It was 2:43 in the morning when Matt woke up. He’d fallen asleep on the couch while watching a lackluster documentary on European postage stamps. Half conscious and on autopilot, he wiped his eyes, turned off the TV, and stumbled to the bathroom.

He brushed his teeth in the dark because, at that moment, the LED light would have blared brighter than the summer sun. As he rinsed the minty foam from his mouth, delicate yet assertive feet climbed the stairs outside.

One of the more annoying amenities of his unit was sharing a wall with the building’s staircase.

The footsteps reached the top stair and stopped. A light knock tapped the door, his door.

Matt froze. All of his neighbors were young, dedicated professionals. Over the past three years, he’d never heard one of them trample home from dinner-and-drinks past ten o’clock on a work night.

Five more knocks, then silence.

After a light rustling, something slid under the door and across the crunchy carpet fibers in his foyer. Following a loud, frustrated exhale, the footsteps retreated down the stairs.

Matt remained motionless, afraid to do anything but listen. Five minutes later, he carefully peered around the corner.

A simple white envelope sat on the ground.

On its face, in hand-rendered and beautiful calligraphy, was a bizarre address: DEAREST NEIGHBOUR.

Puzzled, Matt quietly opened the mysterious delivery. Inside he found a folded piece of cream paper offering an ambiguous message, written in the same elegant style: WON’T YOU LET ME IN?

“Okay?” Matt said, in a drawn-out and mystified tone, more confused than concerned.

He analyzed the penmanship of the letter, looking for clues to its origin. As he ran his fingers across the fresh ink, the footsteps returned. Again, they stopped outside of his door. He turned and faced the foyer with a sickening tingle of anticipation.

A woman’s voice, delicate with a soft English accent, cut through the oak with ease.

“That’s all you needed to say,” she said.

A veiny, pale hand with navy fingernails somehow passed through the door. Its fingers wrapped around the deadbolt and turned the lock.

Matt froze once more — this time, against his will.

Jordan Hart is a comic book writer in Santa Monica. His latest mini-series, Doppelgänger, is published by Alterna Comics.

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Every Day Fiction