The following is a short story of mine, recently featured on the podcast Meet My Ghost.
It started when I moved in with my boyfriend.
I just graduated college, graphic design with a minor in dance. Yeah, I know, dance. But, I graduated, landed a decent job where I made decent money. Compared to most college graduates, I was ahead of the game.
Even with a dream job, I still needed to get a roommate, needed a way to keep my rent low while I paid off my loans. This seemed easy enough at first, At least until I realized all of my friends moved back home and out of the city. No friends, no roommate prospects.
I did, however, have a boyfriend.
He was older than me with a good job, his lease was up, he knew I was looking for something, and we were serious enough for it to be a conversation. Actually, with my frantic apartment hunting, it was impossible not to have at least talked about it.
Neither of us were really ready to move in together, though. We had seen more than a few of our mutual friends break up after just a few months of cohabitation. To my mind, nobody was perfect. People had rough edges and sometimes, even if you loved somebody, your rough edges could end up bringing out the worst in each other. Then you break up, and someone is left in the lurch with the rent in a one-bedroom apartment.
We were so hesitant that we might not have done it at all, but then my boyfriend got the promotion. He works as a drug rep, staying local mostly. However, with a new position he gets to go all around the Midwest, gone nearly all week and back on weekends.
It kind of seemed perfect, the best of both worlds. We got plenty of space and still got to have weekends together. I got a roommate, and he had someone getting some use out of his rarely inhabited apartment.
Plus, he makes a ton more money than me. The places we could afford together were palatial compared to the craigslist dumps I had been scoping out before. We ended up getting a little two-bedroom, two-bathroom, slice of heaven with hardwood floors and marble countertops.
We moved in together, and things are going great.
Here’s where things go from great to weird.
I start seeing things, hearing things, in the apartment with me.
Now, it wasn’t anything crazy. No rattling chains or unearthly moans.
I could just… clearly hear something walking around the house with me. The first time I heard it, unpacking my boxes in the empty apartment, I almost had a heart attack. I was sure that somebody was there with me. I called my boyfriend, and went from room to room with my big, wooden rolling pin, the only weapon within reach.
I combed the house but found nobody. Even though I was certain I had heard the gentle brush of carpet, it was still something I could brush off as someone walking around in an apartment above or below me.
I started to see things too. Just a little thing in the corner of my vision, at least a first. It was then a shadow that shouldn’t be there, something that would make me do a double take when I passed an open door.
After only a week living in the new apartment, I began to get spooked.
Still I made excuses, I thought it was just paranoia. After all, I had never really lived kind of alone before. Or, never in such a big space. It was normal to feel unsafe. I grew up in a house full of siblings, and then moved onto a dorm room, I wasn’t exactly accustomed to the quiet or the loneliness.
I told myself I would get used to it.
But, the feeling persisted.
I started to see it more, and more vividly too. It was just like a shadow, like a dark figure, always upright, always indistinct, and always gone after just a moment.
I even went to an eye doctor, hoping against hope that my retina was detaching, or at the very least I had a stigmatism.
Then things began to change. The thing, whatever it was, stopped hiding.
It was a Friday night, and I was laying on the couch, and watching a little mindless reality television. I was facing the hallway, and I watched as it walked down the hallway towards me. Still just a shadow, but a shadow that didn’t vanish.
I still remember how my heart went cold, stuttered to a stop in my chest.
I kept my face forward, as if I was watching TV. It seemed to pause on the threshold to the living room, watching me for a while. Then it clearly, distinctly, walked into the kitchen. I couldn’t move for the rest of the night.
I slept there, on the couch, a blanket pulled up over my head, and only managed to go to sleep after the fear and adrenaline had run its course.
Maybe if it was always like that, I would have left. But it isn’t. Sometimes I go days without seeing it. I’m not crazy. If it was standing behind me when I looked in a mirror, like some sort of cheap jump scare movie, I would be out of there in two seconds.
It never really tried to scare me though. And after I was sure that it wasn’t going to try and hurt me, or drive me out of the apartment, I found the idea of leaving difficult. There was no clause in our lease that said I could leave early if the apartment was haunted. Plus, leaving would mean I would have to explain myself to my boyfriend.
I told myself every night that it must be a nice ghost. And, slowly but surely, things began to get normal.
When I come home, it’s always waiting in the entryway to the kitchen, right across from the front door. It makes me jump every time. Then, it’s gone, usually for the rest of the night. I decided if that was all that happened, I could live with it.
So, I did.
Then, I got the flu.
I had never been so sick in my life. I understood finely how people died from influenza. As a teenager, I never got it, or never really got it. I’m only 22, but it hit me hard. My bones hurt. I had chills, where goosebumps and shivers racked my body. When I wasn’t freezing, my skin was burning.
It felt a little like I had been run over by a steam roller. I tried to drink, but I could barely make myself do it, I just kept throwing up, and it was all I could manage to get a couple mouthfuls of bathroom tap water and crawl back into bed. Sometimes, I wasn’t even able to do that. After one particular marathon session of vomiting, when the fever was raging at a steady 103, I just fell asleep on the bathroom floor, spooning the toilet. When I woke up, I could feel the tile imprint on my cheek.
During the week long sickness, I hardly noticed the thing. Why would I? I wasn’t even feeding myself, let alone wondering where the apartment ghost was.
One night, the last night of the flu when I thought it was never going to end, I started crying. I wasn’t proud of it.
I never wanted my mom so bad in my life. I was lucky enough to have a good mom who loved me, who held my hand and scratched my back when I was sick. Who made sure I ate crackers and brought me orange juice?
Now there was nobody to take care of me, nobody to hold my hand, nobody to tell me it would be okay.
I was all by myself, and excruciatingly lonely.
I wanted to call her, but it was too late to wake her up, especially because there was nothing she could do.
My tears ran during the night and I woke myself up, calling out for her, for anybody.
I dreamed about her holding my hand, brushing the hair off my forehead, stroking my back. It was so real; I could feel it. A fever dream, a beautiful fever dream. Merciful in its vividness.
The touches soothed me, comforted me, just whispers across my skin. I could even feel the indentation on the bed where she sat, fingers brushing again and again against my cheek.
When I woke up there was a glass of water by my bed.
I stared at it, stunned.
Maybe some of you may have thought to yourselves, “Oh well I probably filled it and forgot.” Those are the same people who hadn’t spent the week drinking straight from the tap like a cave person.
I could feel the caresses from the night before clear against my skin. Maybe a fever dream or maybe something else.
I looked slowly towards the open doorway
It was there, just a vague blur, just a lurking thing, the same I had been seeing for the past few months.
It didn’t waver out of my vision as it usually did, but stayed to stare back.
We looked at each other for a long while, sizing each other up? Maybe.
Slowly, carefully, I picked up the glass. I raised it towards the doorway in salute, nodding my head before drinking down the whole thing.
I wasn’t as sick after that. I made my way to the kitchen and ate a whole sleeve of crackers. I tried to keep my face under control. My insides were a mess of panic. It could move things. Couldn’t it poison me? Kill me?
After I didn’t die of poison or anything, I was forced to recognize the glass of water for what it was, a gesture.
Again, things seemed to change.
I was no longer scared. I don’t stay up nights, frozen on the couch because I am too scared to get up. When it meets me at the door, I smile at it. The smile was forced at first, but eventually became kind of genuine.
It sticks around now too.
It follows me sometimes, wandering after me as I move from room to room. More surprising than anything else is that I don’t mind it at all.
I started to think it was even kind of nice. At nights, when I watch T.V, it sticks around like it is watching too, or maybe just watching me watching TV.
I’m pretty sure now that it’s a he, don’t ask me how I know. That’s just the feeling I get.
On weekends, when I clean, he doesn’t bother to hang around me. I think he gets board. He likes to watch me cook, I think. At least, he always seems to come around when I do.
He will stay in whatever room I’m in if I smile at him. He always comes to listen when I sing, even if I am cleaning.
He keeps me company. I’ve even caught myself talking to him. Which, I have to admit, is weird. In my own defense, it’s just little things. I tell him when I leave, when I am out of milk, that I think the dishwasher’s broken. Just little odds and ends that I probably would say out loud to myself anyways.
He’s different when my boyfriend is home, though. It gets, he gets, angry. He avoids us when we are together, or sulks around the edges of the room like he used to. I think he tries to keep away from me for a little after my boyfriend leaves. Almost like he is trying to punish me. But he always comes back.
I think, and I mean I don’t know, it seems crazy, too crazy to even right down maybe. I just… I don’t think it is angry, really, I think it, or he I mean, is jealous.
Hear me out.
My boyfriend left for a long trip, unusually long, eight whole, uneventful days of just be and it. My boyfriend came home, everything was normal. He went to put his stuff away and I went to sit on one of our big armchairs. Suddenly, the thing was over me, looming. So close and solid I almost jumped. He hardly ever acts like that, never comes up on me quick.
The intent was clear, so clear I even smiled. His posture said, “What is he doing back here?”
I shook my head at him. He didn’t move until I actually said out loud, “He lives here, he pays the rent. Go away.”
And, he did.
The next week, when my boyfriend got home again, we had a little issue with our fire alarm. We went to bed, together of course. And, almost immediately the smoke detector in our kitchen went off. He went and got it. There was no smoke, just a little fluke. As soon as we got in bed, it went off again.
This time, I went out to get it.
He was standing there, waiting in the kitchen.
I couldn’t say I was shocked.
I shook my head at him but went back and told my boyfriend I would sleep on the couch to shut it off so he could get some rest. He had a conference the next day and had to be up early.
Of course, no more alarms went off that night.
I lay on the couch, feeling him near, a presence that now made me uncertain, uneasy. I wasn’t’ sure then, but I let an invisible line had been crossed.
In retrospect, I should have put my foot down, should have put a stop to it then.
Things did not go back to normal.
The next day, after my boyfriend had left for work, something else happened.
I was standing, doing the dishes, when he touched the back of my neck. It was something between a kiss and a finger drug carefully, intimately across the exposed skin above my collar.
It felt almost real, almost the same as a human finger. Operative word being almost.
A chill crept over me as he lingered, lurking. I was almost certain he was watching the goosebumps play over my skin.
I stiffened, didn’t move, didn’t breathe, determined to ignore him. I would not reward bad behavior again. Because it was bad, the feeling was entirely… too possessive.
I need help. I don’t hate Him; I don’t even necessarily want him to leave. But, I can tell that this is going somewhere fast. Whoever this is, whatever this is, it thinks I belong to it. It doesn’t like my boyfriend and it is beginning to touch me more and more often. At night, I can feel it in my bedroom. Again, I ignore Him.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to make him mad, but this has to stop before it gets out of hand.
My boyfriend’s been away, on another long trip. He gets home soon, and I’m worried.