by Syahira Sharif

Every night as soon the clock strike twelve, like an unbroken ritual, somebody from the outside will come to the door of this apartment. They spend exactly ten minutes continuously battering the door before leaving as it never happen. This occurs every night since I woke up and found myself in this locked purgatory where I live and can never escape. However, calling it 'locked' is an understatement. Dozens of long iron chains loop around the hallway, crisscrossing the floor and around the door. Some of them are welded into the wall while others are connected by heavy padlocks. What used to trouble me was that the locked door and weldings seemed to point out that it was being done by the inside. But it was ridiculous to think that I could do it by myself, I wasn't even high or strong enough to weld these chain together from the floor to ceiling.

This is my home as well as my dungeon. As much as I wanted to escape, I couldn't. My hope of escape seems to lie on whoever at the other side. However, they are becoming more and more violent as days goes on. But they says hope breeds eternal. This is the moment where I await in patience, half praying for them to break through the door while another half of me fearing what awaits me when they finally did.

Maneuvering over the chains that covered the apartment's entrance, I rose on my tiptoes. I pressed my cheeks hard against the cold irons and peek through the peephole. The smell of rusting iron permeates the air as I held my breath. At this length, my heart beats loud enough against my ribs that I could hear it clearly over the loud noise behind the wooden frame. I looked through the lens and held my breath. All I see was darkness, there was never light beyond but the battering gave me some comfort of knowing that I was not alone.

The pounding suddenly stopped and a black eye stared back at me. The dark pupil move and searching behind the magnifying glass. I know it was impossible for it to see me but here it was. The solid proof beyond all of this. Someone is out there and I will not let go of this precious chance.

"Don't stop," I said muffled against the chains. "Whoever you are, don't ever stop."

All the while, I was studying the eyes. The dilating iris were dark in various shades of brown and the whiteness covered with red veins. They say the eyes were the window of the soul and I wish I was close enough for that.

Suddenly, something landed against the door. Whatever it was, it was really heavy because the door seemed to strain against the weight of it. Curiously, I look up again to the eye behind the lens. It was gone but now I could see a dimly lit stained white wall instead of the blackness that I used too.

Something hot covered my bare foot and look down. It was warm sticky red liquid and starting to pool around me.

It took precious second to realize I was standing in a pool of blood. Horrified by this revelation, I staggered back only to have my feet tangled against the chains. I fell hard on my rear and more blood covered my bottom and my skin.

In my panic, I struggled to untangle the chain from my feet and I could barely run to the bathroom as my feet became too slippery. I twisted the shower's knob until cold rusty water stream down overhead. I grab a loofah and started to scrub the blood off my body. Barely noticing how the dirty water mingled with the drying blood.

As the drained the blood stained water seep into the covered hole, I look at my living room and began to feel vomit rose up from the inside. The white tiles were stained blood red with my footprints and the floor beneath my doorway was now covered in pooling fresh blood. All of these was enough to bring me to my knee and I retched until I could my whole esophagus felt like it was about to fall off.

Whoever the blood belongs to. I know whatever that lie behind the door was dead. I don't know whether it was fate or karma. Apparently my hope to get out of this hell, means I have to face whatever it was out there.

God, I wish this nightmare would end.

Sanity is clearly overrated when you're living alone. Of course, you started to refer yourself as a second person more than you should be in solitude. Besides that, some days you think too much about everything in the world and its people. You get miserable about how things happen in life and the idiot things that people do repetitively.

On some other days, you realized that no one is coming for you. After almost becoming miserably suicidal, I thought about it again. There was probably million other people out there who are missing from the population and when found at some cases, they end up dead or worst.

Then suddenly, you come to realization that all the problem seem meaningless when you only think again that by being alone doesn't seem so bad so you began to think most problem in life often come from outside and that being here, where the world seem stagnant and constant, it was better. Living inside a locked apartment alone seems to sound much better. You even get to ramble inside your head without other people looking at you thinking that you're psychopathic.

But when you're living in a miserable condition such as this, living and joining the world outside has become more and more inviting. It was boredom that was excruciating.

The cramped studio apartment where I am currently staying is no penthouse. Sure, the view is great as I am living in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Wherever I am, I am living in a high rise that face the tall tower and infamous twin buildings in the world. But every inch of the window is plastered with old newspapers and sheets of paperback books that I glued on the glasses. Simple explanation for that was, the afternoon light always made this house a furnace and this idiotic hell mouth doesn't even have enough curtain for that.

Besides being obviously locked from the inside with no keys anywhere inside the house, I live on piles of junk food and piles of curry flavored instant noodles that was once crammed together in the pantry. Now I only ate sparingly, almost on the border of starvation, as I never know how I will survive if I wasted them all in a binge. The only place that I could sleep was the old smelly sofa that came along with the apartment, as well as my wardrobe which are filled with even more smelly oversize bundle t-shirt and pants.

The gas stove is useless and the only think that was working in that miserable old kitchen was the electric kettle which work whenever the electricity in the building was on. Even the water is bad. Rusted piping made all the water in this house yellowish and rusty.

Weirdly enough, although I had counted many days since I started counting my poor existence inside this prison. I never had to pay any bills. Lucky bastard I might be or I would have died in matter of days from dehydration. You should see me gulping down gallons of water when the dry season and haze hits KL.

Oh, I had tried escaping. But the only way I could was that ugly door that was covered in iron. I tried picking the lock, burning the door, using a self-made hammer to dig the welding away from the wall and also the hundred various other creative way that I could think off from whatever junk that I found in the house. Obviously, nothing works but all these things help to made me lose the spare energy that I have from having nothing to do everyday except sleeping and eating.

Occasionally, whenever the mood hits me especially when all these bullshit became too unbearable, I would grab hold on one of the dining room's wooden chair and crash it on the door. I repeated it over and over until all of my muscle aches or the wooden chair broken which I let it pile up at the second room in the house. That provide some stress relief and the only possible exercise I had inside this cramp space.

Now, I spend most of the day cleaning the blood trail and what most of the blood pool off the white tiled floor. Cleaning the tiles provided me some decent physical work in this thin malnourished frame. Turns out, cleaning dried blood is harder than it looks.

As I work, I kept the static from the television on most of the day. Curiously, no matter how hard I tried, I never could find a proper frequency on the television. Most of the time, I just keep it on since that noise give me some small amount of reprieve that I am not deaf and alive enough in this forsaken hell.

Blood is a curious thing. Leave it long enough, it hardened and turned into a shade of rust. Although, I couldn't remember how I got trapped inside this god forsaken apartment, I could remember how I used to have a deep fascination with blood.

Once I saw a guy who got stabbed in the stomach by two muggers who escape with the guy's Nokia phone and his thin wallet. The blood soaked his shirt and leaked downward through his jeans. Everywhere around him, his blood fell heavy on top of the stairs where the crime happen. It was the place where I change one train line to another.

The guy luckily survived as the hospital was a couple blocks away. However, when I was around that exact area, I realized that the blood stains were still there at the foot of the stairs leading to the flyover. I always stop and watch in amazement as dozen of everyday folks walk up and down that stairs, never realizing they're scrapping the dark spotted crust with their shoes.

I always wondered what will be their response if I said that weird dirt was real blood. I always try to imagine that horrific terror look on their face when they realize the truth. That thought always made me laugh especially on those miserable days where I want to cry all the time.

Currently, I kept finding myself coming up with several possible way how several pint of blood inside my house. It became more clearer that whoever it was that left the body outside my door wanted to get inside this house and is willing to kill for it.

Which is ridiculous since I am the one who should kill just to get out of this hell hole. Why would they want from this house anyway?

Knock. Knock knock. Knock. Knock knock.

It was faint but it was there behind the wooden door. I immediately switched off the television and went to the door, inching away from the part on the floor by the chained door where I could barely clean and listen closely to it. The knocking repeats itself and stopped. I pulled a loose chain away from the door and repeat the knockings precisely.

Then something slipped over from the bottom of the door where it wedge between the chains and on a small pool coagulating blood. I bent down and stare. It was a piece of blank card with a dark square. Disappointment filled my inside but I pick it up with my nails and lay the blood stained blank card on the kitchen's table. A blank paper? I scoffed and went to wash my fingers before the blood dries inside my nails. When I turn back to dry my hands, I noticed that the paper was no longer blank. In fact, its revealing its secrets right in front of my eyes.

A scene of death and gore which was enough to send me back to the kitchen sink and vomit again. This second expulsion of the stomach content began to make me feel my whole body seems to have turn from inside out. The blood pool by the door doesn't look anywhere as horrifying as the open chest cavity of a woman with the organs spilling out and covered in blood. What even more horrific, there was another body of a child with her throat cut out and was on the dead woman's her lap.

Night came even before I realize it. The twilight sky has cast a blue-tinted darkness across the room. I was still in dark corner of the bathroom where I sat in the middle of the shower, soaked and red eyed from the occasional vomit episodes whenever I thought about the dead bodies outside the door.

Oh my God, that's why there's too much blood. These whole time, there's a real psychopath outside.

I tried to stop the shivering and fidgeting but I can't control the body from its normal responses. I was too overwhelmed that I couldn't think everything clearly except the thought about the bodies that might be rotting behind my apartment.

The restlessness gnawed the inside of my chest and my fingers kept scratching its skin until it reddened and raw. It was a nervous habit that I get whenever I am stressed. This is obviously the time to be more than stressed.

In my hysterics, I didn't realize that the door was shaking again. Something is wrong. It was not midnight yet and he was doing it again. Now it was shaking harder and more violent than before. Even some of the chains broke and shatter on the floor.

Still soaked from top to bottom, I inched toward the bathroom's door and stared as more and more chains broke.

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Is this really happening? Where would I hide? The storeroom? The closet? The bathroom? There's no where to hide from the killer outside! What would I do!

I didn't realized that I had bitten my lips until I tasted the blood and the raw open skin. My body were shaking and I started to hyperventilate. I know that I need to defend myself if the monster ever enter the house. I know I look weak but I know I could fend it off myself. I need a weapon!

Racking my brains as more chains broke and the door began to creak underneath the iron curtain, I remembered one rusted chef's knife inside the lower cabinet where I kept the utensils that I never use. I ran pass the doorway to the cabinet and nearly slipped when I reached it. My hand dug through the a pile of stainless steel forks, spoons and blunt knife for the larger chef's knife and accidentally slash my fingers. I cried out but my fear was stronger than some flesh wound and I grabbed it firmly even when blood covered my arm. I turned to the door and watch as whoever it was ramming the door like a battering ram until only several chains was broken.

It only took one last shove to shatter the last of the chain links and the door spread wide open and broken on its hinge. At that moment, I yelled and ran toward the open frame with a knife in a perfect arch where I sunk it inside the chest of the lone psychopath. Warm blood showered over my already wet body and I finally felt as if a dam that broke from under pressure.

I am free!

But then I looked up and gasp out loud.

"What have I done?"

I look down and saw that same knife was inside me. I stared at it in disbelief and blinked.

I was now inside the rundown studio apartment, wet and inside a pool of blood but this time, that pool of blood belong to me. There was a woman screaming underneath her gag and a little girl at her side with her eyes wide and her mouth gagged. The same pair I had saw killed and their bodies open and blooded out.

I fell on the floor with the knife protruding inside my chest. My eyes wide open against the glare of the overhead bright fluorescent light. The glare let me see the whole world in bright white. A clean slate.

Even as my life slipping away from me, I didn't feel pain or anything except giving the final sigh of relief to the world of the living.