3 A M. (Episode 4; The Intruder)

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read out episode 3 before this…….


 

“Moment of truth, then,” Megan said as she stood in the bathroom doorway, holding the pregnancy test kit in her hands. She began to tear at the cellophane. A moment later she had the box open, and then finally with trembling hands she removed the tester itself.

And then she paused.

Sighing, she looked over at her reflection in the cracked mirror. For a moment, she was struck by the dark shadows under her eyes, and she felt that she’d aged several years in just a single month. She’d always looked young for her age, but now things seemed to have swung the other way: she looked older than her thirty-one years, even though she told herself that at least part of the effect was down to the bathroom’s unflattering lighting.

“This is nuts,” she said finally, tossing the kit into the bin. “I’m not pregnant. I can’t be pregnant.”

***

“Friday, October fifth,” she read out loud as she stood in Michael’s office. “After two nights of silence, it came again last night. The same knocking, and this time it used my name. It’s like it’s daring me to go out there, and sometimes I think I should do it, just to get this nightmare over with.”

Every one is afraid

Every one is afraid

Looking over at Michael, she could see the skepticism in his expression.

“I’m just reading what she wrote,” she pointed out. “I’m not saying I believe it.”

“And you just found that thing this morning?”

“It was in a pile of papers,” she explained as she flicked through to the entries for the following week. “I was planning to go through them all this morning. I still am, there might be something in there but…” She paused, her eyes scanning the page. “Listen to this. Monday, October eighth. It seems to be coming every night now, tapping at the window and trying anything it can think of to get me out there. Last night it even sounded a little like Henry, but that was probably all in my head. I think I’m going crazy.”

“Who’s Henry?”

“Her husband,” she replied. “He died a few years ago, a short time before she moved here.”

“No offense,” Michael continued, “but maybe she was right. Maybe she really was just going crazy.”

“Wednesday, October tenth. I almost opened the door last night. It sounded more like Henry than ever, and this time I had my hand on the latch, ready to open it. Only fear made me stop, but I think next time I might do it. I don’t care what’s out there, I just want this all to be over.” She paused for a moment, before checking the next few pages of the diary and finding them to be blank. “No more entries,” she said, turning to Michael, “and no-one in the family heard from her again.”

“So that’s when she vanished?”

“Maybe she did it,” Megan replied, closing the diary. “Maybe that was the night she opened the door.”

“And the boogeyman got her?”

“Something happened,” she continued, unable to hide her sense of desperation. “I’m not saying it was a ghost, but something was obviously banging on her door. I heard it myself, it’s real!”

“It was probably the wind,” he replied, interrupting her.

“It was not the wind,” she said firmly. “There was a knocking sound, and a voice.” She paused for a moment. “Do you know what I think? I think someone’s up to something, maybe playing some kind of sick game. Maybe it’s kids, maybe it’s someone who’s just got a dark sense of humor and then things went too far. Maybe they were enjoying terrorizing my aunt and they thought it was funny, and then it got out of hand.” She paused again, her mind racing with possibilities. “And maybe she had a heart attack or something like that, she died and then whoever was doing this, they panicked and hid the body.”

“And then came back last night to do the same thing to you?”

Realizing that her explanation made little sense, she sighed.

“This whole thing sounds very convoluted,” Michael continued. “Don’t they always say that the simplest explanation is the most likely?”

“But it’s possible that she was being tormented,” she continued, feeling a wave of shock pass through her body. “God, she really might be dead.”

“Or she’s sunning herself on holiday,” he replied, “and her postcards got lost in the mail.”

“Are there any CCTV cameras in this place?”

“Sure.”

“Can we check the footage?”

“None of them actually work,” he told her. “There’s no budget for that kind of thing. We leave them up just as a deterrent, to make people think they’re being watched. I even dust them sometimes.”

“They didn’t deter whoever was terrorizing my aunt,” Megan replied, “and they didn’t deter whoever knocked on her door last night. Has anyone else reported a disturbance in the night?”

He opened his mouth to reply, but something seemed to be holding him back.

“What about 3am?” she asked. “You act like you don’t believe any of this could be happening, but yesterday you were pretty adamant that I shouldn’t be awake at 3am, so you obviously know something’s going on.”

“I don’t know anything of the sort,” he replied cautiously.

“So tell me what you suspect.”

He sighed. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” he said after a moment, “and I don’t believe in little green men or boogeymen or any of that stuff.”

“Neither do I.”

“What I do believe in is… things that I can prove, things that leave some kind of trace, and I can’t deny that something seems to happen around this place at three in the morning.” Another pause, as if he was reluctant to go on. “There are noises. Bumps. Some people report knocks on their doors, they often say the voice sounds a little like someone they know, usually someone who died. They see a figure through the frosted glass, and they usually say that it’s accompanied by this feeling of dread, as if they can sense that they shouldn’t open the door no matter how much the figure begs them.”

“And you’ve looked into it?”

“I think it’s just something that has snowballed out of control,” he told her. “This building is like an echo chamber. People tell stories, they goad each other on to add little elements, and before you know it they all believe these things have happened when they really haven’t. It’s paranoia and fear, and for some reason the environment of Marshall Heights is like an incubator for these things. The 3am rubbish is just a story that’s run out of control, and if you ask me, maybe some of the residents even go out there and knock on doors themselves in an attempt to keep the story running.”

“So you’ve heard the knocking too?”

“Everyone has,” he replied a little evasively.

“And you didn’t open the door?”

“It’s never actually knocked on mine.”

“But you’re the building manager,” she continued. “Shouldn’t you be doing something to stop all of this? Shouldn’t you call the police?”

“It’s just a game that the local residents are playing.”

“A game that might have killed my aunt.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head, “it wouldn’t go that far. Whatever’s happened to your aunt, it’s a coincidence that she got mixed in with all of this. I’m sorry you found a diary that showed she was being harassed, but that’s really all that was going on. You’re right, maybe I should have done something to nip it all in the bud sooner. I’ll talk to people, maybe I’ll put up a notice in the foyer by the mailboxes.”

“Is that the best you can do? A notice by the mailboxes?”

“What else would you suggest?”

She stared at him for a moment, aware of a sense of unease in his expression.

“You’re lying,” she said finally.

“Excuse me?”

“I think you’re more scared than you’re letting on. I think you’re not doing anything about this because you’re scared that if you do get involved, you might find that it’s something that goes against everything you think you know about the world.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts either?”

“I don’t,” she replied, “but I’m willing to accept the possibility. And I’m not too scared to look.”

“You didn’t open the door last night.”

“That’s because I wasn’t prepared. There could have been anyone out there. A burglar, a stalker, worse…” She paused for a moment. “I’ll be prepared tonight, though.”

“Megan -”

“I’m serious,” she continued. “If this is someone pulling a prank, then I’m going to call him on it. I’m going to open that door, and I’m going to be prepared to defend myself, and then I’m going to find out what the hell happened to my aunt.”

“I’d rather you just let it alone.”

“Why don’t you come with me?” she asked. “Wait in the flat with me tonight and at 3am we’ll find out the truth.” She waited for him to reply, but it was clear that he wasn’t comfortable with her suggestion. “I’m not letting this go on,” she continued. “I’m getting to the bottom of it all, and I’m doing it tonight, whether you’re there or not.” Turning, she headed to the door before glancing back at him. “I guess you know where to find me if you change your mind. I’d like it if you were there, I’d rather not do this alone, but I’m opening that door tonight and I’m going to see who’s out there.”

She waited for him to reply, but she could tell that despite his protestations to the contrary, Michael seemed scared to learn the truth. For all that he claimed not to believe in ghosts, he was clearly worried about putting that belief to the test.

“I guess I’ll let you know what happens,” she said finally, before heading out of his office. Stopping suddenly, she looked back at him. “By the way, who’s Ellis Hathaway?”

Michael stared at her for a moment.

“I’m sorry?” he asked finally.

“I saw the name in one of my aunt’s notebooks. Does it mean anything to you?”

She waited for a reply.

“No,” Michael said eventually. “It doesn’t mean a thing.”

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