I think I need to move again.
The doctor called it agoraphobia. I call it a rational reaction after being stalked for two years by an ex boyfriend. The moment he was finally jailed, I picked up everything and got out of there. Mom said I could move in with her, but I didn’t want her to see what I’d become.
The new apartment was across the state, cheap, and had plenty of delivery services. Once I entered that building, I resolved the closest I’d get to leaving it was to get the mail every other day. I worked from home, freelance writing. Unpredictable, at best, but I’d managed to get it to work for me.
The place was actually really nice at first glance. No cracks, no drafts. The stove worked like a charm. The fridge was cold. Heck, even the lightbulbs didn’t need changing. The building occasionally settled loudly, but it wasn’t too loud. Maintenance made sure this place was nice.
Neighbors weren’t too off either, although I only talked to one of them- an old lady who had lived there since the place was built. A widow, had a fat ugly cat, and she brought me chocolate chip cookies that tasted even better than my mom’s shortly after I moved in. I never invited her in, but she was kind. She even brought me my mail sometimes. I figured this place was the perfect place for the new start I wanted.
At first I blamed it on the open window during a rainstorm. I’d come into the room and found the wall next to my bed dripping water. I hadn’t remembered leaving the window open, but I was pretty scatterbrained once I got relaxed in this place. I just closed the window and wiped down the wall, resolving to be more careful.
Then I noticed that wall dripped a lot. Not like a leak from the apartment above. It was like condensation on a bottle, the walls would just grow little beads of water and drip. I complained to the landlord, but unsurprisingly, he told me the building ‘just did that sometimes’. Ass.
Around the fifth time this happened, some of the water got in my mouth. I was just wiping down the wall, it had gotten exceptionally wet this time, and some just flicked into my mouth. I gagged, it tasted like… sweat.
It tasted exactly like sweat.
Disgusting, but I rationalized this wasn’t too strange. Maybe it was the paint that gave the condensation that salty taste. Nothing too strange. I just had a wall… that sweated.
Then came the day I hit my head. I had tripped on a rug and knocked myself across the forehead on the cupboard. I fetched an icepack from the freezer and stumbled into my room, deciding to screw the rest of the work day and just lie down.
I had flopped down and the ice pack slipped from my fingers, landing against the dripping wall…
And the building sighed.
It was a genuine sigh of relief. Like when you stumble from the hot outdoors into the cool air conditioning of home.
I yelped and snatched away the ice pack, wondering if I had given myself a concussion. The wall was silent. Slowly, I slid the ice pack across the bed and pressed it against the wall.
The wall moved. Slouched, more like. Relaxed, with the ice pack pressed against it.
I was shaking. I wanted to scream, and cry. Instead I just lied down and pretended I was dreaming.
The next morning I did a first- I left my apartment and went to the old woman’s room.
Her ugly cat insisted on snuggling with me, and the old lady got me milk and cookies. After the typical small talk, how work was going, the weather, how her health was, I finally decided to bring it up.
“So, last night I had something kinda weird happen here. Have the walls ever… sighed? Like, made a sound like sighing, at least?” I felt like an idiot.
The woman’s milky eyes looked up in surprise, before she smiled wide. “So you notice it too. It’s been a long time since someone’s put it together. So long, honey, so long.”
I blinked owlishly. “Ma’am, I’m not sure what you mean.”
The cat jumped off my lap and ran into the bedroom. The woman watched him go and sighed, eerily sounding like my bedroom wall. “This place is special, dearie. The original landlord made a deal with the devil, you see.”
“A deal with the devil?” Maybe it wasn’t the wisest idea to come to a person who likely had dementia and didn’t know me from her grandchildren.
She bobbed her head up and down, quite pleased. “Yes! To get the money to build this place! But it’s not a bad thing, this place only has a deal with the landlord. He refuses to step foot in this place, try and call him, you’ll see. But this place has a few quirks, I’d suppose. Just treat this place with kindness, and it will pay that back. Your neighbors on your right, they always keep the heat so high! Makes the building uncomfortable. I swear on my father’s grave, they’re gonna pay for that soon.”
I left back to my room feeling distinctively uncomfortable.
I had to know the truth though.
I started a routine where every night. I’d get frozen water bottles out of the fridge and the ice packs and start pressing them against the wall. It certainly helped the wall’s sweating, although the sighs were still unsettling.
But sure enough, the building started to pay me back. I’d find that the oven was preheating when I wanted to make dinner, I’d find coupons in my mail box, the carpet was always clean, little things like that. I even left the room once to get another water bottle and I came back to find that my laptop was booted up and plugged in, my writing program up and ready to go.
The building did take care of me.
In more ways than one.
My mom called me the moment my ex was released from prison. Apparently good behavior while locked up was good enough to let him go free, with community service.
I ran to the bathroom and immediately threw up. When I was done coughing up stomach acid, I looked up on the counter to find antacid tabs and a cold washcloth.
“Thank you.” I croaked, taking the washcloth and draping it around my neck, throwing the pills down my throat to calm my sick tummy. “I… I really hope this isn’t too much to ask, but… I’m scared. I’m so scared he’s going to come find me.”
The building made a groan, but this groan was sad. Like the place actually pitied me. I felt crazy, but I kept babbling. “Just don’t let him in the building. Please. I know the doors are locked, but please, please make sure he stays away.”
I heard the click of my deadbolt and the sliding of the chain on the door. And then the poof of the oven turning on, and something falling out of the fridge. I walked out to see a pack of cookie dough that my elderly neighbor had given me sitting on the floor.
I made myself some cookies and curled up the couch in a blanket to watch television. I didn’t have a subscription, but apparently the building didn’t care, it let me watch trash TV all night. I fell asleep and felt perfectly safe.
Exactly one week later, my ex found me. I heard singing outside my window and my heart stopped. I glanced outside to see him, walking down the parking lot, looking right at my window. How did he know? How did he know?
The window slammed shut and the building… growled. Like a mad dog.
I could still hear him yelling though.
“I got out on good behavior, baby! I’m a whole new man! Let me in, we can talk, I promise, I can make your life so much better…”
Again, the building growled. And then I heard it speak. Clear as day.
‘Get into bed. I’ll take care of him.’
Didn’t need to tell me twice, hiding under the quilts felt childish, but good. He wouldn’t get in. He wouldn’t get in.
I heard the smashing of the glass door that was closest to my room.
Then I heard him scream.
The next morning, the cops knocked on my door.
Apparently my ex was drunk, and after breaking the glass, fell forward and his throat was cut open by the shards still sticking out of the door. I could smell the blood in the air. I told them I was in bed, asleep with the help of medication. I didn’t even hear him.
Thanking me for my help, they left.
I sat in my living room, sipping the cup of tea that had been left for me on the counter.
My stalker was dead. I had taken care of the building, and the building had taken care of me.
Now you’re probably wondering why I’m thinking about leaving.
Last night I heard the building growl again. And then the neighbors who always had the heat turned too high started to scream.
I’m still thinking about it, but I think it might be irritating to wake up to screams every time someone doesn’t respect the building. Might be worth waiting it out though. They just need to learn.