Murder in Apartment 308 (Part One)

After a year of living in different states for our separate jobs after college, I was finally able to move back in with my long-time boyfriend. I had found a job near his new apartment and had a total of three days to move my things from a suburban town in southern Massachusetts to a town just outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Excited to be out of my parents domain and back in a more independent environment, I did the entire move in less than 12 hours.

Thinking I would be busy moving and putting my final touches on our new shared living space, my boyfriend had scheduled himself to work over the next three days. At the time, he worked four days a week until midnight, leaving me on my own for most of the night. This didn’t bother me as I had just unpacked my Xbox with a brand new copy of a first-person shooter released by a franchise I had yet to grow tired of. My plan was to relax for the precious few remaining days until my new job began.

During the first night in the new place, I was playing with some online friends while wearing a pair of obnoxiously large noise-canceling gaming headphones and enjoying the Nazi-zombie carnage. We were about to start on our third match when I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Since my boyfriend’s Xbox was set up in the living room on the larger TV, I had placed my own system in the bedroom with our smaller TV and angled just so to afford a view the main entrance and kitchen of our smallish apartment.

The one area I could not see was the small living room housing my boyfriend’s TV and Xbox. Deciding I had imagined the movement, I returned to my friends who were already expressing how they were going to make the opposite team do sexual acts with themselves and other obscenities.

After a couple more matches and many spoken crude acts against mothers and future offspring, I said good bye to my friends and signed off. I pulled my headphones off and rubbed at my numb ears, momentarily adjusting to the silent apartment. I tend to get a little spooked when by myself, especially in an unfamiliar space. Without having the constant stream of auditory and visual stimulation, I decided to just get ready for bed and read for a bit before my boyfriend was due home from work around midnight.

I had just settled down with my book when I registered another movement to my left. I whipped my head towards our bedroom door, already trying to convince myself that I was imagining things. Sometimes my eyes seemed to play tricks on me after staring, unblinking, at the TV for a prolonged period of gaming. Blearily, I stared out into the dimly lit apartment outside of the sanctity of my bedroom looking for any sign of the movement I imagined I had seen just moments earlier. Minutes went by without anything happening, so I gave up and returned to my book.

It didn’t take long for my eyelids to start to droop and I figured it was time to try and sleep. My boyfriend had texted me a few minutes earlier to let me know he was going to be a little later than he thought and asked if I was doing alright in the new place. I told him I was fine but was ready for him to be home. After spending a year apart and only seeing each other every couple of weekends, I was ready to start making up for lost time. After he replied with a similar desire, I set my phone and book down on the nightstand next to me and smiling to myself as I reached and turned off the light.

I had barely settled my head against my pillow when I heard a coughing sound coming from the main room of the apartment. I froze and my stomach clenched in terror. Did it really come from inside the same apartment? I had already experienced just how thin the walls were separating our unit from the next. Maybe I had heard it wrong and it was just my phlegmy next-door neighbor getting over a cold. Deciding on the latter, I turned towards the wall opposite of the bedroom door and in a very dignified fashion, hid under the covers until morning.

The next day, my boyfriend and I had a relaxing breakfast and went grocery shopping before he had to leave for work in the afternoon. I had decided not to tell him about the very sleepless night before, thinking he would make fun of me for being such a scaredy-cat. By the time he had walked out the door, I had decided I was being stupid. Of course I would be a little skittish in a new, unfamiliar place. The building was a massive old mill that had been converted into an apartment complex with a river running beneath it. Our apartment was one of the units facing the inner part of the structure overlooking the river before it reached the waterfall further downstream. With the windows open during the warmer months, the roar of the quick-moving water was constant. I attributed that to the eerie noise I had heard the previous night. I was determined I would be perfectly fine on my second night alone.

Soon my stomach was growling and I made my way into the kitchen to hopefully throw together some sort of meal for my dinner. After much deliberation, I decided on a packet of spicy chili ramen. Feeling I needed a little extra sustenance, I cracked an egg into the boiling concoction and checked on the hour. I figured I had a little time to kill before I was due back online when I heard a sound from behind me. Before I could even turn from the stove, I heard a wheezing cough next to my left ear, feeling its hot breath against my neck. I jerked away so violently, I smacked the wall directly next to the stove. I had moved so suddenly, I upset the pan of scalding-hot noodles and egg, knocking it off the burner and onto the floor. Momentarily forgetting the actual terrifying instant that caused me to kill my dinner, I swore loudly. As I glared at the steaming linoleum floor, my overzealous usage of profanity earned me a bang on the wall from my neighbor. After promptly giving my wall the finger, still roiling in the frustration of losing my food, I grabbed the paper towel roll from the rack over the microwave and started to clean my mess.

It was only as the last paper towel full of noodle and egg had been thrown into the trash, I was reminded of the sound and the feel of the breath on my neck seconds before. I froze, my right arm in mid-reach for the soapy paper towel I was going to use to finish cleaning the floor. As if on cue, there was another raspy cough from the living room. Now that full-blown terror had set in and my hunger forgotten, I wanted out of the apartment more than anything. I whipped around and put my back up against the kitchen wall facing the entry into the main part of the apartment. I stood there for a while, barely breathing, trying to pick up on any sound over the distant roar of the river.

After making up my mind to move, I sprinted out of the kitchen and into the living room. My hand had just settled on my purse when I spotted the unnaturally dark corner of the living room just opposite me. The room suddenly got oppressively hot, making it difficult to breath. Before I allowed myself the time to give in to the panic attack quickly clawing its way up my throat, I grabbed my purse, cell phone and shoes and slammed the door on my way out into the hallway, almost plowing over my neighbor in the process. I apologized to him loudly over my shoulder, knowing I must have looked crazed as I barely restrained myself from sprinting down the hall. I didn’t care. I was on my way to Target to escape the potentially haunted new apartment while spending an excessive amount of pre-job savings.

Two hours, 7 seasonally decorated non-essential knick knacks, 4 night lights, and 32 ounces of flavored energy drink later, I made my way back to the apartment. I plugged a nightlight into each available electric socket, set and organized my new knick knacks, made myself another fancy batch of chicken ramen and sat down in the bedroom to fire up the XBox.

I had barely finished my second game of energy-fueled zombie-killing when I heard a bang coming from the living room. This time I was sure I had actually heard the noise. Since I had been playing solo on Xbox, I did not need my headphones. Pausing the game, I ventured out of the bedroom looking for the source of the noise. With most of the lights on in the apartment, I spotted the fallen candle quickly enough. I picked it off the floor and placed it back on the computer desk where I had placed it less than two hours before. As I stood trying to figure out how it could have fallen, I heard the floor creak behind me.

My stomach clenched again and I felt a wave of nausea hit me as the wheezing started. It was as if someone was gasping for air and couldn’t exhale properly. The air in the room got suddenly hot and stuffy like before and I couldn’t move. A chill ran down the entire length of my body as I stared at the computer monitor sitting on the desk in front of me. In the reflection of the screen, I could clearly make out the shadowed shape of a human form standing behind me. Deciding it was way less terrifying to see something head on rather than its shadowy reflection, I whipped around, ridiculously swinging my arms like a windmill. Because nothing scares a dead entity more than an idiot swinging her arms around like a lunatic.

There was nothing there.

“What the hell?” I asked to a supposedly empty apartment while warily looking around. Am I going crazy? I gazed at the now empty 32 ouncer still sitting on the kitchen table by my purse. Do I need to lay off the energy drinks? I probably still had copious amounts of caffeine pumping through me, combined with non-stop video games for the past couple days. I grabbed the styrofoam cup, hurled it into the trash in the kitchen and resumed my gaming WITH the headphones until my boyfriend got home around 1 am.

The next day I was exhausted. I was barely able to get out of bed before my boyfriend left for work in the afternoon. I had spent the previous night staring at the wall opposite the bedroom door, refusing to move my eyes from a fixed spot to the right of the window in front me. If I wavered, even just a little, I could glimpse the shadowy figure standing at the foot of the bed through the reflection of my tv. The nightlight that I had plugged in by the bedroom door cast an eerie glow throughout the room, enabling me to see the figure. My muscles ached and my eyes hurt from staring the whole night. I hadn’t even moved when my boyfriend came into the room, terrified that if I had turned towards his side of the bed, I would be looking straight at the shadowy figure.

One more night… I had one more night home alone before my boyfriend would have a few days off. Then I could sleep. Work started the next day and I needed to sleep for more than a couple hours. I stayed in bed for the rest of the day until my stomach began to demand food. I got up just long enough to fill my stomach with a half-cooked veggie burger and turn on Netflix to zone out for a few more hours. I must have drifted off to sleep not long after.

Suddenly, a strap of stiff material was slipped over my head and tightened around my neck, instantly cutting off all air into my lungs. I panicked and started clawing at my throat, trying to release what was wrapped around me so tight I couldn’t fit my fingers between it and the skin of my neck. Even in my panic, I could feel myself scratching away at the thin layers of skin around my throat, trying in vain to catch some gap in the material in order to pull it off or at least release some of its pressure. I was gasping for air, trying to pull in any sort of life-saving oxygen. I could feel my eyes bulging out of my skull, tears making my vision blurry. While all this was happening, I watched, helpless, as the shadowy figure crawled from the foot of the bed until it’s face was inches from my own. The dark, featureless face breathed on me as it stared right into my blood-shot eyes, witnessing my terrifying demise. I was losing strength in my fingers and with the decreased oxygen, they started to cramp and go into a rigor-type of state, gripping the strap that was slowly strangling me to death.

The edges of my vision were starting to go dark when there was a sudden flood of light coming into the apartment. My boyfriend was home! I gasped, making a horrible raspy noise that caused him to come running into the room. He must have been able to see the shadowy figure on top of me because he froze as soon as he entered the room. For reasons I still cannot fathom today, whatever had wrapped itself around my neck suddenly released itself from me. I gagged on the rush of fresh oxygen, gulping it by the mouthful. My boyfriend was yelling at me, trying to figure out what was going on, but I couldn’t hear him over the ringing of my ears. As soon as I was able, I grabbed him by the arm and stumbled out of the apartment into the safety of the bright overhead lights of the hallway. I collapsed as soon as I reached the other side of the hall and sat with my back up against the wall facing my apartment just in time to see my boyfriend closing the door on the shadowy figure still standing at the foot of our bed.

The next day, I delayed my start at the new job and my boyfriend and I moved to another unit of the same apartment complex. When we had tried to break our lease with the building manager, we were offered a larger unit on the top floor on the other side of the river at a serious bargain. Between needing a place as quick as possible and not wanting to pay a massive fee for breaking the lease, we took them up on their offer. As we were signing the paperwork, our landlord kept staring at my neck. I had a massive bruise covering most of the skin from just below my chin down to my collarbone. Unfortunately, the scarf I had chosen to hide the purpling mass was not doing a great job. She gave me a terrified look when I asked her what had happened to the previous tenants of our unit. After a little prodding, the building manager gave in and told us about the murder in apartment 308.

On October 9, 2012, a college student had gone back to the apartment of a man and woman she had met at a local bar. Lured to the couple’s home on the pretense of a night of sexual exploration, the evening took a deadly turn with a mysterious murder and the body of the girl missing. With the testimony from an observant neighbor, the couple was caught and tried. The girlfriend eventually flipped on the man, telling the jury he had forced her to participate in the act that eventually led to the death of the 22 year old college student. He had strangled her to death with a belt.

Days later, I was lying in bed thinking things over, absently avoiding sleep, when the old apartment crossed my mind. I was just wondering if they had filled the vacancy when the night was shattered by an ear-piercing scream over the roar of the river coming in through the open window next to me. My blood ran cold as I scrambled to the window, already knowing where to look. Across the river and down a floor, I could see the window to our old apartment. There, standing in full view, was the shadowy figure. It’s head was tilted up towards my window, it’s expressionless face staring directly at me. As I watched in horror, I could see its mouth open impossibly wide and let out the exact same scream. I shook as my stomach made its way into my throat making it difficult to breath. I gingerly touched my still horrifically bruised throat as I stared across at the creature. Not only did this figure know where I was, but it was screaming, something I had not heard it do before. But that scream made goosebumps ripple across my skin, chilling me to the bone. It wasn’t just any scream.

It was mine.

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