Victoria hated 2:00 AM ever since she moved into her new apartment. Well, more accurately, she hated it for about a month now.
For the past month she would wake up from a sound sleep for no apparent reason. None. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be a big deal, but now, when she wakes up she stays up. Before she had no trouble going back to the sound sleep she had been awakened from but now she just lays awake and listens.
The first few nights were fine, well, okay. She just laid in bed and listened. Everything was still, eerily quiet. It was as if the world had been put on pause but for some reason her pause button broke. She couldn’t hear the crickets outside her window, the hum from her AC unit, nothing. Not even her own heartbeat. Soon she reasoned that she was just having a dream and once she convinced herself of that she had no trouble drifting off to sleep.
One night all of that changed. The new routine went on as before. She woke up at 2:00 AM surrounded by quiet. Not a sound. She couldn’t even hear herself breath. Then the sound came to her ears.
It was a low creaking sound at the bottom of the stairs leading to her bedroom. Just a single creak but it was audible compared to the silence that preceded it. There was a long silent pause then, another creak, then pause, then creak. It sound like someone was ever so slowly walking up the stairs. After the fourth or fifth creak, she could hear her heart beat pounding in her ears, but that sound would be drowned out by the creaks.
Those slow ascending sounds that would stop once the unseen source reached the top step and it was then that Vickie would fall back to sleep almost as suddenly as she had woken up, which creeped her out more than the sounds of the footsteps.
She lived alone in her unit, which was located in the Belhaven Heights area in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. Her building was one of those old grand southern homes that was divided into separate apartments due to the fact the original family who had the grand home built had either died out or could no longer afford the home. Over the years such homes were bought by developers who would transform them into business buildings or apartment duplexes.
There were days when she would try to imagine what the house must have been like before it became apartments. Who were the people who used to live there? How many generations of the family lived under the roof of the house? Were they a close family? After the footstep incident, she stopped pondering of the life that used to reside in her space. Now she wondered what caused her such unrest in her home.
During the daylight hours she never thought about her night visitor. It was as if once the sun came up any memory of the nightly visitor was erased. Sometimes she would try to remember the reason why she was so fatigued all day, but much like how fog dissipated when the rays of sunlight waved them away, so did the activities of the previous night melt away from Victoria’s memory. Then she would come home.
Dinner on this particular night consisted of spaghetti with meat sauce from a jar. Victoria never tried to pretend she knew how to cook. After she cleaned up after herself, she watched the shows to help her decompress from her workday. This night, she couldn’t unwind so she tried to reason her way into calming down, but it didn’t work. Then she realized that it wasn’t her day that was making her tense, it was her night to come. She remembered.
Her nightly ritual was the same as always. She got into bed, turned out the light and drifted off into an uncomfortable sleep. Then on cue, she awoke to an unnerving silence. Then she heard the slow, but steady footsteps making their way up the stairs. It wasn’t so much the sound she heard it was the sound that she didn’t hear. She heard the creaking of nonexistent footfalls. She didn’t hear the sound of feet landing on the stairs, just the motion but not seeing or hearing the making of the sound. Just the creaking.
When she turned the lamp on next to her bed, the creaking stopped. After a few seconds she got out of bed and made her way through her home turning on the lights of every room as she went. Nothing. She saw nothing to explain what she heard. She spent the rest of the night on her couch downstairs much to her own embarrassment.
She was a grown ass woman who worked hard for what she owns and here she was, letting her imagination get the better of her, she chided herself. Yes, all of this was the working of her imagination. She was the only resident of her home; living or dead. Damn! She was the only entity…shit! She was it, there was nothing else or anyone else here.
Even though she armed herself with that rationale, the night was still a time of dread for her. Same time, same place. Always there were the footsteps. One night she counted them. She listened to the gate of the foot falls, which sounded like step - together - step - together. She heard about five sets of foot falls.
The next morning after she woke up she counted the steps going up. There were twelve steps going up, so the invisible guest walking half way up. Victoria’s experiment was fruitful until she noticed something, or a lack of something. She went up and down the stairs first in the way she heard them then normally. Both times she noted that she didn’t make a sound, not a creaking sound like the one she heard at night.
She heard her feet physically landing on the steps but not the creaking. The sound of the fabric of her shorts making contact, the sound of her skin hitting the padded carpeting on the steps: she heard those sounds. They were the loudest sounds she had heard in her life.
She let this new information sink in, but then she shuddered.
A few nights later she had gotten used to her nightly visitor. The footsteps would ascend the stairs and halfway to the top, they would stop. Victoria would compare the experience to a situation where the footsteps were checking up on her. After a while, she was able to sleep soundly all night and her life went back to normal.
On the last night, she woke up to a hard silence. She felt as if the world was holding its breath. She rolled over on her side and listened. There was nothing but unease in her room. She turned on the lamp by her bed, sat up and listened as if the light would enhance her hearing. Still nothing, but this nothing was so strong it filled her with dread.
She heard the footsteps make their usual route, but then she heard a change. She heard them heading back down again then they paused. She got out of bed and stood a few feet from the door and listened. Again, she heard steps coming up, pause, then go back down. The sound gave her the impression the source of the sounds was pacing; trying to decide on a course of action perhaps.
Up the stairs and down the stairs. Up and down, again and again. Vickie’s mind was swimming in a thick muck of fear and insecurity. She wanted to run but to where? she was in her bed room with nowhere to go. Then she heard another change.
The footsteps were running up the stairs, maybe charging toward her. She took a few steps backwards. It was the only move that she felt she could make.
When the door slammed shut, she screamed.