As Maggie transitioned from sleep to wakefulness, she crossed her arms and felt her damp skin. She did not remember feeling any pain when the boat in her dream exploded. It was as if her soul had left the body before the rapid combustion scattered pieces of flesh and bone over the agitated water.
She sat up. Night sweats had soaked her shirt with perspiration. Anxiety from the flashback, she thought. Fortunately, she had stuffed another shirt and pair of underpants into her backpack before leaving her apartment yesterday. However, she still needed her phone charger. After she showered, she would go up to her apartment, get it, and then leave this place, for the last time.
When Maggie had finished showering, she walked into the living room. Ethel was still snoring on the couch. A thin line of drool ran from her mouth, down her cheek, and onto the pillow.
“Ethel, are you awake?” Maggie wanted to let her know that she was going up to her apartment, but Ethel was out. Too much booze and pills, she thought. She would come back down when she finished and leave a note for Ethel if she were still not awake.
Maggie held her apartment key in her hand as she walked out of Ethel’s door. The storm had passed, and the sun was shining; there were no signs of Bruce, Debbie, or Susie. She closed the door and walked to Mr. Zimmerman’s office; he was not there. I should speak with him before I leave, she thought.
She looked toward the staircase. Was it safe to climb? She tiptoed toward it. Maybe she should wait for Ethel to wake up and have her go with her to get the rest of her belongings. However, she knew Ethel would not go with her because she did not want her to go back into the apartment. Maggie kept walking toward the stairs, looking up at the second floor and listening. There were no sounds of people, or spirits, moving around; only the sound of occasional clicks and taps in the walls.
The summer sun cast warm rays into the building, making her think that it had the capability of repelling evil. Just as fictional vampires exposed to sunlight will spontaneously combust, maybe these spirits would react the same way. Had she seen them in the sunlight? They were always inside the building. Then she thought, there is no such thing as vampires, and even if there were, these lost souls were not vampires.
Maggie reached the top step on the second floor and looked over at her apartment door; it was closed. She looked up the next flight of stairs leading to the third floor and Mr. Zimmerman’s apartment. Maybe she should speak with him first, tell him she was moving out, and then come down and get the rest of her things.
She walked around to the third flight and looked toward the top. She had never been on the third floor. One light foot at a time, she climbed the stairs. If it were not for the sound of the soles of her shoes grinding dirt into the wood steps, there was no sound. She felt alone in the building. All alone and frightened.
When she reached the top floor, she noticed a sign next to an apartment door with the superintendent’s name on it. That must be Mr. Zimmerman’s apartment.
She walked across the hall and knocked gently on the door, not wanting to draw attention to the fact she was upstairs.
There was no answer. She knocked again, this time a little louder. Still no answer. Where was Mr. Zimmerman? He has not been answering his phone or in his office. Maybe he was hurt or sick and needed help, she thought, as she turned his doorknob. The door opened.
“Mr. Zimmerman, it’s Maggie,” she said from the doorway. “Are you home?”
There was no answer. She would need to go inside and check on him. Maybe he had a stroke or a heart attack and was lying ill on the floor. She walked inside the L-shaped living room. His apartment was larger than hers was, she thought as she called his name again.
The living room had magazines stacked on the floor next to a recliner and smelled of rotten meat. A TV tray with a half-eaten plate of food sat next to it. When she walked closer, she noticed flies on the food and the stench of something more rotten than a TV dinner.
Her heart pounded rapidly; she knew something was wrong because the bit of food on the plate could not cause the gagging odor filling his apartment. She forced herself to look around the corner of the room toward the bedroom. The door was open. She kept her hands over her nose as she walked closer. When she looked inside, she screamed. Mr. Zimmerman was lying face down with all four limbs tied taut to the legs of his bed. Whoever did this to the poor man did not stop there; they had taken something sharp and stabbed his back repeatedly.
Maggie was shaking as she searched for Mr. Zimmerman’s phone. Finding a wall phone by the kitchen, she picked it up and dialed 9-1-1. As she spoke with the dispatcher, she heard someone climbing the stairs.
“I hear someone,” she whispered, looking toward the open apartment door.