Something about the apartment made me feel uneasy but there was nowhere else to go. I was lucky enough to find this cheap, run-down one-bedroom. I had been kicked out of a friend's house for staying longer than anticipated. That was my bad. Everything was fine I guess. My friend had helped me find this place; fifth-floor apartment with no elevator, one bedroom, bathroom, and a combined living room and kitchen. The water would run cold most of the time and the paint on the walls were faded and chipping. The wooden floors were old and warped. It was a perfect space to find roaches but I think I got them all after moving in the week prior. Just perfect.
After a few days, I started to notice a foul smell that was coming from a hatch in the kitchen ceiling. It was locked of course; it probably opened up into the apartment above mine on the sixth floor. The sixth floor was unoccupied due to electrical issues. The landlord of the building made a statement saying that repairs and remodeling were in progress. Apparently, they've been in progress for a while. After I had gotten home from work one day, I sat at the kitchen table and started going over bills. The lightbulb that hung above me flickered and I could hear a little gnat hitting the burning glass. My eyes were heavy as I stacked papers neatly together and slid them across the table away from where I sat. I took a moment to rest my head on the table while I listened to the gnat continuously hit the light bulb as it hovered around. Tap tap. Tap. Tap tap tap. It kept going on until— BANG.
I jolted up from the table and darted my eyes around then turned in my chair to look into the living room. I don't remember turning the TV on but there it was; static on the screen. I crept over to the coffee table, picked up the remote, and turned the TV back off. What was that loud noise? I held my breath as I scanned the apartment. My eyes fixated on the front door. I didn't see a shadow under the door so it seemed like no one was waiting out in the hall. BANG! There it was again. My head turned up towards the ceiling. The hatch? I stared at it and listened. BANG! I bolted up from my chair and kept my eyes locked on the ceiling hatch. Something pulled me to step right underneath the hatch in the kitchen ceiling. It was quiet. I didn't even hear the gnat hitting the buzzing glass of the lightbulb. Then knocks came from the other side of the hatch; rhythmically echoing into my half-unpacked apartment. Maybe it was a worker? Maybe they were pulling up the floor? The knocking wouldn't stop and I could see the hatch shaking. I rushed over to the closet and retrieved a broom that was stored away and brought it back to the kitchen. After aligning the chair right under the hatch, I balanced on it and used the broom handle to knock back at whoever was making that racket. An even louder bang was thrown down at me in quick retaliation. That caused me to bolt out of my apartment; leaving the front door open as I ran up the stairs to the sixth floor.
I swung the hall door open and counted each apartment until I met the one that was above mine. I thrashed on the door and it opened. When I walked inside, it was dark and empty. No workers in this moldy-smelling rats nest. But the banging couldn't have been the rats. They were small and scurried into the rotting walls when I entered. I made my way over to where I thought the hatch would be and saw that there was tile covering the area. Strange. Maybe the hatch would be elsewhere? I looked around but nope; that had to be the spot. I believed it lined up. I sighed and went back to my own apartment. Later on that night when I was sitting on the couch and watching TV, I heard the knocking on the hatch again. I twisted my head in the direction of the knocking and was met with an odd sight. The ceiling hatch was open; hanging down and swinging back and forth. It quietly creaked in the darkness of the kitchen. As my eyes adjusted in the dark, I noticed something else. The hatch opening looked unblocked. There was no wood and no tile, just a clear opening into the apartment above. I couldn't move as my heart dropped. The hatch door kept swinging as my eyes swayed with the movements. Eventually, the door stopped and it was quiet aside from the low volume of the TV. Then the power went out right as I blinked. Pure darkness. No light was in the apartment at all.
I could hear my breathing grow low and heavy as I kept my eyes glued to the ceiling hatch. That's when I heard it; a cry from what sounded like a baby. The crying became louder and it filled my apartment, cutting through the darkness. It sounded like it was coming from the hatch in the ceiling. The crying turned to sharp wailing and I moved further back away from the sound. Then I saw it. It was drooping down from the hatch. Tiny yellow eyes darted in my direction and long lanky limbs extended downward until they reached the kitchen floor. The grotesque figure twisted and turned, revealing what I thought to be was clustered little heads on its back. More beady yellow eyes illuminated the dark. That is what was screaming and crying. I fell to the floor as it extended a leg toward me and leaped closer. Its head faced me directly as its neck and torso were twisted while the crying little heads writhed and wailed louder and louder. I could see them clearly as I felt the figure's breath hit my brow. Clustered and disfigured heads of infants protruding from the slimy back of this stick-thin monster. It lifted its hand from the floor and reached behind; plucking one of the crying heads from the bunch. I could hear a thick squishing sound as it extracted it with its boney fingers. Then it presented it directly to me. I could smell that foul smell I had noticed days before. The little yellow eyes darted around the room and the wailing went from being a piercing sound to a deep and low groan. I realized that the creature had me pinned against the far wall of my living room. I couldn't move. I couldn't get away. I had my eyes closed for the longest time as I continued to hear the crying right at the tip of my nose. I felt a cold and sludgy liquid dripping over me. Was it from the mouth of the screaming baby head? Maybe it was the monster's disgusting slime? Maybe both. I kept my eyes shut tight. Then as the noises and smells grew more intense, I forced my eyes open and I found myself alone in a quiet and brightly lit apartment. My hands ungripped my knees and I frantically scanned the room for the creature. My heart was pounding and sweat dripped down from my forehead. I looked over at the ceiling hatch. It was closed as if it had always been closed. I was alone.
The next morning I built up the courage to go back to the apartment above mine. I carefully peeked into the door. It was still open from yesterday. It looked the same as it did when I saw it last. Dusty, moldy, and dank. There was no furniture in the crumbling apartment but something did catch my eye. Sticking out from a windowsill, there was a piece of paper. I only saw the blank corner at first and realized there was a photograph on the other side. When I turned it over to look at the picture my blood ran cold. It was an old group photo of familiar-looking babies.
You have potential. Keep practicing and don’t give up!