Don’t Look Back
By: Eric Liu
"Whew," I panted, my breath heavy with exhaustion, as I finally set down the weighty cardboard boxes within the boundaries of my new home. It was a sleek and modern condo nestled within a recently revitalized apartment complex. The building stood out starkly against the gray backdrop of the city—its flashy, futuristic design a jigsaw piece that refused to fit into the puzzle called “Dallas”. Aptly named "The Spiral" by locals, it comprised a long cylinder with several discs containing individual housing units, twisted in the middle—an impossible-seeming feat. Room 712, which was my abode, was acquired for a modest $1,400 a month, and it surpassed my equally modest expectations. Bathed in natural light with pristine white walls and furniture, the space exuded a clean minimalistic atmosphere. Not a speck of dust dared to adulterate the immaculate surfaces. Having all the essential amenities required for modern life, I was extremely satisfied with the place. Well, almost. There was one little thing that I didn’t like. The hallway leading to the elevator seemed to stretch on forever—its narrowness causing a claustrophobic sense of unease, especially during the night. However, I dismissed these irrational thoughts of an endless passageway as figments of my imagination—creations of my mind, drowsy from the thrill of moving into a new home and physical exertion during the day. With that in mind, I freshened up and succumbed to sleep, forgetting about my opinions in the hallway.
"Oh, by the way, have you heard the rumors about that new apartment complex?" my friend asked one day, while we were drinking coffee at Starbucks. It had been a week since I moved to my new home, and I hadn’t heard any rumors or anything of the sort, so naturally, my curiosity was piqued. "Hmm... Never heard of them. What's the story?" I inquired with genuine intrigue. "Well, here's the thing. You know that they had to tear down an old building to make way for that place, right? Turns out, that building was the site of a pretty vicious murder spree. Some people believe the ghosts of the victims haunt the area, seeking vengeance," he answered with a serious expression. Skepticism washed over me, and I shot him a quizzical glance. "Come on now, if you're going to fabricate rumors, at least make them somewhat believable. Vengeful spirits haunting the place? Give me a break," I chuckled, finding his tale more amusing than anything else. His deadpan expression only made me laugh more, to the point where my stomach ached. Besides, my friend was a jokester, which definitely wasn’t helping his case. "Trust me, it's true. People have reported hearing strange noises at night, the sound of doors being unlocked, and whatnot," he maintained, his seriousness doing little to change my skeptical stance. With a dismissive wave, I glanced at the time. It was 10 till 5. “Well, I have to go. Next time, make your story more probable,” I said as I slammed the door shut.
"Beep! Beep! Beep! Error detected!" I slammed the lid of the printer in frustration. It was malfunctioning. "Huah." I rubbed my temples and eyes in exasperation. Well, at least the printer in the apartment complex was functional. As I embarked on the journey back to my unit, a peculiar sensation washed over me. The moon had usurped the sun's place in the sky.
Though I wasn’t usually scared or unsettled by darkness, this evening felt different—disquieting, similar to a deserted shopping mall after closing hours or walking alone on a dimly-lit forest trail. As I entered the apartment complex and heard the familiar ‘Ding!’ of the elevator, the unsettling feeling worsened.I walked through the desolate hallway, shrouded in an eerie atmosphere–malevolence pervading throughout the air. An unfamiliar feeling gnawed at my senses. Parts of the corridor seemed to be shifting into horrible shapes that defied logic–the very essence of its existence twisted in some unholy manner. The passageway stretched on, darkness covering the end–if it even had one. The sinister waltz of flickering lights nibbled at my sanity, casting menacing shadows on the walls.
Then, an unsettling presence crept behind me, an intangible dread that sent chills down my spine. It invited me to turn around and face it, but my instincts screamed, a primal fear engraved within me. An insidious curiosity inside me clawed at my thoughts, taunting me.
My heart thumping, I started to run, but my feet stumbled forward and I tripped as I heard an ear-piercing screech, a horrid sound that rebelled against reason. I tried to scream, but my voice betrayed me, trapped in the jaws of fear.
As I stood there in terror, a cacophony of whispers invaded the periphery of my mind, nibbling away at the little sanity I had left. I succumbed to the impulse to look back, every fiber of my body trembling. In the dim light lurked an eldritch abomination of unspeakable horror, it's very being defying comprehension. Its indescribably grotesque form was etched into my mind.
On a frigid, gray November day, the world seemed to shiver beneath the pewter sky. A disheveled set of newspapers were scattered across the hallway carpet on Floor 7 in the Spiral. They were all covered with one bold headline: “Crazy Man Arrested and Sent to Psych Ward”. As a man, likely a journalist from his clothes stood in front of Room 712–where the incident occurred, a foreboding aura hung in the air. Trepidation gripped his soul, but he pressed on. He opened the door.