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Room 1C

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I lived in unit 1B in an apartment building. It was on the second floor, at the end of a hallway that leads to the other units, and I had the whole thing to myself. And for a while, it was pretty good. Quiet building, decent rent, no problems with the landlords or other tenants. But a couple of months ago, the unit right above me--1C--started to get noisy.

It sounded like a little kid playing and stuff, running around and all that. But the weird thing is, it only happened at night, around 11pm or later. I ignored it for as long as I could, but I have to get up early for work, so eventually I had to say something. One night when the kid was really loud, probably around midnight, I went upstairs and stood at 1C's door. Yup, he was definitely in there, running around and playing or something.

I knocked on the door, and right away, the kid stopped running. I guess it was one of those times when kids get caught doing something bad, they freeze up and play dumb. I actually smiled when I thought that, and I wasn't mad or anything... but no one answered the door. So I knocked again, and said, "Hey, could you please keep it down? I can't sleep."

No one answered. But the kid had stopped running, so whatever, I went back to my flat. As I left, I could have sworn I heard something... it was like a giggle, but combined with a series of rapid, low-pitched clicks. I ignored it and went to sleep.

But a few days later, the kid was back at it. All hours of the night he was running up and down, making a Hell of a racket. I didn't want to go and knock on the door again, so the next morning, I went to the management office in town. They gave me the paperwork to file a noise complaint, and I filled it out then and there. But as I handed it back to the lady at the front desk, she took one look at it, and said, "Umm... 1C is vacant."

I asked her what unit was above 1B, and she said 1C. And I was sure that was where the noise was coming from, but she checked her records, and sure enough, 1C was vacant. In fact, she still had the keys in a little set of cubbyholes behind her desk.

There were a couple of other people in the office, and they started to look at me like I was crazy. I didn't want to create a scene, so I left and did my best to ignore the kid, or whatever it was, for the next couple of days.

But one night I woke up, and not because the kid was making noise. Something wet was dripping onto my face. I got up and turned the lights on, and saw that the ceiling right above my bed was leaking water... really dusty, dirty water. I called management's emergency number and they sent a repairman over right away.

And I was pretty pissed off. My bed was soaked and filthy, I couldn't get back to sleep, and I had work in a couple of hours. So when the repairman came over, I went with him up to 1C. He had the keys, so we didn't have a problem  getting in.

There was about an inch of dust everywhere, and the moment we went in, it started to fly all over the place. I felt it coating my lips and the inside of my mouth and nose when I breathed. And it was pretty chilly, even though it was the middle of spring and probably seventy degrees outside. So me and the repairman pulled our shirts over our noses and headed through the living room and into the bedroom, which was right above my bedroom. There was a trail of water leading from the attached bathroom, and when we followed it, we saw that a faucet was on and the sink had overflowed.

I looked back in the living room. My footprints were there, and the repairman's, but that was it. We shut off the faucet and since the repairman didn't seem too interested in talking to me, I let him vacuum up the water and fix the floor by himself. But I had to know what was going on. Had someone broken in? There's a drainpipe right next to the window in the bedroom, and it faces an alley, so I opened the blinds to check it out.

But the window was locked from the inside, and it wasn't broken or anything. The only weird thing about it was that there was a single, dusty handprint on the inside pane, but the moment I breathed on it, it vanished. It was getting pretty early by then, so I headed out to get whatever sleep I could. I didn't see anything else in the unit, but I'm pretty sure I heard something clicking as I left. Maybe it was the floor.

I think something happened to the repairman, because we had a couple of issues in the building and management had to hire a contractor to fix them. He didn't come back until a while later, and even then he was coughing and wheezing all over the place. But things were quiet on my end, and I didn't have any more problems with 1C, not until a week or so after the water incident.

It was really loud that night. Like, really loud. It was like the kid was jumping up and down and stomping around. There was that weird giggling noise too, mixed with those low pitched clicks. I still have no idea what they were. Anyway, I had just about enough of it, so I stormed up to 1C and started to bang on the door. I shouted at whoever was in there to shut the fuck up and let me get some sleep, and that was when someone told me to calm down.

I must have woken up half the hallway, because they were all sticking their heads out of the doors and staring at me. I asked them if they heard anything, and they said no, 1C was vacant. I asked them if they were making any noise, and I must have cursed again, because they told me to go back to sleep or they were going to call the cops. I didn't really have a choice, so I did what they said.

The next morning, I went to management to thank them for dealing with all of my complaints. I apologized for the night before and promised that it wouldn't happen again, and then I gave them a box of donuts. The lady went to go and give it to the rest of the workers, and when they were picking out which ones they wanted, I reached over the desk and grabbed the keys to room 1C. I chatted with them for a few minutes and then headed to work.

I got a flashlight on my way home, and a surgical mask for the dust. I'm not sure what I meant to do, but that night, when I heard the little motherfucker stomping around again, I went up the stairs, put my mask on, unlocked room 1C, and went in. I left the door open to get in some light from the hall, but the entry to the suite is a tight turn, so it didn't do me much good. And when I went into the living room, it slammed shut behind me anyway.

It was really dusty in there. And really dark, I wouldn't have been able to see a thing without my flashlight. And the weird thing is, even though the windows were in the living room were closed, there was a lot of air moving around, it was making the dust fly all over the place. Even with my flashlight I couldn't see very far, because of all the dust. But I kept going. There was nothing in the living room, nothing in the closet, nothing in the kitchen. So I went to the bedroom.

The moment I stepped in, it got freezing cold. I could see my breath in the air, and the dust was still going nuts... but I went in a little further to take a look around. My flashlight died out--and that was weird, since I got the batteries that day--so I tried to turn on the lights. But of course the electricity had been shut off. The only light was from the streetlights through the gaps around the blinds.

I was having a tough time breathing. It was because of the surgical mask, so I took it off, but it was so dusty that it didn't make a difference one way or the other. And I was getting really, really cold, and  nothing was there, so I decided to go. I turned around, and that was when I a lot of dust gather in the air in front of me. It wasn't like when it was just floating, it was definitely collecting in the shape of something. But I couldn't see and I couldn't breathe, so I stepped aside to get some of the street light on it.

It was a face. A kid's face. It smiled for a minute, making that weird clicking sound, and then it started to float toward me. I tried to scream, but the dust got in my mouth, so I held my breath and shoved the kid--I definitely shoved something solid away--and I ran the fuck out of the bedroom and toward the door. But it was locked, and my key didn't work--and I heard footsteps behind me, light footsteps, and a kid giggling. When it got close, I kicked out as hard as I could, and then I managed to break the door down and get back into the hallway.

That got everyone out, and they were all looking at me like I was a freak. But I talked to an old lady about it later, and she said that when they saw how pale I was, and how hard I was struggling to breathe, they knew that something was wrong. I couldn't talk, I was coughing so much, so I just pointed at the door.

A couple of big guys went in to check it out. They didn't need flashlights, the lights worked just fine when they turned them on. They told me they saw footprints in the dust. Most of them were mine, but some of them were a lot smaller. And one of them said that just next to the door, there was a heavier layer of dust, and it was in the shape of a little kid.

I got an apartment down the street the next day. Management agreed to give me my security deposit back if they could rent 1B by the next month, so there were a bunch of people looking at it while I was moving my stuff out. One of them asked me if the other tenants were quiet, if there were any noisy kids or anything. I just said no. And he ended up taking the place.

I saw him at a bar yesterday. I asked him if it was still a quiet building, and he said yeah, for the most part. But some nights he hears something from the unit above him. I said, what, is it a little kid being loud or something? He said no. It's a little kid crying.

Written by Alex Ross.

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