Jack’s Apartment (part 7)

Jacks Apartment
by Thadd Presley

He woke sitting up on his couch. The quilt had fallen in the floor and was laying too close to the heater. He could see steam rising from it. Sunshine streamed in through the windows,brightening his living room.
Then the knock came again. The same three booming knocks. He looked at the red, digital numbers of the clock blinking 12:47 PM

“Damn, the electricity must have gone out,” he said to no one. Then, to the knocking, he yelled, “hold on.”

“Jack,” someone called. It was a familiar voice. “You in there?”

“I said hold on. Just a second.”

Two sleepy steps brought him close enough to the only window for him to see the red pinto on the curb. It was Adam come to visit him. He opened the door.

“Mornin’ Adam.”

“Boy you’re a light sleeper,” Adam joked.

“Lucky I slept at all.”

“Sorry to hear it,” Adam sympathized. “I hope you feel up to coming to the food drive?”

“I had the craziest dream,” Jack began without being asked about the dream. “Something I hadn’t felt in along time.”

Adam saw the unsettled look in his eyes. “You have to give it time, Jack. It’s been a long time since you lived alone. It will get easier. Perhaps, it’s the temptation manifesting itself…”

“No, it’s not that.”

“Have you had urges…”

“Yeah, I guess, but no not really. I haven’t had time to think about all that. Trust me, that’s not what this is.” Frustration was showing in his voice and Adam heard it easily.

“Well, tell me about it on the way to the church. We have a food bank to stock. I’ve got some coffee in the car. Maybe I can help you figure out something that will help you readjust to your new surroundings.”

“Do you believe dreams have a meaning,” Jack asked,turning from the door, allowing his friend to enter. Then, without letting him answer, “I mean, I know what it’s about. I remember it perfectly, but you think it might mean something in the real world?”

“Maybe, probably, maybe not. What was it about?”

“You’ll think I’m crazy.”

“You are crazy.” Adam said smiling. “Or, maybe you should be.” He put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Look, you probably just slept wrong.” He pointed to the couch as if it was proof.

“It’s not the couch, Adam. I’ve slept on way worse at the church and at the clinic.”

“Well, we’ll pick up my daughter’s old bed after the food drive just in case. I don’t want you sleeping on that old thing anymore. Who knows where it’s been. And then, tonight, we’ll have a few beers and talk about your new life. It’ll make a world of difference to talk about it and work out a few details of the coming week.”

“No, no, my stuff’s s’posed to be here today.Matter of fact, I should stay in and wait on the movers. Plus, I want to look around and see the best way to get started on the renovations.” But that wasn’t the only reason he wanted to stay.The dream was still fresh in his mind. He could hear the girl’s voice so clearly. He had to get that key, had to help her.

“Well, you going to tell me about the dream or not,”Adam asked, looking around the room. “It’s probably got something to do with this place.”

“That’s it exactly. It is this place. Maybe it’s the whole building.” He closed his eyes, trying to close out the locked door right in front of him, trying not to see his dream.

“Well, it’ll pass as you get used to it. Now, when do the movers get here?”
“Noon-ish,” Jack answered. “I just have the few things from the storage unit. No reason to pay forty bucks a month while I have all this room. I can put stuff in one of the other rooms until I get around to cleaning it up.”

“Yeah, I suppose you could. Tell you what. I’ll give you a call tonight.”

“Just give me a few minutes before you leave. I want to tell you about the dream.” He was starting to feel uncomfortable again, claustrophobic. “I need to tell someone.”

“Wow, this is really got a-hold of you, huh?” Sweat was visible on Jack’s face, and Adam realized then that his friend was actually shaking. “OK. Start from the beginning.”



Copyright Thadd Presley — All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Jack’s Apartment (part 6)

Jack’s Apartment
Part 6
by Thadd Presley

He stood in the stairwell that led up to the fourth floor. Looking down over the metal rail, he mentally counted the flights he’d passed. Was he on the right floor? Each landing looked the same. But, the door which opened on the fourth floor was painted green, where all the other floors had white doors. But, there was no door at this landing. He hadn’t seen a green door on any of the landings all the way up. He was lost, but that was impossible because there was only one set of stairs. He looked up, surprised to see that  the stairs climbed higher and higher.

There wasn’t but four floors in this building.

Panic struck him then. Where was he? The wrong building? His eyes filled with hot tears. The feeling of loneliness suddenly encased him and pushed closer and closer, farther and farther into his mind. He was overwhelmed; he needed to find the door to his floor or the door to the street. If he was found in the wrong building, someone would think he was trespassing. The cops would be called and his probation violated.

His mind screamed the fact that he was alone in the world. He’d killed the only woman who’d ever loved him. Being alone had never bothered him before; it was the way he wanted it. But now the desire for someone to care for him, to love him; it overwhelmed his mind and flood his blood with fear. He would do anything to have someone love him, anything for a companion to sit through the evenings with him and read.

The climb up the flights was not a particularly bad one; he enjoyed walking, and this was a source of some much-needed exercise and another good habit he could take up. He assured himself that the next landing would be his. But, the stairs went up and up.They seemed to be never ending.

Before having to stop and catch his breath, he climbed twenty flights and never passed a single door.
He turned and began to start down when he saw the door. But, it wasn’t green, nor was it in the right place. It was one flight below him. He knew it wasn’t there before, but none of that mattered now. As long as it lead to a floor and to someone who would direct him in the right direction.

As he walked down the steps, dread began building up inside of him. By the time he stood in front of the door, he was afraid to open it. He couldn’t just stand there. He had to go through the door. He built up his courage and just as his hand touched the knob, it became the locked door in his apartment.

We are waiting, Jack. We need you.

To turn around and start back down seemed impossible.It would only begin his journey all over again, and he knew he couldn’t leave and abandon anyone, not again, especially if someone needed his help. Meaning if he could help them, he would.

“Who’s there,” he called and listened as his voice echoed off the concrete walls of the stairwell.

His hand was still on the doorknob.

We need you, Jack.

He jerked his hand away from the cold brass.

A moment passed, and he knocked on the door, then banged on it. “Hello,” he yelled and then listened as his voice echoed again and again in the endless stairwell. “Who are you? Where are you?”

Help us.

“I will, just….”

Just what, he thought? How could he help anyone when he was the one lost?

Everything in him wanted to help, whether it was the homeless at the food ministry or orphaned children in another country. It was in his nature; at least, it was a part of his new nature.
He put his ear to the door, listening for movement. He was suddenly aware of the silence. The terrible feeling of loneliness returned. He wanted to help them. Whoever they were. He felt, he needed their companionship as much as they needed him. After all,wasn’t he trapped as well? He pressed his ear to the door harder and listened with all his might.

Boom, Boom, Boom

The door rattled with thundering knocks which caused him to jerk his head away. His foot came to the edge of the steps,and he rocked on the edge for a moment; for a millionth of a second he floated there, not knowing if he was going to go over or keep his balance. Then, as gravity would have it, he tilted too far and started to fall….
The slow, tumbling fall into forever brought him back to the real world with a jolt.

Jack’s Apartment (part 5)

Jack’s Apartment

Part 5

by Thadd Presley

During the meeting with the landlord, she told him that the fourth floor had been used as storage area for years. She talked a bit about her father passing away and leaving the building to her.“My brother got the money, and the yacht, and the hotel. All I got was this run-down place.”

“But, why was the fourth floor empty?”

“He had plans for it, I guess. He was always a dreamer. Fact is, he won the building in a high-stakes poker match during one of the worst years of his life. He lost everything and bet everything he had on a single card.

“As you can see, he won.”

Jack smiled. He liked to hear stories of people making good on a hunch. Jack wanted to ask about her brother, but she didn’t give him a chance to ask.

“My father was deeply into drinking, gambling and he didn’t go to church until he meet Adam and found a better path in life.”

Jack thought it was a lot of information to be telling a stranger. But, they had someone in common through Adam and that made them far from strangers.

“There could be rats or bats or anything up there,”she told him. “I haven’t had anyone in to clean the place and I haven’t actually been up there in over a year.” She looked out over the river that passed in front of the restaurant where they had lunch. “When you get your room finished, we’ll see what we can throw away, but you might find treasures up there.” She smiled. “I think the last tenant of the fourth floor was in his early seventies.He was a bit of a pack rat. He kept everything and I’m sure you will run into it.”

 “Treasures would be great,” he said and assured her he wouldn’t steal anything. He was afraid if he stole from her or lied to her, drugs and death would surely follow. He wondered how much Adam had told her about his situation. “I don’t need anything fancy, just a job and a quiet place where I can get used to being with my own thoughts again.”

She smiled at that and explained again that room wouldn’t be suitable for human occupation until he gave it a bit of love and care.

He liked that she used the word “love.” It gave him a warm feeling of acceptance, a thing he hadn’t felt in a longtime.

*     *     *     *     *

We need you, Jack , the voice snapped again,sending a frosty bolt of lightening down his back, forcing him back to the present. It seemed to come from all around. Goosebumps sprang out on his arms. The urge to pee suddenly returned, and he quickly turned from the sink, which continued to run nothing but cold water,and faced the toilet.

 Once finished, he washed his hands and made his way to the kitchen, only looking into the living room to check the heater. In the kitchen, he knew he couldn’t stay and that he was going to call Adam. But, not quite yet. First he made a sandwich from the leftover macaroni and carried it to the warmth of the couch where sat down.

He used his foot to pull his small electric heater toward him and watched the locked door to open any minute. Listening for the voice, trying to steel himself against it if it happened again. He thought if he sat and waited, he would know exactly where it came from, but even before he finished his sandwich, he started to doze.

His dreams began immediately.

Jack’s Apartment (part 4)

Jack’s Apartment
(part 4)
by Thadd Presley

He shivered. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so rattled. The sound of his voice calmed his nerves a bit, but he knew sleep wouldn’t return. For the time he could only sit and look at the door.

After a long silence, sitting in the red gloom of the heater’s glow, he listened for something to happen. A trip to the bathroom was beginning to become urgent. If not soon, at least before he could sleep. He wasn’t old by any means, but the drugs had done a good job wrecking his system. He knew he wouldn’t make it the entire night without a couple pit stops.

It took another five minutes and mighty strong convincing from his bladder to get him to leave the warmth of the heater. The gas on the fourth floor was turned off, so the only warm room in the apartment was the living room, and only in the vicinity of the heater.

He tested the floor with his bare feet and found it absolutely freezing. But it had to be done; there was no stopping nature. In the old days he would have used a bottle and tossed it in the morning, but he didn’t have a bottle, nor did he feel like living that way. After giving up everything in his pursuit to live a new life, such things now seemed out of character and would lead him right back to the past. He felt that a new life demanded new actions.

He crossed the room, only thinking of his urinary duties, when he heard the high-pitched, quick voice again, like the snap of a rubber band.

Jack.

Hearing the voice again and being awake when he heard it shook him to his bones. A bit of pee squirted down his leg and he had to squeeze everything together so he didn’t piss himself completely.

He walked faster and felt the burning urgency.

That voice was not his imagination, he nervously realized. “You heard that with your own ears,” he told himself in a whisper, “and it called your name.”

He turned and looked at the locked door.

Fear tried to grip him, but he fought it. He no longer felt alone, but he couldn’t let whatever it was scare him out of his apartment. What would Adam think if he called and said he couldn’t stay in the apartment because he was scared? He smiled in spite of himself, thinking how easy it was to frighten yourself. How many times did he do it as a child? Every night? Whether it was something under the bed or in the closet, something always seemed to be out to get him. And as he got older, the monsters just got scarier and more dangerous. A simple dream or a spooky moment had a way of sending the blackest fear upon him. It was worse now, since Caroline.

Help us, Jack.

This time he jumped hard enough for his feet to leave the floor. It was louder, closer, and there was absolutely no denying that the voice came from behind the locked door.

With a flick of his hand, the light in the bathroom broke the darkness, and he saw himself in the mirror. He didn’t like the look in his eyes and looked away. He turned on the water. It was as cold as he knew it would be.

As he waited to see if the water would get warm, he tried to push the idea of ghosts away. But, there was no mistaking that he’d heard the voice. It called to him three times.

The fear forced its way into his mind.

He let the water run and listened as it gurgled down the pipes. If it started to run red, he warned himself that it would only be rust. Not blood. That only happened in movies. Old pipes sometimes have rust in them.
The urgency of getting to the bathroom was gone, replaced with fright.

Jack’s Apartment (part 3)

They talked while they signed the last documents, which explained that the rent would be deferred for the months he worked, but there would be rules he had to abide by while in the apartment. No drinking or parties and no one could live with him. No one can be on the fourth floor, except Adam of course. And, by signing and shaking her thin hand, he became the sole tenant of the fourth floor. He felt like a prince that day. He had an entire floor to himself. Sure the place was a mess, but so were most the castles in Europe.

He thought of all this while he ate in silence. With no television or radio, the feeling of loneliness had a tendency grew out of hand, and he found himself thinking of Caroline. He’d never felt so alone in his life, not even when his mother died. Since after high school, he always lived on his own and loved the solitude he had when he wanted or needed it. But since Caroline’s overdose, he’d found a real need for companionship and love. He hated himself for getting her hooked on pain killers and showing her how to shoot up. Her death was his fault; there was no doubt of that. It was as if he killed her the day he met her.

An hour later, having eaten what he could of the cold pasta, he was laying on the old couch, which looked as if it had been here through the thirty years of abandonment, half asleep thinking of Caroline and what his life would be like if she hadn’t died, whether or not he would have gone to rehab. It was her death that brought the police and the reality of drug use to his life. The more he thought about Caroline and what he did to her, the more he thought about whether death did for him. She never got a second chance like he did; she never got to learn a lesson. All she got was death, and he gave it to her in a needle.

He dozed and dozed…then he dreamed.

Jack.

A high pitched, hollow voice filled the room. It seemed to shake his entire being. He opened his eyes, completely sitting up, and felt for his phone. He’d set it on vibrate days ago and hadn’t changed it. He looked around the room, knowing he’d heard something.

No… someone, he told himself. It was a voice. He listened harder, trying to hear his neighbors below. He listened for footsteps in the hallway. Maybe it was someone in the stairwell and their voice had traveled. His eyes stopped on the locked door. He looked away, but somehow he could keep them from going back. The door was actually pulling his eyes to it. He felt panic beginning to set up in his muscles and chest. It would become hard to breathe, but he had to stay calm.

“Dude, calm down,” he said aloud. “It was only a dream.”

Jack’s Apartment (part 2)

The apartment he picked out on the fourth floor had a small table in the main living room, where he sat with his macaroni. On his left was a doorway to the only bedroom, which was really small, and beside that, a door opened onto the bathroom. There was a fourth room, but it was locked and so far had been inaccessible. He had keys to all the rooms on the fourth floor since part of his rent was going to be repair work, but none of the keys opened this door. The lock was older, probably left over from a century before, and because it was his first day in the apartment, he didn’t want to be a pain to the landlady, especially if it meant she would have to drive all the way back into the city and open it herself. She would be back in a few days to inspect the work he’ d be doing and make sure he was as good a carpenter as Adam said. He could wait and ask her about the room then.

For a moment, with food paused in mid flight to his mouth, he thought about when he’d met her. She was younger than he’d imagined when Adam told him about her, and she was beautiful. She asked him questions about his past and where he used to work. She reminded him that the floor had not been used for thirty years, so he would have to wear a mask when he worked.

“Who knows what all is considered toxic these days. The paint is lead based, I know that for sure; the tile has asbestos in it, as does the insulation and ceiling tiles, and probably there would be more than that. Do you understand that you have to wear the mask? It is very important.”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Legally, no one can live on the fourth floor yet, but since Adam has been so good to us in the past, I’ve decided to make an exception. What we need to do is get your room up to code and as close to livable as fast as we can, both for your health and in case of any problems we might have with the inspectors.”

“I understand. I’ll start in the apartment and work my way into other areas.”

Then came the question he knew was loaded. This was where she would decide everything. “So how long do you think it will take to do the entire job. I mean, the floors, the doors, the trim and painting, we have to replace the ceiling and there will be more, lots more, when we get into it deeper?”

She smiled when he said, “four months should get us to a good point. After that we will know exactly where we stand.”

“I’ll know where we stand in one week, Mr. Solsbury. I want to start renting that floor as soon as possible.”

“Yes, ma’am. Four months is just my guess right now.”

Jack’s Apartment (part 1)

Jack’s first day in the apartment was a new lease on life. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do first. But it was an answer to his prayers, and, yes, Jack was now a praying man. God wasn’t always on constant call when it came to Jack’s old life. However, since he began his life after drugs, he was in constant communication with the man upstairs. But, this was more than Jack could have asked for. He never knew gigs like this existed. The idea of “cup runneth over” truly had a meaning now, and Jack felt like a human being for the first time in years. But, Jack was logical. He knew that it wasn’t all God. Jack owed a special thanks to Adam, the man he met while in the county rehab.

Adam was a preacher of sorts, who spent time with addicts and gave them hope. But Adam was much more than a counselor to Jack. Adam was a guiding light and a mentor. He helped Jack and gave him a chance to work at the church and prove himself as a carpenter, which had been instrumental in getting the job at the apartment complex.

He thanked Adam as he sat alone for the first time in a long time, with his dinner on his lap, and thanked God for his apartment, which was on the fourth floor of the Wartzburg Building. It was only a small, cheap, four-room cracker box, but he lifted his head toward the roof, as if he could see into heaven, and asked God to come into his home. It was a quick prayer, just something to bless his food and to invite good spirits to his new place. But he knew it was important, because he didn’t want to forget about all the good things that had been happening to him lately, nor did he want to forget what drugs had done to him.

Before he left the rehab center, he thought that he’d be happy out in the real world, away from the clinic and all the church meetings, away from all the drug addicts and the whiners. But, he wasn’t. Over time, he’d come to like working for the church and he liked the few friends he’d made while living at the halfway house. He liked that his life was on a new path, but he was more afraid everyday. Afraid that he’ d mess everything up now that temptation was at every turn.

What he felt then was suffocation. Anytime he thought about running into old friends or what he was going to do if he started wanting a hit, a panic quickly closed in on him and crushed his goodness. His ideas of a good life and of the spirit who he’d prayed for began to wilt as if something didn’t want him to have a good, new life.

He just felt so alone.