Writings of Andrew Schiestel


The Door Down the Hall

“Bang! Bang! Bang!”

Tom’s eyes shuttered open. It was the wee hours of the morning; Tom was lying on his back in bed. The noise was distinct: a person brazenly banging their knuckles on a neighbour’s door; which one on the floor of Tom’s condominium it was difficult to ascertain but it wasn’t the adjacent one.

This wasn’t the first time this contemptuous interruption had occurred. About a month earlier, on a Saturday night too, Tom endured hearing a neighbour’s door open and shut—likely the same one—repeatedly at odd hours throughout the night. Each episode would begin with the forceful banging on the door.

Before the pandemic, and intermittently when municipal By-Laws would permit during it, his condo would receive a desirous spectrum of short-term rental users: travellers, businesspeople, family members providing auspices to hospitalized loved ones, and those engaging in prostitution.

“Bang! Bang!”

His eyes flickered open again. There was respite between the first interval—enough for Tom to get a little more slumber but not enough to enjoy it.

He contemplated calling Concierge, but the intervals were so intermittent. “What?” He said to himself, “The Concierge would need to show up at the exact moment someone happened to be rebuking their fists on a door?” Mathematically unlikely, he concluded.

Then he heard the door open faintly in the distance. Then it shut. About a half-minute later the door opened again. And then it shut again. There was no fist banging this time, only the opening and the closing of the door.

Tom’s curiosity got the best of him—He got out of bed and dressed himself.  “Am I going to walk in on a pimp, a couple ruffians, something else?” He pondered to himself.

He put his moccasins on.

Ever so quietly he opened his door.

Even more quietly he closed his door behind him, being sure to do so with the handle dropped to the bottom as far as it would go so as not to trigger the latch-clipping sound.

The format of the residence-level floors in the high-rise building were all but a complete square if it weren’t for one fraction utilized for the building’s stairwell. The units were situated along the perimeter of the building; the hallway existing one stratum into the structure.

Tom turned the first corner.

He heard the door shut again; the noise palpably louder as he came nearer.

He walked down the next corridor. He heard the door in question open. The sound gaining prominence. He was getting closer. His heart started to beat faster. He was also coming to the floor’s receptacle shoot. He thought rapidly, “Should I be holding a garbage bag? What exactly am I going to do when I see what I’m going to see?” He continued walking.

The door opened again. He came to the next corner. He heard the door close. He rounded the corner.

He stood still. There was nothing. Or no one for that matter. The hallway was bare.

Tom just stood there, inconspicuously silent. The silence went on and Tom continued to stand there in solitary. He heard nothing. The night became toweringly quiet and time slowed. He stood there, his senses reaching full acuity.

The door made a clicking sound, the door’s handle lowered, and the door creaked open—Tom’s heart began galloping.

Out came a cadaverous looking elderly woman dressed in a full-length white slumber gown. She turned towards Tom, looked directly at him, but kept turning until she faced the door to which she exited from. The door shut behind her. She stood looking at the door. Tom stood speechless and shocked at the moment, not breaking his stare. She reached her right hand out, gripped the handle, turned it down, opened the door, and walked back into the unit. The door shut behind her.

Tom didn’t realize this, but his mouth was agape. He stood—his body stiff and his mind fixated on what was happening. “Did she even see him?” He wondered.

The door’s latch made a clicking sound again. The door handle lowered slowly, and the door opened. Out came the cadaverous looking woman again; she turned towards Tom again but didn’t stop and completed another turn to face the door. The door closed behind her. She reached her right hand out, gripped the door handle, lowered it, pushed and opened the door again and re-entered the unit. The door shut behind her again.

That was the last time she would exit her unit that night with Tom standing there. But it wasn’t the last time that he would hear someone brazenly knocking on that door, and it opening and closing in the wee hours of the morning.

The woman was a sleepwalker.

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