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I will preface this by saying that I'm agnostic, as is my girlfriend who lives with me. I was raised under nonpracticing Buddhists and my girlfriend went to Catholic school as a child. (We met, coincidentally, at a secular student organization at my engineering school before I graduated.) I can't explain the things we've been seeing, but I can describe them: as the Ghostbusters once said, “Biblical things.”

We have a second-floor apartment in a complex not far from downtown. There are a lot of people around, constantly. When I leave for work in the morning, I say hello to other commuters just setting out, who are saying goodbye to their stay-at-home partners. No one else has seen or heard the things that by all means should have disrupted the other people in our complex. It started a few weeks ago when I was shaving before work. I was in the bathroom in front of the mirror when I heard someone humming through the door. It sounded like a man, and I assumed it was a neighbor either upstairs or down who I was hearing. It was pretty discordant, and I kept shaving while trying to figure out the tune.

In the course of turning my chin up and down to shave, I noticed that the humming wasn't coming from the ceiling or the floor, but really did seem to be coming through the door to our bedroom where my girlfriend was sleeping. The moment I noticed this, the humming acquired a voice. Also male, and intoning syllables that sounded randomly strung together.

It's hard to make it sound nice what I felt right then, but I was set to kill someone. I didn't know how people had gotten in, but my girlfriend is paranoid about burglary and she was out there with two guys who had probably broken in. I grabbed my girlfriend's straight razor from the bathroom counter and threw the door open. She had a stiletto shoe in hand like a weapon and was sitting up looking alarmed. The humming and the voice were gone. I glanced at the bedroom door, which we keep open. No one visible in the living room, nothing audible, either.

My girlfriend asked me if the chanting was me, and I asked her where they went. She had no idea what I was talking about. She told me she heard Hebrew coming from the bathroom, and thought it was me until she realized I couldn't be humming and chanting at the same time. She said it stopped when I opened the door.

I asked her if it sounded like my voice, and she could only say that she thought so, but she was partly asleep until the realization woke her up. I gave her the razor, grabbed a knife of mine, and we searched the apartment together after announcing that we were armed and ready to injure anyone we found in our home. We didn't find anything, and I finished shaving with the bathroom door open as she tried to go back to sleep. I was running late at that point, but made sure to have her lock and deadbolt the door behind me. I also left my knife with her. She explained by text while I was at work that she recognized the language as Hebrew because she recognized the first couple of words as the opening line to Jewish prayers. I googled the word-sounds she texted me and google corrected me with “baruch atah adonai,” which means “Blessed are you, God.” I asked her for any other words she recognized, but my girlfriend hadn't picked up on any, and it sounded like random gibberish to me when it was happening. We decided that it had to be neighbors, even though we knew most of our neighbors.

I had some really strange thoughts that day at work, like remembering dreams I'd had the night before. I'm pretty sure they were dreams, but normally I remember my dreams immediately upon waking up in the morning. They don't just come to me in the middle of the day. One of them included the idea of a city descending from a storm cloud, and another focused on me chatting with someone who wanted to convince me that killing my girlfriend was a good idea. I remember throwing the person (male, I think, and well-dressed) from a mountain ledge where I didn't realize we were standing until I pushed him away. In that second one, I watched myself do this from above my own head, like an out-of body experience.

I went home after work and tried to unlock the door, but it was still bolted. I knocked, waited, knocked again, waited, and then got my phone out of my pocket to text her.

The bang sounded like a body being thrown hard at the door from the inside, and then the humming and chanting started again. This time it sounded like there were a dozen men behind the door. I started hammering at the door and screaming frantically for my girlfriend to unlock it as the chanting got louder. It got to the point I could hear the voices of individual men over my own screaming, like I was wearing earbuds on maximum volume to drown out everything else. I was leaving dents in my front door and I started kicking it, too. Then something touched my shoulder, and I jerked so hard that I fell over.

My next-door neighbor had heard me and wondered what was going on. I tried to speak, but my voice had given out at some point. I whispered that there were people in my apartment with my girlfriend and I thought she was hurt. My neighbor tried the door and it opened. He flicked the switch on the main hallway light and held it open for me to see inside.

There went dents all along the walls of the entry hallway and around the dents were contoured black lines. In some places it looked like the drywall had been ripped into. My neighbor helped me up by the wrist and then told me to back him up. He took a fighting stance with his fists up, and stepped inside.

Nothing happened. I followed him. Passing through the entryway, I got a close look at the dents and the lines around them. The dents were roughly in the shape of a someone's upper body. There were clear shoulder indents, and indented bowls where the person's head would have slammed the wall. I was certain that these were signs that my girlfriend was dead. The impression of ripped drywall was accurate: it looked as though the person that had been slammed into the walls had nails or spikes sticking out from their shoulders and waist. Also, the lines around these dents weren't just lines: I'd seen some Hebrew letters during my google search, and realized that someone had written thousands of Hebrew lines on the walls.

My neighbor peeked around the corner of the entry hallway where it ends at the kitchen, and asked if everyone was alright. There were clear signs that someone had gotten their life kicked out of them right in the hallway where he stood. I thought he had to be joking, but then my girlfriend called out to ask who was there, and I rushed around him through the kitchen and into the living room. My girlfriend was poking her face out through the almost-closed bedroom door, and she was alright.

We talked to our neighbor in our living room, and he asked us repeatedly if we wanted him to call the police for us, or our lease office, but we said it was okay. I wanted to take inventory and see what was missing from our apartment before we called anyone, and I also wanted to talk to my girlfriend about what she heard. Nothing seemed to be out of order, broken, or missing in the rest of the apartment.

After about a half hour, we got him to head out, and we walked past the dents and writing in the entryway again. This time I noticed that the person that had to hit the wall was much bigger than my girlfriend, which was relieving, but only so much. My neighbor told me to knock on his door if he needed anything, and I shut and locked the door. I turned around in the entryway and was once again faced with the dents and the Hebrew writing.

I started to examine it all. I noticed that the drywall was also predictably pierced in two places above the “head” indents, and in other places there were impressions under the dual-piercings that looked like the pattern on a trilobyte's shell. They even spiraled in some cases. Then there came a knock at my front door after only a minute. I checked the peephole, and it was our neighbor again. It looked like he had something in his hand.

I opened the door, and he held out a smartphone that looked like mine. I lit up the screen and it was my background picture. I think I dropped it when I started banging on the door. I thanked him again, shut the door, locked it, and turned to keep looking at the dents. They were all gone, along with the writing. Fiction


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