The apartment was on the third floor of an aging walk up, but it had good views and the rent was perfect for the size. Gary had been living there for about two years now, ever since he’d taken a new job in the city and had needed to find a space that wouldn’t break the bank. He liked the place, the neighborhood was quiet and the landlord was decent, so he just kept renewing the lease when it came up every six months.
It was raining that night as he trudged inside, shaking droplets off his umbrella and heading upstairs. He was moving a little slower than usual, having stayed late for a meeting when all he really wanted was to be settled in watching the baseball game on television. He was hungry too, and his mind was on the leftover cheeseburger pie in the fridge as he fished out his keys and let himself in.
As soon as he stepped into the small front hall he knew that something was amiss, the smell of dinner cooking reaching his nose. Gary lived alone, so unless his neighbor was making something especially pungent, it had to be coming from his kitchen. The second thing he noticed almost immediately was that the lights were on, and he always turned everything on when he left. He didn’t want to run up the power bill, adhering to the belief that electricity already costs far too much.
“Hello?” He called out, sounding as anxious as he felt as he stepped deeper inside. “Who’s here? Come on out, I know you’re in there!”
A man appeared at the entrance to the living room, looking as surprised as Gary did. He was eating something in a bowl and wearing just his boxer shorts and a t-shirt, nearly dropping his spoon in surprise at seeing someone else there.
“Who the hell are you?” The guy asked, brandishing the spoon like a weapon now. “Get out, or I’m calling the cops!”
“Me get out?” Gary scoffed, now more annoyed than scared, because the guy was daring to act as though he was the intruder here. “This is my apartment, asshole! YOU get out! If you go now I won’t press charges!”
The man looked sufficiently confused, wielding the spoon almost like a weapon as he stared at Gary from the other end of the hall. “I think you may be mistaken, friend. My door must have been unlocked and you walked into the wrong apartment. It happens, and I won’t be mad if you just turn around and leave.”
Gary held his umbrella as tightly as the other man held the spoon, eyes narrowed as he slowly shook his head. “This is apartment 323, and I’m Gary Wallenstein. I come home to this apartment every single day after work, and I just used my key to get in. So put down the bowl, and go. At this point I just want you out, alright?”
“Well I’m Tim Meyer, and I’ve lived here for about twelve years now. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you that you’re nuts,” the man countered, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. It had suddenly set in that he was confronting a stranger in his front hallway while wearing nothing but his boxer shorts.
“There’s no way you’ve lived here for twelve years, man. I’ve lived here for two, and I most definitely do not have a roommate. An electrical glitch in the bathroom and a loose faucet, but no roommate.”
Gary finally put the umbrella down and slowly reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet. He took out his license and held it up, gesturing to it. “See? This address is listed right here in print, I just got this puppy renewed a few weeks ago. I like it here and keep renewing my lease too, so clearly I’m not full of shit.”
Timothy took a step closer to look at the idea, mouth fixed into a frown. “Well, my wallet is in my pants in the bedroom, but I assure you it says the same. So now what? I mean there has to be some logical explanation for this, but I can’t come up with what it is. I’m not leaving, you and clearly don’t want to leave either. Should we call the cops?”
“I don’t know,” Gary admitted, rubbing his face tiredly. After a long day at the office, this was the last thing he wanted to be dealing with. Adding cops into the mix was also not something he wanted, because it would take forever when the guy could just leave. “There’s no way we both live here, unless one of us is dead or something and just doesn’t know it.”
“You know, that might not be the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard,” Tim chimed in, his dinner growing cold as he and Gary debated back and forth. “How exactly though does one prove whether or not they’re dead or alive?”
Gary shrugged, the evening growing more and more bewildering the longer this thing dragged on. “I’m not sure. Google yourself? Stab yourself with a kitchen knife and see what happens? I mean it took Bruce Willis until the end of the movie to figure it out, and you expect me to know the answer?”
Timothy pursed his lips, deep in thought, before he finally shrugged too. “Alright, well, pull out your phone then and let’s have a look. It’s raining, my food is getting cold, and you’re dripping all over my hallway. Better just figure it out right now so you can get wherever it is you’re going.”
“This is ridiculous,” Gary mumbled, though he fished his phone from his pocket and typed in his name and some other identifying information about himself. He stepped closer and held it up so Timothy could see the results, that he was very much alive and worked for a nearby law firm as a paralegal. “See? That’s me. Still on staff at my job. Used my debit card half an hour ago per my banking website here. Pretty sure dead guys aren’t stopping for gas.”
“Fair,” Timothy nodded, giving Gary his information in turn. He watched as the other man typed it in, and then stared for a long time. His color seemed to drain from his face too, which made Tim feel a bit alarmed. “Hey, man, are you okay? Bro, you look like you’re going to pass out!”
Gary raised his eyes from the phone then to look at Timothy, blinking slowly as he finally stammered to find his words. “I…you…you died five years ago, man. You got hit by a bus crossing the street downtown. When I looked you up, your last known address was here…wait. Are you the reason why my bathroom light flickers and the faucet turns itself on at night? Son of a bitch!”
Timothy was still frowning, looking at the phone screen and then back at Gray. He did this several times, like he was letting the news sink in. “Right…that’s right. I got hit by the number eleven while I was going for a chili dog. Ran me completely over and dragged me a couple of blocks. Sorry about the faucet thing, man. I should probably stop that, huh?”
“Ya think?” Gary asked, looking more annoyed than scared now. “It’s obnoxious, and it wakes me up! Also don’t turn the lights on when I’m not home, you’ll just run up the electric bill! I should charge you rent, asshole!”
“Oh yeah? You’re gonna charge me rent? You go ahead and do that, and I’ll haunt you so hard,” Timothy told him, sticking his tongue out. He turned to head to the kitchen then, gliding straight through the wall. The spoon and bowl of cheeseburger pie didn’t make it though, both clattering to the floor loudly. Gary screamed and Timothy just laughed, flipping on the garbage disposal and opening all the cabinets while he was at it, figuring he may as well make good on the haunt you so hard part of his threat.
The living. They were such a drag.