The Balcony

The weirdest thing happened tonight. I am confused about it, and I have the feeling I did something very wrong.

To make things short, I am a content writer for a magazine, and I work at night. The quiet and the overall atmosphere help me to be more productive.

The only problem is that writing at night can be quite irritating. Now I am not an anxious person per se, but the night can be scary. Weird noises, things moving in front of your window or shadows on your balcony. You might know it is a cat, or your neighbor going to the toilet in the middle of the night. Still, it scares you.

Many people think having a balcony is incredible. During the day it is, but at night it can be the complete opposite.

I can’t tell you how often I checked it out. So many times I was afraid to see someone or something out there, watching me or trying to break into my place. I know it is nothing but irrational fears.

Tonight was the same, or at least at first, it was. I was sitting at my desk working on an article about a special edition of some pseudo-popular movie. Late in the middle of the night, I heard the sharp sound of something hitting my window. I jerked and looked up.

First I checked if anything was in my room. Then I tiptoed towards the window. Nothing was there. Next was the balcony door. Nothing again. I relaxed a little. “It is only in your head,” I told myself as I opened the balcony door. I checked the right side. It was clear, nothing. Then I turned my head to the left. I saw a figure cowering in the corner of my balcony.

I jumped back, my heart skipping a beat. Before I could so much as blink, I was back inside and locked the balcony door behind me. I looked around and picked up the first blunt object I could find, an empty glass bottle. It almost slipped from my now sweating hand as I went back to the door.

Something was out there, and this time it was freaking real! I don’t believe in ghosts, monsters or demons, but that thing cowering out there…

I checked again, but from inside I saw nothing. As I opened the door once more, I could see the thing moving on the left side. I slammed the door and took a deep breath. It was way too big to be a damned cat or a bird.

I was waiting for whatever was out there to come running towards me. In my mind, I saw it jumping at the door screaming and trying to force its way in. None of that happened.

Minutes passed. Then I pushed the door open a little further with my foot, holding on to the glass bottle with an iron grip. I looked outside and still saw no movement. With my eyes glued to whatever was out there, I got out my phone. I opened the flashlight app and illuminated the corner.

I gasped. It really was bigger than an animal. As I raised the bottle though, I saw hair, dark hair. Then an arm and legs. Then I saw clothes. It was a person! What was someone doing out on my balcony in the middle of the night?

Armed with the bottle, I yelled out a ‘hello’ that was a little too quiet and not as intimidating as I wanted it to be. I saw movement and was soon able to make out a face. It was the face of a young woman. Her eyes grew wide, and I saw her mouth open, then close again. I saw the bruises on her face and something that could be dried blood. Her hair was a dirty mess. After a moment her mouth opened again, and I could hear her murmur something. I wasn’t able to understand a word. Then she repeated it, and this time I was able to make out the word help.
Then once more, this time a little louder: “Help me.”
She began to repeat the words over and over again.

It was a girl. I told her everything was going to be alright but still held on to the bottle. I asked her what had happened and she started to ramble on. I didn’t catch most of it. I heard something about a group of people, some guys and her trying to get away.

As I gave her a closer look, I could see the dirty, ripped clothes. I noticed the blood stains and could see how much she was shaking.

She finally looked up and told me, pleading that she had to hide or they might find her. After that, her words weren’t audible anymore, drowned out by her sobbing. For a moment I stood there still in shock, but soon got a grip on myself and told her to come inside.

I explained I’d get help and call the police. This agitated her, and she repeated the word no over and over, shaking her head. She seemed way too scared, almost completely out of it. I was quick to assure her that I wouldn’t call anyone.

She heaved herself up. A ‘Holy shit’ escaped my mouth as I saw her whole appearance. I could see that not only her face but her legs and arms too were covered in bruises. There was a long cut on one of her legs. I couldn’t even make out how old she was.

I told her again to come in, reassuring her that it was safe inside and that she shouldn’t worry. As she stepped through the door, I could have sworn I saw a smile on her face.

She took a few steps in and then stood there motionless in the middle of the room. I asked how I could help her but got no answer. I told her that she could use the bathroom to clean herself up and where to find towels. After a few more painfully long seconds of no movement, she went towards the bathroom. Moments later I heard her close the door.

I took a deep breath. What a night. I thought about calling the police again. What if she was a student from the university campus close by? She could be on drugs and was having a bad trip? Or she hung around with the wrong crowd? I didn’t want to get pulled into any of that kind of trouble.

As I stood in my living room, I shivered. The balcony door was still wide open. I went outside again to give the corner I had found her in a quick check in case she had dropped something.

Only at that point it finally hit me. I shivered again. This time not because of the cold. No, it was because of the girl, because of this whole encounter. My hands clung to the railing as I looked down from my sixth-floor balcony.

There was no way someone can climb all the way up here. There was no possible way. I started shaking in fear. How in the hell did she get up here?

I jerked around. Nothing. The living room was empty. I ran towards the bathroom. The door wasn’t locked. No sounds from inside. I pushed the door open and took a few steps in, only to find it empty.

No one in the shower, no one in the bathtub, no one anywhere. Yes, I even checked the ceiling. I checked every single spot, not only in the bathroom but in my whole apartment. There is no one else here. I am all alone. She is gone, vanished.

As I am now sitting here, I keep telling myself that she must have run off; that she skipped out on me. But if she needed to hide, why would she leave? How did I not hear any of the doors open or close? Why is the front door still locked?

And, most of all, why can’t I shake off that little smile I saw as she set foot in my apartment…

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