I remember the apartment being eerily cold when we walked in. It was probably in the low-60s outside, but it somehow felt even colder in our one-bedroom domicile than it did in the draft courtyard. I mentioned it to Ben. He didn’t even respond. He already had the game on and was complaining about the luck of the football team from some city across the country he would never even go to.
“I’m gonna warm up in the shower,” I put the statement out there 60 percent as a notification and 40 percent as an offer.
Ben responded with a sound that I’m not even sure qualifies as a grunt.
I let the shower warm up and then slipped in. I felt the grime of the workday, the after work drinks we had to have with Ben’s boss, and the chill of the night wash off me as soon as the stream of water hit my body.
The first couple in minutes of the shower were utter bliss. One of those moments when you feel like nothing else in life could ever be better. I never wanted to get out.
Then I heard the sound of Ben peeing on the other side of the shower curtain.
“Ben,” I said in a thoroughly-annoyed tone. “Please just don’t flush the toilet.”
I heard the urine stop. I didn’t hear the toilet flush. I heard Ben walk out of the bathroom. I showered for another 10 minutes before I got out.
I dried off and headed back to the bedroom. I glanced over at Ben on the couch, still glued to the game, I heard him muttering something about a fumble.
“Thanks for not flushing the toilet,” I said before ducking into our bedroom.
“I didn’t go to the bathroom,” Ben fired back.
I stopped in the doorway then walked back into the living room.
“Don’t lie. I heard you peeing when I was in the shower.”
Ben threw his hands up, eyes still on the game.
“I have not gotten up from this seat since we walked in. It’s overtime,” Ben insisted in his tone where I know he is telling the truth about something.
The warmth of the hot shower slithered off me in a second.
“Dont mess with me,” I stated coldly to Ben.
Ben finally looked at me.
“I swear to God I didn’t go in there.”
The entire room started to feel dangerous. I didn’t even know what to do. I stood there shivering in nothing but a towel.
Ben rose to his feet and walked towards me. I watched his eyes scan the room with a fear in them I had never seen before. He stopped in the doorway and grabbed me. He covered my mouth and perked his ear.
I didn’t hear anything other than the distant, ominous ring of a siren.
We stood silent for a few more moments. I heard nothing. The siren gone.
“We would hear something if someone was in here,” Ben said in a flat tone.
Ben reluctantly agreed to search the apartment. We searched the place up and down and found nothing. It was actually worse than finding a stringy junkie with a bloody knife or some hideous monster. The mystery of the whole thing was worse than any nightmare I could have imagined.
The next few weeks were tense. I wouldn’t stay in the apartment alone. Ben told me my brain must have just played a trick on me. That was a bad idea. He said there was no other possible way it could have happened. It was not a good idea on his part to tell me that. I lost trust in him.
What happened was definitely not in my head. I knew it. I got my confirmation a few weeks later when I stood in the shower getting ready for work.
I was almost done with the shower when I heard a flush ring out from the other side of the shower curtain. I couldn’t dodge the water in time and took a stinging-hot stream to the face. I screamed out and ripped open the shower curtain…
No one was there, but I heard footsteps walking away from the open bathroom door and towards the apartment door. I heard the front door unlock, open and then close again.
“Ben?” I called out, my body cold despite the hot water pounding on my back.
I shivered into a towel and walked into the bedroom. No sign of Ben. I checked out the living room. There was a handwritten note on the coffee table –
Had to run to work early…Ben.
Thanks Ben. Very helpful.
I called Ben. He was bristly and clearly annoyed. Worse yet, he confirmed that he did not flush the toilet when I was in the shower. He left before he even heard the shower come on.
I listened to the space around me in the apartment. I don’t even know what Ben said after that point. Everything was silent, but it felt like the entire apartment was alive at that point. I ended the call with Ben.
One thing was clear at that point. Whoever had been sneaking around the bathroom while I was showering had a way to get in and out of our apartment, or it was Ben, and he wanted to deeply disturb me for some reason.
Ben continued to swear up and down it was not him doing it. He brought up the idea or me inventing the whole thing in my head, again. I melted down, but also offered a solution…what if we set up cameras in the apartment?
I wanted to cam the entire apartment. Ben didn’t want to spend that much. We settled on recording the front door and the bathroom.
I reviewed the tapes each day at work. Weeks went by without so much as a hint of anyone doing anything at any moment of the day, let alone when I was in the shower. All I saw was Ben and I going about our sad daily existence of barely talking to each other and going back and forth to work.
The fear that all of this was in fact in my head started to bubble. I felt a tension from Ben when he asked me about every other day if I saw anything on the camera. Our already-strained relationship felt like it was hanging by a single thread. We were barely talking.
Then it came to a head when I reviewed the footage about a month after I set up the cameras. The footage from the bathroom proved fruitful while I was in the shower.
I felt I could almost smell the soap and feel the moisture in the air when I stopped the bathroom footage once I saw a shadow appear in the screen of the bathroom window. I stopped breathing as I watched that shadow pull away the screen and then slither into the room through the opening of the window.
The light wasn’t very good in the bathroom with me taking the shower after my nightly workout, just around dusk, and I hadn’t turned on the bathroom light. However, I could see what looked to be a stout man, clad in black pants, a hoodie and wearing a pure white mask, standing in my bathroom right next to me as I took a shower.
I couldn’t believe I still showered with the curtain closed at that point. I hated myself almost as much as I was scared as I watched the footage. Those feelings burned as I watched the man just stand there for a few seconds before he headed over to the toilet.
The sound of the shower stopped on the video, replaced by the pouring sound of the rest of the shower water exiting via the bath faucet. I would open the curtain any second. I wondered how in the hell I hadn’t caught the man dressed in black the night before when I got out.
What I watched next made the vomit literally bubble up in the back of my throat. I couldn’t believe what I saw. In a flash, the man reached down, stuck his fingers against the floor of our bathroom and yanked on one of the tiles. I watched about half of the bathroom floor rise up and about a foot off the ground. The man slipped into the dark opening he unveiled and then disappeared into the floor before it slowly eased back onto the ground right when I opened up the shower curtain.
I watched myself get out of the shower, grab a towel, and head to the bedroom in real-time and then fast forwarded through the rest until the new video ran out. The guy never got out of the floor, meaning he had been in there the entire night until I left for work and could still be in the apartment.
One burning thought simmered in my mind when the realization washed over me. It was the day before Veteran’s Day and Ben had the day off, while I didn’t. He was still at home, with the man in the bathroom floor.
I scrambled to call Ben as soon as possible. No answer. I called again. No answer. One more time. No answer again. I called the cops and drove back home without telling my boss anything.
The cops were already there when I arrived. They busted down the door under my phone direction and found the apartment entirely empty. There was no one in the hollowed-out section beneath the bathroom floor and Ben’s cell phone was in the bedroom, but he was not.
The police found spikes stuck in the side of the building which led all the way up from the alley behind our building to our third-floor bathroom window. They looked to be what a mountain climber would stick in the rock of a cliff to pull their way up. They believe the man had a prying device made to pull away screen windows to get in out through the screen without tearing it. They believe he must have lived in one of the other tall apartment complexes nearby and spied on me (possibly with binoculars) to target my bathroom.
They believe he broke in during the day some time back over and over again while the two of us were at work and cut out our bathroom floor and then dug out the area to create a cubby area a little bigger than himself where he could hide when need be. They said he seemed incredibly skilled at what he did and likely had been doing it at apartments all around our neighborhood.
The story of Ben was far more disturbing because there wasn’t much of a story. The police found his car parked on the sidewalk a few blocks away in its usual spot and his cell phone on top of the bed, but that was it. He vanished without a trace other than that. Nothing of suspicion.
I have since moved out of the apartment and Ben has yet to show. I moved a few cities over, back to my parents’ home to try and throw the scent off from whoever was doing it. The limited clues and leads the police possess have been shared over the past few months, but none of them seem to lead anywhere.
There is one insight the officers gave to me that has stuck with me throughout the process and my lonely days of working, watching TV on my parents’ couch and struggling to sleep. One of the officers told me that they don’t think Ben had anything to do with the sneak ins of the masked assailant or his own disappearance, but they think I should be on the lookout for people in my life.
I can still remember the cop’s exact words. They were:
Generally in cases like this, people think it is some random mystery man that is coming in and doing something creepy, but in reality the perpetrator almost always has something connected to the person they are terrorizing. Most of the time, it’s someone they know, in at least some capacity. Good luck ever trusting anyone again.