Just two months ago, I moved into my new apartment – a building fresh out of construction. While I enjoyed most aspects of the apartment including the capacious lobby and exotic chandeliers, the elevators proved to be of infinite irritation. They were extremely slow, and particularly so on the 23th floor. I swear, if you look at the number display, you can literally see that it takes longer than it should for you to get from the 23th floor to the 24th. This probably didn’t bother the other tenants so much since I was the only other tenant living on the 24th floor, which is the penthouse, beside an old man.
One day while I was returning home from work, I saw 2 people who looked like technicians walk out of one of the elevators. It turned out there were something wrong with the motors, but they fixed it.
I walked into the elevator, pressed the button for my floor, and stared numbly into the LED display.
“19…20…21…here we go again…22…twentiiiii…”
Before I could finish saying twenty three, the elevator stopped. All the lights shut off except for a really dim orange light bulb right on top of me and a now flickering LED panel. All I can see beside the flashing red “23” were faint images of myself from the mirrors installed on the walls.
“Oh no, no, no. what’s going on?” I instantly panicked. I had a history of claustrophobia, and this is making me freak out. I pressed the emergency button again and again, but nothing happened.
I couldn’t just stay in there. The space was too small. And it seemed like all the images of myself were staring and laughing at me.
I had to get out.
The LED display said 23, so if I forced the door open, I could probably just jump out. I did exactly that, and let me tell you, it was a mistake.
Instead of the warm and colorful carpet and the bright chandeliers that decorated all other floors, all I could see was dark gray cement and what seemed like saw dust.
“What the hell?” I said to myself.
It seemed like I have stumbled into a floor which I never even knew existed. This floor looked very ugly and unfinished. There was not a single door installed. What’s more strange was this piercing stench that filled the hall way. I stumbled around in the dark, trying to locate the stairwell. But to my surprise, there was none. Even when I reached both ends of the hall way, I could not find a door which opens up to the stairs. Where there were supposed to be a metal door, all I could see was cement.
I walked back to the elevators, and tried to press the buttons. But there was response whatsoever.
This is when I really started to freak out. There is an extra floor in my building? And I can’t get out of it?
Now I understand. When I was running down the stairwell once because the elevator wasn’t working, I counted 25 floors instead of 24. I didn’t miscount. There are actually 25 floors in my building, I just never noticed. Why is this floor unfinished? Why did they go through so much trouble of hiding it? And why is there such a horrible smell in this floor?
Oh. The smell… it was horrible. Once I remember the smell I just couldn’t get my mind off of it. I had to find where it was coming from. I followed it, and walked into a particularly small room. It was obviously intended for children. Too bad it was never finished. As I took another step, I stepped onto something really soft. I bent down to pick it up, and noticed that it was a badly damaged teddy bear. As I brought it closer to my face, I realized that this was the source of the stench. Fighting back the urge to puke, I looked around this tiny room. To my utter horror, I noticed a scarily white shimmer beside my left foot. Instinctively, I pulled out my cell phone and used it as a source of light to verify the origin of this shimmer. “Holy shit!!!” I gasped. What I saw was the body of a boy, half-decomposed. The shimmer came from the spot where his finger bone was exposed. I jerked back, dropping the teddy bear and my phone. When the phone tumbled to the ground, it radiated light on the corpse from an eerie angle; at that very instant, the rotten face of the deceased seemed to smile at me - a greeting from hell.
I turned my back and started running like there was no tomorrow. Darkness grew as I strode desperately away from the dreadful sight. Before I could realize that I had lost my directions, a “thump” sound came abruptly. Everything went black.
Light slowly returned. I struggled to open my eye lids, only to find myself in a foreign environment. As I turned my head to the left, my eyes locked in with those of the old man, who, like I said before, also lives on the 24th floor. He looked attentively at me while caressing the teddy bear in his hands. Silence. Finally, the old man broke the ice: “David, how does your head feel? It got banged up pretty bad when I found you.” Following his words, I pressed lightly on my forehead. Swelling and sting was all I could feel. Damn, I probably ran into a wall trying to escape. Before I managed a single word, the old man continued: “I understand that you have just been through a lot, and you have questions that demand answers. Relax, young man, I will explain everything.”
“I used to have a grandson. His name was Berry. Berry was the angel of my life; he gave me happiness and solace after both his parents died in a car accident. He was also a playful boy who especially enjoyed hide and seek. The afternoon before this year’s Easter holiday, he went hide and seek with his usual pals. But, he, he never came back. Neither the police nor his friends could find poor Berry.” I saw tears dripping out of the old man’s eyes. “I think by now you would have guessed. Yes, the boy you saw on that cursed floor was my grandson Berry. Oh the child must have been scared; he was trapped in this god-forsaken apartment for an entire four days without food and water, and his only company was this toy.” He squeezed the teddy bear.
“The workers that discovered his body were so shocked that they refused to continue. The construction company did not want the police to be involved, so they tried to cover up the entire incident. But the stench was too great, so they decided to hide the entire floor with cement and some tricks on the elevator. They thought no one knew. But I figured it out a long time ago. That’s why I moved into this building as soon as it was finished. I had to be with my grandson. I had to see him myself every day.”
Wiping the tears off his face, the old man’s face suddenly contorted: “And when I find those bastards that did this to my Berry. I’m going to kill them all! I’m going to kill them one by one! I’m going to gut them for what they did!”
And then he suddenly stopped, and stared blankly at me.
“So I guess you know my secret now. It won’t be safe for me to let you go. I’m sorry. But you’ll have to be the first one to join my Berry.” As he finished his words, he drew out a shiny knife from his back, and raised his hands high above my head.
I yelled at the top of my pitch and pushed him away from the bed. I sprinted out of the room as quickly as I could. I didn’t look back. I didn’t dare to. I just kept running, down the stairwell, out of the lobby, and on to the dimly lit streets. I kept running until I was sure that I had no followers.
The next day, I went to the police and told them about the old man. When they came to my apartment, they were able to locate the half-decomposed body of the child. But where the old man lived, they could not find anything besides a few pieces of furniture.
The police advised me to move far away from here. And I did. I bought a house in a small town with some money from my parents and loans from the bank. I found a new job and made new friends, and I tried my hardest to live a normal life. Though I can never forget what I saw that night, I haven’t seen anything remotely strange for years.
You might be wondering then, why am I telling you all this? I just have to let someone know what happened. Someone must know. Because last night, in front of my door steps, I found a dirty, stench-covered teddy bear.