*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.*
When I was younger I lived in a very bad one bedroom apartment in a terrible neighborhood with two other young women, Erin and Amy.
Amy, Erin and I worked together at a restaurant and Amy had already been living with Erin when things fell apart at home for me and I needed a place to live. Amy already had her bedroom set up in the apartment’s living room, Erin had the bedroom, and I was to have the closed in porch at the front of the house as my room.
It was not an ideal situation at all, obviously. The kitchen was microscopic and barely usable. The bathroom was constantly battled over as we all had to get ready for work at the same time, and there were always terrible smells coming from the people cooking in the apartment above.
There was one perk that we had though that a lot of other apartments at the time did not. We had a shared washer and dryer in the apartment’s basement, and this gave me great joy, to not have to go to a laundromat.
We had access to the basement through a door in our apartment and always kept it locked when we weren’t down there because it was a shared space. It was also very, very creepy.
We didn’t store anything down there, because it had already been taken over by the other neighbors, but we still had our laundry things down there and went down frequently. That’s how it was easy to see that things in the basement were changing.
At first I noticed that it was a little more cleaned and picked up, but not just stuff that belonged to one apartment, it was the entire basement that was getting cleaned, as if all the tenants decided to organize their junk at once. Then I noticed a pile of blankets and sheets in the corner farthest from the dryer that kept getting bigger over time.
I mentioned this to Amy, and she said she’d noticed it too and she was afraid that there might be a squatter in our basement. We called the landlord and told him, so he came over and checked things out. When he saw the pile of blankets in the corner he agreed it seemed weird, and he said he would keep an eye on things, which was a joke because he was never around.
Finally one day I was sitting in my room and I heard Erin shriek from far off. I got up and ran toward the sound of her yelling which was getting louder, and as I entered the living room she burst out of the basement door and slammed it behind her.
“There’s a man sleeping in the basement, I woke him up!” she said.
I immediately called 911 and told them what was going on, and then went to the top of the basement stairs and yelled down:
“I’ve called the police!”
But alas, by the time the police got there the man had disappeared out of the basement’s outdoor bulkhead, leaving his nest of blankets behind.
After that, our landlord locked up the bulkhead and reinforced the basement windows so our basement neighbor couldn’t return without invitation, but I had trouble sleeping for months knowing there had been a man secretly living in our house who could have gotten into our apartment at any time.
How would you have reacted?