Storage Unit 106, Chapter 1

(After too much pondering, some spooky stuff for you. I have always enjoyed a good, scary read, so I hope you do, too. This one was partly inspired by a niece and nephew. It certainly classifies as horror. It will be broken it up into smaller chapters than my first offering; around 2000 words each)

Chapter 1: Where It All Started

My name is Alice Velamy.  I was born in Kitchener, Ontario, living there until I was six years old, when my parents and little brother died in a car accident.  I’ve been asked how that felt on many occasions since.  Sure, it’s not always asked straight out, like a reporter asking how the victims of a recent house fire feel or something along those lines; my answer hasn’t changed, really, though my recollection of how I experienced that feeling has changed over the years.  Considering everything I’ve gone through since then, I think that is perfectly normal; as if my early life could be called normal.

     When I was young, shortly after the accident, their deaths didn’t feel real.  It was like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were skipping a year and forgot to tell you to your face.  My six year old sense of time, and the events in the years that followed, have fogged my perspective of those hours and days, maybe weeks, following their deaths.  I only have a vague recollection of a babysitter becoming deeply concerned and telephoning the world when my parents failed to return.  I can’t picture her now; I can’t tell you her name or what she was wearing.  I don’t know why, but I think she was a teenager and familiar to the family.  I have an excellent recollection of the police officer who came to the door in the wee hours of the night.  He was tall and dark, with strong, masculine features and a bushy moustache.  He looked like a star in a cop movie or something.  I can still picture him today; and, if I had the talent, I could draw or paint him.  He arrived with a social worker, who I recall as an older lady with a clipboard.  They spoke briefly with the babysitter before telling me there had been an accident and I needed to go with them.

     I don’t recall feeling shocked or horrified.  I remember the cop, and his eyes.  He had dark, friendly eyes, and my six year old intuition told me I could trust him; and how could a trustworthy man, a policeman, at that, give me truly terrible news?

     I don’t remember the funeral, though I’ve been told it was a very tiny affair.  I spent the days that followed my parents’ passing in a temporary care home; essentially, they were foster parents that temporarily cared for kids in my situation.  I only remember that they were a young couple and gave me lots of ice cream.

     When the immediate dust had settled, there weren’t a ton of options for me.  My family was spread out, and not ideal for raising an orphan of six.  On my father’s side, there was an aunt, Melanie, who lived in Brampton.  Like so much else from that time, my sense of Aunt Melanie was quite vague.  I’m sure I had seen her by then because the name was familiar.  Aunt Melanie was right out of the question as a potential guardian, though.  She was well on her way to being a burnt-out druggie, at that time; and years later she went to prison for armed robbery, and hung herself in her cell.  The rest of my fathers’ relations were few and distant, people I’d never heard about or met.

     My mother’s side had more potential.  There was an Uncle Roger who lived in Sudbury, and I’d met him once.  He probably would have taken me in, if there had been no one else, but he was a career bachelor with a busy life and no preparation for a kid.  Years later, I learned he was estranged from the family for a variety of reasons.

     There was a distant cousin who had kept in touch with my mom, right up until her death.  Her name was Tina, and I wish she had taken me in, all those years ago.  Tina lived in Alberta and worked as a secretary for a small manufacturing company.  She didn’t make much money and Alberta was considered too far to relocate me.

     This left my grandmother.  Grandma and Grandpa lived fairly close by, in Midland, and I knew them reasonably well.  Mostly, we visited them on big occasions like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.  I don’t remember hearing about Grandpa’s death before then, but he had passed away, apparently.  Grandma picked me up from the temporary care home two days after my parents died.  We went to the apartment, the only home I had ever known, where she began packing things and organising the rest.  We stayed at the apartment for two days and left after the funeral.

     Grandma had always been nice to me.  She was your stereotypical, white haired, conservative old lady who baked cookies and gifted you socks and all that.  Despite all the crap that happened after, I am still glad that it was my Grandma who came to watch me in the days and weeks that followed.  Her familiar presence was a comfort I don’t think anyone else could have given me.

     It was not until the start of the school year that the death of my family actually hit me.  Grandma had me ready for day one of a new school year, in a new school, when I just couldn’t stop bawling.  I had my shoes on and waited at the apartment door with my lunchbox when I felt the loss of my parents, all at once, and it was awful.  We were due to leave at any moment when something just clicked and I couldn’t do anything but cry.  It’s one of those helpless, powerless feelings that sneak up on you; when you’re six, with no perspective or experience, they hit hard.  Grandma called the school and I stayed home.  I’m pretty sure I cried steady for the next couple of days.  The weeks that followed were tough, too, but I got through them and Grandma was very patient and supportive.

     Of course, life went on.  I began going to school, making new friends and slowly becoming myself.  It wasn’t always easy, but I got through it.

     I suppose I should talk about Grandma and our living arrangement.  Grandma lived in the Riverview Apartments on Monarch Street.  The apartments were fairly old and a bit dark.  The building had ten floors and about ninety apartments.  It was probably the biggest apartment building in Midland, at the time.  Grandma explained that she had moved to the apartments because Grandpa had been sick and they couldn’t take care of their house any longer.  I didn’t completely grasp that, because I had no memory of them living in a house.  Anyway, the building was adequate, with an underground parking garage, laundry room and basement storage.  There was even a decent common room with a piano and library.

     When I look back on it, the place was at a tipping point in terms of maintenance.  It’s one of those situations where the owner starts pinching pennies and dragging his feet on maintenance; and the longer that happens, the more the tenants get used to it, only encouraging the owner to drag his feet.  Riverview Apartments were at a point where the neglect could no longer be masked, and was turning dumpy.  As a little kid, I noticed the condition without really processing it.  I normalised the situation.  This was where Grandma lived and that’s how things were at places where Grandma’s lived, so the case was closed.

     Apartment 504, where we lived, was a small, two bedroom place.  It was properly suited for older couples, or young couples starting out.  The kitchen was tiny and there wasn’t much open space.  The balcony was a nice size, though, and I spent a fair bit of time there.  It overlooked an undeveloped area of trees and river, even though I considered it more of a creek.  Grandma placed a small, plastic patio set on the balcony in the summers and I made good use of it.  The rest of the apartment was cozy, and had that old person look to it.  The walls were covered with pictures, shelves of knickknacks, a clock, a barometer, and a collection of knitted, artsy pieces that Grandma referred to as her birds.  The other furnishings consisted of a smallish dining set, couch, rocking chair, coffee table, ancient TV and little writing desk.

     My room had been used as a craft studio, of sorts, before I moved in.  I have vague memories of being fascinated by the place on family visits.  It was a clutter of shiny, neat stuff that any little girl would love.  Of course, the other half of the fascination was in not technically being allowed to play there.  When I moved in, Grandma fixed up the room by clearing out her crafts and installing my old bed and dresser, along with some other odds and ends from my old room, like my Smurfette poster and spaghetti art.  She had also recovered a rare, family picture and hung it on the wall beside my bed.  I didn’t properly appreciate that picture until years later, when I realised how little I had left from my parents.  It was a small room, but not much smaller than the one I had spent the previous six years in.

     Grandma’s room was larger, but you wouldn’t have known it.  She had a large bed and dresser that ate up most of the space in the room.  They were nice, and also quite old.  The decorations on the walls thinned out in her bedroom.  All that decorated her walls were an old picture of her and Grandpa, when they were younger, a crucifix and a tapestry depicting the last supper.  Grandma wasn’t a religious nut; however, she was a solid, churchgoing Christian.

     My memory of Grandpa was not very good.  I remember he was usually sick when we would visit, and usually crotchety, which Mom explained away with his illness; I remember her telling me Grandpa hadn’t always been like that.  I also remembered the strange, small sores on Grandpa’s arms.  They were green and smelled strange, like worms or something.  When I moved in with Grandma, I was surprised to hear he had passed; but it didn’t bother me that he was gone, either.

     I wasn’t allowed to play in the halls or garage; and the common and laundry rooms were off limits unless Grandma was with me.  These were the sort of casual limits I was used to, however.  When you are six, more things are out of bounds than in.  I suppose the point is that I wasn’t really bothered about going anywhere in the building.  Grandma kept close tabs on me and I wasn’t prone to wandering, so all was well.

     The big off zone, however, were the storage lockers in the basement.  Grandma was always very clear about keeping away from that part of the building.  There wasn’t much of interest down there, anyway.  The entrance to the basement was either by the stairwell, on one side only, or the elevator; and the two were close together.  The storage area was accessed though a heavy, grey door.  It was pointed out to me, soon after I moved in, that this was a no zone.  The door was dented in a few places and the paint looked like it was the most recent of several layers.  The iron handle and keyhole above it had splotches of grey paint on them, too.  It immediately took on a sinister look and I heeded Grandma’s warning.

Continue to chapter 2!

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