Bound to the Battle God - Ruby Dixon

1

I’m just sitting down with a pint of Häagen-Dazs to watch some reality TV when I hear a voice through the wall.

I frown, spoon halfway to my mouth, and turn off the television.

It’s late. It’s a week night. I have to be up early but I can’t sleep, so I’m stuffing my face with ice cream. And for the neighbor in the next apartment to be shouting? That’s just rude. I scowl at the wall for a moment longer, and when all is quiet, reach for the remote again

A man laughs. Loud and strong, on the other side of the wall.

I take a bite of ice cream, listening like the nosy neighbor I am. The man keeps talking, his voice rich and smooth…and impossible to make out. He’s loud, but I can’t understand what he’s saying. The walls muffle it. Or rather, it’s like those Charlie Brown cartoons, where people talk but none of it makes sense.

I can’t hear any other voices either, just his.

After a few moments of this, the man’s sexy voice turns angry. Harsh. He’s no longer laughing. He’s arguing with someone—a silent someone.

Loudly.

I cringe when I hear a thump against the wall, like a fist is hitting it, and swallow my butter pecan quickly. I pull out my cell phone and record a few moments of the shouting, then decide to call the super.

Three rings later, the super picks up. “What?” His voice is impatient.

“Hi,” I say cheerily. “It’s Faith Gordon in 5B? Whoever you rented 6B out to is causing a disturbance. He keeps shouting at the top of his lungs and I’m pretty sure he just hit the wall.”

The super groans. “Lady—”

I hate it when men call me “lady.” It’s never a good “lady,” it’s always a bad “lady.”

“—there’s no one in that apartment.”

I stare at the wall next to my couch, where I distinctly heard a man yelling. “Yes there is.”

“No. It’s been empty since January. I have to fix it up before I can rent it again and that’s lower on the list.”

I knew my neighbor had moved out a few months ago but… “No one else has moved in?”

“No.”

“Okay, thanks,” I say, and hang up. I’m confused. I put my ear to the wall to listen again, but whatever—whoever—it was has stopped.

It's dreadfully quiet for a long moment, and then I hear the voice again. The angry man with the beautiful voice. He sounds frustrated. Cold. Ominous.

Frightening.

Creeped out, I get off the couch and peer through the peep hole into the hall. It’s silent and empty. I take a deep breath, open my door, and approach the door down the hall from mine. 6B.

All is quiet.

I think for a moment, then race back into my apartment and grab my keys. I head down to my car on the street despite the fact that I’m in pajamas, and lean against it, staring up at the windows of the building. There’s my apartment, with the lights on and the half-dead fern on the stoop that I really need to water. To the right of it should be 6B.

The windows are black, the blinds down.

I head back to my apartment, confused. The moment I shut the door again, the voice starts up once more. Angry. Irritated. Superior. Argumentative.

A squatter, maybe? But who’s he arguing with in the dark? I get up and head into the hall again, to the door. I knock.

It’s silent.

I put my ear to the door.

Silence.

I carefully test the door knob. Locked.

Frowning, I go back inside my apartment and look at the window. We’re four floors up, and the only window in the apartment is facing outside. There’s not enough of a ledge out there for a bird, much less for someone to break in.

Even as I consider this, the voice on the other side of the wall starts again.

I grit my teeth, sit down on the sofa and pull my laptop onto my legs, firing up my browser. I google, "Symptoms of schizophrenia."

And then google, "I hear conversations no one else does."

And then google, "Am I being haunted?"

And finally search, "Sleep disorders causing waking dreams."

But none of it seems to match what I'm experiencing. I don't know what to do.

It’s late, Faith, I remind myself. Maybe he got pissed and shut the lights off and went to bed, and you’re imagining things.

I slap my laptop shut.

The voice wakes me up twice that night.

Both times, it's angry. Furious. Raging at something I can't hear or understand. The second time, just before dawn,