The three-story building was very imposing on Ninth Street. The white paint was peeling and the once-grand house now stood looking dark and abandoned. But the house wasn’t abandoned, several people lived in it. A family of four, a single guy and Joey and his sister, Lisa. Joey, Randy, Nathan, Alison and I walked up the fire escape to a small door that went to their apartment. They never, apparently, went through the front door.
We all walked in and heard muffled screams coming from what was Lisa’s room. “Lisa and Mitch are home,” Joey said casually.
The house used to be a sorority house so the apartment Joey lived in had a small kitchen area, a huge living room and a huge closet which was where Joey slept. Nathan and Alison sat on the couch and I picked out a chair by the balcony door to sit on. The chair had a used condom sticking out from the cushion. I carefully pulled it out and threw it on the floor.
“That was sanitary,” I said. “So what’s up with this house?”
“It used to be a sorority house and supposedly a girl jumped to her death from the balcony,” Joey said.
“This balcony?” I pointed behind me.
“It’s the only balcony,” Joey shrugged.
“Rumor has it,” Randy began, using the worst phrase to start a sentence or a story, “the girl was despondent after she discovered her boyfriend cheated on her and subsequently broke up with her. She then leapt off of the balcony to her death on the sidewalk below.”
I got up and opened the doors to the balcony and looked out from it. I peered over the edge and saw the sidewalk below the balcony but just off to the left.
“She would’ve had to jump over there,” I pointed to the sidewalk. “Because if she jumped dead center off the balcony, I don’t think she would’ve died just hitting the ground.”
“So?” Alison asked.
I looked at Alison with a slight smile on my face. Alison had the unique ability to piss me off but still be enamored with her. “So that means it wasn’t something spur of the moment. It was calculated—planned,” I said. “What are some of the ghost stories here?”
“In the basement there’s always a breeze even though no windows are open; my bedroom door randomly opens and just random noises,” Joey said as the noises from his sister’s room got a little softer but sounded like something was scuffling along the carpet.
I looked at Randy. “Wanna go check out the basement?” I asked. “Might as well do some actual ghost hunting while we’re here.”
Randy and I headed quietly down the stairs to the bottom floor and stood at the door under the stairs. I tried the knob and it turned but the door was padlocked and wouldn’t open.
“What type of screwdriver does it take?” Randy asked and pulled out a roll of tool, like a burglar’s set.
“Phillips,” I said. He handed me a Phillips screwdriver and I began unscrewing the padlock from the door. Randy always came prepared even if it required lugging around a huge duffel bag. As the years passed, Randy would become less and less prepared.
The door was now released from the padlock and I opened the door. I slipped the screwdriver into my pocket and looked back at Randy. “Ready?” I asked.
He stood up and we began descending the stairs, into the darkness. There was a soft humming sound echoing through the basement. “What’s that sound?” Randy asked.
“Probably a furnace or something,” I said and reached the bottom of the stairs. I looked around but saw nothing out of the ordinary except for a string hanging from a doorknob across the basement. The thick white string was moving back and forth as if in a breeze but no air was moving. “Why’s that string moving when there’s no breeze?”
Randy got a look at the string. “I don’t know but I’m gone!” he said and ran back up the stairs. I sighed and rolled my eyes.
When I got back upstairs after fixing the padlock, Lisa and Mitch were out of the bedroom. She was in her underwear and Mitch was just wearing a pair of sweatpants.
“What the hell! Why did you abandon me down there?” I yelled at Randy.
“That string was moving,” he said. “You saw it.”
I sighed heavily and glanced over at Lisa, whose cleavage was on display for everyone to see, and then to Alison, who was in the chair by the balcony making out with Nathan. “I’m gonna head home,” I said. I began walking to the fire escape. I stopped at Randy. “We still going to Stull tomorrow?” I asked.
I walked down the fire escape and began walking home. It was a crisp, clear night—almost a perfect night. I just needed someone to spend it with. I was sure the house wasn’t haunted but as I walked away I couldn’t help but feel someone—or thing—holding onto my arm.