The story I want to tell you may be quite difficult to believe. It’s up to you to decide whether or not it is true.
I lived with my parents in a small town. I was their only daughter and they doted on me. When I was 18 years old, they sent me to the city to attend university. That was where I met the young man who was to become my husband.
I had never so much as kissed a boy before and he swept me off my feet. He treated me like I was the most beautiful girl in the world. It wasn’t long before we fell in love. By the time we finished university, we were already engaged.
We got married and I moved into the house he shared with his parents. Soon afterwards, I discovered I was expecting a baby. It wasn’t an ideal situation. We were young and money was tight. Living with his parents was sometimes difficult and stressful. We wanted to get our own place, but we couldn’t afford it.
My husband worked hard and sometimes a couple of days would go by when he did not come home. I was sad and lonely. Once my son was born, I spent all my time changing diapers and feeding him.
My son grew up quickly and by the time he was 4 years old, we were still stuck in the same situation. I thought my hair would soon turn gray from a nervous breakdown. What was needed was a change of scenery.
Then one day, my husband came home from work and told me he was getting a promotion. Now we could finally afford to rent an apartment of our own. Of course, I was very happy, but I knew it meant that I would see my husband even less.
As time passed, we moved into a rented apartment in an old, dilapidated building. It wasn’t our dream home, but at least it was better than living with his parents. While my husband was busy at work, I ran the household and raised our son. While he was old enough to go to kindergarten, I was at home, cooking and cleaning and doing all of the chores of a normal housewife.
There were four apartments on our floor and the doors faced each other. I decided to try and make friends with the neighbors, so I went to the first door. I wanted to introduce myself, tell them we had just moved in and just try to strike up a friendship with them.
Just as I raised my fist to knock on it, the door suddenly opened. I was a bit taken aback. The chain was on the door and an old woman was peering through the gap, regarding me suspiciously. She looked like she was almost 80 years old.
“Hi, I’m new here,” I said, but the old woman cut me off.
“Get out of here,” she hissed. “Nobody wants to make friends with you! Stay away from these apartments! What do you think you’re doing here?
“But… But… I…” I stammered.
“Go away, damn you!” she hissed. “Leave everybody alone. They don’t want to talk to you! If you don’t get out of here, I’ll call the police!”
With that, she slammed the door shut in my face.
I was so shocked, embarassed and humiliated, I couldn’t even think clearly.
“I hope you die!” I muttered under my breath.
When I turned to go home, I heard a soft female voice say, “Girl, I’m sorry…”
I looked up and saw a young woman standing in the doorway of the apartment next door.
“You must be our new neighbor,” she said.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I heard what the old woman said to you,” she told me.
I smiled and said, “Yes, what an unpleasant old woman… Nothing but a crazy old hag…”
“Don’t let her get you down,” the young woman said. “Would you like to come in and have a cup of tea?”
I gratefully accepted her invitation.
After that, we became good friends. Her name was Olga and she said her husband had left her a long time ago. She had a son who was around the same age as mine. We often visited each other’s apartments and our children played together, while we chatted over a cup of tea. Her son rarely left the apartment. He was homeschooled and he seemed to be always quiet and sickly. Olga didn’t have a job, but her husband was not supporting her. She said her family gave her money from time to time.
One day, my son got sick and I couldn’t send him to school. I asked Olga to look after him while I ran some errands. She gladly accepted. I took him to her apartment, then went down to the pharmacy to buy some medicine and picked up some groceries.
When I came back home, I put grocery bags in my apartment and went to Olga’s apartment. I knocked on the door, but no one answered. I knocked again and again and called out Olga’s name, but to no avail. There was nobody home. I began to get nervous. My brain was swimming with questions. What happened? Where did they go?
I just stood there at the door with a stunned look on my face. I didn’t know what to do. I walked down the hall and knocked on the door of the crazy old woman. In my panic, I forgot all about the horrible things she said to me. I just wanted to find my son. Perhaps the old hag saw Olga leaving with the children.
At first, no one opened the door. When I began pounding harder and shouting, I heard the lock click and the door opened a crack.
“I told you, get out of here” she said, but her voice was no longer angry.
“I’m sorry, I need to find my son,” I said. “Have you seen him? I left him with your neighbor Olga… Have you seen her? Can you tell me what’s going on?”
I was so confused, I felt like I was going to cry.
“You poor stupid girl,” the old woman said, shaking her head.
It didn’t sound like an accusation, it sounded like a death sentence. She must know something, I thought and my eyes filled with tears. The old woman opened her door and gestured for me to come inside.
“Close the door behind you,” the old woman hissed.
I turned to close it and when I did, I saw there was a huge cross drawn in chalk on the inside of the door. On the upper edge of the door, there was a box filled with needles and pins.
“Come on, follow me,” the old woman said.
Her apartment was very neat and tidy. There wasn’t a thing out of place. Glancing at the wall, I saw that it was covered in crucifixes. Large, small, bronze, gold… There must have been almost a hundred of them! In the corner, there was a small shrine with a statue of the Virgin Mary and a picture of Jesus holding his bleeding heart in his hand. The old woman must be very religious, I thought.
“Do you know where my son is?” I asked, my voice shaking with emotion.
“Yes, my child,” she replied sadly. “I’m afraid I do know…”
“What does that mean?” I demanded angrily.
“Listen to me!” the old woman snapped. “You probably think I’m some crazy old hag who has lost her mind, but that’s simply not the case. When I yelled at you, I did it for a reason. I wanted to discourage you from coming to my apartment, and also to her apartment. If I had told you what I know, God forgive me, you would never have believed me. You young people, you have ceased to believe. You don’t listen to the advice we old people give you. You dismiss it as superstitious nonsense…”
“What are you talking about?” I interrupted.
“The truth is,” the old woman continued, “we live next door to the offspring of the devil. Every night, I hear her moaning there, behind that wall!”
The old woman raised her hand and pointed to the wall that was covered in crucifixes.
I felt like I was in the middle of some kind of bad dream. “Where is my son?!” I cried.
“The same Olga, who you saw, lived here two years ago,” the old woman continued.
“What do you mean “lived”?” I asked, surprised.
“It means what it means!” she snapped. “I saw it myself, with my own two eyes… Her body and the body of her son being carried down this very hall! Two years ago, it was!”
“But… But…” I stammered. I felt faint and sat down on a chair, feeling like my might give way.
“When Olga’s husband left,” the old woman continued, “she couldn’t come to terms with it. She grieved very much. She could not survive the breakup. She stayed alone with her son in the apartment. Her family was not poor and they helped her out with money. They supported her in every possible way, but it wasn’t enough.
“She neglected her duties as a mother. Sometimes, she even forgot to pick up her son from school. Her son looked very much like his father. Every time she looked in her son’s face, she saw the face of her husband, the man she hated, the man she blamed for her misery. In her madness, she began to despise her own son.”
“She didn’t go to work, she didn’t eat, she didn’t sleep. She turned to drink and drugs to fill the emptiness inside. She receeded from life and became like the living dead, barely existing.
“Fortunately, her family decided to intervene. They saw she was an unfit mother and they decided that living with her was not a good thing for the little boy. They tried to get custody of the child. Of course, Olga refused to allow it. She flew into a rage.
“Eventually, her family decided that they would have to have her committed. They signed all the necessary paperwork to have her put in a mental hospital. Then, the child would go to live with them. They thought that would be best for everybody, but things did not turn out the way they planned.
“On the day she was supposed to be taken to the mental hospital, Olga shut herself in the apartment with her son and refused to come out. She got drunk again and strangled her own child to death. Then, she wrapped a belt around her neck and hung herself. Her parents found the bodies a few hours later. I watched them carry out the corpses and I attended their funeral a few days after that. The mother and child were buried together in the same grave.
“Their bodies may have been taken away, but their spirits stayed in the apartment. Because of the way they died, their souls can find no rest. At night, I hear them moaning and scratching at the wall. The apartment was put on the market, but so far no one has been brave enough to buy it. The stench inside is said to be awful and nothing can get rid of it.
“I told Olga’s father after the funeral, that the apartment was impure, that it needed to be exorcized. There ought to have been prayers read and holy water sprinkled around to sanctify it. But he told me, of course, he did not believe in such superstition, just as all of you young people do not believe. That’s where your son is…”
The old woman fell silent.
“But… I know Olga,” I said. “We are friends… For such a long time… We visit each other’s apartments… Our sons play together…”
The old woman stared at me, her hands shaking. “The first time I ever saw your face was only yesterday,” she whispered. “Do you understand?”
I sat there with my mouth open and my eyes filled with tears. What could I say? I couldn’t believe what the old woman was telling me. I ran out into the hallway and began banging on Olga’s door. I kept banging and banging, trying to break it down, but it was no use. I gave up. Then, I fell to my knees and started sobbing uncontrollably.
The old woman called the police. They came and broke down the door to Olga’s apartment. Everything inside was covered in a thick layer of dust. The smell of rot and decay was unbearable. They found the body of my little boy lying on the floor. He had been strangled to death.
When I saw them carrying my son’s body out of the apartment, I became hysterical. After that, everything was a blur. I remember the police questioning me. I remember screaming and crying. I remember my husband shouting and shaking me by the shoulders. I remember collapsing on the floor and everything went black.
I was put in a mental hospital for examination. They kept me there for almost a year. By the time I was released, my husband had left me. He never said it, but I think he suspected that I had killed our son. He divorced me and I was forced to move back in with my parents.
Sometimes when I sleep, I see my son in my dreams. I see him running towards me and shouting: “Mama! Mama! They’re keeping me here and they won’t let me go!”