I glare at the twelve inch wall separating our apartments, recalling the words I devised all day at work to confront her. One giant step to her door.

You can do this.

The brass knocker is cool, lighter than it looks. I lift and release.

Leaning my ear to the door, the only sounds are a television at the far end of the hallway, whirring elevator mechanisms and a bark in the distance. I put my eye to the peephole. Odd angles and blurred images. I knock harder with repetition. Nothing. I turn the knob. The door releases.

"Hello. It's your neighbor, Nate." I stutter through the crack.

I open wider and call out again. My voice has more bass.

A fluttering curtain from the kitchen window fills the neat room with warm air. Against her living room wall; mine is on the other side; a state-of-the-art exercise bike with screen attached, rack of multiple sized dumbbells and rolled mat. The equipment does not look out-of-place behind two leather sofas facing each other, a rectangle coffee table between them.

My imagination pictured something different. I advance further, ignoring my jiggling bowels.

In the kitchen I find no dishes in the sink, empty beer bottles or food containers on the counters. The refrigerator bare, except for a calendar magnet.

Her layout like mine but goes from West to East. I tip down the hallway. Thankfully, I wore soft bottoms, my pulse pounding in my ears.

The made bed did not have clothes strewn upon it. All items on her dresser and nightstand organized. There isn't even dust.

Something must be in the bathroom. It smelled fresh, like she just showered. But the towel hanging on a hook looked dry. I untucked my shirt, undo several bottom buttons, cover my hand and open the medicine cabinet. No illegal drugs.

The front door opens and shuts. Frozen in the threshold with no place to hide, I hold my breath, weighing my options. Idiot.

Soft music plays. I think it's jazz. Someone tramples in the hall. My limbs jerk. Should I introduce myself? I walk out with my arms raised.

She lunges at me, baring her teeth, eyes wild, and rams a metal rod into my chest.

My body twitches, stiffens and twitches again before I crumble. Liquid drips from my mouth. Her angry face swims above me. I say something incoherent. Darkness.

I come to lying on the floor between the kitchen and living room. My arms are behind me, wrists and ankles bound. Nails pierce my skull, my mouth taste of vomit and my crouch is damp.

"What have you done to me?"

"The police are on the way." She gulps from a designer bottle. Her triceps flex.

I swallow and gag. "Can I have some water?"

"No." She slams the bottle on the counter.

"My name is Nate. I live next door." Wiggling causes pain in my chest. "I need medical assistance."

"Tell it to the cops." She brushes the curtain aside and glances out the window.

"How did you know I was here?"

Her nose scrunches. "You stink."

"No way."

"Be quiet!" She snatches a roll of duct tape and waves the silver circle at me. "Or I will quiet you." She returns to the window.

"I meant no harm. I knocked."

She whirls around, her nostrils flaring. "Then let yourself in?"

"I'm your neighbor. Wallet and keys are in my back pocket. "

"I've never seen you."

She is right. I've only seen her profile and top of head a handful of times. On those occasions, I greeted her, and she responds with a nod. Her head bowed to her phone. Seeing her entire face now makes me gushy.

"I came over to discuss the sounds coming from your living room. Last night was the worse. Since you moved in three months ago, I hear shouts most nights. Moans on others. Both woke me last night. You want to know what I did."

"Don't care." She rolls her eyes.

"I put a glass to my ear and pressed it against the wall. Only heard mumbling. Then something heavy hit the floor, vibrating the wall. The glass slipped from my hand, shatters, skittering pieces across my hardwood. For an hour, I swept and searched for clear specks, cringing at the raised voice. I thought about calling 911but I didn't nor could I fall back to sleep."

My story had no effect on her. She continued to alternate between glancing out the window or her smart watch.

"They're here!"

"What's your name?"

"None of your business."

She shuffles around me, stands by the door until they knock.

"Here's the intruder."

A pair of officers stare at me. Although one tries to keep a straight face, a lopsided smile is plastered on the others lips. I feel like the star carnival attraction. The officers unbind, help me to my feet and hold me until I am steady. I produce my ID.

The serious officer took out my license and examined. "Mr. Atkins, why did you break in?" He smelled of stale coffee.

"The door was not locked. I shouldn't have entered but my curiosity. I thought mischievous happenings were taking place over here. They outweighed my common sense."

"What events caused you to respond in such a way?"

"Noise." I place my hands over my ears. "Three months ago she moved in and almost every night shouting wakes me."

"I don't know what he's talking about."

The officers scrutinize her.

"Miss, did you leave your door unlocked?" The officer asks.

"Is that a crime?"

"The lock is there to protect you and your property."

"When inside, it's locked. But when I leave… If I arrive home with my arms full, why should I have to search for keys?"

A logical assumption, but the officers don't appear convinced.


"Call me Nate." I point to the license in his hand.

"Nate, we are going to take you to the precinct."

"No. That's unnecessary. I didn't steal or harm anything. I wanted to ensure she was alright. What's happening to her? She attacked me and tied me up."

"She's coming as well." The officer said.

"Wait a minute, just wait a minute. I was defending myself."

They escort us out, making sure she locked the door. We shuffle to the elevator. When the car arrives, Mr. Stone, the floor nosy neighbor, exits.

"Hey, what's going on?"

"This man broke into my apartment said he wanted to talk about the noise."

Mr. Stone burst out laughing. "Alicia, I told you those late night workouts would cause trouble."

May 28, 2021 14:49

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.