The Locked Door

She rubbed her hands together, trying to restore some semblance of warmth to them. When she took the trash out to the curb, she wasn’t expecting the door to lock behind her. She hadn’t even realized her door could lock without a key.

She thought about knocking on one of her neighbor’s doors and asking if she could sit inside until her landlord opened the office in half an hour, but she hadn’t had a chance to get to know any of them yet. The only neighbor she’d met had given her the creeps and she didn’t want to risk knocking on his door in a robe and slippers.

She didn’t even have her phone on her. Whoever designed her robe and pajamas clearly felt that pockets were unnecessary. Up until now, it hadn’t been an issue.

Chafing her hands wasn’t doing much good in the freezing weather, so she shoved them under her armpits, dancing about to keep her blood circulating.

This was the last time she would ever leave the apartment without her keys.

* * *

A week later, she came home to find her door unlocked. Nothing had been disturbed, but she’d sworn she locked it that morning before leaving for work.

She double-checked that the deadbolt was thrown before going to bed and always made sure to test the handle on her way out the door in the morning.

Every now and again, she would come home and find that her door had unlocked itself.

It was driving her crazy.

She invested in a security camera.

Her door continued to randomly unlock itself, but the camera picked up no signs of movement other than the deadbolt flipping from locked to unlocked. Sometimes it was minutes after she left. Sometimes it was in the middle of the day. Sometimes it was as she pulled into the driveway.

* * *

She’d been in her apartment for nearly six months by the time she noticed anything else unusual.

She woke up one morning to find the coffee pot started. It was a time saver to prepare it the night before so that all she had to do was push a button.

That continued for a week. Then she started coming home to the TV on.

She called an exorcist.

The woman waved around a stick of incense, chanted some mumbo jumbo that gave her the heebie jeebies, and then charged her an exorbitant fee and departed.

The blaring radio woke her minutes after she fell asleep. She slapped it off only to have the TV flicker to life, just as she managed to drift back to sleep.

“What do you want?” She demanded to the empty apartment.

Silence greeted her.

“Are you upset because I called in an exorcist?” More silence. “Turn on the TV for yes, the radio for no.”

The TV flicked on, remained on for a long moment, and then turned off.

She staggered backward, her bare heels catching on the cedar chest. She sat heavily on it. “Are you going to hurt me?”

The radio blared to life. She massaged her head. “Okay…” The radio turned off.

“Are you a ghost?” Nothing. “Sorry, that was rude. Umm… Why are you here?” She scowled. “Right. Sorry. Yes or no questions. Umm… Will you stop messing with the door lock?”

The TV flicked on for a moment.

“Thanks. Can I get some sleep now? Without interruptions?” She took the silence as a yes.

When she crawled into bed, the covers tucked themselves in around her.

Well, now that she had an understanding with her… ghost? Poltergeist? Apartment haunting spirit? Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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