I met Marie in May. Like every other memorable spring day, the air was slow with blossom. I hesitated in the scabby ground that passed as a car park.
I’d accepted this story reluctantly. It was on the other side of the city; a lone tower block that shouldered its way out of scrubland that dissolved into the desolate moors.
Marie had emailed in her address and one cryptic line. Something about her being housebound; a heirloom with some significance.
I noticed some exotic detritus as I approached the building entrance. A microwave with a doll’s head inside, eyes staring out through the open door; a punctured space hopper covered in weird graffiti; nine shiny bottle caps arranged in a strange pattern. I blinked at each one for a while, unsettled, and walked briskly to the door.
I placed a palm on the reinforced glass and felt a prickling in my scalp. There were voices behind the door, which grew louder as I pushed, but as I poked my head round the door there was only silence. No building security. No reception. Just more angular monochrome graffiti spidered across dank walls and around corners, like something slinking away.
The ground floor was open; four staircases disappeared into the next level. I expected that tang of cleaning fluids and piss that haunted these types of places, but all I could smell was coppery air. No flower blossoms here except the ones I had trudged in on the soles of my trainers, left behind like bruises.
Faded, peeling signs guided me to the fourth floor. Flat 404 was down a dark, skinny corridor, in which I ricocheted like a rogue pinball.
Marie had left the door partially open. She stood inside her flat in velour leggings and a faded tee shirt. Her hair was scraped into a ponytail. Her only adornment was a large pendant on a silver chain.
I approached warily. Something about the way she was standing, backlit and still, made me nervous
“Marie?” I stopped short of the door and placed a steadying hand on the wall.
She shifted slightly. The pendant at her breast swung and threw a dull shard into my eyes. I took an step forwards, eyeballing it: a dark grey metal with an ornate clasp. It hung open.
“The locket?” I saw a slow nod. “You mentioned this in your email.”
She took a step backwards. I was pulled as if on a string running from my guts. Her leopard print slippers made soothing, shuffling sounds on dirty Lino.
Marie reached up slowly and clicked the locket shut. The door swung shut behind me. I heard the lock catch.
I spend a lot of time staring out of the window that faces the moors. My head feels so wind blown and strange.
Nobody ever comes in to Hamstel Towers. Nobody ever leaves. I’m beginning to wonder if it exists at all. I’m beginning to wonder if I do.