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The Apartment Up the Stairs...

A Presence Felt (2000.09.20)

Somebody’s been in my apartment. I’m sure of it. And it scares the hell out of me. I’ll start at the beginning.

Work has slowed down some. We’ve got a new assistant to help me. But like the assistants that have gone before, I don’t think this one will stick around much longer. They either get fired for not being productive enough, or they quit because they can’t take the stress. But for the past two days Frank has been helping out.

So today I got to leave work earlier. Instead of going to the Denny’s down the block like I usually do (I usually go back to work after dinner), I decided to pick something up on the way home. But on the way home I had the urge to go to the bathroom. I knew it would wait, and instead of just stopping somewhere (for “sit-downs” I prefer my toilet over some unsanitary public one) I went straight home first.

It’s been a while since I’ve been home this early. The old man down stairs wasn’t laughing his ass off at Jeopardy!, and the stairway was more well lit from the outside light. When I got inside I rushed straight to the bathroom and got to business. And that’s when something felt wrong. Terribly wrong.

Have you ever had the feeling that someone else was there with you? Like how you can sense when someone walks up behind you. I think we just have this subconscious sense of other humans around us, or something like that. But tonight it was worse. I was sitting on the toilet, and it felt like there was somebody inside my shower, just on the other side of the shower curtain. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rose. I began to get goosebumps all over. My whole body froze with terror as I tried to pay attention to any sign that there might be somebody on the other side of that shower curtain. Except for the bathroom fan (and my heart beginning to beat in my ears) the place was quiet. That would normally be good as I was trying to listen to see if I could hear if somebody was breathing. But all I could hear was the bathroom fan. I tried to see, but the shower curtain is completely opaque.

All the horror movies began to run through my head. Was there somebody in there, no more than two feet away from me. Was this person going to jump out at me with a knife, an ax, a gun, or a chainsaw. I was waiting for anything to happen. Anything. But this waiting, this anticipation, just made me more scared and made me believe even more that there was somebody, something, or some it standing there, inside my shower, waiting.

I suddenly broke from this as my cheeks began to get sore from sitting. It still felt like there was somebody in my shower, but I had to get off the toilet. Slowly and quietly I finished and washed my hands. As I went to leave I made sure that it sounded like I was leaving. I opened the door, I turned off the light (thus turning off the fan), and I walked out of the bathroom. But I stopped just outside of the door, with my feet on the soft carpeting. I kept my head poked inside the bathroom trying to hear anything. Expecting that this person would think I was gone, make a movement, and I would hear them. I waited, listening.

After a while I stopped listening. I thought that I had heard something like a sigh or a heavy (but trying to remain quiet) exhale, but that could have just been me or my imagination. By now I was getting really hungry. I figured that if there was somebody in there, the could be just as scared as I now was. Like if a burglar broke in, heard me arrive home, and then quickly hid in the shower. He could be just as scared of getting caught as I am that there is somebody in there. If that was the possibility, than I wanted to provide this person with time to leave. I decided to go out now and get something to eat (I would eat at wherever I went). But first I had to set a trigger. I knelt down to the floor and scooped up some a clump of hair from the carpet (damn it’s been a long time since I’ve vacuumed) and I spread it across the tile ridge between the bathroom and hallway. It was light enough that if anybody left the bathroom, it would be disturbed by the wind and will move from where I placed it. When that was done I left my apartment to get dinner.

Now comes the part where I know somebody was in my apartment.

When I got home from dinner (a good hour later), the first thing I did was head to the bathroom to see if that clump of hair was still there. It wasn’t. Half of it was outside the bathroom and the other half was lying diagonally almost back into the bathroom. Somebody was here. And somebody left the bathroom after me. Full of anger and fear—and a sense that whoever it was had left—I rushed into the bathroom and threw the shower curtain open. For a brief second (which in fear is enough for your life to flash before your eyes) I expected somebody to be standing there. But there was no one and there was nothing. Everything looked normal. Everything but that clump of hair I set.

After that I left the shower curtain open. And then I went about inspecting my apartment. No other hiding places, and nothing seemed missing. I tried to watch TV (will all the lights on in my apartment) to settle my mind. Now I’m writing this, to get it off my chest and maybe help settle my nerves some more. I’ll be going to sleep soon, but I’ll be leaving all the lights on.

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