“C’mon, Mel. It will be fun.”
“Fun?” my sister asked. “Didn’t you tell me how creeped out you were? How would that be fun?”
“But it won’t be creepy if we’re together. Even if things did get freaky, you could teleport us out.”
“No thank you,” she said. “I don’t want to scrounge through an old woman’s belongings in her haunted apartment.”
“But it’s tragic,” I started.
“Don’t play with me, little one,” she cut me off. “This isn’t even a significant blip on the radar of real tragedy.”
“Call me next week. I have to run. I’m late.” Melpomene ended the call without even saying goodbye.
She’s always running late.
Hours later, I had nearly convinced myself that I was overreacting in response to going into Mrs. Batchalder’s apartment. Steeling my nerves, I took the elevator down and headed to her place. Outside her door, I took a couple of deep breaths before putting the key into the lock.
I entered the apartment and the stillness greeted me, grabbing me up in a vacuum of silence as the door closed.
So far, so good.
Giving it a second thought, I left the door ajar.
The apartment felt incredibly stale. The pungent smell of vitamins and old urine still hung in the air, although Mrs. Batchalder had assured me that Gerald had taken care to clean the place after her fall. I wrinkled my nose and held a finger beneath my nostrils as I crossed the room to open a window for some fresh air.
The hum of outside noise made me realize that I had not heard the clock.
My brain was playing tricks on me.
I dared to peek across to the other wall, expecting to find the bulging eyes following me.
The wall was empty.
My breath rushed out in relief.
I almost laughed at how ridiculous I felt. An immortal afraid? Of a clock? Melopmene would never let me hear the end of it.
I re-read the list of items for my scavenger hunt.
Are you sure you’re not afraid?
Not even a little?
Now I imagined the clock lurking in the apartment somewhere. Lying in wait. For me.
Without warning, the door slammed shut.
I jumped and gave a startled shriek.
We’ve been lonely.
My rational brain told me that a crosswind caught the door. But I felt gripped by panic. My breath caught in my chest.
I pulled open the drawer of the buffet where she told me that she kept her phone book. I would call Gerald, and pay him to come and pack up the things she needed. I would take it to the nursing home, but I did not want to be alone in that apartment.
Gerald gathered the necessary items for Mrs. Batchalder and left them with the doorman of our building. He attached a note, thanking me for the opportunity and bonus.
I loaded the bags into the car and headed out to the nursing facility. I sang along with the radio and noted that my car smelled like Mrs. Batchalder was riding along with me. The sky greyed and cloud cover darkened the day. I hoped to reach the facility before the weather turned any worse.
A sudden burst of rain exploded, large drops drumming against the car. Water pelted my windshield, running in streams, making it impossible to see. I flipped on the wipers and watched as traffic slowed in front of me. Great.
It took much longer to get to the nursing home, and it was well after six before I arrived. I turned off the motor and waited for a moment to see if the rain would let up. Not seeing an end to the madness, I gathered the bags and dashed to the front of the building. I pressed the button for the automatic door and stepped through into the lobby.
I expected the facility to smell like old people, bad food, and bodily fluids, but was pleasantly surprised to not face any bad aromas. The lobby looked almost like a hotel, with large gilded furniture placed in small clusters. Groupings of chairs and end tables looked welcoming. A newish sofa sprawled beneath a large picture window, and art graced each of the walls. The tile flooring looked like rich wood. It was clean and inviting.
The bags with Mrs. Batchalder’s belongings started to slip in my arms. I juggled them while I looked for a receptionist. No one sat behind the magnificent front desk. I waited for a few moments, but the bags were bulky and difficult to manage. The building map showed the different wings, so I was able to determine Mrs. Batchalder’s location.
As I made my way deeper into the building, the inviting ambiance wore off. Many of the residents slumped listlessly in wheelchairs. No nurses or aides were visible. The wallpaper border in the halls looked dated. Fingernail tracks marred the faded paint. Why are there claw marks on the wall? The wood trim appeared scuffed and worn.
Walking faster, I arrived at Mrs. Batchalder’s room and gave a slight rap on the door jamb. She looked up from her newspaper and beckoned me inside.