I'm following the writing prompts in an ebook called 30 Days of Inspiration by Creative Writing Now.
Day 1 prompt: Your character moves into a new apartment. On the surface, the place seemed ideal, but his/her first night there, your character discovers a terrible problem with the place that he/she didn't take into account...
Here's my short story.
My first night. My first place. Let me introduce you to my flat.
My flat is on the 1st floor of a 2 storey block. There are about 10 flats in my block and about 16 flats in the block just down the hill from mine, still within the same, 1960s era complex. Think red brick, with white wooden doors and window frames, and a dark tiled roof. No verandas or balconies, just functional windows to let in the light at the front and back of each flat.
As you enter my flat from the top of the stairs you go straight into the lounge room. This room gets the morning sun. From the here you can either go into the kitchen which gets the afternoon sun or into the bedroom, which shares the same view as the lounge. My tiny little bathroom is off the bedroom.
In my lounge room I’ve placed a desk near the big window, an old comfy couch near the longest wall, a low bookcase opposite the couch and tall bookcase against the other wall. The bookshelves are empty – it is my first day here after all and I haven’t had time to unpack. Eventually the book shelves will be filled with current and future books, maybe some photos in frames, and an interesting object or two. This evening they are empty, waiting.
The kitchen is also waiting to be filled. That will take longer as I haven’t acquired much stuff. Yet. I want to take my time with this task, enjoying the freedom of choice that comes with living on my own. One day the kitchen will also house a small dining table. I can imagine sitting there, drinking tea, eating some homemade biscuits, looking out the net curtains at the trees in the park beyond the back fence.
As I sit here, on my couch, I notice the curtains move. The windows are shut. It’s winter and cold out so they are definitely closed. Maybe I imagined it? No, there they go again. Strange.
My bedroom is of moderate size and completely dominated by my bed. It’s a queen, with a bed head just right for leaning on as I sit and read or write or draw in bed. Through here is the bathroom. Nothing special about it. Maybe a funky shower curtain will be enough to make it over?
There’s really not much to my flat. There is enough for me.
And for Felix.
Before I found my flat I’d been living in share houses. You know the sort – everyone sounds really cool and you think you’ve made friends for ever, then you start to learn things.
You learn that Max ‘doesn’t do domestic’ meaning that he is a slob who leaves his crap everywhere and expects you to either pick up or ignore, the problem lying with you for not liking his crap, and not with him for leaving it there.
You learn that Phoebe really is as dumb and she looks and sounds, while her friends are even dumber, not that you thought that was humanly possible.
You also learn that Marta may be brilliant cook but she has no concept of garbage bins, washing up liquid or tidy-as-you-go. You also come to suspect that she has no appreciation of best before or use by dates. Those bouts of gastro were a clue you could not ignore forever.
So, here I am in my nice, tidy, small, comfy flat.
After a final walk through, I turn off all the lights except the lamp and climb into bed.
My intention is to read for a bit and luxuriate in the quiet and the peace and the knowing of having this place to myself. But no, my body rejects all that and I fall asleep within minutes.
Then I wake up.
Disorientated, I reach for my phone to check the time. It’s OK. I know where I am. I can’t remember what woke me and am too sleepy to care. I fall asleep quicker than before.
Then I wake up. Again.
Same process, but this time I try to think what woke me.
I try and collect my thoughts. I have a vague recollection of not being alone, of having someone asleep beside me. That’s not possible. This flat is secure; this complex is secure. I know because that’s what attracted me to this complex.
I go back to sleep, taking longer this time, unable to shift the sense of unease.
I wake again. This time it is morning and my usual time.
I try to dismiss my first night wakings, and the sense of not being alone, as first night nerves. If only that was the case.
The night wakings continued, and the sense of not being alone increased. Finally I confided in a friend, who then volunteered to stay with me.
That night I woke several times, but to a sense of outrage and betrayal. Where are these feelings coming from?
This pattern continued. If I slept alone, I sensed someone nearby. If I had a friend stay, I sensed this hurt or anger. Sometimes I was just able to sleep all night. Sometimes I’d be engrossed in something on TV and then turn automatically to make a comment, but no one was there to tell. But my unconscious mind was insisting someone was there.
I got used to the curtains moving on their own. I even got used to the sensation of sharing a bed. Still, none of it made sense. I loved my little flat but it was driving me crazy.
One night, unpacking the last of some boxes, I came across a small stash of Schnapps bottles. I remembered buying them a few years ago. They were on sale and I’d felt in the mood for something different. The contents were different, if being undrinkable counts.
This night I decided to open some. It had been a long week with little uninterrupted sleep and the next day was Saturday. What the hell. I turned on my computer, loaded a marathon of one of my favourites - America’s Next Top Model with Tyra Banks (how I love that woman!), and opened some Peach Schnapps.
Then I opened some Butterscotch Schnapps before trying out the Apple one. These were small bottles, so don’t judge!
Part way through the Apple, and episode 8, I again felt that I wasn’t alone.
By this stage I really had had enough. Not only was Ghosty ruining my sleep, he was now ruining my Schnapps and my Tyra!
“Hey, stop your yelling, I live here too you know!”
“I said, stop your yelling, and turn the TV back on. I was enjoying that”.
“It’s not a TV, it’s a computer”. Of all the dumb things to say, I said that. And who did I say it to?
“The name’s Felix and this is my flat.”
Suddenly sober WTF?
“Yep, that’s me.”
“And it’s you that I’ve been feeling at night?”
“Yes, sorry about that, but I liked you and thought we’d get along OK.”
And we did.
I live alone in my perfect little flat, with my perfect bed and my perfect friend Felix. I’m alone but not alone, not all the time anyway.