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Down the corridor at number nineteen, a terrible screaming could be heard echoing through the paper thin walls. They were not screams of fear or fright but screams of agony and torture as if hell itself dwelled within. The neighbours who shared the floor with the young lady from number nineteen, did nothing. They had ignored it, pretended it wasn't happening and gradually it had become routine, it accompanied their daily life.
Ashley George was ironing as the shrill cries from next door pierced the windows in her lounge. She put the iron down on the ironing board and walked over to the television to turn the volume up. That's better she thought to herself. Ashley picked up the ironed clothes and began to fold them beginning with the large objects such as towels and always ending with the smaller stuff such as socks and underwear. Once they were folded she threw them out of their nice neat piles onto the ground, then one by one she would pick them up and fold them again. This time she started with the smaller articles and finished up with the bigger ones. All the while the screaming continued. She waited instinctively for her husband to come home from work so he could tell her about his day and she could tell him about hers.
Garth Vicory read on as the terrible screaming persisted through the cracks in his door. He carefully turned the page of his paper and began to study the international news. The pages were stained yellow and pocked with coffee rings. As he read about warring factions in the Persian Gulf his hand started shaking as the screaming became more intense. The higher pitched the screams became the more his hand shook. It wasn't because he was scared or even interested. It just did that. If it bothered him too much he could always turn off his hearing aid but these days he had grown use to it. With his good hand he turned another page.
George Ashley climbed up the stairs, weary and tired. The thirty third step saw him walk off the stairwell and onto the corridor. The lino on which he trod was a hazy sand colour but if you looked close enough it used to be white. George counted the mandatory fifty-one steps along it. On the thirty-first step he noticed that there appeared to be a new aperture on the front panel of Garth Vicorys' door. Fairly soon it would be resting on its hinges. It wouldn't matter Garth though George thought, he doesn't use the door anyway. Turning his head half circle as he walked, he noted the sound of a television coming from the room of Ashley George. How they had both laughed at their names when they had met each other, George had laughed for days. The terrible screaming could still be heard over the television set wrought with desperate pang and torment. It, as always was coming from room number nineteen, or was it number twenty-one? George could never remember. He was now fourteen spent steps from concluding his journey. These fifteen hour days were killing him.
Cathy Knox cradled her baby in her arms. He closed both tiny eyes and began to dream. She wiped the warm saliva from his mouth. He was such a good boy, never cried and always slept well. Cathy heard the terrible screaming from down the corridor but was unphased. It was good for one to hear voices which they recognised she thought. it made her feel secure in her home. She loved that word 'home', and everything around her she owned. They were not expensive possessions and would be of little value to anyone else, but still, while she was home, no-one could take them away from her. Peace of mind she concluded, was a wonderful thing. With the baby snoring softly Cathy retired to her own bed, yawned, then closed her eyes. As an afterthought she reached over and turned off her electric blanket. Better to be safe then sorry, she murmured softly.
Becky Thatcher didn't like the terrible screaming, in fact she hated it, but every time she woke up or went to sleep it was there. Like a drill it penetrated her, rooting itself in her like a disease. She tried to stop but found she could not. A fist here, a bottle there. Her breathing became static and she felt her eyes roll back and her chin lifted. The knife moved across her neck in one jagged movement, slashing her throat leaving a long red smile. The hand clutching her head relaxed and the screaming stopped.
Ashley George suddenly stopped in the middle of folding a towel for the forth time. Garth Vicory, startled, put his paper down. George Ashley dropped his keys in shock. Cathy Knox woke with a shudder, somewhere a baby was crying. The terrible silence rang out deafening blows along the corridor. Reticence gagged their rooms. With their mundane peace shattered, each person looked at themselves and then at their lives. They wondered if they would ever be the same again...
I may be stupid but at least I'm not handsome.