The apartment building I grew up in was very old. It’d been around since the early twentieth century with only one remodel after a terrible fire that raged through the structure. I never really thought much about it, but my neighbors would often say they heard or saw things that weren’t quite right. Of course, I didn’t believe them, as I’m not one to take stock in ghost stories, but every now and again one of my neighbors would have a new tale to tell.
I didn’t get mine until I’d lived in the building for two years.
It was late at night and I was coming home from my evening shift at the local restaurant, tired but happy; today was payday and there were a few new video games I planned on buying, along with some groceries that were sorely needed. I walked through the lobby past Gus, the security guard, and up to the elevator.
It was an old elevator; the doors made of brass and polished daily by the maintenance workers. The framework around the edge of the elevator was a dark mahogany, carved to resemble vines and flowers. I pressed the button to call the elevator down when a young boy walked up next to me. He couldn’t have been older than ten years of age, and he was wearing what looked to be pajamas. In his right arm, he clutched a teddy bear, the old thing worn from prolonged exposure to a child and their heavy-handed methods of playing. One of the eyes was missing, and the stuffing was peeking out of a seam in the chest.
“Hello,” I said, looking at the kid with a raised eyebrow. I didn’t recognize him, which wasn’t unusual; the apartments were rather large and tenants came and went pretty often. “Isn’t it a little late to be up?”
The kid looked up at me, his green eyes dull and listless. “I’m looking for my sister,” he said, his voice flat.
“Your sister, eh? When did you last see her?” I asked.
“She was watching me while my parents were out for the night. I woke up and couldn’t find her.” He said, looking back to the elevator as the doors slid open. “I’m going to check on the floor where we live again.”
“Alright, I’ll ride with you,” I said, not wanting to leave a kid this young alone to wander the halls of the apartment building at night. We walked into the elevator together and I pressed the button to the third floor before looking at him. “Which floor?”
“The third one,” he said, nodding to the glowing button I’d pressed.
“Huh, that’s funny,” I said, leaning back against the elevator wall. “I live on the third floor and I’ve never seen you.”
The boy fell silent for a moment before giving me a sidelong glance. “I’ve seen you a few times before.”
“Really? That’s odd; you’d think we would have run into each other then,” I said, scratching my scruffy chin.
“You just have to keep your eyes open and you’ll see all the residents of this building. Most of them don’t come out until after dark anyway.” The boy said as the elevator began to ascend.
“I wasn’t aware there were a lot of residents in this apartment building,” I look up at the dial flashing between floors. “I mean, they just finished the repairs a few months ago.”
“There are plenty of us,” the boy said, looking up at the numbers flashing on the elevator’s dial. “You just need to know where to look.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked, giving the boy an odd look.
He looked up at me and gave a sad smile. “We come and go as we please, but we always return, looking for something we can never find.”
“Okay… what do you mean by that?”
“I mean all of the tenants here have lost something precious to them. I lost my sister and have been looking for her for quite some time now.” The boy said, smiling as the elevator reached the third floor.
“Do you want me to help? I’d just need to change before I go looking around the apartments for her.” I offered, hoping the little boy would agree.
He shook his head. “You won’t be able to find her. Neither will I. She’s moved on…”
“Moved on? Like, out of the apartments?” I asked, now thoroughly confused.
“We live in apartment 3B, so if you want to help just let me know,” the boy said, stepping out of the elevator and vanishing from sight.
I stood there staring at the spot he’d occupied for several seconds, mind racing over the last words he’d said to me. “3B? But that’s my apartment…”