William Quincy Belle is just a guy. Nobody famous; nobody rich; just some guy who likes to periodically add his two cents worth with the hope, accounting for inflation, that $0.02 is not over-evaluating his contribution. He claims that at the heart of the writing process is some sort of (psychotic) urge to put it down on paper and likes to recite the following which so far he hasn't been able to attribute to anyone: "A writer is an egomaniac with low self-esteem." You will find Mr. Belle's unbridled stream of consciousness here (http://wqebelle.blogspot.ca) or @here (https://twitter.com/wqbelle).
The Fourteen Fourteen Curse
Donald tucked the blue recycling bin under one arm and stepped into the hall. He pulled the door closed and walked down the corridor.
“Hey, Donald.” The man came toward him, looked at the blue bin and held up his own. “Saturday’s chores. Let’s all be good to the environment.”
“I try to do my part, Mr. Buntrock.” Donald nodded and smiled as he passed. In the utility room, he emptied his bin into a chute in the wall. He listened to the various items clatter as they fell fourteen stories to the basement.
Back in his apartment, he went into the living room and saw the stack of newspapers from the previous week. “Oh, shoot.” He got out the blue bin and filled it then walked around looking for other things. He took an almost empty bottle of orange juice from the refrigerator and smelled it. After pouring out the contents, he put it in the bin and headed back to the utility room.
“Hey, Donald.” Mr. Buntrock walked toward him and held up his bin. “Saturday’s chores. Let’s all be good to the environment.”
“Yes.” Donald half-smiled, took a few steps and stopped. He stared after the Buntrock then shook his head and continued with his errand.
The clock showed 2:05 p.m. A tea and cookie would be good. Donald opened the refrigerator and furrowed his brow. He stared at an almost empty bottle of orange juice. He looked toward the recycling bin and glanced again at the bottle. After emptying it in the sink, he took a step toward the blue bin and stopped. Through the arch to the living room, he saw a stack of newspapers. He walked over, picked up the top copy and read yesterday’s date. What’s going on?
He set everything down and went to the washroom. He did his business and splashed cold water on his face. Leaning in to the mirror, he rubbed his eyes and studied himself. He dried off and went back to the living room. The bottle and newspapers were gone. His head jerked.
Donald hurried to the kitchen and looked in the refrigerator. He moved some items around but didn’t see the bottle. He checked the blue bin. It was empty. He stood in the middle of the kitchen rubbing his chin. A noise sounded in the hall. He went to the door and stuck his head out. Buntrock pulled the door to his apartment closed, picked up a blue bin with two hands and came down the hall. “Saturday’s chores, Donald. Let’s all be good to the environment.”
Donald looked at him in disbelief.
Buntrock stopped. “What’s the matter? You okay?”
“How many bins of recycling do you have?”
“Just one. Why?”
Donald looked up and down the hall. “Nothing. I thought I had seen you earlier.”
“Nope. I’ve been watching the game. They went to commercial, so I thought to take advantage of the break to get this little task out of the way.” Buntrock walked toward the utility room. “Have a good one.”
Donald shut the door and looked again at his blue bin. What’s going on? He glanced around the kitchen when the window caught his attention. He shook his head. It was dark. He strode across the room, put his face up to the pane and looked out over the city. It was night. Lights twinkled everywhere under a pitch black sky. He looked at the clock and read 11:35. After looking in all directions and seeing the lighted windows of other buildings, he went to the living room and sat down. What’s going on? Was he having a stroke? Did he have a brain aneurysm? Was some medical condition affecting his perception or was he blacking out?
He looked at a clock on the side table. It showed 2:20. He twisted toward the windows. Rays of sun shone onto the floor. He jumped up and went to the kitchen. The scene out the window showed a warm, bright afternoon. Donald leaned back against the kitchen counter and ran one hand over the top of his head. “Whoa.” He blinked trying to make sense of it by comparing this to any other experience. His gaze wandered around the room. He saw the table with the two chairs and looked at the refrigerator. He turned around and examined the counter area with its sink and overhead cupboards. Everything looked normal; everything looked in order.
Donald chuckled. “This is crazy.” Saying the words out loud felt comforting. He’d been hallucinating and now, it was over. He picked up the electric kettle, filled it with water and plugged it in. From the cupboard, he got out an individually wrapped tea bag and tore off the top of the envelope. He set a mug on the counter and dropped the bag into it. Folding the paper wrapper, he stepped to the blue recycling bin. He looked inside. It was empty. He chuckled and shook his head as he threw the paper in it.
Donald stood at the counter with one hand on the plastic laminate. He tapped a finger as he wondered if he should see his doctor. Should he be concerned? This had never happened before. Was this one of those cases where somebody ignores the early warning signs of an impending medical emergency like a heart attack and ends up dying?
He glanced at the kettle. A watched electric kettle never boils. He smiled and turned to lean with both hands against the counter. He took a deep breath and sighed. On Monday, he must do something — phone his doctor — and make sure he didn’t have any problems.
His gaze focused on the kettle. It wasn’t plugged in. But he had just plugged it in. Hadn’t he? He frowned. He was positive he had plugged it in.
There was an audible plop out in the hall. Donald looked at the clock and read seven o’clock. He looked back at the counter and noticed there was no mug. He scratched his head before opening the door. There was a newspaper on the floor in front of his apartment. There were other newspapers down the length of the hall. He picked up the paper and read the date. It showed Friday. His brow creased in confusion.
Donald walked back and put the paper on the counter. He went to the living room and sat in an armchair using his cellphone to search for the number of the after-hours clinic. He shouldn’t wait until Monday; he needed help now.
The kettle whistled. He turned toward the noise. The whistling grew in intensity. He stood and looked through the arch into the kitchen. Steam rose from the spout of the kettle. The newspaper was gone and the mug was there. His eyes widened. The clock displayed 2:35 p.m.
He walked into the kitchen and unplugged the kettle. What’s going on? This is crazy. He walked out of his apartment and went down the hall to his neighbour. He knocked. There was a moment of silence followed by muffled footsteps. The door opened. “May I help you?”
Donald gawked at the stranger. He looked at the apartment number on the door. “Ah ... Is Mr. Buntrock here?”
“I’m sorry. You must have the wrong apartment.”
“You must have the wrong floor then. Go back down to the front and verify the building’s directory.”
“I ... ah ...”
“Good luck.” The man half-smiled and shut the door. Donald stood in the hall for a moment before shuffling back to his apartment. His mind raced unable to grasp these random changes in time.
His eyes lit up. Time? Changes in time? Is that what’s going on? He re-entered his apartment and stopped at the arch opening to the living room. His jaw dropped. Everything was different: the furniture, the layout, and the curtains. This wasn’t his apartment.
He walked back to the door and opened it looking at the number. That was correct; this was his apartment. He read the name tag — Mr. and Mrs. Fred Schwartz — and gasped. Those were the previous owners; however, he’d now been in the apartment for a year and a couple of months.
Donald shut the door and went back to the kitchen. He stood back against the counter and folded his arms. Time was changing; his time was changing, but he didn’t know how or why. He thought time travel was impossible. Or was it?
The clock showed 2:45 p.m. He whipped around and looked through the arch into the living room. He ran to the opening and scanned the room. It was his furniture; he had returned to the present.
He ran out of the apartment and knocked on his neighbour’s door. Buntrock opened it and smiled. “Hey, Donald. What can I do for you?”
“Have you noticed anything unusual today?” Donald asked.
“Unusual?” Buntrock raised an eyebrow. “Like what?”
Donald scratched his head. How was he going to explain this? It was all so farfetched, nobody would believe what he was saying. “I ... well ...” His eyes darted around. “I’ve been seeing some odd things.”
“Hmmm, the fourteen fourteen curse?”
Buntrock shrugged. “This was some old story I had heard about the building, about your apartment.”
“Nobody has ever said anything to me about this.”
“Tenants change. People forget. Stories get lost in time.” Buntrock leaned against the doorjamb. “It’s all just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. I never paid it any mind.”
“What’s the story?”
“We’re not on the fourteenth floor; we’re on the thirteenth floor. The builders left out thirteen in the numbering so this floor became fourteen. However, it’s really the thirteenth floor.” Buntrock shook his head and chortled. “We’re such a superstitious lot.”
“Your apartment is number fourteen, but it’s really the thirteenth apartment.”
Donald looked down the hall. “Because there’s no number thirteen.”
“Right. Your fourteen fourteen is really thirteen thirteen. Your apartment has the double whammy of being numbered thirteen twice. It’s bad luck times two.”
“You mentioned a curse.”
“Ah, yes. The curse.” Buntrock grinned. “Rumour has it that bad things have happened to the previous tenants.”
“Such as ... ?”
“I haven’t been here that long, so I don’t personally know if any of these stories are even remotely true. Supposedly tenants reported strange occurrences in the apartment. One tenant mysteriously disappeared. The police investigated but never turned up anything. The person had no next of kin, so building management eventually sold everything and gave the proceeds to charity.”
“Things would move around the apartment. Items would disappear and reappear. One bloke thought he was moving through time visiting the apartment at previous points in the past.”
“Why didn’t this happen all the time?”
“The curse only happens after Friday the thirteenth, that is, Saturday the fourteenth. And it only happens in the fourteenth hour or two in the afternoon.”
“That’s crazy.” Donald pursed his lips. “Didn’t anybody do anything?”
Buntrock chuckled. “You’re kidding, right? Who’s going to do anything with a story like that? What could anybody do? Time travel? That’s one for the books.” He shrugged. “People learned to stay out of the apartment between two and three on the day following Friday the thirteenth.” He gave him a sly look. “I’m guessing you being here means you’d like to report something funny.”
Donald hesitated. This was stupid. He’d been hallucinating, nothing more. “No, I overheard somebody mention something about it. I got curious. That’s all.”
Buntrock eyed him. “Sure?”
“Nope. That’s it. You’ve been here longer than me, so I thought you might know something.” Donald started down the hall. “Thanks.”
Donald turned the handle of his apartment and glanced up the hall. Buntrock was standing at his door looking at him. Donald waved and went inside.
As he shut the door, he felt a breeze against his cheek. He turned around and faced an empty space open to the outside. There were steel posts evenly spaced along the edge of a cement floor. His apartment was gone. No walls. No windows. It was the empty floor of a building under construction.
He whipped around. The door had vanished. The cement floor extended to the other side of the building punctuated by more steel supports. He walked over to where his kitchen should be. He stepped carefully to the edge and looked down. Steel girders and cement flooring were visible fourteen stories to the ground. As he looked around, he realised the cityscape was different. Buildings were missing. Smaller buildings dotted the surroundings. The area looked older, even historical. When was the building constructed? He seemed to be in a different era.
He moved back and looked over the floor. It was a vast open area spotted with vertical steel posts. At both ends of the rectangular building, there was a cement shaft with a fire door. He walked to the closest one, pushed the bar and stepped into the stairwell. The pneumatic closer eased the door shut with a distinct click. He looked down in the middle of the stairs and stared at the railings of the different flights to the ground. He looked up and rubbed his chin. What’s going on?
He glared at the door, pulled the handle and peeked through the opening. The fourteenth floor hallway stretched to the other end of the building. He stepped into the hall and examined the walls. He ran his hand over the paper. This was his hall. This was the present.
He walked to his apartment door. As he turned the handle, he heard a door opening up the hall. He hesitated. Buntrock stepped out and waved. “I’m going out for dinner tonight.” Buntrock locked his door and came toward him. “We’re going to that new pub that opened up around the corner. I’ve never been there, so I couldn’t pass up the chance. Apparently their Sheppard’s Pie is to die for.”
Donald opened the door a crack and a gust of wind hit him in the face. He turned his head to Buntrock. “Try the house lager. I had a pint last week and thought it was pretty good.”
“Thanks.” As Buntrock passed him he held up his hand. “That’s quite a breeze, Donald. How many windows do you have open?” He continued to the elevators.
Donald smiled after him, pushed the door open and took a step. He fell for a few seconds in a dizzying somersault and was only briefly aware of looming concrete structures.
Saturday, June 24, 2056. A local demolition company has called in police to investigate two skeletons found between two enclosed supporting walls of a foundation. ABC Demolition was in the last stages of tearing down the 1960’s Hullmark Building to make way for a new condo-shopping complex, when they discovered the human remains. Apparently, they were entombed in a sealed space during the original construction of the building. Police suspect foul play, however, after nearly a hundred years, the possibility of finding the perpetrator seems remote. The investigation continues.