Jess awoke from a fitful sleep. It took a few seconds for her to realize that she was not home in her nice cozy bed, but instead inside Maggie’s haunted apartment building. She lay on her side in the dark, looking at the closed bedroom door. All she heard was the distant drip of a faucet. Might as well get up, get a drink, and use the bathroom, she thought.
She pushed the stale smelling sheet aside and sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She stood and walked toward the door. When she opened it, a sense of dread came over her. What was it about this place? Oh, yeah, it is haunted, she thought to herself.
With only a T-shirt and underpants on, she walked into the living room. Diffuse white light from the landscape filtered into the apartment from the full moon hidden from view.
The oven light, left on for a nightlight, guided Jess’s path into the kitchen. She turned on the water faucet and rinsed the glass she had used to drink wine. The water sputtered as pockets of air escaped from the pipes. She found the kitchen light, turned it on, and noticed the water had a rusty color to it when she filled her glass. I am not drinking that; she muttered as he dumped out the water and took a can of pop out of the refrigerator.
The moon reflecting on the calm lake drew her attention as she walked back into the living room. It reminded her of the Vincent van Gogh painting Starry Night over the Rhone. While she stood there, looking out the window, she heard a noise in the hallway.
Letting her curiosity get the best of her, she quietly walked to the door and looked out the peephole. The hallway was dark, except for a small amount of light that rose through the stairwell from the floor below.
Was someone walking around out there? It was hard to tell, she could not see enough to make out anything. She stepped away from the door and was about to go to the bathroom when it sounded like someone touched the doorknob on the other side. Jess froze, paralyzed by fear. The door was locked; they had made sure of that before they went to sleep. But there was no deadbolt or chain lock. If someone had a skeleton key like Maggie’s, he or she would be able to walk right in.
Part of Jess wanted to run up, fling the door open, and surprise whoever was on the other side. But the other part of Jess was afraid of who, or what, may be there. She stared at the doorknob and when there were no further attempts to turn it, she ran into Maggie’s room.
“Maggie,” Jess whispered as she shook her shoulder. “Maggie, wake up.”
Maggie opened her eyes and looked at the clock on the end table. “Jess, it’s three in the morning. What’s going on?”
“Someone was just trying to get in your front door,” Jess said, turning on Maggie’s bedroom light.
“What?” Maggie rubbed her eyes. “Are you sure? Maybe you were dreaming.”
“I wasn’t dreaming,” Jess said, holding up the can of pop still in her trembling hand. “I was drinking this wide awake, not in my sleep.”
Maggie was alarmed. Who wanted to come into her apartment in the middle of the night? They walked into the living room and looked at the door. Silence.
“I’m afraid to look out the peephole,” Maggie said, crossing her arms from the chill in the air. “Someone might be looking back at me.”
“I looked through it earlier,” Jess whispered. “It’s too dark out there to see anything.”
Then they heard a door close.
“That sounded like it came from Debbie’s apartment,” Maggie said, looking at Jess.
“You should have Mr. Zimmerman put another lock on your door,” Jess said. She looked around the sparsely furnished living room for something heavy to push in front of the door, to keep whoever was trying to break-in, from getting inside. “We should put something in front of the door, at least until you get another lock.”
“The couch is the only thing,” Maggie said, walking to one end of an old, worn Florence Knoll Sofa. “Help me push it.”
They tugged on the long, mid-century couch. Its metal legs pulled on the rust-orange shag carpet until it was pressed against the wooden door.
“I feel a little safer,” Maggie said, walking back to her room.
“I don’t,” Jess said, closing her bedroom door.