I had recently shifted to this multi storied apartment complex. My apartment was bright with lots of sunshine in the mornings and had a great view of the road and the green golf grounds across. My wife who was with her parents on a short trip is expected to join me soon. She would love this place as it had a gym, an open swimming pool with a colourful fountain by its side .There was a small store selling milk, bread and other essential things that one would need to buy urgently. There was only one thing that bothered me. The apartment just opposite mine was not occupied. I have heard that it has been lying vacant for long.
When I opened my door to receive pizza from the delivery guy, I found the door of the opposite apartment ajar and the hall brightly lit. I heard some music mingled with some conversation. May be the TV was on. It was then I saw a middle aged man in a loose trouser and a check shirt coming towards the door. He smiled at me that was bizarre with rather well aligned big teeth and said hello. When I responded with a smile and a hello, he said “I am Santosh.Would you mind joining me for a glass of beer?”
Surprised I replied “I am Guna.Give me a minute. I will be with you.” I had a quick wash, dabbed some perfume and changed the shirt to a casual T shirt. He welcomed me and indicated the cozy sofa for me to sit down.
“New here? he asked and added ”Nice complex with beautiful setting. I am sure you like it”
Yes, I like the ambience. You too new, I believe. I saw your apartment closed” I said
“No, I am an old resident. True it remained closed for a while. I am living alone here and generally busy with my interests” he said
“Oh, I see. I remember the real estate people who showed me my apartment had mentioned that yours were vacant for long” I said. He did not answer.
“Give me a few minutes. I will get the glasses and the drink” he said and disappeared towards kitchen.
The air was stale and a putrid smell was emanating. I was about to sneeze and I looked for my handkerchief in my pockets. I stifled the sneeze with my fingers on my nose when I found I had left my hanky in the house. He suddenly appeared with some tissues in hand and said ”Help yourself. Give me a few minutes more” he said as he went away. The tissues were ice cold. I wondered how he knew that I was about to sneeze and my searching for hanky in my pockets when he was away at the kitchen. May be I had let out a stifled sound for his sharp ears to catch.
In a while he came out with two tall glasses and a bottle of possibly red wine. I remembered that he had mentioned beer earlier.
As he set the glasses on the centre table and poured the red drink, the smell of a rancid stuff assailed my nose triggering a feeling of throwing up. I looked up at him to see his big white teeth in what was his face, a dark hollow when he smiled. It was a scary and grotesque sight to watch the lean man laughing with his loose attire.
“Have this drink once and you would forever be like me yearning for it” he said
As the fear and uneasiness arose from the pit of my stomach, I made a hasty exit, leaving my mobile behind by mistake, to my apartment that I had not luckily locked. I was perspiring in fear and drenched in sweat. I rang for the security to rush immediately. I opened the door only after the two security men assured twice that they were from security.
I narrated the fearful incident. When we looked at the door, it was closed. They pressed the bell with no response. When I insisted what I had witnessed, they said “No one is living here for years. It remains locked. No one has ever come to this to our knowledge. There is an alarm system that would alert us if the doors are forced. I am sorry, sir, you are imagining” he said
“You cannot dismiss my complaint like that. Please open the door. I had left behind my mobile in my haste to get out.
When they opened the door with a master key, it was full of dust and cobwebs with no indication that it was ever occupied. When I mentioned about the wine,they saw no glasses and when the security opened the fridge it was empty and disconnected. They looked at me with strange expression when I told them about the missing mobile. It was not on the centre table where I had left it and again there was a worried look when one of the security shouted ‘it is here”. It was In the waste paper basket along with clean tissue . There was now a confused look in their faces.