Next Door (A Short Spooky Story)

With Halloween fast approaching, I’ve decided to dig into my bag of tricks and post a spooky story about the house next door. Enjoy.

As usual, Carlos is late. He probably fell asleep again, Josie thinks as she walks into the empty apartment unit alone. She calls out his name but except for the sound of something creaking upstairs, a door maybe, there’s only silence.

The old fart probably has his headphones on so of course, he can’t hear me.

Still, he’s supposed to help her inspect the empty unit. They need to make sure the apartment’s spotless, or the tenants don’t get their full deposit back. But then, no one ever does for Josie always finds a way to charge them for something. A torn shower curtain: $20. A cracked window: $75. One missing key: $100 — though she simply replaces the interchangeable core and pockets the rest. It’s highway robbery, but what are they going to do? Report her? The manual labor required to install the thing costs more than half the fee… or that’s what she claims. Carlos only gets paid his monthly salary after all and it’s fixed, no matter what he does.

Josie checks everything in the first floor. It’s spotless and she feels a slight pang of disappointment. She has no plans to give the tenants back their deposit, so she knows she’s got to keep looking for a reason to keep it all.

With the kitchen cabinets still smelling of Lysol, she makes her way up the stairs and goes through the bedrooms. The first bedroom is immaculate. How did these people get the place cleaned up so fast? It didn’t look like they even lived in it! They’d stayed two months and by the third month, they were gone. They told her that they’d found another place a few blocks away, one with a pool, though when Josie checked, there was no pool.

She forces herself to stop bitching. She has to inspect one more room and she’s done. Maybe she’ll have to crack a mirror and tell them it had to be replaced. She’d take a picture of the intact mirror first as proof. She doesn’t really want to give back their deposit. Not if she can help it.

Except for Carlos’ tool belt lying on the floor, the second room is spotless… and ice cold. Josie hugs her arms about her as she stands in the center of the room. She remembers the stories the tenants told her, how the room was always freezing, how they’d wake up to someone touching their arm, cold fingers around ankles or wrists.  Bad dreams almost every night.

Josie rolls her eyes. Kids these days. Smoked too much pot their brains have become addled. Anyone would say anything to get out of their lease but she sure showed them. She penalized them for leaving before the year was up anyway and they didn’t even complain.

As she opens the door to the closet, she’s startled to see her darkened reflection in a mirror hanging just beyond the door. She smiles, pleased with herself.

Mirror left behind in the closet: $50 for disposal.

As Josie turns away, a sound from inside the closet startles her. She stares, suddenly unable to move a muscle as the darkened reflection glides toward her, its mouth gaping open in a silent scream as its cold fingers wrap around her wrists and Josie realizes—too late—that there is no mirror.

* * *

From the prompt: Write a spooky legend about your neighborhood via 25 Writing Prompts for Fall, Because It’s The Perfect Season To Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

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