I wake up. It is early morning. My eyes can't see anything but the deep and lonely abyss of darkness in my apartment. I can't move. I have that terrible and frightening paralysis again. I start to anguish...
I take a deep breath: every night this happens I try to think rationally to calm myself down. I inhale... and exhale... and inhale... and exhale... My heart rate begins to decrease but I still can't move. My eyes look for landmarks in the shadows. I see nothing.
Seconds and minutes pass. My limbs do not respond. I calm down a little more and then I hear something. Sounds like footsteps: they come from the department next door. Someone walks in my neighbor's room. He is a very old man… maybe he got out of bed to go to urinate or to get something from his kitchen. But... there is something strange… I try to pay more attention and focus my ears.
I feel chills.
I hear heavy footsteps. Those are not the weak feet of the light old man I greet every morning. No. He would never wear the kind of shoes I hear walking through his apartment right now. That man lives alone, just like me. Who is that person walking in his department? Maybe I'm mistaking the direction of the sound.
I listen again paying more attention. No: that sound cannot come from another place. It must be there! The department on the opposite side belongs to a woman who works at night to pay off some debts. The rooms upstairs are almost all unoccupied, except one, but it would be impossible for me to hear any noise coming from there because of its remoteness. As for the lower floor, it is the same: many neighbors of this small enclosure work at night.
I hear more footsteps again... Are those a pair of boots?
Whoever it is, it must be a heavy person: I hear the wooden floor of that apartment creak with every step he takes. But then, I hear his feet begin to lighten: he is trying to make less noise... I hear him turning a knob. Then, the sounds stops.
I can't move yet and I start to get progressively nervous once again.
More footsteps. I hear the sound of another knob that spins slowly. The hinges of a door in the adjoining apartment squeak faintly. And then, more footsteps. Another door opens. I feel fear: my heartbeat starts to accelerate. That last door must belong to my old neighbor's room...
The footsteps move forward slowly... Then they stop. I still can't move. I'm paralyzed. Is that person in the room with that poor old man?
Suddenly, I hear a very hard blow!
I shudder in terror. I hear the old man's voice moan from the terrible pain that has brutally disturbed his rest and, just when I barely heard him, I hear another blow! And other...! And other...! And other...!
I'm trembling in my bed in terror, motionless. The old man's voice was stifled immediately after the second impact. I hear those really hard blows, delivered with an awful bestiality and I also hear the springs of the old cheap mattress of the poor man grind at such violence. The bed creaks with every hit.
Now there's only silence.
My eyes get wet. Tears of helplessness and enormous fear begin to drip down my cheeks. I still can't move! I am terrified! I hear a rough breath. The person... that fucking murderer in the apartment next door is exhausted. There is a pause and I perceive the sound of a drawer being open.
I hear more footsteps. That bastard is walking through my neighbor's room... Who is that fucking person?! A new wave of panic fills my body and makes me shiver. I hear that the footsteps have moved away but then I hear them louder again. It seems that fucking guy has left the adjoining department and returned to the main corridor. And now... the footsteps... I hear them even louder...
He is coming to my apartment!
My breath is shaking. I hear those very heavy boots coming right over here. I still can't move! I hear the footsteps stop. The door handle of my apartment starts to make some noise. He is trying to get in! He is pushing the door!
Please God! Help me! I don't want to die!
I’m pleading for mercy... I'm desperate! My fucking body doesn't respond yet! But then, there is a pause. More silence. The wooden door creaks under the weight of a huge body that has reloaded on it. There is a clumsy blow with very little force. Then, I hear the footsteps again. The heavy boots continue on their way down the corridor of the building until, finally, their ominous sound is lost in the distance.
My heart is about to burst. Then I faint.
It dawns a few hours later. I wake up in the morning to the hustle that is heard in the building. This time I can move. By the time the police arrive, it is obviously too late for that lonely old man...
The other tenants and I ask with horror what happened: they explain to us that a guy, apparently drugged, strangled the doorman last night and managed to enter my neighbor's room... The intruder crushed the skull of that poor old man and stole him some money before leaving.
The police ask some questions. I narrate what I lived.
They comment us that it's a tragedy but that it's something common in that suburban area: home thefts that ends very badly. Intrusions by addicts and thieves... They abound in these streets.
Time goes by. I have moved to another residence. I rent a small house in a different neighborhood. It has been a few months since that happened... but, at night, it causes me an enormous horror to think about those fucking footsteps... I can't sleep: now I suffer from insomnia.
Not a single day has passed for me, not a single night without thinking about it...
[Author's note: I wrote this story during hours of insomnia of April 21, 2019... that night I heard some footsteps in the house next door...]
Merci pour la lecture!