Matilda woke up a few hours later, her apartment quiet and cold. Stuffing her feet into her slippers, she shuffled to the thermostat. It was still set at the seventy mark from earlier, but the room temperature read about thirty-eight degrees. Matilda tapped on the thermostat and selected the outside temperate. It read sixty degrees.
She exhaled sharply, her breath steaming. She walked to the window and tried opening it, but the window was stuck. She pulled up on it with more force which only made the wood groan.
“Fuck.” She smacked the window sill with an open palm and winced; grumbling in pain. Her breath fogged up the window. It was dark outside, the clock in the kitchen read seven. It was strange for it to be dark this early in the summer. A frozen gust traveled passed her ankles and she stepped back from the window. Kneeling down, she held a hand next to the vent on the floor. Cold air blew up from the vent; glancing back at the thermostat, she noted that the blue light for the air conditioner wasn’t on.
Matilda grimaced. With Mrs. Flintman gone she wasn’t sure who she should call to fix the air system. What about her son, a tiny voice in the back of her mind spoke. She dug through her desk, looking for any scrap of paper. Under a notebook she found a scrap of paper with the words ‘Flintman, son’ written on it. She grabbed her phone and dialed the number.
She got a busy signal. Frustrated, she hung up the phone and tossed it to the floor. She plugged in the kettle and while it warmed up, she dug out a hat and scarf from a wicker basket by the door. The kettle whistled and she switched it off. She began to pour the water into a mug when something stopped her in mid movement. Something that was almost familiar.
The beat was almost not there at all. For a moment she suspected that it was in her head, until it grew louder and she could hear the lyrics.
Knock three times, one the ceiling if you want me. Twice on the pipe, if the answer is no. Oh my sweetness. Means you’ll meet me in the hallway, twice on the pipe mean you ain’t gonna show.
She turned and looked into the rest of her apartment, scrutinizingly, as if blaming the room for the noise. Her eyes found the grate on the wall. It was louder than it had been the night before, cutting eerily through the frozen air. She knew then where the noise was coming from, although fixing the problem made her feel sick. The noise was coming from the basement.
Matilda paced her apartment, her slippered feet sliding across the hardwood. It had only been a dream after all, but just something about it had stayed with her. It was only Jason down there, maybe he didn’t realize how loud the music was, maybe she should just go knock and ask him to turn it down. The vision of the door to the basement stairs surfaced in her thoughts and she felt her breath catch in her throat.
Get a hold of yourself, for christsake you’re an adult. It’s a basement. We aren’t freezing to death listening to seventies music because you’re scared. Angrily, she stomped her feet, balled up her fists, and faced her front door. In a jolt of angry courage she pulled open her front door and stepped into the hallway. The hallway was colder than her apartment, but it didn’t deter her from walking toward the back of the hall, where the door to the basement would be. The music was in the hall too, up through the same grates in the walls. A low rumbling gurgle joined the music the closer that Matilda got. Her paced slowed as it got louder and changed into something more recognizable. It was a growling noise and it was moving on the other side of the wall. She shuddered and put her weight against the wall, her legs betraying her.
Only in my dreams did that wall between us come apart.
Her moment of courage was gone and she felt her knees start to buckle. The hallway began to rotate and twist. The growling continued ahead of her, she trembled. The music was blaring through the building, but she could hear something moving up the stairs. It was a soft and sludge-like sound, it made a slapping noise with every movement. The lights flickered and Matilda suffered with the music. The lyrics forced themselves into her brain scrambling all of her thoughts. She felt more dizzy and disorientated than she ever had. She heard the door to the basement swing open with incredible force.
I can feel your body swayin, one floor below me you don’t even know me.
The lights in the hall started to pop, going out one by one away from the basement stairs and sprinkling glass shards into the carpet. She felt a stone drop in her stomach and turned back to her apartment. She struggled to walk to the door, her entire body fighting her on moving; terror seizing her limbs. Tears were freely flowing down her face as she grabbed at the door knob. Whatever was in the basement was close behind her, she could hear it moving across the carpet. She could feel heat from it on her calves and the smell of rotting flesh filled her nose. She pounded on and forced her weight against the door, as it became harder and harder to breath. She screamed into the darkness as her door burst open.
Matilda fell inside and pushed the door shut with her foot. But not before she caught a glimpse of what was behind her. Green eyes that glinted in the darkness. She scrambled to lock the doors and sat with her back pressed it to, sobbing into her hands. The last thing she remembered before passing out was the music cutting out almost instantly, the growling stopping, and a soft, wet tap on her door.