“Oh well,” Slick groaned. “Nothing I can do about it.”
Despite being robbed of his sleep for the third time this week, he was not truly bothered. At least he could block out the white noise, unlike the indistinguishable screams of death metal that blared through Mohawk’s stereos downstairs and the fights between the Hendricksons on the floor above. Besides, remembering his last conversation with Sal, he knew that he could not do anything to quiet them down anyway.
“Sal, you mind getting the other tenants to shut their traps past midnight? I swear that they are trying to raise the dead or something,” he had grumbled to his landlord the morning after his neighbors had a particularly noisy fight.
“Slick, you mind paying your rent for once?” Sal had growled back. “The Hendricksons may not shut up, but I don’t have to force my way into their apartment every time a payment is due.”
Slick rubbed his eyes, deciding that it would be easier to try and sleep. He drifted off thinking about the apartment next door.
Since he first moved in, it had been one of the many mysteries of the apartment complex, like the origin of the noxious smell in third floor stairwell or when Sal would lose patience and demand Slick pay last month’s rent. Despite living across the hall from the room for more than a year, Slick had never even caught as much as a glimpse of his neighbor. Yet every night he would hear their television flicker to life. He tried brushing it off, telling himself they probably go in and out while he is working. Despite this, he was fascinated and his desire to learn the truth was gradually consuming him.
Eventually Slick succumbed to his curiosity. One night after being disturbed by the white noise he walked out his front door and stared at the one opposite. It was an old door that someone carved out of a great oak tree many years ago. At some point it was painted white, but with time had degraded into a dingy grey. The static hum drew him closer and closer to the door, as if it were a siren’s song. He knocked on the door; it was cool to the touch. No response came except from the dust greeting his face. After a few minutes, he turned away dejected.
Just as he was about to close his door and go back to sleep, Slick saw something he had not noticed before. There was a small hole in the door to the left of lock. Slick could barely make out the faint light flowing through. He knew what he had to do.
Slick walked back to the door and got on his knees. He observed the hole, it may have been a bit more than a centimeter in diameter, and could see the light flicker through. He could feel the cool air leaking out. As he peered into the room, he saw it was mostly shrouded in darkness, barely illuminated by an old analog television showing static.
“So this is what’s been keeping me up at night,” Slick thought.
He lowered his gaze from the TV and gasped. A figure was slumped onto the ground in the middle of the room facing the television. He stared at the person for a few minutes, trying to identify them. He was unable to recognize them, but deduced that they were a girl. She was thin and pale, with raven black hair. Her skin was white as snow, and the flowing gown she was in was even whiter. The soft light from the television diffused off of her, producing a radiant, almost ethereal, glow.
Slick was immediately transfixed by her beauty. He was certain that he had never seen her before—she would have stuck out like a bird of paradise in a flock of pigeons. She was still facing the television; her position had not shifted since Slick first gazed through the door. He wanted to see her face, that way he would be able to recognize her if she ever came out of her room. He resolved to catch a glimpse of her face that night but, despite his persistence, the girl never turned his way. She spent hour after hour watching the static of her television. If it was not for the occasional shift in position, he would have thought she was a statue. Morning came, forcing Slick to rush his way to work before his boss could wring his neck for arriving late.
Discovering the identity of the mysterious girl became his obsession. He began asking around to see if any of the neighbors knew about the girl living across from him. But none of them knew anything about a pale woman with black hair living in the apartment complex. He even asked Sal if he ever saw any girls like that in the area, carefully leaving out the fact that he had been snooping on one of the female tenants again, to which the landlord stared blankly and replied, “Sorry Slick, no one of that description lives here. And even if they did, they certainly wouldn’t want anything to do with you.”
Slick became desperate to get a glance at her face. That night he returned to the door and began peeping through. But in his haste, dust was stirred into the air. Slick sneezed, slamming his head into the door. His eyes watered, and he could barely make out that the girl sharply stood up. She slowly turned towards the door, causing Slick to run, fully aware that Sal would be at his throat if she discovered him spying on her.
He waited a few hours, but could not help from returning to the door. Slick had high hopes that she may still be up and that he would see her face. He crawled his way back to the door. The cold air was still circulating out of the room, but it was much colder than the last time. Goosebumps began appearing everywhere on Slick’s arms. As he peered through the door his excitement was replaced by bewilderment. All he could make out was that there was a glassy, black surface blocking his line of sight. It was obvious to him that she figured out that someone was peeping on her.
Slick waited a few weeks before attempting to spy on the girl again. But every time he crept to the door his stare was matched by the same black plane. In his desperation he tried reaching out to Sal again to discover her identity.
“So Sal, are certain there are no black haired beauties in this dump?”
“Like I said before Slick, there are no girls like that here, or at least none that would be interested in a rat like you.”
“And this place isn’t a dump,” Sal continued with a twinkle in his eye, “excluding the room I rent out to you at least.”
“Wait Sal, I guarantee you that there is a girl with black hair in the apartment across from mine,”
Sal’s brow furrowed and his expression hardened. “No one has lived there in years.”
“Then why did I see someone in there Sal?”
“Well you aren’t the first.”
“What do you mean?” Slick asked, his curiosity overwhelming his annoyance.
Sal stared at him for a long time and then inhaled deeply.
“Well you see, years ago, back when the original owners were still running this place, their daughter lived in the room across from yours. She was born with a malady that caused the town to fear and shun her. They believed she was cursed so she spent her days alone in that room. Eventually in her despair she committed suicide.”
“Wait so you are telling me that I have been seeing a ghost?” Slick asked skeptically.
“Of course, why else do you think the rent for your apartment is so low? No one else is willing to pay to stay there.”
“Yeah right, if you didn’t want to tell me about the girl that’s fine. I’m going to crash in my bed.”
“One last thing Slick,” Sal said catching hold of Slick’s sleeve as he walked past, “I almost forgot to tell you.”
“What is it, to pay my rent? I actually worked this week so I will have the money by Sunday.”
“No it isn’t that. Remember how I said the girl was born with some condition?”
“Yeah, and your point is?”
Sal looked Slick straight in the eyes, dead serious, and told him, “She was born with jet black eyes.”
The knocking on the door was getting more and more intense. Slick swore under his breath, and began to slowly pace back and forth. He knew it had to be his new landlord. He had only been here a month but he was already behind on his rent.
“Well I suppose I can always grovel to get another extension,” Slick muttered, still looking for a way to dig himself out of this mess.
The knocks against the door were now reverberating throughout the apartment. He looked at the door and saw that it would not be long before it came off its hinges.
“Alright, alright. I’m coming!” He bellowed back.
Slick threw open the door and froze, he was gazing into a glassy black stare.