Lights flickered on and off, plunging the street in and out of darkness, as though in the midst of some sort of electrical storm. The street lights did little to stay in unison with each
other, one light turning off as another came on, while others stayed shrouded
in shadows, a mystery as to when they had last emitted any form of illumination
to passers-by. Such inconsistency made it very difficult to see, as my eyes
struggled to adjust. Not that anyone would want to see the desolate part of
suburbia that I had dragged myself to anyway, I mused. In contrast, there was barely a sound that
could be heard, a weak yet chill breeze struggled to pick up scattered lumps of
rubbish that appeared to have melded with the landscape, and the fading voices
of a passing gang of street kids.
As for the smell, well, it left much to be desired to say the least. I wasn’t even sure where it was coming from, seeming to assault me from any angle I turned.
The sun had barely set and already I felt tired, it had been a long day to travel here, too long, after having taken the wrong turn off the highway just one too many times. It didn’t help
that there was no local parking nearby the simple apartment building I was
heading to, or at least as far as I had heard, it was a bad idea to park your
car along this street, and the distinct lack of functional cars within sight
seemed to confirm that suspicion. Instead I had to park the car at a long term
car park several blocks away and walk from there, the thought of doing that
every morning, and the price involved, subtracted from my already flagging
I groaned in frustration, thinking
about money again, the department hadn’t covered my transfer here and I
wouldn’t be paid in a couple of days yet. It didn’t help that I was usually low
on funds. So, for the moment at least, I was reduced to renting a low end
apartment in this part of the city.
It was ironic when I stopped to think about it, even though I was in no mood to
appreciate it; a policeman living in the centre of crime, I’d have to be
careful who I mentioned that to, I thought, with a half-hearted grin.
Finally I rounded the corner of
the block and saw the apartment building across the road, or what could be seen
of it anyway, graffiti adorned the already dirty brick wall on the front of the
building, various gang tags and slang, additionally it appeared that one of the
windows was smashed in.
“This looks promising” I muttered, failing to realise my lapse into a soliloquy.
Checking my phone for the message the owner had sent me again, I confirmed it
was indeed the correct address. I guessed it wasn’t that bad, at least the
street lights here weren’t flickering and the door didn’t appear to have been
kicked down recently.
Crossing the deserted street with more caution than was necessary, ignoring the latticework of tire marks scattered about the bitumen, I reached the front door and passed on inside,
eager to finally catch a rest. The first thing that hit me was the smell of a
battle between the air freshener stationed beside the door and the air being
let in from outside. I was uncertain if that was an improvement from before, it
seemed at least the reception room itself looked in considerably better repair
than the exterior, if a little dim.
Although, I thought with a pause, there was no one behind the reception desk. How exactly did newcomers get any service at all? Glancing around and yet seeing no bell to ring, or any
indication of an intended absence on the desk I called “Anyone here?” But I was
met only with silence, even more silence than when I had come in it seemed, if
that were possible. Supressing a sigh I wondered whether to call the owner, but
decided I’d probably find him quicker in the staff room, he’d be expecting me,
even if I was a little late. The owner,
Steve, was not a direct acquaintance of mine, rather a friend of a co-worker,
but he seemed amiable enough when spoken to on the phone. Taking note of the
stairs to the second floor, I went through the door to the side of the desk, to
be led to a passageway that in no way resembled the staff room I had expected
it to be. Some attempt had gone into making the place look presentable, with
plants, coffee tables and chairs against the windows on the exterior wall of
the building, the lighting had improved as well. The far door must lead to the
first floor apartment rooms I considered, trying to recall my exact room
number, it was on the second floor I was sure.
Directly to the right of me, on a rather flimsy looking door, a sign read “Staff Only” boldly. Knocking on the panel lightly I was rewarded with a slightly muffled response from the other side;
“Come in” it said. Doing just that I opened the door and, much to my surprise, it
didn’t fall in, but instead opened smoothly to reveal a rather cramped room
with a couple of computers up against the back wall. A woman sat at one, typing
expertly, and dressed in a semi-formal suit of all things, looking at odds with
her surroundings, her black hair tied neatly behind her head. Modestly pretty
too, all things considered, I judged. She turned to see me and while
maintaining a professional demeanour, asking how she could help me. Clearing my
throat, as I had not spoken for most of the day, I answered in a somewhat tired
voice “I’m looking for Steve, he was going to show me a room?” pausing for a
moment before adding “…Room 2B I believe”
“Room 2C” she corrected, with a flick of her wrist, turning back around to pick something up on the desk behind her. I felt myself growing sleepier by the moment and had to stop myself from
closing my eyes, although it seemed my concentration had lapsed somewhat
because the next moment she was pressing a key into my hand and had just
finished saying Steve was on the second floor with my room. Mumbling my thanks
I stumbled out, heading back to the reception room and up the stairs I had seen
A note was pinned to the door of Room 2C, by what I hoped was blue-tack and not in fact the gum it seemed to be. In somewhat modest handwriting the note read; Sorry Mate, I had to step out for a bit. I couldn’t find your number so I gave your key to the Receptionist, she should be downstairs in the Staff Room working, if not then tell her to get back to work.
“Five star service” I muttered sarcastically, but I was reassured he at
least went to some difficulty to accommodate me, he did seem a decent fellow
when all was told.
But right now I felt like nothing more than taking a long sleep, I had to show up at the station at some
ludicrous time in the morning and as long as I went to sleep right away I shouldn’t
be too sleep deprived to function. The room seemed okay, with few unexplained
stains to speak of and all the necessary faculties seemed to be present, though
their functionality remained to be seen. I kicked off my shoes, switched off
the light, which I didn’t really remember turning on, and fell down onto the
bed. A rock would have been comfortable to sleep on at that moment, so I am
unsure of how good the mattress really was, but it was enough for me to doze
off almost instantly.
At some point though, some noise woke me up, which brought my attention to my horrible sleeping position, my legs hanging off the side of the bed and touching the floor. I heard some
shouting outside the window and realised that I had forgotten to lock my door,
considering the area, that was probably going to serve as little more than a
bad introduction to the locals. Groaning with the effort of standing up after
being contorted for such a period of time, I went to the door and, in my
delusional state, fumbled around with the lock for a second before hearing the
proper click. I checked the handle and then proceeded to make sure all other
windows were shut as well. Satisfied that I was as safe as I was going to be in
my present circumstance I went to go back to bed when I heard a rat in the wardrobe.
Hoping rats weren’t going to be a big problem in this building, I once again
heard the scratch and the thump and reasoned I wouldn’t get any sleep until I
did something about it. Not entirely sure what that something was, I decided to
open the wardrobe and assess its location. I hadn’t noticed the wardrobe till
now but I was pleased there was going to be somewhere to store my clothes, that
I realised just now I had left in the car. Ah well, I would just have to get
changed into uniform at the station I supposed.
Opening the door and scanning the floor and walls I at first saw nothing of interest, although the lack of light didn’t help. The jackets and pants were still in there from the last client I
guessed, that was until it lurched towards me. Had I been more awake I might
have reacted quicker, my job often requiring me to do just that, but at that
time in the morning I barely moved a muscle as the man fell onto me and bit
into my shoulder, searing pain spreading all down my arm and neck. After that
there was little I could do. I half ran, half stumbled to the door of my room,
realised I had locked myself in and hesitated for a moment, before smashing
through it anyway, for the first time grateful at the flimsy doors. But it
didn’t matter in the end, as soon as I hit the floor of the passageway beyond I
felt myself slip into a void, and all the pain receded almost instantly.
The last thing that went was the fear.