbalanced weight nearly make you topple over the edge, but you grip the bricks behind you as best you can and try your hardest not to look down.
Down on the streets below, people scream in excitement and pull out their phones to record. Your neighbor pokes his head out the window, and after carefully surveying the surroundings and the people on the ground, he stretches out his hand to you, offering you a chance to come back inside.
It too easily could be a trap. He was in your room for much longer after you stepped out on the ledge, and he could have done something inside. But the other option isn’t very attractive either.
You brace yourself and take a quick glance down at the spectators. If you jump, you could hoe for one of them to catch you, but if you jump tp far out or they don’t act in time, you’d be in more than one piece when you hit the ground.
The wind blows at your back and you teeter on the edge, just another reminder that you’ve never done anything like this before, and the odds are stacked against you. Looking between the street and the man, you make your choice…
To be continued…
J. “Who are you?” you ask her, your voice barely above a whisper. She pulls her knees to her chest and hugs them tight, tears stinging her eyes.
“My-my name is Madeline." She wipes her eyes and stands up, a bit wobbly on her feet. “Are you with him?” She says it with such disgust that you pity her.
“No,” you say, coming closer and stretching out your arms to hold her. “I’m from next door. He trapped me in here.”
A moment of silence, then you pipe up again. “Do you know his name? We never met.”
She stares at you for a moment, then turns her gaze to the ground and answers. “His name is Jack. Jack Anderson. I don’t know much about him either.”
You would call the police, but your phone is in your apartment. You sigh and look at your single fuzzy slipper, wondering how long she’s been here and how long you will be. Looking into her eyes, you pull her close. “It’s ok, Madeline. We’ll be fine.”
To be continued…