Horror, Short Stories

The Tenant Upstairs

Just this morning, I felt like writing a short horror story since Halloween is near. Stephen King and Shirley Jackson are two writers of horror that I admired while growing up. When I read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” in high school, I was so disturbed that I kept thinking about it for days. I always read Stephen King during summer vacations from high school until college to prevent boredom. I am nowhere near King and Jackson, but I might as well try. If you think I can still improve it, please let me know, and I hope you enjoy it.

There is someone upstairs. Sometimes I can hear her sweeping the floor with a stiff broom that glides gratingly on the floor. Sometimes her muted laugh is audible during random days in the quiet of the afternoon and the dead of night. Sometimes I hear her footsteps as she paces back and forth gingerly inside her room. Sometimes I would go quietly up the stairs to catch a glimpse of her, but she hides away fast. My dog stopped going upstairs the third month that we are here. During the first month, he would only go upstairs if I carry him, and as I drop him onto the floor, he immediately skitters right across the room and hides under the bed, where he stays throughout the night. These days the noises that she makes are getting louder when they used to be faint. But my main problem, dear reader, you see, is that it is only my dog and me in here.

My dog and I would usually stay downstairs because the upstairs would be unbearably cold throughout the day, and hanging out upstairs for a long time makes me feel claustrophobic even though there is ample space. Sometimes I can hear her making noises upstairs like she’s going through some of her things, and I would play music loudly on my speakers to drown out the sound. One day, I played music loudly when my speakers suddenly stopped, and I can hear static coming out of them instead. I turned them off and turned them on, and I tried to play music through them again. I realized that they don’t work anymore because the left speaker doesn’t play any sound. The right one still works, but even though it can still play the music, the music that comes out of them is somewhat muted, not as crystal clear as before. I was so disappointed because these speakers cost me a lot of money. Money that I scraped by for months from my crappy job.

During my first month of stay here, I find it hard to sleep. I turn off all the lights because I read on the internet that for me to get a good night’s sleep, my room should be dark and cool. I close my eyes and try my hardest to fall asleep, but my mind keeps wandering to the dark corner beside my door. My eyes are closed, but I feel like someone is watching me from that corner. I quickly turn on the lights with my heart throbbing and immediately feel silly because no one is there. And from then on, I would fall asleep with the lights turned on because I find it more comforting.

As the months passed, I can hear her mumbling in the other room on the edge of the hall, and the sounds that she makes keep getting louder and louder, closer and closer. I keep telling myself that I should move out because I am not getting enough sleep, and I keep falling asleep and making mistakes at work. But I don’t have enough money to move out because my crappy job pays crap. And besides, I get to rent a vast, two-story house for a small amount of money; it’s a steal. I tried looking for a roommate, but nobody answers my advertisements. I guess nobody’s interested.

On my sixth month of stay here, I fell into a profound sleep like I’m submerged underwater where I couldn’t hear anything from the outside. I’m still inside the house in my dream, but everything was moving too slow, and everything was dark. And as I reached downstairs, everything I see was warped and twisted, and I felt a massive headache coming on, so I lay on the couch to sleep it off. I slept in my dream, and inside this dream was another dream where I found myself floating up from the sofa, right through the stairs, and into the second floor. I can see through the walls, and I saw her sweeping the floor with her rigid broom. She never looked up, and her long black hair was partially covering her face, and everything was black. And then I woke up and was inside my bedroom on the second floor, drenched in sweat and my heart palpitating.

I’ve been here for a year now, and all my plans to move out have always been thwarted in some way or another: five months ago, the house that I am supposed to move into caught fire; four months ago, the roommate I was supposed to have, gave away my slot to another because he was able to pay two months in advance; three months ago the money that I’ve been saving up for a new place, bundled up in a sock, suddenly disappeared from my drawer; two months ago, my right knee began to ache with a sharp pain whenever I walk and put my weight on it. I went to specialists only to hear them say that they can’t find anything wrong with me, and a month ago, I lost my job, and I have nowhere else to go. I feel like I’m going to be stuck here for a long time.

Tonight, I am lying on my bed and trying to get some decent sleep, which I’ve never really had since moving in here. I turn off my night light and close my eyes. I waited for the pain reliever that I drank before going to bed to finally kick in and dull this throbbing pain in my right knee. It’s getting challenging to walk and to go up and down the stairs.

And as I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to come, I began to hear her mumbling again. And then her mumbling came out from the room and into the hall. This time her mumbling became interspersed between her terrifyingly course laugh. I can hear her footsteps just beyond my door, and I tried to keep my eyes shut. I pulled the covers over my head, and I can listen to my heart, pounding in my ears. The room became densely cold, and I knew she was standing on the dark corner near my door, humming. And then the humming stopped after a few minutes. She’s been standing there for a long time now, and I can feel her gaze burning through the covers and into my face. I never moved a muscle so as not to make a sound and wait for morning to come and for light to flood my bedroom. Everything is quiet and still, but I can still feel her inside the room. And then she suddenly cackles right next to my left ear very loudly that I can hear her inside my head and I felt her weight next to me on the bed as she kept on cackling and cackling, that dreadful laugh that gave me goosebumps all over, and pulling the covers from me so I can see her face.

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