Tap…tap…tap…tap…tap… A sudden knocking reverberated from beyond the wall. A wall that was always silent since he’d moved in. According to his land lord, there was an air gap between each of the rooms. Up until now, the walls have done nothing but prove to be fully soundproofed. Even when his neighbors noisily returned home at night with audible chatter as they walked in the hallways, all sounds vanished without a trace as soon as the door to their flat slammed shut. Not even a muffled whisper. The same was true, even when their relatives with crying infants came to visit. As soon as the door closed. Nothing. Nada. Zip. It was as though they had never passed through.
He appreciated the silence when it came to sleep. Nothing would ever come to disrupt him at night, regardless of how early or late he decided to hit the hay. So then why? He squinting at the wall, irrationally expecting the gesture to somehow put an end to the noise or allow him to see more than he already did. Why would it suddenly make noise now? And such an insistent one, at that. The sound stopped, at the end of his thought. As though his staring and brooding alone put a stop to it.
Curious, he cautiously approached the wall, equipped with a baseball bat. As if detecting him, the tapping immediately continued, nearly causing him to drop his makeshift weapon in surprise. Each instance of the sounds beginning with a louder tap followed by a series of more closely spaced and gradually fading taps, as if someone were bouncing coins off of the other side with gravity pulling the wrong way. Horizontally toward the wall instead of vertically toward the ground. He visually scanned the area. There was nothing directly in contact with the wall, as far as he could tell.
Determined, he moved aside one piece of furniture after another. But, by the time that he found himself staring at the blank wall, there was still nothing to be found. A thought hit him. Could it be something that he was overlooking? Perhaps his neighbors were doing something. Leaving his room, he walked over to the door at the side of the wall that the sound originated. But there was nothing there. He felt the wall, thinking back. No, he was certain that there was someone there. At least there was before.
Hands patting the wall, he suddenly felt a feeling of dread. If there wasn’t a room here, then … what was that noise? And … what about those voices that headed in this direction, before vanishing with a slammed door? He had to know. He turned, heading back to his room. The land lord. He would know wouldn’t he? At least know what rooms exist in the property.
A mad dash, a phone call, and a question later, in hopes of finding an answer, only gave him the worst result. There was no answer.
“What?” The land lord had answered over the line, chuckling incredulously. “You don’t have a neighbor on at the right side of your room. You never did. There’s no room there.”
He had dropped the phone, allowing it to dangle along the table leg, held up by nothing but its cable. No neighbors. Then what was it all those times? A chill washed over him, as the tapping returned.
Slowly, he turned back, fearing what he might see. Part of him curious, a part that wanted to drill open the wall just to identify the source of the sound with his own eyes. But another part dreaded the possibility of finding out. The door, he was certain that it had been there. He didn’t want to know what it could mean. There was no ambiguity in his land lord’s words. It shouldn’t… No. It couldn’t have been.
“Hello?” The land lord’s voice could be heard faintly over the dangling phone. “Hello?”
He didn’t answer. What he saw, what he realized, left him eyes wide. Frozen. Stunned. At an utter loss for words.
This story was inspired by a writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication.
Something strange is going on with your neighbors in the apartment next to yours. You decide what the ‘something strange’ is. Write a scene or complete story.