Samantha was pretty sure there were elephants living above them. They stomped around their apartment, sometimes it sounded like they were running from one end of the apartment to the other. They were always dropping things too, but she could never make out exactly what it was. Sometimes it sounded like loose change, sometimes a single hard clunk.
They also vacuumed at all hours of the night. There was no pattern she could make out, sometimes it was four in the afternoon on a Monday, and sometimes it was past midnight on a Thursday. They either had some sort of cleaning obsession or they constantly dropped food everywhere, something Samantha assumed was true.
Her husband, Joel, wasn’t bothered by it, which drove her even more insane over the whole situation. He said it wasn’t that bad, and what can you expect from a big complex? It made her feel like she was going crazy, but she reassured herself with movies and TV. They always told her someone isn’t aware they are going crazy.
The family of Sasquatch’s had overflowed their bathtub at least three times in the last six months and because Samantha was on the bottom floor, it all flowed down onto her tile floor. She slipped one night using the toilet and nearly broke her tail bone. That was the last straw, she would leave a note on the door to the building so everyone could see it, and she couldn’t be accused of trying to bully someone. Plus she had never met the people above her, so she had no idea who to confront even if she wanted to.
She typed up a letter and proceeded to delete after re-reading it. It was too angry and confrontational, no one wanted to be called an actual elephant. She worked it over in her head and typed out a polite, if not a bit sarcastic, letter. She re-read it and approved, grabbed the tape, and hung it on the back of the door so everyone could see it while leaving the building.
Later that night while doing her laundry in the common area outside her apartment door, she peaked around the stairs to see if her letter was still there. It was, but someone had drawn a flaccid penis on it. She thought about leaving it up but remembered there were a few innocent children in her building that always played down the street.
She ripped it down, planning a re-write for tomorrow. The new letter was a bit more to the point but still polite. She thanked everyone for reading it, but dropped the warm opening. She was so excited about it; she taped it up before she turned in for the night.
The next morning most of the letters were scribbled out so the sign on the door now read, T-W-A-T-F-A-C-E. Her frustrations boiled over as she yelled out a growl loud enough to make sure anyone home was aware of her presence. She crumpled up the paper and left it on the floor.
She needed to go to work and naturally the management office would be closed by the time she got home. She would call tomorrow morning, she was free all day, and it was Saturday. She needed to make an official complaint about the neighbors upstairs and if she thought of it, everyone living in her building.
Her entire day had been consumed by planning out her phone call to the office. She didn’t want to be one of those tenants that called all the time, even though she had only called twice in three years. She was so obsessive she ended up leaving early so she could walk over instead of postponing her call to tomorrow. She was running the conversation over and over in her head that she didn’t see the ambulance and police car right behind her, flashing their lights and beeping their sirens.
She got out of the way by turning into her apartment complex. When she parked she took some deep breathes to calm herself down from not only the rush of lights and noises moments ago, but the conflict she was about to have.
She got out of her car and marched to the office. It was the younger girl they hired last summer at the desk but the manager’s southern voice was coming from the other room on a phone call. She smiled to Samantha.
“Hi, I live in Eight-D as in Dog.”
“Yes, you were the one that told us about the garbage men not cleaning up after themselves.”
“That would be me, I hate having to do this, but I have a noise complaint.”
“Oh no, I’m sorry. What’s the issue?”
“It’s the neighbors. The ones above me, they stomp around and run their shower for hours at a time. I tried leaving a note but they have only gotten worse.”
“Ok, so the neighbors above you, or?”
“I believe it’s the ones right above me, yes.”
“Give me a sec, will you?”
Before Samantha could respond the girl had disappeared around the corner to the manager’s office. Seconds later the manager, she thought his name was Bruce, came out with the young girl.
“Hi darling, Jen tells me you have a noise complaint about the neighbors?”
“Yes, I hate doing this, but they have gotten very rambunctious lately, enough that I’m having trouble sleeping.”
The manager and girl looked at each other.
“Doll, I’m not sure what to say here, but there isn’t anyone living above you.”
Heat filled Samantha’s face. She immediately began to protest.
“That seems impossible. I’m sure there is someone up there. They are always walking around, always.”
“Why don’t I take a walk over with you real quick,” said the manager.
“Ok,” said Samantha.
“Maybe someone with an old key got in without our knowledge.”
They walked over in silence. Samantha was thinking she had made a mistake. Maybe it was someone in another apartment adjacent to hers. They entered building eight and walked up the stairs.
“You said you were in eight-d, right?”
He put the master key in the door at the top of the stairs above her apartment and opened. A foul stench came out and stung their nostrils.
“It’s been a year with that smell. That’s why we haven’t rented it out. Can’t figure out what it is.”
He stepped inside and Samantha followed, covering her nose the best she could. The apartment was empty. Part of the carpet had been ripped up and placed back over the floor and cabinets lay across the ground, half painted. A cheap golden chandelier sat next to them.
“If no one lives here, what have I been hearing?”
“Maybe someone’s TV is too loud and it’s been rumbling the floor boards. I’ll have Gil send out letters to everyone to lower the noise level.”
They exited the apartment and the manager said a kind goodbye as Samantha went back into her own apartment. She dropped her purse on the couch and kicked off her shoes. She took a couple deep sighs and walked to the bedroom. All she wanted to do was have a glass of wine and slip into some sweatpants and wait for her husband.
She sat and waited for Joel to come home, sipping on her blood red wine. She wasn’t sure how her husband would take the events of today. He might think she was losing it and finally cast her and her fixations away forever.
The spring of the screen door opening made her jump. He carried a few shopping bags and was backing his way into the house.
Samantha startled him and one of the bags dropped, cleaning supplies spilling out onto the carpet.
“Holy shit Sam; you scared the socks off me. What are you doing home so early?”
“Well, I decided I wanted to make an official complaint to the office.”
“You did? Why?”
“I was tired of their shit.”
Joel put the rest of the bags down and joined her on the couch. Her lips quivered enough and she pretended to scratch her eye.
“Sam, what’s wrong? Are you OK? What did you do?”
“Well, I’m not sure anymore what OK even means.”
“I left work early so I could walk over to the office. Leaving a message does nothing so I wanted to speak to the manager.”
She took a gulp of wine.
“And?” Joel asked.
“Well, your wife is going crazy.”
“I’ve been telling you that for a long time,” he said smirking.
“This is serious Joel.”
“Sorry, so what did he say?”
“I told him the issues, and we took a little trip.”
Joel’s smirk disappeared.
“Upstairs,” she said.
“I told him the people upstairs have been really bad lately.”
“Why would you confront them? I told you not to go up there, especially without me!”
He stood up and ran his hands over his face.
“Well you don’t need to worry about anything because there is no one up there.”
He seemed to barley notice what she had said.
“I don’t ask much of you Samantha, but I specifically asked you to wait for me. You never listen; you go and do whatever you want regardless of what other people say.”
“Joel, honey, why are you so upset?”
He was pacing now and rubbing his temples.
“Can you calm down please and sit with me?”
He ignored her and picked up the shopping bags and walked into the kitchen. The rest of the evening was uncomfortable silence and angst. Samantha tried apologizing over dinner multiple times and Joel continued to dismiss her. When he did speak he kept repeating that she never listens and he needed his space and they could talk tomorrow.
The sun set and they went to bed with one side of their marriage angry and the other side confused.
Samantha woke up and her husband was gone. A small note rested on his pillow that indicated he went to the store. No hearts or terms of endearment, only plain and to the point text.
She laid her head back on her pillow and looked up at the ceiling, still figuring out why he had been so upset. She watched the shimmering lights from the wind chimes outside her window dance across the walls. It was a small moment of serenity that like all other moments in her apartment, was ruined by a large thump above her, followed by footsteps. Samantha sat up.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
She thought for a moment on getting her broom and hitting the ceiling, but with her luck it would poke a hole through and it would be one more thing to clean up today, along with her marriage. More footsteps joined the original and it sounded like they were circling around the room.
Samantha thought of her options. There was a balcony but she wasn’t athletic enough to climb up and their ladder was too short. She also didn’t want to appear as if she was breaking in, so windows were out.
A spark went off in her head. She smiled and threw on some clothes and headed over to the office.
“So you locked yourself out?”
“I did,” Samantha, pleaded. “I was taking out the garbage and usually I prop the one door to the building open with the garbage room door but I missed it and it swung closed, almost got my fingers too. I was wondering if I could borrow that master key really quick. I’ll bring it right back.”
“You have to make sure you bring it back as soon as you get in. Barry will be here in the next thirty minutes. Have it back before he gets here.”
The girl handed Samantha the skeleton key to her building. She hurried back and didn’t bother to unlock her front patio door but instead entered the building through the main door. She went up the steps to the apartment above her and took in a deep breath and held it for a second.
“I am not crazy.”
She let out the air from her lungs and plunged the key into the doorknob and turned. The door swung open easy but even with the bright autumn sun peering through the windows of the building, the apartment she had opened was solid black inside. She couldn’t see past the entrance way. It was almost as if a black hole had taken up residence above her.
She reached her hand out and crossed the threshold of the doorway. The room felt frigid and an aroma of bleach wafted out to her. She pulled her hand back and decided she would wait for her husband.
Then, someone whispered out to her. She thought it was her name but it was faint. It whispered again and she cocked her head unsure if it was coming from the apartment. She turned her head to have her good ear listen again. The whisper grew quiet so she leaned in further, her ear feeling the cold bite.
A pair of white washed hands reached out from the darkness and grabbed her. One hand wrapped around her mouth and another around her neck and Samantha was pulled into the black void of nothingness as she felt her body go numb.