Martin tried not to think about his first flat.
He was just a new university kid at the time, fresh-faced and opened to so many possibilities. He was out on his own, away from his parents and his siblings. It was downright scary and exciting at the same time.
His flat was nothing special, one bedroom, one bathroom, kitchen and living room all the size of a closet. He had first loved everything, even the stain in the toilet that refused to be scrubbed away. It was small, but it was his, and he was damn well going to make the best of it.
He unpacked quite quickly, humming a jaunty tune to himself the whole time. He kept thinking of the thousand little possibilities he could do in this apartment. Throw parties, have girls over, or simply walk around nude because he felt like it.
Upon unpacking, that's when he noticed the hole.
It was on the wall, low enough to the ground that Martin had to get on his hands and knees to look at it. It wasn't very large, no bigger than a pound piece. When he dared to peer through it, he saw the hole peeked into his neighbor's home.
The hole was clearly man made, it was too neat of a cut to be created out of accident. Martin wondered if the previous tenant had done this, to spy on his neighbor. It didn't matter, he supposed. Having a hole like this made him feel like a pervert. He tapped a piece of cardboard over the hole, vowing to buy material to fix it later.
That next day, Martin decided it was time for him to be friendly and introduce himself to his new neighbors. With a plate of banana bread as offering, Martin knocked on the door of the flat the hole peeked into.
No one answered.
He tried again. He was sure he heard shuffling coming from inside. The walls were not that thick.
Once again, no answer.
He shrugged and moved to his other neighbors. They answered the door the first time.
"Oh, thank you so much!" said Margery, accepting the banana bread with glee. "I really should be offering you a welcome treat."
"That's very kind of you," Martin said. He pointed to the other door. "But, uh, I would like to introduce myself to the people on my right, but I guess I missed them. Do you know when they'll be home?"
Margery's face pinched in annoyance. "Oh, he's home. He just never answers the door."
"Oh, is that right?" Martin thought his neighbor might've been a pretty girl, which would explain the hole.
"I've been living here for almost a year now and I still don't know his name. He has such unusual hours, I barely see him. When I do see him, he ignores me. So rude!"
Margery turned out to be quite the gossiper and spent the next twenty minutes talking about all the dirt on the other tenants. Martin took in good stride, though now he was slightly regretting engaging the woman in conversation. She wouldn't shut up.
She wasn't wrong, though. Martin tried once again to introduce himself to his hole-neighbor and despite he heard movement coming from the inside, the door remained unanswered.
Weeks would past like this.
He tried not to dwell on it. It was better to focus his attention on his studies than on a neighbor that refused to be social. But it was so odd, Martin couldn't help but be curious about the man who lived next door to him. He talked to other tenants and they all said the same thing. They don't know who he is, what his name is, or why he never talked to anybody.
Martin had seen him a few times. He would hear the unseen neighbor shuffle around the flat, unlock the front door and walk out. Martin would look up from his studies just in time to watch the man walk past his windows.
Whoever he was, he was tall. So tall Martin never saw his head as he walked by. He also always wore the same black suit with tie.
Sometimes Martin would catch a glimpse of the tall man coming home. Never his front, just his back, as he stalked to his door, unlocked it and let himself in. Martin would alway try to say hello. He never got an answer back.
Exams were slowly approching and stress piled on like fresh snow. Martin was rarely seen these days without his flashcards, mumbling incoherently to himself. He barely had time to eat and used every opportune moment he had to study. So no one could blame him for walking straight into the tall man's back by accident one Monday evening.
It really was just an accident. Martin was too busy reading his flashcards, walking at the same time. He did not notice the person in front of him until he crashed into him.
Martin was knocked back, his flash cards scattering. He recognized the black suit immediately and began to apologize profusesly. He really did not want to piss off his barely known-neighbor. "I'm so sorry," he said, quickly grabbing at his scatterd notes. "I didn't mean-"
He looked up.
Martin had never seen his neighbor's face. He always saw the back of his head, and he thought the man must be bald because he never saw any hair.
He was right: there was no hair. There were also no ears, nose, mouth or eyes. The man's face was completely devoid of face and looking upon it was like looking into hell.
Martin cried out in alarm, dropped his cards and scurried backwards on his hands.
The tall, faceless man made no noise, made no movement towards Martin. He simply turned, opened his door to his flat, and walked in.
It took some time for Martin to collect himself off the floor, he was shaking so badly. He dragged himself into his flat, locking the door behind him with more effort than necessary. "What the hell was that?" he muttered to himself. "What the hell was that?"
Was it a trick of the light? Was Martin under so much stress he was actually hallucinating? Was his neighbor-
Fuck. The man was his neighbor. Martin scooted away from the wall as far as he could.
Now that he thought about, none of the other gossiping tenants had ever talked about his face. They never said they saw it, sure, but they also never said they didn't see it. Maybe with all the mystery and hype surrounding this strange, tall man had turned him into something else in Martin's head.
Yeah. That made sense.
Martin felt miserable. How was it he felt more at ease knowing he was suffering from some sort of mental delusion?
Because he knew the alternative meant the tall man had no face.
Suddenly with startling horror, Martin remembered the hole in the wall.
He'd never got around to putting plaster over the hole. The little cardboard flap he made for it months ago was still there, the brown so visibly striking against the white. Martin's whole world narrowed on that flap and suddenly he couldn't think of anything else.
Crawling, he slowly made his way towards it.
Who made that hole, he wondered. Was it the previous tenant, or was it the neighbor? Oh god, either possibility was too horrible to think of. If the previous tenant had done it, what compelled him to do it? What did he see?
If the tall man had done it, how long ago has he been spying on his neighbors? Had he been spying on Martin too?
Martin's fingers trembled as he reached up to lift the cardboard flap. It felt like a ton.
Taking a breath, he peeked through the hole.
The flat looked completely empty. There was no furniture, no fridge, no carpets. There were stains, however, on the walls. Splattered marks, too faded to tell what had caused them. There was something on the floor, though. A rumpled shirt or blanket, discolored and old. It appeared to be moving.
Outside, Martin could hear someone pulling their car out, a familiar noise he easily ignored. The headlights were turned on, temporarily illuminating the room with a sickly yellow. The lights were only on for a second or two, giving Martin enough time to zero in on the tall man.
He was standing in the corner.
He wasn't moving. For a moment Martin thought he was looking at a mannequin, one of those life sized models to display clothes on in stores. Except his arms were long, longer than any mannequin Martin ever laid eyes on. The hands rested well past the knee.
He jumped when his mobile unexpectedly rang, vibrating loudly in his back pocket. Hastily he turned it off and went back to the peep hole, wondering if the man had heard him.
He looked, and the tall man was looking straight back at him.
Martin gave out a cry and threw himself backwards from the hole. The cardboard flap fluttered briefly from the resulting wind.
He stared horribly at the covered hole, unsure of what to do next. Should he call the police?
A stain began appearing on the cardboard piece. A wet stain growing bigger by the second. By the time it reached the edges, the overflow dripped off, oozing down Martin's wall.
"Oh, god!" Martin reached for his mobile, now with full intentions to call the police. He turned it back on.
Shit, shit, shit! Was his battery dead? Martin scanned the room, wondering where he put his charger.
Ha paused when he heard noises coming from the tall man's room. Shuffling noises, moving across the floor towards the door. He heard it open and close.
Martin scrambled to his feet, quickly shutting the blinds. He didn't want to see, didn't want to be seen. He jumped as his doorknob rattled violently, twisted with so much force he thought he could hear metal bend.
The doorknob stopped moving. The tall man moved, his silhouette through the blinds indicated he was trying to look into the flat.
What happened next, would haunt Martin's dreams for the rest of his life.
Margery, his gossiping loving neighbor decided that was the perfect time to take out her trash. Martin heard her open her door and cross the threshhold to outside.
"What the... OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD, OH GOD!"
Her screams were immediately cut off, replaced by a noise Martin could only describe as ripping.
As frightened as he was, he couldn't just stand there and do nothing. He rushed forward to the door, unlocked it, and flung it open. The tall man was standing right in front of him.
Martin lost conscious after that.
The next day in the hospital, Martin told the policemen everything he could remember. The blood, the tall man, the moving pile of clothes in the flat. Though they were sympathetic, he could tell they did not believe him.
According to the report, the police were called when people heard Margery scream. They investigated the scene and found Martin unconscious on the floor. Nothing more.
No blood, no body, no signs of violence. The tall man's flat was empty, no one found the moving pile of clothes Martin described. The blood that oozed from the hole was gone and the tall man himself disappeared without a trace.
Margery was never seen again. Police believed the strange man had kidnapped her, used some sort of drug on her to keep her from fighting back. The same drug to knock Martin unconscious. The faceless terror Martin kept describing was probably nothing more than a hallucination brought on by the drugs and stress of the situation.
It was an unfortunate event and not much could be done without physical evidence. Despite so many people saw this man, they never really saw his face. They just remembered his height, his slender frame in that black suit he always wore.
Martin moved the moment his lease was up. From then on, whenever he searched for a new flat, he always insisted in getting the room in the attic. There were other, better rooms he could have, ones that were not drafty or smelling of wood rot. Martin would always decline.
No more neighbors.