April 20th

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Three flights of stairs with a heavy suitcase were enough to make Dene reconsider her life choices and vow to never break a leg as long as she lived in this apartment building.

It wasn’t the stairs all by themselves, it was the feeling that with each step she was fighting against impossible forces just to make another inch. More than once she’d nearly gone toppling headfirst down the stairs from the imbalance. Her suitcase seemed to get heavier each step. The suitcase possessed all her worldly goods, minus her car which would not fit, her sword which was on her back and also would not fit, and the clothes she was currently wearing so she wouldn’t be naked. Nudity made an impression on new neighbours, but not one she was interested in making. She didn’t expect her sword, an estoc, to make much of an impression. People weren’t supposed to notice it.

Her new apartment building was, to put it in polite terms, not in a nice area. The building did not enhance the neighbourhood. It was three stories high and squatted like an ugly toad on the landscape.

Somehow, as small as three stories was, the stairs were like making a journey up Mount Everest.

But she could see the door to the third floor and braced herself to pull her suitcase up another five stairs, keeping her balance by tightly gripping the wobbly wooden railing.

Dene knew why she’d chosen this apartment building. The reasons had seemed good at the time. But with her apartment on the top floor and the hell stairs every day unless she became a hermit, she was starting to think she’d chosen poorly.

Especially since, she realized, at some point she had to get a bed.

The door that led to her floor was a frosted glass door on a frame with cracked white paint. The upper corner of the doorframe was met with the end or start of the crack in the stairwell wall that had made its way from the second floor to the third. Dene grabbed the doorknob like a lifeline and it fell open as if it had just been pushed and only her grip on the knob kept her from going down.

Dene didn’t like her chances of the door bearing her and the luggage’s weight so she heaved herself back to standing and half fell forward through the door into the hallway of the third floor. The door slammed behind her, nearly clipping her leg.

“You,” she said to it, “are a problem and not my friend.”

The door did nothing, as it was a door.

Her apartment was near the end of the hall, and she took her time to actually look around as she pulled her suitcase. She was tall, lean, and muscled and now that she was out of the hell stairwell the suitcase wasn’t as much of a pain to pull along.

When she walked into the hallway, she noticed there were changes from her first visit. When she’d seen the apartment, one of the hall lights had been totally blown out. Now it and its fixture were replaced. It was something new and shiny in the threadbare hallway. She looked back and forth as she walked to her apartment. For the first time she saw that the apartment nearest the stairwell had bits of police tape stuck to the frame.

The apartment at the very end of the hall’s door was open. Dene had a quick look of a pale man with basset hound eyes staring at her, and something bright blue and yellow above his head before that door slammed shut.

“Neighbour number one. Met,” said Dene to herself.

The carpet was faded and much-walked on. It had once had red flowers. Maybe. The wallpaper was yellowed from decades of smokers. The stink of the hall verified her assessment.

Dene got to her door, which had a deeply tarnished ‘3′ at the start that identified it as hers, and waited for the creepy feeling that had drawn her to the apartment to come back.

And there, on the edge of her mind, it was. The sensation that something truly was not right, and that maybe if she turned a corner, she’d find something she wouldn’t like on the other side.



NEXT: April 21st