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Across the hallway (standard:drama, 902 words)
Author: Lev821Added: Aug 03 2010Views/Reads: 2121/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A flat has been empty for years, but what's that sound coming from within?

He reached the top of the stairs and paused to regain his breath. He
sometimes wished that the small block of six flats had a lift, but then 
walking up and down to his home was, other than sometimes walking up to 
six miles a day, his only form of exercise at 72. 

Switching on the hallway light, he made his way across to his flat door.
The light barely illuminated the hallway but it was enough for him to 
see what he was doing as he inserted the key. Before he twisted it, he 
turned and looked across at the door to the flat opposite. Nobody lived 
there, and hadn't for six years. He'd never seen the tenants, but the 
landlord, who lived two miles away said they had left without telling 
him, and nobody had seen anything of them since. Occasionally, it 
seemed to him that the flat actually was occupied, as he'd heard sounds 
coming from within. 

Sometimes he heard voices, but he usually dismissed it as his
imagination, although that never always convinced him, as he also would 
sometimes hear a door closing, and footsteps. 

Now everything was silent. He opened his flat door and stepped in. He
was about to close it when faint strains of music filtered across the 
hallway. It had to be coming from behind the door opposite. He walked 
across to the red painted door, and not for the first time, tried to 
push it open. He knew it would be locked, and it was. He assumed it was 
a radio, but turned on very low and placed in the furthest corner. He 
knocked quite loudly, but he would be surprised if he received a reply. 
He would hear something approximately every two or three days. It was 
mostly voices, but he could never quite hear what they were saying, 
like they knew he was listening. He stepped back across to his own 
door, and the music stopped. It had not faded, but stopped instantly. 

Silence descended like a heavy fog. He wondered if he had heard it at
all, and then realised that to deny he had heard it, would be to deny 
he had ever heard it, and place a question over his very sanity. James 
Reynolds closed the door behind him. He couldn't put his mind at rest. 
How could he talk the landlord, who he barely sees into giving him the 
key, just because he believes there's somebody inside? He wondered just 
how he could get inside, and the answer came to him in an instant. It 
was obvious. Having just come from the local pub, he had been talking 
to his friend Michael Roberts who had spent 22 years in prison for 
armed robbery. Prior to that he had been an ordinary burglar, who had 
fell in with a group who could not, or would not earn money 
legitimately, and would instead steal it, forcefully if necessary. 
After he'd served his time, he'd left, aged 61 and promised he would 
never get involved in anything like that again. James wondered if his 
lock-picking skills were still in good order. He'd left him talking to 
the bar­man and hoped he would still be there. He left his flat, 
locking it behind him, and looked once at the other door. All was 
silent. He descended the stairs, heading for the place from where he'd 
previously came. 

After twenty minutes James and Mike were walking up the stairs to the
hallway, Michael with a small metal box containing tools of his 
ex-trade. He didn't take long in setting to work, and all the time he 
tried to open the door, the flat remained silent. James opened his own 
door and hung up the coats, and watched as the other man worked his 
specialised levers and wires. 

After a while, there was a loud click, and Michael stood up, satisfied.
"There you are, I've still got it". It was then they both heard a door 
slam, followed by conversation, followed by music, followed by 
laughter. It all mingled together, and the two men looked at each other 
as though expecting it to open. There was slight hesitation in James 
before he stepped forward and opened the door. The door swung back, 
creaking slightly. 

A dark, uninviting hallway was now louder with the sounds of many
occupants. James said nothing, just turned and walked back into his own 
flat to fetch his torch. When he returned, Michael had disappeared, 
presumably into the other hallway. The sounds coming from there were 
very loud, yet there could be nobody in there making any noise, unless 
somebody was playing a cassette, which was unlikely. 

Flicking on the torch, he walked into the other hallway and panned it
around. A door to the rear was open that led into the living room. No 
light was in there, the windows were boarded up. The room was empty, 
unfurnished. Michael was standing there, surrounded by the sound. "So 
where's it coming from?" asked James, picking out Michael with the 
torch. "It's obvious," he said, smiling. "It's coming from the walls. 
It seems that the sounds of the previous tenants have been recorded 
into the walls and are being played back". "The walls have ears,” said 
James. Mike nodded. “Yes, quite literally”. They both stood there for a 
while, listening, for that was all they could do for the moment.


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