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It Lurks Behind The Shade (1 of 3)

Never Open the Window

By Matthew SpinelliPublished 10 days ago Updated 6 days ago 13 min read
Top Story - July 2024

"Alright, so this is the living room. This is the largest one-bedroom apartment we have available. It comes with a kitchen," the red-haired woman explains as she guides me through the space. Her voice is chipper, and she flashes me a warm smile. She is wearing a neatly pressed blouse, round glasses, and a badge around her neck that reads "Lena."

I nod, taking in the spacious living room with its large windows letting in plenty of natural light. "And what's the rent on this one?" I ask, already bracing myself for the answer. This is the second apartment Lena has shown me, located on the third floor. The first one was well outside my budget.

"About $1150 a month," she responds cheerfully.

I can't hide my disappointment. "Oh... This one is a little out of my budget, too. Do you, maybe, have anything smaller?"

"We have a couple of studios on the fourth floor that are open," she offers, her smile faltering slightly.

"What's the rent on those?"

"About $800 a month," she says, her tone still bright but with a hint of sympathy.

I let out a sigh, feeling crestfallen. "I think I'm going to need to look elsewhere. I don't think I'll be able to afford anything here, especially if those are what the studios cost. I'm a broke college kid."

This was the fourth apartment complex I’d visited this month. I was hunting for a place so I could get out of my childhood bedroom in my parents' basement. I'd quit my job recently, and they were getting on my case about getting a new one or going back to college. Lena, sensing my disappointment, shifts uncomfortably.

"Well... there is one other unit available. I can show you. The rent is a lot lower." She seems uneasy as she mentions it.

"What do you mean by 'a lot lower'?" I ask, my curiosity piqued.

"....$200 a month," she says hesitantly.

I raise an eyebrow. "Is it a broom closet?"

"No," she replies quickly, shaking her head.

"Well, if it's that cheap, no harm in at least taking a look," I say, intrigued.

"Okay, follow me, Clark." Lena leads me down the two flights of stairs we had previously climbed back to the first floor. We walk past several doors before coming to one at the end of the hall on the left. The letters and numbers across the door read 16-A. She pulls a separate key ring from her pocket and selects a key that looks older than the others. The lock appears to hesitate to click, like it hadn't been unlocked for a long time, as she turns the key and pushes open the door.

I let out the breath I’d been holding. I had expected something faded or destroyed, but this was nothing of the sort. The apartment is clean and surprisingly well-maintained. As we do a walk-through, I become more and more excited.

"Bathroom! Two bedrooms! Kitchen!" She points out the various rooms. She appears to be trying to match the enthusiasm she had when showing me the other apartments, but there's something a little off in her tone.

The front door opens directly into the living area. To the left of the living room is the kitchen. The door that leads to the bathroom is to the right of the kitchen door. On the left side are two doors that each appear to lead into a bedroom. The floor is carpeted, and the walls are all painted white.

Along the wall opposite the entrance, from the bathroom to the first bedroom door, are three windows, one of which has the shade drawn. From the two windows without shades drawn, you can see out into an alleyway along the side of the apartment complex, a small space with a faded brick wall.

"This is a two-bedroom?" I ask, amazed.

"Yes," she confirms.

"And the rent is $200 a month, not $2000 a month?" I ask suspiciously.

"Yes," she says, her voice steady but her eyes betraying a hint of nervousness.

"Alright... What's the catch?" She seems to have been expecting that question.

"We haven't been able to keep the apartment rented out for longer than two months."

"With rent that low? Is it infested with cockroaches or something?" I ask, looking around. Everything looks too clean, and this is too nice of an apartment complex for that.

"No, no cockroaches," she assures me, though her smile falters slightly. "There are a couple of... minor things though."

"And what are those?"

"Well, first... since we have had so much trouble keeping this place rented out, my boss has told me if I manage to rent it out again, the tenant has to agree to stay at least a year."

"That seems... understandable," I respond, silently thinking that meant I could get out of my parents' house sooner. "What else?"

She takes a deep breath and points to a window in the middle of the living room, the one window that has the shade drawn over it.

"You must always keep that particular window shut at night. Honestly, I'd recommend leaving it closed with the shade drawn at all times," she says, her voice steady but her unease obvious.

"Why?" I ask, bewildered. "Someone going to crawl in through that window specifically?"

"No... but... it's... I'd... rather not say." Any air of enthusiasm she had was gone, genuine fear replacing it. "Let's just say... it's bad luck."

I take a deep breath, weighing my options. I can't afford anything else in the city, and $200 a month is a steal, weird window be damned. Besides, I'm not superstitious. "I'll take it," I say firmly.

Lena looks both relieved and worried. "Alright, Clark. Let’s get the paperwork started. When can you sign the lease and when do you want to move in?"

"As soon as possible," I confirm.

***************

"Honey, this is just amazing!" my mom, Frances—or Fran—proclaimed as she walked through the apartment, her voice echoing slightly in the empty space. Behind her, the moving men were carefully maneuvering a couch through the doorway.

"How are you renting all of... this for so little again?" my dad, Clark Sr., asked, poking his head into the kitchen area. He looked around with a mixture of amazement and skepticism. They had been ecstatic to hear I got rent so cheap but insisted I did not move in until I had some furniture.

They'd called around to various relatives and managed to get me a loveseat, a couch, and a couple of armchairs. Everything was used, of course, but it was better than nothing. It would also be far better than coming home to a completely empty apartment. The kitchen came with a fridge and an oven, so no worries there. I was taking my bed from home until I could get a better one. The complex also provided Wi-Fi, which saved me a bill.

"Oh... I guess there is a lot of noise, and this room is above the furnace, and you can hear a lot of engines and loud music from cars on the road behind the building," I lied, shrugging nonchalantly. I had elected not to inform my parents about the freaky window. At best, they wouldn't believe it; at worst, it would freak them out.

"People are crazy. Not staying in an apartment this size over some noise," Clark Sr. rolled his eyes.

"Their loss is our boy’s gain," Fran clapped her hands excitedly. "I think you’re going to love it here."

"Thanks, Mom," I said, feeling slightly awkward but grateful. My parents helped me move in a few of the small items I had brought from home while the moving guys handled the big stuff. I couldn’t help but steal a glance at the window with the drawn shade. What about that window could have made this place so undesirable?

As we finished up, my parents stood in the middle of the living room, surveying the space. "You’ve got a real nice setup here, son. Missing a TV though. I'll see if anyone has an old one," my dad said, clapping a hand on my shoulder.

"Yeah, I think it’s going to be great," I replied, trying to sound more confident than I felt.

"Let's get some more natural light in here so we can get a real look. Why is this shade even closed?" my mom said, opening the shade that covered the creepy window. I bit my tongue as I couldn't think of any reason to keep the shade closed that wouldn't give away the warning I'd received from Lena.

The view from that particular window was not better or worse than any of the others. It still looked out along the same alleyway at the side of the building at a faded brick wall.

Once the movers had left, my parents ordered pizza, and we celebrated my new apartment. Our celebration went fairly late for my parents, almost nine o'clock. After my parents had given their final hugs and well-wishes and left, I stood alone in my new apartment for the first time.

I yawned, exhausted from the move. I headed toward my room and prepared for bed, the warning about keeping the shade drawn on the window forgotten.

I woke up in the middle of the night and sat up in bed, taking in the unfamiliar surroundings. It took me a minute to remember that I was staying in my own apartment. I checked my phone with a yawn and saw it was around four a.m. I got up, pulled open my bedroom door to head to the bathroom, and froze in my tracks, almost peeing myself before I even took a step out.

There was a shadow being cast through the window onto the living room floor. It was an oddly shaped shadow. My mind raced through everything I'd seen in the alley, but the alley had been completely empty. There was little doubt in my mind it was being cast by a person standing on the other side of one of my windows. My heart throbbed in my chest; my first day in my own apartment, and it was going to be broken into?

base image AI generated by craiyon.com (edited)

I stood there unmoving, watching the shadow on the floor intently, waiting for any sign of movement. I could hear the wind blowing outside, and the shadow remained as still as a statue, confirming my fears that it was indeed a person.

I'm not sure how long I stood there before closing my bedroom door. Sacrificing my need to go to the bathroom, I turned the lock on the knob and returned to my bed. I had chosen the bedroom on the right side because it had no windows, so I wouldn't have to worry about the sun.

I regretted that decision now, as I had no way to see outside to sneak a peek at whatever mysterious entity could be standing on the other side of my living room window. A shiver ran down my spine as I debated calling the cops, but ultimately decided not to, in case it was nothing. I lay there awake until I heard the first birds chirping, indicating it was morning.

My nerves steeled by the daylight, I climbed out of bed and opened my locked door. Much to my relief, and confirming my fears, the shadow was no longer being cast on the floor, allowing me to make my way to the bathroom finally. With my bladder relieved, I headed back to bed where I eventually fell into an uneasy sleep.

********************

The next day, after I got up, I walked over to the windows and looked out into the empty alley. There was nothing I could see from my windows that resembled the shadow. I threw on my shoes, desperate to try to piece something together to ease my mind. I headed out the back door of the complex and looked down the alley.

base image AI generated by craiyon.com (edited)

There wasn't even so much as a dumpster. It was just an empty alley. With a heavy heart, I walked through it, past the window of the spare bedroom, until I stood in front of the three windows that looked into my living room. I stood in front of each of them to see if I cast a shadow onto the carpeted floor.

Doing some rough approximations based on where my own shadow was positioned, realization dawned upon me: the shadow could have only been coming through the middle window. The window I had been instructed to always keep closed, and advised to keep the shade drawn. I could feel my heart in my throat. Until that moment, I hadn't taken Lena completely seriously.

I considered calling her and asking for more information but tucked that idea away, opting to avoid that awkward conversation for now. I thought about calling my friend Dexter and asking him to stay the night but decided against it as well. Maybe I was just being silly and this shadow thing was just in my head. Regardless, when I went back inside, I closed the shade over that window... just in case.

My day, other than that, was rather uneventful. Without a TV, I spent most of it on my laptop. As much as I wanted to sit in the living room, I found myself unable to keep my back to the window, so I stayed in my bed, watching videos. Before I knew it, the day was over and night had fallen. I yawned and headed to the kitchen to make dinner for myself.

As I pan-fried chicken for a melt, I constantly poked my head out of the kitchen entrance, uneasily checking the window to see if the shadow would appear. I finished dinner without so much as a raccoon running through the alley. I breathed a little easier as I headed to my room for the rest of the night, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I was just being silly and it was nothing.

*************

I was standing in the alleyway. Darkness encroached around me. I looked around. I was alone. What was I doing outside? My footsteps echoed as I walked towards the end of the alleyway back to my apartment. No matter how much I walked, the end of the alley never got closer. I stopped, but the echoing footsteps didn't. I looked over my shoulder and saw a shadow walking towards me. I started to run, sprinting as fast as I could towards the end of the alley, back to my apartment, back to safety. The end of the alley only seemed to get further away, but the shadow behind me got faster. I screamed as a pale white clawed hand grabbed my shoulder.

I woke up screaming, my feet tangled in the sheets, a cold sweat coating my skin. A nightmare. It was just a nightmare.

"Come on, dude, it's just a stupid shadow from the window that you saw ONE time. Why are you letting it freak you out so much?" I asked myself out loud, panting. "It's just nerves from the move. It's gotta be." I needed a shower to wash the sweat off and go back to bed.

Despite trying to convince myself it was just my nerves, I tiptoed to my bedroom door and opened it. Dim moonlight and light from streetlights shined in from the other two windows, illuminating the living room. The shade was still pulled tightly over the middle window, casting only shadows onto the floor.

I took a deep breath and darted to the bathroom, completely ignoring the window to the best of my ability, and slammed the bathroom door. Okay, maybe it was more than nerves. I took a hot shower and tried to relax. If I let that dream get to me like this, I'd never go back to sleep. I'd be up till the birds were chirping again.

"Alright, once I'm done with this shower, I'm going to take a look at that stupid window. If I don't, I'll never get back to sleep," I muttered. I finished my shower and got dressed. "Okay, here we go."

I opened the bathroom door and stepped out. I walked to the middle of the living room, my eyes averted from the window the entire time. I took a deep breath, trying to steady my rapidly beating heart, and turned to face the window.

It felt as though my heart skipped a beat. Any warmth the shower had given me was sucked out of me along with my breath as the icy chill of fear took hold of me. There was a shadow against the shade from someone—something—standing on the other side.

base images AI generated by craiyon.com (edited)

I tried to reach out for the shade, tried to open it, to see what it was, but I couldn't do it. Every survival instinct in my body screamed at me to run. I let out a terrified yelp and bolted to my bedroom, slamming the door and locking it. I slid down the door, falling into a sitting position, and held my knees to my chest.

"This isn't how I should be reacting," I told myself. "I'm a guy; I should be ready to open that window and kick whoever or whatever that was in the face." But no, whatever it was, it scared the hell out of me.

I don't know how long I sat like that, but I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes to bright sunlight streaming in from beneath my bedroom door.

To be continued

Thank you for getting this far! Click here for part two! Click here for part three. Subscribe and stay tuned.

Credit to Craiyon.com for images

PsychologicalthrillerShort StoryHorror

About the Creator

Matthew Spinelli

A programmer aspiring to be a game developer that recently re-discovered a passion for writing horror, suspense, and mystery.

Fine me on blogger here:

https://writingsbymatt.blogspot.com/

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Comments (3)

  • Dr. Jason Benskin5 days ago

    This piece is a testament to the power of well-crafted horror fiction. It combines strong character work, atmospheric writing, and a meticulously paced plot to create a story that lingers in the mind long after the last sentence is read. If you’re a fan of suspenseful, thought-provoking horror, "It Lurks Behind the Shade" is a must-read.

  • Sam Avery5 days ago

    Excellent work amazing interesting good.

  • Reality Talker5 days ago

    congrats, I got your story on my feed.

MSWritten by Matthew Spinelli

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