My house was built in 1904. It is a single family home, wood frame setting on a concrete block foundation. I have been living here for about 12 years. Of all the weird things that my siblings and me have seen or heard in this house this one event is my favorite. This happened to my brother. About ten years ago my brother and his best friends had started a garage band playing mostly “Spanish rock,” alternative music but in Spanish. His friends could only get together on Sunday afternoons. They would practice into the early evening, and they would usually call it quits by 8 pm. This was the time I usually showed up and went to bed, cause I worked the graveyard shift.
This happened in late fall, so the days were getting shorter, they had just finished a long session when the decision to head to someone else house came about. My brother handed his car keys to his buddy so they could load up the equipment. Everyone had filed out of the basement, but the tricky part was that they needed to walk all the way to the back of the basement, up the back stairs, through the kitchen doorway, down the hall into the living room and out into the front porch. Everyone was outside sitting in my brother’s truck waiting for him. My brother was walking up the back stairs when he remembered that he had left his pancakes in a to go container sitting on a speaker in the basement. He made the decision to go back. Now the basement is not clean, with full sight lines, there had been partitions made, and the boiler and main heating unit are right smack in the middle. So after my brother walks back, he is about to retrieve his food container, when out of the corner of his eye he sees it.
It is a shadowy figure, right at his peripheral vision, this feeling of dread and uneasiness washed over my brother. We had been taught that if you are in the presence of a spirit or ghost and you felt a bad vibe, to say quick prayer or to cuss at it. My brother chose the latter, he basically just told it “hey fuck you, I don’t have time for this shit”.
My brother started to walk to the back of the basement and briskly up the stairs, closing doors and turning off lights as he was walking out. The last light switch is on the opposite side of the front door...luckily the door was open and the light from the street lamp was flooding the living room with its amber light. My brother said he felt something at his back, but at no point did he turn around. As he flicked the last switch the living room went dark, as did rest of the house. As he stepped out he pulled on the door closing it behind him, still holding his food container in one hand he jogged down the few porch steps. He walked towards the front gate...our house resides far from the main street, essentially having a large front yard but no rear garage. As he closed the gap between himself and his friend-laden truck he kind of smiled and thought things over in his head, mad at himself for spooking out when there was no reason.
He climbed into the drivers side of the truck, putting on his seat belt and getting ready to pull out of the parking spot directly in front of the house, when one of his friends asked “ Hey wait what about your brother, isn’t he coming with us?” My brother answered, “What do you mean? He went to work early tonight, he is already gone, do you see his car anywhere?”
The next question they asked “So then who was walking behind you when you were leaving the house? “
For the past couple of weeks now I’ve been noticing a few odd things in my apartment. It started off with food mysteriously disappearing from my refrigerator and pantry while I’d be away at work. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since every now and then I’d lose track of my daily eating habits due to my busy schedule, so I simply brushed it off. Eventually it didn’t stop there. Almost every night I could’ve sworn I could hear shuffling sounds coming from within the walls, and sometimes when I got home late from work I’d find both my computer and TV turned on, even when I distinctly remembered turning them off before I left. Strangely, the TV would always be tuned to the local news, and my computer’s search history would show several results for nearby takeout restaurants. Needless to say, it was freaking me out.
The building I lived in had tight security, with officers frequently patrolling the area, and it was located in the part of the city where crime was pretty scarce. Considering that I’ve given a couple of my friends copies of my apartment key to make sure that I wouldn’t misplace them (which I so often do), I thought perhaps that one of them was trying to mess with me. I was eager to get to the bottom of this, so I asked if either of them were the culprit; however, they both blatantly denied it. This, of course, put me on edge, so I asked my landlord to check the security footage on my floor for any suspicious activity. He immediately began searching through two weeks of recorded footage, looking for any unfamiliar faces entering my apartment. He finished his investigation the following week, and said that he’s found nothing out of the ordinary.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” he assured me. “It’s probably all in your head, man.” At the time I was considering the possibility that maybe he was right. Being a domestic abuse lawyer, I’ve had to deal with a lot of stressful cases and work overwhelmingly long hours. Perhaps the numerous caffeine fueled nights and constant headaches were starting to get to me.
On one particular snowy day I was coming down with a nasty cold, and had to call in sick for the next few days. Despite having to reluctantly waste some of my days off on such a gloomy occasion, I was still glad to be temporarily free from my hectic obligations. It was around 7:30, and I was getting really tired. I had finally made it near my apartment on the 6th floor. I just got back from picking up some remedies at Walmart, and was anticipating a nice long night of peace and relaxation.
Just as I stood in front the door I immediately heard a faint shuffling in the distances. My eyes scanned the hallway for any signs of life. Nothing. Suddenly I could hear footsteps quickly creaking on a wooden surface. After listening in closely I made a chilling realization of where these footsteps were coming from. Inside my apartment. This couldn’t have been one of my friends, as I had recently changed the lock on my door due to all the strange things that’ve been happening. A sudden chill went up my spine, because I knew right then and there that an intruder had somehow broken in. At that moment I felt really uneasy. I wanted to run downstairs and call for help, but I knew if I left the hallway at this point the intruder would definitely make a break for it. Being the naïve young man that I was I was determined to go inside, grab my gun, and try to apprehend whoever was inside.
Taking in a deep breath, I slowly unlocked the door and creaked it halfway open. I was instantly hit with a powerful, ghastly odor that made me want to puke. It smelled like something had been decaying in there for quite some time. Ignoring it, I cautiously proceeded to the kitchen to grab the gun I kept hidden in the top drawer. I grabbed it and opened the lights. To my surprise, the first thing I noticed were several pizza boxes and takeout bags scattered across the ceramic tiles. This struck me as rather odd, because I knew I didn’t order any takeout that day.
I also noticed that there were food-covered footprints leading directly into the living room. Someone was definitely in here, and it looked like they were in a hurry to remain hidden from me. I slowly made my way into the Living room with my gun at the ready. The footprints lead right next to the boarded up wall that was stationed on the other side of the room. There were a couple half of broken planks in the middle of it that I haven’t gotten around to fixing yet.
Very carefully, I walked towards the wall for a closer inspection. My heart was beating with every inch I took. I stopped walking around a few feet away from it, and began closely examining it. I couldn’t make out anything inside, so I moved my head in even closer to search for any signs of life. Again, nothing was completely visible, as it was pitch dark inside, so this time I pulled out my phone, put it in the wall, and turned the screen on. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I saw two amber red eyes staring directly at me. My heart dropped like a rock. I quickly stumbled backwards, trying to keep my balance. A sudden rush of adrenaline swiftly filled my entire body. I quickly spoke in the most intimidating voice I could muster up.
“If you don’t get the fuck out from there right now I swear I’ll blow your fucking brains out!” I exclaimed. Silence subsequently followed. I was half expecting some demented lunatic to rush out from there and attack me out of nowhere, so I prepared myself for an epic battle. “Didn’t you fucking hear me!? I’m not messing arou-” before I could finish my sentence I was interrupted by a faint sobbing coming from within wall. The intruder took in a deep breath, and spoke in a soft tone.
“Please don’t hurt me, I’m really sorry about what I’ve done!” the intruder replied. The voice sounded like it belonged to a frightened little girl, around the age of 13. This really wasn’t the dramatic response I was expecting. I lowered my gun, as the tension in the room quickly shifted to that of confusion.
“Jesus kid, you nearly scared me half to death,” I said. “Who are you? And what exactly are you doing in there?” No response. It seemed like my initial reaction shook her up a bit. “It’s okay, you can tell me. I promise I won’t hurt you.” I slowly backed away from the wall to assure her that I wasn’t a threat. “See?” After a brief moment of silence she replied once more
“My name’s Maple,” she said in a jittery voice. “I didn’t mean to cause trouble, I only wanted to get away from my mean parents.”
“Maple?” I paused for a minute, trying to recollect where I’ve heard that name before. Then it hit me. Maple was the little girl that went missing in the area several weeks ago. The media reported that she allegedly ran away from home after her parents had physically abused her last Christmas. She must’ve slipped in my apartment when I forgot to lock the door that day. At that moment I felt genuinely sympathetic, mostly because I’ve dealt with quite a few runaways in my line of work. Poor thing must’ve been scared to death. I guess when I ran out of food she decided to break into my neighbor’s apartment and help herself to their leftovers. She probably dropped all of it on the floor and made a break for it once she heard me come up to the door. I remembered at this point that there was a police car parked right outside of the building. I figured that I should first try to comfort her before calling the cops over.
“It’s okay sweetie, everything’s going to be alright,” I assured her. “Just please, come out so I can make sure you’re okay.”
She suddenly stopped sobbing and became quiet. Dead silence filled the room, as I anxiously awaited a response. She was almost starting to freak me out. After about a minute passed she finally said something.
“Okay, but could you first put the gun on the floor and come closer, I need help getting out.” Her voice sounded slightly deeper this time. The sudden shift in tension kind of threw me off at first. I wanted to comply with her demands, but I had this strange, eerie feeling deep inside that something was off. At the time I couldn’t make out what it was though. Giving in to my paranoia, I thought it was best if I just left her there while I went to go get help.
“Oh, um… actually. Just wait here Maple. I’ll be back soon with the…”
“Wait, don’t go!” she interrupted in a surprisingly loud and desperate plea. The sudden outburst made my whole body flinch. “You can’t leave me here! My ankle, it hurts really badly. I think I twisted it when I slipped on the floor. I don’t think I can get out on my own. You have to get me out of here right now! This place is really creeping me out.”
I hesitated for a moment. Believe me, I wanted nothing more than to help her out, but there was something about her tone that made me feel like she wasn’t completely telling the truth. My intuition’s usually pretty good at judging whether or not someone was lying, so I was inclined to follow my gut feeling.
“I’ll only be a couple minutes. Hang in there, kiddo. I promise I won’t be long.”
I quickly ran out my apartment before she could say another word. After a brief elevator ride down I sped across the hall, out the spinning doors, and into the freezing weather. To my relief, I found a slightly chubby officer talking to his slim partner right across the street from me. I ran towards them, eager to tell them everything that went down. Before I could make it halfway there, however, I froze. My heart sank, as I remembered something that will forever send a chill down my spine. I couldn’t believe I didn’t realize this until now. That couldn’t have been the same missing girl, because last night she was found murdered a couple blocks away. Her lifeless body was discovered stuffed inside the wall of a vacant apartment. It was all over the news this morning. Struck in awe, I was left nervously wondering who the hell was hiding in my walls this entire time.
I wasted no time as I rushed to the police and frantically told them everything like a nervous wreck. At first they thought it all sounded a bit sketchy, but after I persisted for a few minutes they were finally persuaded to follow me and take a look. Without catching my breath I ran back to my apartment with the officers following closely behind. When we made it to my living room I showed them where the intruder was hiding. The chubby officer told me to step back, as they both drew out there guns and pointed them at the wall.
“This is the police! I want you to get out from there right this instant and put your hands on the ground!” The officer’s demands were met with silence. “You have five seconds to comply or else I’m dragging you out!” Still nothing. The slim officer nodded, cueing his partner to go in. His partner pulled out a flashlight and slowly walked towards the wall with his gun still drawn out. I anxiously watched as he made his way to the wall and put his head inside. He began thoroughly searching both sides.
“Did you find anything?” the slim officer asked.
“Nope, it’s all clear,” he replied. “But I can tell someone’s been hiding in…” Before he could finish his sentence he paused. He puts his head in deeper for a closer inspection. “Hold up, I think I see something!” Judging by the surprise in his voice I had a feeling that he was about to discover something really disturbing. I could feel it in my bones.
“What is it?” His partner called out. The chubby officer took his head out of the wall and looked at his partner with a shocked expression.
“I think… I think I can see a couple of bodies inside!” Those words made my entire world turn upside down. I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Are you sure about that?” the slim officer asked.
“Ye… yeah! I’m sure of it!” he exclaimed. “My god, I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life! These bodies, they look so… mutilated. Just what the hell happened in here?
The unsettling thought that I had just stood feet away from human corpses made my stomach turn. The powerful stench of decaying flesh made me want to puke my guts out. I knew right then and there that whoever had been hiding in my walls this whole time was definitely not a little girl. “Help me break down this wall, one of them could still be alive!”
The slim officer put his gun back in his holster and walked towards the wall. I watched from about fifteen feet away as they both started breaking down the old planks one by one. They quickly teared off three rows of them with ease while blood started pouring out in excessive amounts. Suddenly, out of nowhere, several lifeless, dismembered bodies fell right off the wall and onto the floor. My eyes grew wide with shock. Most of their flesh looked like it was violently bitten off, and their mutilated faces were completely unrecognizable. The disturbing thought of the immense pain these victims must have suffered through was simply too much to take in.
Upon taking a closer look at the type of clothes they had on I made a chilling realization of who they were. They were all food deliverers from several nearby restaurants. I could barely make out the restaurant logos on their violently shredded and blood soaked shirts. I wanted to look away from the gruesome sight, but there was something above the bodies that had caught my eye. It looked like there was something written in blood on the inside of the wall. At first I couldn’t make out what it said through the darkness of the room, so I slowly walked closer to read it more clearly. My entire body shook to its very core the instant I realized what it said.
“You’re lucky you didn’t do what I asked.”
A friend of mine showed me how to use Google Maps. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It lets you use satellite images to look at locations all over the world. A few years ago, I was in a car accident. Since then, I really don’t leave the house that often. It’s difficult, and the idea of a seeing a car drive by me makes me feel lightheaded. I was fascinated by the fact that I could see all over the world, almost like being there. I could virtually walk down the streets, and it almost felt like I was really there.
I became instantly hooked. It gave me a real eye on the world. I could go to almost any major city, and I did. I’d seen streets in China, Japan, Germany, and England... so many places. I’d even gone to tourist attractions like the Great Barrier Reef and Dracula’s castle.
My favorite was to go to random places in major cities and see how many people and animals I could find. The faces of the people were always blurred to protect their privacy, but it was still enjoyable to see them out there, enjoying their life, walking like it was no big deal.
“She must have good taste,” I laughed.
I zoomed in closer and noticed the grey bag she carried on a grey and purple shoulder strap. She was walking in a relaxed manner, one hand trailing the wall beside her. I bet if I could have seen her face, I would see that she was smiling. I began to feel a little sad. I let my hands fall onto the arms of my wheelchair and looked at her for a minute more. I wished that I could be there, walking so carefree with her. That wouldn’t happen though, until I died. I was stuck in this chair. I sighed and zoomed out of Tokyo. Enough of this for tonight. I turned off the computer and went to bed.
I got up early and decided to look around Paris. Paris was always fun. I liked the look of the city, with all of the old, beautiful buildings and so many people to watch. I randomly zoomed to an area and saw a street, lined with old brick buildings, a few small shops, and an old tan brick church. Ahead was an intersection, and dozens of people walked by. A balding businessman walked quickly past, looking back at an old woman, hair covered with a scarf, carrying a large purse. A curvy woman in black pants that were too tight stared into a store window, and two women led a group of small children around a corner.
I spun the view around a few more times, and then saw something peculiar. Sitting on the bench at the bus stop, were two people. One of them was a young woman with her feet stuck in front of her in a relaxed manner. She was wearing a pair of red sneakers, like my own. I was startled for a moment; as I noticed the black pants, white t-shirt, and black hooded jacket. Her dark brown hair was tied loosely behind her head. A grey bag sat on the bench beside her, the shoulder strap hooked over her shoulder.
“This is crazy,” I thought. “It can’t possibly be the same woman. This is a different country, different continent even. How could it be her?”
This was stupid. It wasn’t as if these were live photographs. They were taken ahead of time and then stored. It’s not like she was in two places at once. She could just be a traveler. Besides, without seeing her face, it was impossible to tell it was the same person. Brown hair was probably the most common hair color in the world. Those red sneakers were something I purchased online. I’m sure a million other people did too. I shook my head and went to fix some lunch.
When I got back online, I decided to look at Berlin. I picked a random street, as usual. It looked pretty empty. There were brick buildings lining the streets, looking more like factories than anything else. There were also empty lots, full of long grass and piled gravel. There wasn’t much to see at all, really. There was a line of motorbikes and a car with two German flags sticking up from it. After more searching, I found one kid. He looked like he was dressed for school, a jacket thrown over his bag. He was intently looking at some kind of mobile device. I was disappointed. I started to leave, but then I caught something out of the corner of my eye. I turned the view, and there they were. Those damned red sneakers.
She was standing on a street corner, next to some kind of signpost. She had a hand on the post, looking down the street, as if waiting to cross the street. I stared, in shock. How could she be there too? Even if she was traveling, there’s no way I would find her every time. Even finding her in Paris would have been one heck of a coincidence, but this? This was crazy. Was this some kind of joke? Had Google decided to play a prank on its users that used their product so much? It would have been a great joke...
I did a quick search, looking for a note about a woman that shows up like Waldo. There was nothing. I looked through articles on strange things you can see on Google Maps, but none of them mentioned the woman that travels the world with you. This was crazy. Had my self-imposed isolation driven me mad? Had I become so lonely that I created a hallucination for myself?
Leaving the Berlin image on my screen, I sent a text message to a friend, asking him to look at the locations. I asked him if he saw the same woman. Then I waited, hands sweating, heart thumping in my chest. I jumped when my phone beeped with a return text message, ten minutes later.
The text read, “I see the lady you’re talking about in Berlin. I didn’t see her in Paris or Tokyo. Is this some kind of game, or what? Are you okay?”
I didn’t respond, instead returning to the locations in Tokyo and Paris. There she was. She was there, but it was different. She no longer sat on the bus-stop bench, in Paris. She was standing in front of it, looking for something in her bag. In Tokyo, she was blocks away, squatting down to pet that calico cat. I shivered. Who was she? What was happening?
I switched the map to Brussels. It was another city street. It was lined with old looking buildings, with shops on the ground level, and what I guessed was apartments above. I quickly scanned the streets. They were empty, other than a stocky woman in a bright blue sweater. I did a second sweep. She wasn’t there. I sighed in relief. I couldn’t believe I was getting so worked up about this.
It was nothing but a coinci— I stopped, my eyes frozen on the screen. There was a building at the point of a fork in the road, white with a black-ironwork-framed balcony jutting from the second floor. I hadn’t seen her, as I had been looking at the sidewalks. There she stood, standing on the balcony, her head tilted in the direction of the camera, almost like she was coyly looking toward me. My breath caught in my throat.
I switched to Sydney. She was leaning against the wall, inside the doorway of a bright blue Carricks Pharmacy building. London showed her getting ready to step onto a red double-decker bus, her head turned to look over her shoulder. She was everywhere I looked. She stood on a brick sidewalk on a bridge in Venice, she walked across a yellow barred crosswalk in Zurich; and in Hong Kong, and she stood between a Wing Lung Bank and a McDonald’s adjusting the strap on her bag. In each picture, she came closer and closer to looking directly at me with her blurred out face.
My heart felt like a terrified bird, slamming around inside my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath. I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t call the police. Should I send screenshots to Google?
I clenched my fists tightly and closed my eyes. Who was she? Was she following me? Was I following her? I wish I could see the expression on her face, know what she saw when she looked back at me. I wanted to get out of the chair and run. Why is it that the only thing that made me feel free again, was the thing that made me feel even more trapped? I had to know.
I typed in the name of my town and zoomed into a random street. It was a couple of miles from my house; the gates to the city park were shown in the clarity of daylight, despite it being night here. There she was. There... There she was. She was only a few miles from my house, standing under the ironwork arch that stated the name of the park. She looked directly at the camera, directly at me. I felt like I might throw up. She was near me, and she was watching me. She was coming for me. What did she want?
I typed in the name of the apartment complex where I live. I could see the outside of the building. The parking lot was full of cars, and there were a few blurred out children on the playground. I searched everywhere for her. She wasn’t in the parking lot or on the sidewalks, not hiding between the buildings or standing in the playground. I even scanned each of the cars, behind the bushes, and each of the blurred windows. She wasn’t there. I curled tightly around myself and lay my head down on the desk.
This place was safe. I didn’t leave the apartment anyway. I would never use Google Maps again. I would never see her again. She could stay at the park for all I cared. I smiled to myself and was surprised to find a tear slipping down my face.
“I’m safe,” I said to myself in a whisper. It felt good to hear it out loud. “I’m safe.”
As I said it, there was a knock at the door. A chill ran down my spine. I had a camera hooked to my computer that showed who was at the front door, which made it easier for me, with my mobility issues. I slowly reached for the control to show myself who was outside, but my hand trembled furiously. As I touched the control, I realized my mistake. The last of Google’s images that I’d seen had only shown the outside of the building. Just the outside.
I looked at the screen and saw a woman in a white t-shirt, black pants, black hooded jacket; and carrying a grey bag with a purple and grey striped shoulder strap. Of course, there were those red sneakers. She looked directly at the camera, her face still a complete blur. As I tried to stifle a scream, she raised a hand and knocked loudly on my front door.