Author's note: First in a series of about six short stories I plan to write. I may write a short epilogue about this one, but I don't know yet. Eh, we'll see how it goes. R&R, even if you hate it. :D


Stains

"Eck, what a homely looking place… No wonder I got it so cheap off auction…" The young man mumbled, looking up to the nearly dilapidated apartment building. Even from the street he could tell that several of the windows had been smashed out at one point or another. Curtains flittered in and out of broken panes of glass, as if beseeching the man to save them from this broken down excuse of a domicile.

Jeremy merely sighed, fingering the cool, coppery colored key between his digits. "Well, I can still probably turn a profit, if I fix it up a bit… Yeah, yeah, this should work…" He said, trying very hard to convince himself he hadn't just wasted seventy-eight thousand dollars. He took a deep breath, headed for the main office's door, and stuck the key in the hole.

The old wooden door creaked open with little force. The brown haired man brought his palm to his forehead and sighed, irritably. "What use is a key if the front door is broken anyway?" He grumbled, stepping inside.

The main office was empty, save for a few very dusty pieces of furniture, and several patches of peeling wallpaper. It was a small area, but large enough that it could have done business when it was at its fullest. The small office area led out into a hall, which had several rooms lining it, and a stairs leading upward to the other floors.

Jeremy stepped carefully over the bits and pieces of debris; pieces of a chair, a fallen table, several yellowed curls of wallpaper…

He eventually eased his way into the first hallway of rooms, inspecting his surroundings, and keeping a mental tally of approximately how much it would cost to fix things. His spirit fell the farther down the hall he went. Even the elevator was in shambles. The box tilted to one side, as if a cable on the top had snapped at one point, or another, and the once finely wrought gate lay detached against the wall next to it, covered in a fine layer of rust and grime from years of un-use.

The man eventually got to the stairs at the end of the hallway, and peered upwards for a moment, before cautiously setting a foot on the first step. It groaned at him, but seemed stable enough, and he gave thanks for that. At least the stairs worked…

Something whistled high up, probably a broken window, and cold air rushed down the stairs to greet the man suddenly. It smelled old, and stale, and he wrinkled his nose for a moment, before tightening his jacket around himself. It was evening, but the cold air seemed oddly uncharacteristic for Louisiana; maybe some remnant of an air conditioner still worked?

The man pondered this for half a moment more, before ascending. By the time the sun had nearly disappeared from the sky, he'd checked most of the rooms on the seven floors, except the large loft suite at the very top.

With the walls painted a vibrant orange from the dying sun, he eased open the double door, and peered inside cautiously. Furniture that looked like it had been in style half a century ago lay strewn about the apartment in a semi-cluttered fashion. Something dark had stained the carpet a long time ago, and it was black, and looked hard now, as it sat in the middle of the room in a dark pool of color. A similar substance had seemed to splatter on the wall behind it, and had dripped.

He wrinkled his noise, trying to think of what the odd substance could have once been. Paint? A beverage of some sort?

He had no more time to think this over however, because a woman emerged from what he supposed, by the lay out, was a bathroom. A thin, silky black dress draped about her pale body, and she seemed to be fiddling with an earring, as she looked out into the living room. Her blonde-gold hair was done short, and cropped and curled to end just below her ears. She looked like someone straight out of the thirties.

"Are you ready, Jimmy? We'll be late if we don't hurry! They'll wonder where we are." She called out to the other side of the room.

Jeremy blinked several times, feeling suddenly awkward. There was a crazy homeless woman living in his newly acquired building?

"You mean he'll wonder where you are…." A voice said, from the opposite end of the apartment. A man came out, dressed in a sharp looking suite, his black hair slicked back against his head. There was something large, and metal in his hand.

"Whatever do you mean, dear?" The woman asked, looking concerned. She hadn't even noticed the metal in his hand.

"Don't give me that, Sherry! Everyone knows you've been seeing him behind my back. They've seen you two together, you and Bobby!" He yelled, brandishing the weapon at her.

She gasped softly, and recoiled, as Jeremy raised a hand. "Hey, man, lay off…!" He began, moving toward the man. He had no idea why on earth these two seemingly crazy people where living at the top floor of his building, but he wasn't about to stand by and let a woman get hurt.

Something odd happened as he approached, however; the man seemed to shimmer, and wave, and Jeremy realized after a few moments that he could see the wall on the other side of the man. He looked over to the blonde woman, and she too had gone strangely transparent. He thought for a moment he was hallucinating; there was a gas leak somewhere, he was sure of it.

The man walked through him to the woman, rage apparent on his ill-defined face.

"No, Jimmy! Bobby's your best friend, I couldn't ever do anything with him, really, I couldn't! You're misunderstanding something!" She pleaded, as he grabbed her arm and held up the metal… pipe, it looked like.

"Don't tell me what I know, woman! I saw you! I'm the only one who can have you, no one else!" He screamed at her, before his fist and the pipe came down.

Jeremy rubbed his eyes, before approaching and then backing off and then moving to interfere again. He wasn't sure what he was seeing but he stomach rolled at what happened next.

The pipe in Jimmy's hand struck the back of the blonde woman's head, and her hair streaked with red. He struck her over and over again as she screamed, until eventually she fell to the floor and was silent, and even then he still beat at her head with the pipe, until all that was left was a mess of red and white and pink.

Jeremy covered his mouth and gagged, looking away before something drew his attention back.

There was nothing on the floor but the blackened, aged stain, and the dusty, out-dated furniture.

His heart was in his throat as he stood, panicked. What the hell had just happened? His breathing too heavy, he looked about the room, making doubly sure he was alone. Yes, yes, no one else but him, he was sure of it. No crazy man or woman, no metal pipes, no red-blonde hair…

"Tell them."

He jumped slightly, hearing what he thought to be a voice.

"Tell them what happened to me… You have to tell them…"

Jeremy whirled to find the woman at his back, except her face was streaked with red, and her once neatly done hair was a mess of gooey curls at the back, while several strands had plastered themselves to her once pretty face. She reached out to him, pleadingly it seemed, a look of such anguish on her transparent, seemingly glowing visage that he couldn't look away for a moment.

"Tell them!"

Jeremy turned and bolted, unsure of what he'd seen, but sure that it had been enough that he didn't want to stay there any more.

The voice was following him down the stairs, as he feet thudded on the steps.

"Please! Please, tell them! I've been here so long! Tell them, tell them, please, please, tell them!"

Only when he reached the parking lot did the voice start to dissipate and fade away. He climbed into his car and turned it on, slamming the door and pulling away before it was even fully closed.