Please excuse my absence. I haven’t blogged in months and I will not make excuses for it. A close friend of mine has taken notice of my storytelling skills and gave me a tempting challenge: write a short story inspired by music. I accepted that challenge. The song he gave me was “The Calm” by Drake.
Here is the story that resulted.
*Listen to the music as you read the story*
It was 3AM when I heard them knocking. As an overnight concierge, it was my duty to monitor whoever entered the building. I was a temp, so I had no way of knowing who actually lived there, but judging by the way they were dressed they had to be residents. I buzzed them in. It wasn’t until they entered through the sliding glass doors that I realized how truly immaculate these two were. A young boy no older than 9 years old with glasses too big for his face was dressed in a white suit so neatly pressed and well fitting, it made the suit separates I bought from Burlington Coat Factory look like mere rags. The man accompanying the boy stood over 6 feet tall and wore a black suit, shades, and a hat to match. He was undoubtedly a chauffeur. The contrasts in their appearance was peculiar to say the least. On one hand, here’s a young timid boy dressed in all white trailing behind this middle aged man wearing a black suit who exuded the confidence and composure of a man featured on the cover of a GQ Magazine.
As they approached the front desk, I couldn’t help but notice an odd smell. It was faint at first, but as they got closer the stench grew stronger. It was not exactly overwhelming, but it was there nonetheless.
The man spoke.
“My name is Stephen Dempsey. I live in apartment 1300. I’d appreciate it if you let me into my apartment, I seem to have misplaced my keys.”
The impersonal and demanding tone of his voice unsettled me. I verified the information in the resident directory with his driver’s license, while the two stared at me unblinkingly the entire time. I returned Mr. Dempsey’s driver’s license and when his hand inadvertently touched mine. It was cold. Ice cold.
“Thank you.” He said flatly.
Even in gratitude he managed to creep me out.
I told them, “I’ll be right back with the spare key. It should only take a minute.”
“That is fine.” He replied with a nod, eyes locked onto mine. The child never spoke.
Before I turned to go into the back office I thought I noticed a smirk on the boy’s face. I turned back to him and it vanished just as fast as it had appeared. His face was as cold and unfeeling as his chauffeur’s. I must have imagined it. I erased the thought from my mind and stepped into the back to retrieve the spare key. I returned a minute later to an empty lobby. The two were gone, but the putrid stench lingered. It was stronger now. It was almost as if the smell itself was a blatant reminder that the two were there, like the smell was a substitution for their physical presence. Baffled, I took a seat and then figured that maybe they had gone to the lobby bathroom. The longer I waited for them to return, the more I started to wonder.
Where had they gone? Did Mr. Dempsey suddenly find his keys? What was that man doing with his kid out that late during the middle of the week? Was that even his kid? What the hell was that smell?
Unable to bear the smell and wanting to take my mind off things, I decided to walk the building. I placed the “Be Back Shortly” sign on the desk, entered the lobby elevator, pressed the button to take me to the 15th floor and rode it to the top. I closed my eyes and listened to the faint, yet calming elevator music. As I heard the pleasant ding announcing my arrival and the elevator doors opened, I opened my eyes. I immediately wished I hadn’t. In the reflection of the mirrored elevator walls, I saw the child behind me. He waved to me with a menacing smirk on his face. I stumbled out of the elevator but when I turned around there was no one there.
“I’ve got to stop taking overnight shifts,” I told myself as I rubbed my eyes. The lack of sleep was clearly taking a toll on me.
Gathering my composure, I proceeded to walk the building. I walked down the hall and entered the fitness center. Nothing to report here, just a couple of forgotten dumbbells left off the rack. I walked to the community lounge at the opposite end of the hall and it was empty as well. I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and shot a game of pool to take my mind off of things. After shooting pool and watching some Sportscenter highlights, I decided it was time to return to the lobby.
I made sure to keep my eyes closed for the entire elevator ride this time, not opening them again until I stepped into the lobby. I laughed aloud at my own paranoia.
It was 7AM when my relief arrived to take over the morning shift. At that point, I wanted nothing more than to go home and get some sleep.
“How was your night? Anything interesting happen?” She asked.
“My night was okay I guess. There was a man who came in with his son around 3, asking to be let up to his apartment. When I went to grab the keys, they were gone. He must have found his keys by time I grabbed the spare.” I chuckled aloud as I thought how silly I was for overreacting to the previous night.
“He said his name was Stephen Dempsey,” I told her.
The look on her face as I spoke his name was one I had only seen in movies.
It was pure horror.
“Are you trying to be funny?” She asked, her cheery morning mood quickly shifting to one of anger.
“What?” I asked. I had no idea where this sudden rage came from.
“He said his name was Stephen Dempsey and he lives in apartment 1300. I checked his ID and everything!” What was wrong with this woman and why was she so aggressive?
“Did you do a building walkthrough last night?” She asked, as if to change the subject.
“Of course,” I answered. I couldn’t wait to leave that damned building at this point.
“Then you should have noticed that there is no 13th floor in this building!”
I was in utter disbelief.
“So who did I let into the building last night?’ I asked, completely puzzled.
“Stephen Dempsey was a child molester and serial killer about 10 years ago. He used to live here until he was killed in a fire several years ago and the building had to be renovated. There are rumors that he was set aflame in the middle of the night in his sleep by a victim of his, most likely his son. The child hasn’t been seen since.”
That was 3 years ago and the image of that creepy, smiling child still pops into my mind sometimes when I try to sleep at night.