We all think of the world as a place grounded in logic. There’s no room for the supernatural or surreal. We tell ourselves those things only exist in stories, movies, and media.
I too used to think like that, but I was wrong. I was so damn wrong.
It all started two months ago when I moved into my new apartment. It’s located in a small apartment building at the edge of town.
Right next door was a giant, old mansion that towered over every other building in the surrounding area. There was only a small alley between my apartment building and the mansion. When I looked out my living room window, all I saw were its towering walls.
The mansion comprises a sprawling mess of different buildings all connected to a main building. In its prime, the place might have been fancy. Nowadays, after decades of neglect, it’s not much more than a run-down ruin.
Old, musty curtains hang behind many of the stained, dirty windows, but I’m sure no one lives there anymore.
When I moved into my apartment, I’d thought it would be a typical dump. It was part of my town’s social housing project and the rent was quite low. Surprisingly though, it was nice, at least for what it was.
I can imagine most people wouldn’t be too happy to live in a place like this, but I was rather content.
At thirty-four years, I could look back at years of substance abuse and one shitty relationship after another. Now, that I was clean, this fresh life of mine felt pretty good. I even found a job in the area. Sure, it was cleaning up in an old warehouse, but it was something.
Apart from mine, only two other apartments in the entire building were occupied.
There was a friendly, but reclusive older couple who lived on the second floor like me. Their apartment was down the hallway at the other end of the building.
The ground floor was vacant apart from the apartment below me. A group of younger people lived down there. They might be students, they might be unemployed. I’d heard them a few times during the night, but as long as they didn’t cause me any trouble, I didn’t care what they were up to.
This entire mess first started one morning, a few weeks after I’d moved in.
I got up and while I waited for my morning coffee, I took a glance out my living room window. There wasn’t much to see apart from the mansion’s wall. Yet, something felt a little different this morning. I wasn’t able to put my finger on it though and soon shock my head.
“You just need your coffee, Linda,” I said to myself.
A few days later though, I couldn’t blame it on a lack of coffee anymore.
There was a noticeable difference. It was much darker out there than usual.
At first, I frowned thinking my alarm went off too early, but it was six in the morning as always.
Normally the sun shined down into the alley and at least a few rays of sunshine reached my living room window. Now, it was all dark outside.
I thought it had to be the weather, maybe clouds or a storm. When I opened the window and looked upwards though, I could see the sun as clearly as always. It just didn’t reach the small alley anymore. As I wondered about it and scanned the alley, it seemed almost as if it had shrunk in size.
It was a ridiculous thought, and I was sure it was my imagination playing a trick on me. Somehow though, I could tell that the alley was different.
I put my head out, looked left and right, then down and back up. There was no doubt, the alley had been much wider before.
Unnerved I put on some clothes and went down the hallway to the old couple’s apartment. Maybe they had noticed something or could tell me what the hell was going on here. I assumed they’d been living here for much longer than me.
After a few quick knocks, the old lady opened the door.
“Good morning, dear,” she greeted me with half-open eyes. “What brings you here so early in the morning?”
I was embarrassed, realizing that I must’ve woken her up.
“Oh, eh, sorry,” I started.
I tried to find a way to ask the question that had formed in my head, but I couldn’t very well ask her if she thought the alley outside had shrunk down. Instead, I opted for a safer option.
“I was just wondering, did you or your husband notice anything strange last night? Outside in the alley maybe?”
She eyed me curiously for a moment before she shook her head.
“In the alley you say? Oh, I’m afraid not, we keep that window closed at all times. Werner even put our wardrobe right in front of it. ‘No reason to stare at those ghastly, old walls,’ he always says.”
I gave her a nervous brief laugh before I agreed with her and apologized for the early disturbance.
“Guess there’s no helping it,” I said to myself as I made my way down the stairs.
I knocked once, and then twice more before a tired looking redhead with thick glasses opened the door.
“Morning,” was all she mumbled in an annoyed, dull way. Then she stared at me, waiting for me to speak up.
“Sorry to bother you, I was wondering if you knew anything about the mansion next door.”
“Why don’t you go over there instead of annoying people this early in the morning?”
Her tone of voice had changed noticeably. The first thing that came to my mind was ‘What a fucking bitch,’ but I bit my tongue to not say it out loud.
“Well, I think something weird’s going on and maybe you guys noticed it too. It might sound weird, but-“
Right at that moment, she slammed the door in my face.
“Bitch!” I cursed.
I raised my hand and was about to pound against the door again, then I told myself to stop.
“Calm down, Linda,” I told myself. “You don’t want to be known as the crazy chick again.”
I went back upstairs to my apartment. Maybe it was all on my mind? God knows, my brain could be hazy. As I got ready for work, I didn’t my best to ignore the window and the alley below.
As I went on my way, I wondered if the sunlight had ever truly shone inside my living room. When I walked past the alley though, I couldn’t help but take another look. My doubts came back, and I snapped a picture.
“Just to be sure it doesn’t shrink again,” I told myself, laughing a little.
From that day onward I kept the blinds to the alley closed at all times to keep my overactive imagination in check.
Soon enough I’d forgotten all about that weird morning.
It must’ve been two weeks later when I was greeted by glasses and another guy who I presumed lived with her.
“Hey there,” she started with an awkward smile on her face.
Well, well, look who can be friendly if she wants to, I thought.
“Hello,” I said.
“Some time ago, you asked me about the mansion next door, right? What was that about?”
I was reluctant, to tell the truth, so I made up a more believable story.
“I heard something at night, why?”
Glasses eyed me and it was clear that she didn’t know what to say next. At that moment the guy next to her approached me. He was tall, skinny, and awkward.
“Hi there, I’m Phil.”
He reached out his hand and after a nervous handshake, he continued.
“We noticed something strange, and we were wondering if you did too.”
“Like what?” I pressed on.
I could feel that he was as wary as glasses about the entire thing.
“Well, our friend heard noises out there, but he also said the alley… got smaller?”
I couldn’t say anything. For a moment I expected them to laugh, to reveal it was nothing but an elaborate joke. The laughter never came though.
“What do you mean by that?”
“You have to talk to Will about that,” glasses spoke up. “He’s the one who noticed it. I thought you might know something since you asked me about that mansion before. Also, I’m Jen. Sorry about last time.”
A minute later I found myself in their apartment. Five people were living there altogether. Jen was the only girl, and I wasn’t sure what to think about that.
She introduced the three other guys in the room to me. There was Will, which she’d mentioned before, the other two were Steve and Jay.
As we started talking I learned that Will was the one who’d rented the place and moved in about a month earlier than me. The rest was crashing here for a prolonged period. Jen had her own room, as did Will. The rest of the guys slept in the living room. Needless to say, it wasn’t the cleanest place. I was sure by now that these people weren’t students.
“At first I thought it was a stray, but the noise didn’t stop, you know? The tapping against the window, I mean,” Will started.
“So I checked out what the hell it was. Was the first time in damn well forever that I even opened the blinds? The first thing I see is a damn window, and it’s really fucking close.”
“What do you mean by close?” I asked, still playing it safe.
“He’s trying to say the freaking thing’s closer than before, lady,” the one named Jay spoke up.
Asshole, I thought, as he sat there with a smug smile on his face.
“Well, yeah, that,” Will continued. “The damned window is closer than when I moved in. Shit, I can almost touch it if I lean forward. Wasn’t like this before. Hell, can’t even say if it was there, to begin with.”
He thought about it for a bit, rubbing his puffy eyes. I made a mental note that this guy was definitely a pothead.
“Oh yeah,” he continued. “There was a figure behind the curtains. It vanished right when I stared outside, but I’m sure about it. Shit was damn creepy, I tell you.”
“To be honest, I noticed the same thing about the alley,” I finally admitted.
For a moment I looked around to see if they’d reveal that it was all joke they’d played on the crazy lady from upstairs. Instead, I saw Will’s eyes growing wide.
“You mean last night?” he blurted out.
I shook my head before I looked at Jen.
“Remember when I knocked on your door?”
“Wait, back then?” she asked surprised.
“Are you guys seriously talking about an alley shrinking?” Jay asked, shaking his head. “Maybe next you’re telling me the mansion is closing in on us? Fucking listen to yourselves!”
No one said anything.
“The picture,” I remembered and took out my phone.
Only moments later Jen, Will, and I stood outside staring at the alley.
“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me,” Jen said in a gloomy voice.
All three of us looked at it and all three of us could see that the alley had shrunk by almost half its size. I instantly snapped a second picture.
“So?” Phil asked when we returned.
“It’s smaller,” Jen answered.
“The fuck you mean?” Jay cut in.
“The alley, idiot,” she snapped at him.
“You’re seriously telling me that the fucking alley shrank down? Something like that isn’t even possible!”
“Go ahead and check for yourself if you don’t believe us. It’s definitely smaller than in my picture,” I retorted, fed up by his act.
“Oh yeah? Maybe you just suck at taking pictures, lady.”
I looked at him and started to get angry, but kept it together.
“Seriously I can believe Will coming up with something like that, but you guys too?” Jay asked staring at Phil and Jen.
“How do you know they aren’t right?”
It was the first time that the one named Steve said anything.
“Really Steve? You too? Am I the only one who’s fucking sane in here?”
“Look at that, will you!”
Without asking, Jen took my phone and showed him the two pictures.
“Could be any freaking alley,” Jay said shaking his head.
I noticed though that even he was a little unnerved by what he’d seen.
“So what do you want to do about it?” he started again. “Call the man from social services? The police? What do you want to tell them? Hello sir, our alley’s shrinking and I was wondering if you-“
“Will you shut the fuck up?!” I finally screamed at him.
I could see the surprise on his face.
“Jesus, lady, no need for that!” he said raising his hands.
“Maybe there’s an explanation to it. What if the mansion’s falling apart?” Phil tried to reason.
“Or maybe it’s some stupid trick? You know for YouTube or something?” I tried. “I mean no one lives out here, right? They might try some social experiment or a prank or god knows what.”
The others weren’t convinced by my idea. Hell, even I wasn’t, but it was better than the alternative of a mansion moving or the alley shrinking.
There wasn’t anything else we could do or talk about and soon I returned to my apartment. I did my best to distract myself with a pleasant dinner and a movie on Netflix before I went to bed.
A noise woke me up in the middle of the night. It sounded like something grinding against stone, accompanied by what sounded like breathing. I shrieked and jumped for my night light, still half asleep. My first thought was that someone else was in the room with me. For a moment I looked around in a panic before I realized that it was coming from outside.
I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive when I opened the blinds. What I was greeted with was absolutely nothing. The sound too had vanished.
I opened the window and checked the alley as best as I could. I looked for animals, people, or even some sort of mechanism. There was nothing though. The alley was all but empty. I closed the window and the blinds and went back to bed.
I’d barely drifted off when the strange sounds started again. When I looked outside again, I could’ve sworn I saw something moving behind the window next door. I shivered and closed the blinds again.
For the rest of the night, I could barely catch any sleep. The thought of someone or something out there, waiting for me behind the window was creepy enough. What made it even worse was that whenever I drifted off, I could’ve sworn I heard the same, strange noises again.
In the end, I gave up, prepared myself some coffee, and stayed awake until it was time for me to go to work.
On my way, I took another glance at the alley. It looked as if the mansion was leaning over towards our small apartment building. It seemed almost as if the mansion was reaching out for it. I averted my eyes and shook my head.
“Just your damned imagination, Linda. Something like that isn’t even possible,” I told myself again, but even I knew I was lying to myself.
Work went terrible that day. I couldn’t focus at all. I was sleep-deprived and my thoughts centered on the weird events that had happened. Multiple times people yelled at me to get a move on and to stop daydreaming.
Eventually my superior came over and demanded to know what was going on. I told him I suffered from sleep deprivation and night terrors.
“If the job’s too hard on you, why don’t you take a few days off and get some rest,” he suggested in a sarcastic tone.
I said nothing and nodded, knowing damn well it meant almost the same as getting fired. I was furious, mad, and cursed the damned mansion, and whoever was behind this entire thing.
When I got home, I was still pissed. I put on a random show on Netflix, but after only a few short episodes, I drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up again, it was already dark outside and my phone told me it was late at night.
Great, so much for my daily routine, I thought. Soon enough, I realized why I’d woken up. They were back, the same strange grinding and breathing sounds.
I’ve had it with this shit, I thought, ripped the blinds aside and opened the window.
“Knock it off you son of a-“ I started, but what I saw was not a person.
As the breathing and grinding continued, I saw something moving on the wall itself. It had to be some sort of mechanism that was moving the wall or something. With the dim light of my night-lamp, I wasn’t able to make it out though.
I reached for my phone, opened the flashlight app, and pointed it at the wall.
The entire upper wall was covered in pulsating bumps. It seemed as if the bricks of the wall were moving in and out rhythmically. As the plaster was moving, it looked almost as if the wall was breathing. For a moment it reminded me of blisters or pimples on a person’s skin.
I stood there in horror and confusion staring at the spectacle in front of me. One of the many bumps grew bigger and bigger before it burst open. The plaster crumbled from the wall and a thick, yellowish liquid leaked from the wall. In an instant, the air was heavy with a rancid, almost putrid smell.
The worst though was the place where the bump had been before. Instead of the bricks that should’ve been below the plaster, I saw a twitching fleshy mass. There were holes or pores in it from which the disgusting liquid seemed to be pumped outwards.
When the shock and the sheer absurdity of the situation settled in, I stumbled back, not even able to scream. In an instant, I rushed to the bathroom and vomited.
For long seconds I stood behind the bathroom door shivering. I told myself to reach for the door and open it, but I wasn’t able to move.
What the hell had I just seen?
I tried to reason with myself that it hadn’t been real, that it couldn’t be. It had to be my imagination. The grinding and breathing, too. My mind must’ve made it all up for whatever, fucked up reason.
Yet, the trick didn’t work. Not this time.
When I reached out for the door, it wasn’t to open it. It was to lock it.
I don’t know when sleep arrived, but I must’ve sat in the bathtub for hours, shaking and shivering.
What woke me up was knocking against my front door. For a few seconds, I didn’t understand where I was. When the knocking continued, I got up. For a moment I hesitated, then unlocked the door and peeked outside. When I found nothing lying in wait for me, I hurried to the front door.
At the door, Jen greeted me and I could see the relief on her face.
“Oh thank god, Linda, you’re okay,” she said. “I thought you’d be gone, too.”
I had no idea what she was talking about.
“What’s going on?”
“Will’s gone!” she exclaimed.
“There’s no trace of him, but he wouldn’t just run off like that!”
“You think something happened to him?”
Jen nodded, a worried look on her face. Only now did she seem to notice what a mess I was.
“Linda, what happened? Are you all right?”
“I,” I started but couldn’t finish the sentence.
“I saw something, that’s all.”
Jen didn’t press on.
“You want to come down with me?”
“Yeah, I’m not going back in there,” I said as I took a glance over my shoulder.
When Jen led me inside, the rest of the group looked up.
“What did you bring her down for?” Jay asked annoyed.
“She’s scared asshole,” was all Jen replied to his remark.
“Something happened to you, too?”
It was Steve who stepped up to me. I nodded weakly, only now noticing how exhausted I was after the events of the last days.
“Well, you gonna spit it out, lady?”
“Jay. Just. Shut. Up. Okay?” Jen snapped at him.
She turned from him and motioned for me to take a seat on the couch. She vanished in another room and brought me a cup of watered-down coffee. After a few sips, I told the rest what I’d seen last night.
“All right, what the hell’s going on here?” Steve cursed after a while.
“Is that shit still there?” Jay asked.
“I only saw it in the middle of the night, so I don’t know,” I admitted.
Right at that moment Steve got up and made his way to Will’s room. I rushed after him.
“Careful,” I urged him.
When we were both in the room, I could see that the window was still wide open. Will’s bed was in chaos. Apart from that though, the rest of the room seemed almost untouched.
Steve stepped to the open window and carefully leaned outside to check the mansion’s wall. A moment later he turned back to me.
“Can’t see a thing.”
I don’t know why, but somehow I already knew that there wouldn’t be a hint of those bumps left.
We returned to the living room and found the rest talking about Will and what might have happened to him.
“Why are you so sure he didn’t just run off?”
It was Phil who answered.
“It’s not so easy. He needs his,” he made a pause trying to find the right words, “medication. You know he’s…”
His voice trailed off without finishing the sentence.
Medication, I thought and smiled knowingly while Jen frowned at Phil’s all too obvious lie.
“The window’s a mess, too. Someone must’ve pried it open from outside,” Jen went on.
I looked up at that. It was the first time I’d heard that and I was alarmed.
“Did you call the police?”
“Yeah, called them first thing in the morning, but they haven’t arrived yet,” she blurted out quickly.
“Tell you how it is, lady,” Jay cut in after a brief glance at Jen. “They probably won’t show up at all. We’d some trouble here before, right after we moved in. Took them days to show up, and they didn’t seem to care one bit.”
“So if he didn’t run away, and someone broke in the room, what do you think happened?” I finally asked.
While they all argued about it, I remembered what Will had told me before. Someone had been tapping against his window and he’d seen a silhouette. When I spoke up about it, everyone turned to me.
“You think someone in that mansion took him?” Steve spoke up.
As the rest of the group argued about what to do, I turned to Jen.
“Hey, Jen, is it all right if I take a nap here?”
She looked around and frowned.
“Let’s go to my room, you can sleep there. You never know what happens with those guys around?”
She looked right at Jay when she said this.
“Fuck you bitch, it only happened once,” he said and gave her the finger.
I couldn’t tell if they were joking or not.
Jen’s room could barely be called that. It was tiny and only comprised a bed and a small shelf.
“Sorry to ask, but could you bring me some water? Oh, and if possible,” I added with a weak smile, “maybe something that helps me sleep a little better?”
“Sure thing, Linda.”
She returned and handed me a glass of water. After the first sip, I gulped down the rest greedily. I was surprised by how thirsty I was. It took only a moment for me to drift off.
When I woke up, I was glad that I hadn’t been plagued by any weird dreams. I guess whatever Jen gave me did the trick. I got up and stumbled from the tiny room.
“You were out pretty long,” I heard Phil from behind me. “It’s already dark outside.”
I nodded and made my way to the living room.
“Hey there, sleeping beauty,” Jay greeted me with a little wink.
I didn’t even bother to give him a reply.
“What about the police? Did they turn up yet?”
“Nope,” Steve answered.
“Any news about Will?”
I got a second nope.
Steve told me they’d gone over to the old mansion but weren’t able to see anything via the stained old windows. After that, they’d gone to what they thought was the front door. Whatever they did, however much they pounded against it and called out, there was no reaction. They even tried to force themselves in, but the door didn’t budge at all.
The worst, he said, was the feeling the giant building gave them. The entire time they felt as if someone was watching them. It was almost a physical sensation. Yet, there was no one there at all and they saw no movement behind any of the windows.
As I listened, I fumbled for my phone but realized it wasn’t there.
“Shit,” I cursed. It was still at my place.
For a moment I considered giving up on it, but then I told myself that was ridiculous. What was the worst that could happen? Not like a freaking wall could come after me, anyway. I’d rush in, grab the phone, and be gone in an instant.
“Linda, where are you going?” Jen asked when I made my way towards the door.
“Gotta get my phone. I’ll be right back.”
In front of my door, I told myself to calm down. Then I took a deep breath and opened the door.
At first, I only peeked inside. When I saw or heard nothing strange, I entered.
My phone was still in the living room and I hurried inside. I rummaged through the room before I found it lying right below the window.
As I kneeled to grab it, the same terrifying sounds I’d heard last night started again.
“Oh god, please no.”
I told myself to just get the damned phone and run. Yet, when I got up, my eyes wandered back to the wall, driven by some abstruse sense of curiosity.
When I stared at it, I saw that it was entirely covered by pulsating bumps.
Fear washed over me as I stared at the absurdity in front of me. I took a step back, but at that moment one of the disgusting bumps burst open. This time it wasn’t only the disgusting liquid that poured from it.
With wide eyes, frozen and uncomprehending I watched as the flesh below it wiggled and push forward. It stretched further and further into the direction of my building almost like a tentacle. There was a wet splash as the flesh made contact. The same putrid smell reached my nose, and I gagged.
At that moment, I saw that the window opposite me was wide open.
My eyes were met with an older woman and for a moment I thought someone was living over there. I opened my mouth to say something, but at that moment she leaned forward and I could make out the horrible face.
Behind greasy strains of overlong hair lay a bulging, leather forehead. Her eyes were deep and sunken between puffy, almost disgustingly swollen skin. Where her nose should’ve been I saw a protruding, bony thing that had pushed out from the festering skin around it. The mouth was a lipless hole filled with rotten and misshapen teeth.
When she saw me, the smile on her deformed face grew wider and wider until it almost divided her face in two.
“Why don’t you come over here and join me, little girl?” she asked, giggling.
Everything about her voice was wrong. It was like a distorted version of that of an old woman.
Her mouth opened impossibly wide, almost as if her jaw unhinged like that of a snake.
I was still frozen in terror, stunned by the ghastly thing opposite me.
As if in a dream I watched as she put two huge, bony hands on the windowsill before she seemed to reach out for me. I thought there was no way she’d reached me, not from over there, but her arms were impossible long. They reached further and further before the thing’s hands got a hold of my windowsill.
I watched in utter horror as the creature pulled itself over. Her body wasn’t that of a human being. It was nothing but a long mass of bloated flesh, like a snake or a worm. I pushed myself up, tried to flee my apartment but before I’d even taken a step, one of the creature’s hands had closed around my ankle.
I hit the ground as the thing yanked me back and toward the window. My fingers clawed at the floor, desperately trying to find a hold, but there was nothing there. I screamed, kicked at the hand that held on to me again and again, but it was futile. I was dragged backward while the creature giggled at my feeble attempts.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
I kept trying to free myself, flailed around in complete and utter terror, but it did nothing. A second hand closed around my arm. I wanted to scream again, to call out for help but only incomprehensible noises escaped my throat.
I felt like prey that had been caught by its hunter, waiting for the final blow to come. All strength left my body as the giant mouth of the creature moved in closer. It reached my foot and a disgusting, swollen tongue pushed outwards. It slowly entangled my leg, snaking around my ankle before it moved upwards. I felt a burning pain erupting for my leg before I lost all feeling in it.
I waited for the creature to sink its teeth into my flesh, but it continued to pull me in closer. Oh god, I realized, it would swallow me whole.
Right at that moment, I heard a scream from behind me. When I looked towards the door, I saw Jen standing there. A second later Phil and Steve joined her.
“What the fuck?!” Phil screamed.
For a moment they were as shocked as I was, unable to do anything. Steve was the first to move again. He rushed forward, picked up a chair, and attacked the creature.
Jen and Phil got a hold of my arms and tried to pull me free, but they were barely a match for the creature’s strength.
The thing wailed in pain as Steve crashed the chair against its head again and again. For a moment it redoubled its effort, and I screamed in pain, thinking it would rip my leg off.
Suddenly the creature let go of me and turned to attack Steve. It swatted the chair aside with such force it flew from his hands and crashed against the wall. Phil was with him in a second and together both of them kicked and beat the creature until it was forced to retreat.
Finally free, I scrambled away from the window and watched as the creature’s worm-like body slithered backward. A moment later it vanished behind the mansion’s window. It grinned at me one last time before the curtains closed.
As soon as it was gone, I screamed again. The nihilistic thought of giving up was gone from my mind. I crawled towards the exit, tried to get up, but fell instantly.
“Linda, wait, it’s all right, it’s all right,” Jen whispered at me in a quiet voice repeatedly.
As I came back to my senses, I felt a burning pain in my arm and saw the red, burned skin where the creature had touched me. My leg was even worse. The skin on my lower leg was cracked and covered in blisters.
Wave after wave washed over me and I felt tears streaming from my eyes as the others pulled me up carefully.
I only remember bits and pieces as they dragged me downstairs. More than once my consciousness drifted off. When we’d finally made it down I was a shivering, shaking mess.
While Jen did her best to treat my wounds, she explained to a confused Jay what had happened.
Steve and Phil rushed to Will’s room the moment we were back. Not wanting to risk another attack by the creature, they locked the door and erected a makeshift barrier in front of it.
“We need to leave,” I urged Jen and tried to push myself from the couch. I sank back almost instantly, cursing with tears in my eyes. The pain was unbearable.
Minutes later the grinding sound started again, but this time it was much, much louder.
While the others were confused about it, I knew what it meant. The mansion was dragging itself closer again. Terrified, I wanted to call out to Jen. Before I could, we heard a loud shattering noise from somewhere in the building. Drowned out, terrified screams followed it.
We all looked around in horror before I realized the source.
“The old couple on the upper floor!” I shouted. “That thing must be back!”
The guys rushed out and only moments later Jen, and me leaning onto her, followed behind.
Right as we’d made it up the stairs, we saw Steve kicking in the door. Instead of going in, all three of the guys cringed back.
“What are you doing? Help them!” I said weakly, but the moment Jen and I reached them, my voice dropped.
The old couple was standing in front of the remains of their living room window. Behind them, the twisting, wiggling mass of flesh had pushed itself into their living room. It was already starting to spread out, and I saw the disgusting, putrid liquid pumping from the pores in the flesh. It was leaking all over the living room floor.
They were both screaming, trying to get away, but in shock, I saw that their feet seemed to be stuck to the floor.
When they noticed us they reached out for us. I saw the old woman toppling over into our direction, landing right in the puddle of liquid. There was a sizzling, burning sound. When she lifted her face again, it was covered in blisters, the skin burned and bursting open.
Jay wanted to rush forward to help them. Right at this moment, another gush of the yellowish liquid poured from the fleshy mass and drenched them.
Their screams turned to a high-pitched wailing that should not come from any human being. I watched in horror as the liquid ate through their clothes, their skin, and into their bodies.
The flesh dropped and oozed from their bodies in mushy pieces and mixed with the puddle below them.
As the smell of burning, melting flesh reached us, Phil stumbled back a few steps and vomited.
Jay finally slammed the door shut. For a moment we all stood in the hallway, in utter disbelief at what had happened. A loud, crashing thump brought us back to reality.
“What now!?” Jen shrieked.
“Help me. Quick!” I yelled at her.
“Linda, what are you-“ she began as I pulled her towards my apartment.
As we reached the front door, we both stopped.
“How the,” she started but didn’t finish. As we stared inside we saw that my living room window was now completely sealed off by a wall. I don’t even know what was more disturbing, my sealed off window, or that the mansion’s had vanished.
“What the fuck’s going on?” Phil yelled in alarm stopping in his track. Steve and Jay barged in after us but immediately took off downstairs without saying a word.
When Jen and I made it down, I could see them tearing down the makeshift barrier in front of Will’s room.
As Jay ripped open the door, I already knew what he’d find. A window blocked off by a solid wall. No one even mentioned the window that here too had vanished.
“What the hell,” I heard Jay curse.
Steve walked up to the wall and after hesitating, he reached out with his hand.
“Feels warm,” he said with a pale face, turning to Jay.
I stared at the wall and watched as a bump formed under the plaster that was rapidly growing bigger.
“Get away from there!” I screamed, but it was already too late.
The bump burst open.
The first thing I heard wasn’t the tearing of plaster, neither the squirting of liquid, but the sound of burning flesh. Then all sounds were drowned out by Steve’s screams.
The liquid on Steve’s hand, arm, and shoulder ate into his flesh. I watched horrified as bits and pieces of his arm fell to the ground, melting away. Then his shoulder vanished, almost collapsed inwards eaten away by the liquid. His bloodcurdling screams died out even before his body hit the floor.
That was it for me. Before anyone could move or react, I pushed myself forward. I made it only a few steps before I crashed to the floor.
“Out!” I screamed. “We have to get out!”
Pain rushed through my entire body as I fought myself back up. With adrenaline coursing through my veins, I dragged myself forward, thinking of nothing but escape.
I reached the hallway and finally the exit door. I almost blacked out from the pain in my wounded, burned arm as I ripped open the door.
Instead of the fresh, chilly night air, another wall greeted me. I stared at it in disbelief and slumped to the floor.
I saw Jen stopping in her tracks right behind me, covering her mouth, letting out a terrified yelp.
“No way,” she whispered as she came towards me.
Phil and Jay followed behind us after their initial shock. As I turned, I saw them move to the next apartment over. They kicked down the door only to emerge from it again after a few seconds. Then they rushed to the next one.
Phil and Jay didn’t say a word when they sank down next to me and Jen with thousand-yard stares.
I didn’t even bother to ask. I knew what they’d found in all the apartments. Every window and every spot that lead outside was now gone.
We were completely trapped and cut off from the rest of the world.
After we’d mustered up enough energy we checked the basement. There was no way out there either. All the tiny basement windows had been sealed off.
The internet and the energy were still working, hell even the phones did for some time.
For hours we desperately tried to get help, all of us did. I called the police over and over. I got through several times, but the signal was so bad, they weren’t even able to make out what I was saying.
Before long I gave up on it. Even if they could understand the address, what would happen? By now our building was most likely surrounded by the mansion’s walls and had become another part of it. They’d probably think they got the wrong address or write it off as a prank call.
We carefully tried to break open the walls, but it was another futile try. The weird, fleshy mass had already replaced the bricks right below the plaster. The moment we discovered it, the same liquid that had killed Steve and the old couple leaked from it. It didn’t matter what we used, be it metal or wood, everything that touched the liquid melted.
Whatever we tried, nothing had an effect on those damned walls and any damage was soon regenerated.
In the end, there was nothing we could do.
Before long we moved to the center of the hallway. At least here we’d be as far away as possible from those outer walls and the corrosive liquid.
While we gathered anything useful, we noticed that the surrounding walls were changing and shifting.
At times the hallway was shorter than before. Then, an hour later, it seemed too long. The layout of the apartments changed too. At first, it was little by little, but soon entire rooms were replaced by different ones. It seemed as if the entire place was remodeled and incorporated into whatever the mansion was.
It was because of these changes I remembered that we weren’t alone.
When I checked one of the vacant apartments for usable things, a wall in front of me started moving. I stumbled backward as fast as my injured leg allowed me too, but for a moment the interior of the mansion was revealed to me.
I don’t know what I saw. Words can’t describe it. It was both a void, but also a room glistering in all the colors of the rainbow.
A hulking, humanoid creature, much too tall and skinny noticed me. For a second the creature stared at me and I could see its deformed face. It was twisted into a perpetual, grinning smile.
During the few seconds, I stared into the mansion’s interior a wave of euphoria washed over me and I couldn’t help but giggle.
It was over as soon as the wall closed again. The bout of insanity left me terrified and shivering. Was this what awaited us?
As I retreated to the hallway, I heard noises from behind the wall, soon followed by giggling. It soon transformed into distant laughter. When I reached the hallway, it had already stopped.
At times I could still hear it, resounding from different parts and areas of the building or the surrounding walls. I imagined the creature hiding behind the walls or in the crawl spaces below or above us, exploring the ever-changing walls and rooms of the mansion.
While we huddled together in the hallway, the hours soon turned to days. I don’t know if I ever slept during that time.
The first to break was Phil. It happened while we made plans on how to ration the food and water we’d left.
“Why don’t we just drink from the freaking tap?” he suddenly yelled at us, staring at the small cup of water he was holding.
No one replied. There was no need to. After Phil had gulped down the contents of his cup, he went on.
“I mean the energy’s still working, the internet too, so why not the pipes?”
He looked at each one of us, trying to find either reassurance or someone stopping him. He got neither. No one said a word. Jen didn’t even look up.
“Come on, you guys must be thirsty too! We might be able to drink it, why not try it? You know, to see if it’s all right!”
“Go ahead then,” Jay said shrugging.
Phil stood there, unmoving for a while. Then he turned to me. I could see his wide eyes, his quivering lips. His entire expression was pleading with me. I could tell that he wanted me to stop him, wanted me to tell him that there was no way the water would be fine. He was so afraid.
I didn’t say a thing for a while.
“Go do it,” I pressed out and looked away. I couldn’t deal with any of this anymore.
I heard him mumble to himself as he walked away. Soon I heard the distant sound of running water. After a while, I heard him again.
“It’s fine!” he called out to us.
“Nothing is happening, my hand’s not burning at all! I’m sure I can drink it, right guys?”
His voice almost broke because of fear.
I stayed quiet.
After a few more seconds I heard him gulp down. What surprised me the most wasn’t that he actually drank the water, but how clearly I heard it.
Moments later he returned to us.
“I told you guys it would be fine. I knew we could drink it all along,” he said snootily.
“You guys are such idiots, saving up and rationing those few bottles of water as if they are oh so important. Why don’t you guys drink from the-“
“Oh, will you shut up already?!” Jen yelled from behind me without even turning around.
I saw Phil open his mouth to snap back at her, but then he mumbled a “Whatever,” and sat back down.
Not even ten minutes later I could hear him breathe heavily and shifting around on the floor.
“Will you fucking stop?” Jen screamed at him again.
As I looked over, I could see that his face was glowing red and covered in sweat.
“What’s the matter?” I asked him.
Phil’s eyes focused on me. He opened his mouth but instead of words only bloody froth came from it. When he saw it, his eyes went wide. He stared at me pleadingly, as if I could do anything to save him.
Then he started to scream. He twisted, flailed around and his jaw cramped up. His eyes almost popped from his sockets as he continued to scream.
“Shouldn’t have drunk the damn water,” I said to myself.
Suddenly he clutched at his abdomen, pulled up his shirt and I could see the many deep, bloody holes. I saw his hands dig into the mushy flesh, tearing at it and trying to fix what could not be fixed. His screams lasted a while longer before silence returned.
Jen had looked on without saying a word and had turned away already. After we’d found that all the exits were blocked off and there was no way out, she’d given up.
Jay was quiet too, staring at his dead friend with wide, shocked eyes, but he too turned away soon after.
Ever since we’ve moved to the hallway, I’ve spent the days in front of my laptop. There’s still power and an internet connection. I don’t know if I should thank god or curse him for it.
I’ve been typing out what’s happening to us for a while now. It keeps me busy and distracts me from the bleak reality around me.
I’ve posted this story all over the internet. I cried for help, pleaded, asked for advice, for an explanation, but no one believed me. The only thing I got was ridicule and jokes.
No one but the social service knows we’re even out here. There are so many similar buildings throughout the city though. They had renovated all of them, in their new ‘cheap housing for everyone’ project and filled with people like me, the undesirable. By now they’ve probably forgotten about half of those buildings already. Hell, I doubt they’d even bother with us if we’d stopped paying rent. At least for a while.
I wrote to them but there’s no reply, as I’d expected.
After that, I wrote to all my friends, acquaintances, and family, anyone I could remember. I told them I needed help, that I was in trouble and gave them my address.
Yet, no one’s replied to me. Most of them had given up on me years ago when I was still hooked on the drugs. They probably think that’s why I’m writing them. I doubt any of them would believe that I’m clan.
I would laugh if I still had the energy left for it.
This thing here, this mansion, it’s not a building. I don’t know what it is or where it came from. All I can say is that a thing like this shouldn’t exist.
There were noises all around us again. The giggling, the shifting of the walls, the grinding outside. It most likely means that the mansion is now closing in on another building. There’s most likely not a single trace left of our small building and soon… Oh god, I can’t bring myself to write those thoughts down.
When I last woke up, a wooden door had appeared at the end of the hallway. It was just there, out of nowhere.
Jay has been looking at it for hours. Jen ignored it like everything else. She’s alive, but she doesn’t talk or even move. Only once in a while, she takes a sip of water, but that’s all she ever does.
I’m trying my best to not think about that stupid door and keep on typing. Jay is trying the same but I can see he’s getting restless. He’s been staring at the door for god knows how long. Every once in a while he’s shaking his head and mumbling to himself. I know he’s contemplating to open it.
Jay is gone.
At one point he couldn’t take it anymore and got up. I followed him as best as I could on my injured leg.
“I’m going,” he said as I reached him.
Again, I said not a word.
“Just sitting here won’t do anything. Maybe I can find a way out.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I said a weak voice and nodded.
“Right? The mansion has windows and doors. If I find anything then,” he said but his voice trailed off.
We both knew anyway. We knew about the liquid, the shifting walls, and the monsters.
“I’ll bring help, I swear it.”
With that, he put his hand on the doorknob. I nodded as he turned it. There was nothing but thick, heavy darkness behind it. A few seconds later he stepped in.
The darkness engulfed him. I stood there for a long time as the echo of his footsteps grew quieter and quieter. I waited for the screams, the laughter, the grinding, the glowing lights I’d seen before, for anything. Yet there was nothing, no sounds at all. I waited desperately for anything to get him.
Tears streamed from my eyes as I threw the door shut and cursed at the damned mansion for giving me hope.
Jen suddenly started talking again.
“What are you even doing?” she asked as she turned over to me.
“Typing, it keeps me sane.”
She laughed. I didn’t know she had the energy left for that.
“Why do you even bother? We’ll die in here, anyway! Why not let go?” she asked. “Letting go is the best damn feeling in the world. God, I wish I had some,” she rambled on.
“What do you mean?”
She told me about all sorts of drugs, many of which even I hadn’t heard. As it turned out she and her friends weren’t just potheads. No, they were hooked on various stimulants, at least most of them.
Some, like Phil and Jen, were heavy users, while others like Steve or Steve stayed mostly clean.
“Is that why the police didn’t show up? Because they knew you’re… drug addicts?” I asked after she was finished.
Jen burst out laughing and then dropped me a bomb.
“Oh god, Linda, how can you be so freaking stupid at times? You think we actually called them? You really did? Oh my god, that’s hilarious!”
With that, she burst out laughing once more.
“What do you think would’ve happened? What would we even tell them? Oh, hey officer, our friend vanished, please ignore all the drugs and search for him, kay?”
She kept on laughing while I sat there, trying to take in what she’d told me.
“There was so much of the shit in Will’s room. What do you think would’ve happened? We’d look at some serious time, fuck, even the shit in my blood would’ve been enough for that,” she continued, but then broke up.
“Guess prison would’ve been better than to die here, right, Linda?”
I was still fuming, not able to bring out a damn word.
“Linda?” she asked again. When I said nothing she turned around again.
“Well then, fuck you, too,” she mumbled.
I kept quiet and typed out what this bitch had told me and what she and her friends had done.
If the police would’ve come and cleared out their fucking apartment, I’d not be here right now.
It’s her fault. They’ve all been lying to me. I could’ve been saved instead of being trapped in this, this…
That door is still there, even now, hours after Jay went in. It’s still tempting me.
I heard something scratch over the wooden surface. Maybe the creature that tried to get me is back? Maybe something even more terrifying. I can imagine it, sitting behind the door, waiting until I get as desperate as Jay.
That’s why this damned door is still there. To lure me in. To give me hope, hope that doesn’t exist.
No, not me. I wouldn’t fall for it.
As I’m typing out these last few lines my food reserves are diminishing. There’s still water left for days though, maybe a week.
I’ve been thinking a lot. What if someone’s coming? Maybe my parents read my email? Or what if the social service is coming to check things out? Maybe they even answered me, but the mails aren’t coming through anymore.
I have to last a little longer.
All I need is to find food. I checked all the apartments again, but there’s nothing left.
However, there’s another option. One I haven’t even thought about. I don’t know where those thoughts are coming from. At first, they were scary, terrifying, but now I realize that they are right. It’s all her fault after all isn’t it? It’s the least she can do. I know anyone who’d read this would agree with me.
I’ll post this today. The phones haven’t been working in days and the power keeps cutting out.
If I put this all out there, if someone reads this, then help will come. I can’t give up. I only have to last a bit longer.
More and more often I stare at her. She’s asleep, so she won’t notice a thing.
Oh, I’m giggling already. Her not knowing what I’ll do, just like I didn’t know about the police makes me laugh so much.
I can’t hold back anymore, I just can’t. All I can feel is euphoria and I can’t stop smiling. It reminds me of that strange, hulking creature I saw and that makes it even more hilarious.
I know I have to be quick. I can’t let her wake up.
The knife is already resting on my lap. I just have to send this, then it’s time.
Oh, I can’t wait anymore.
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