In exactly three minutes Mr. Yao Wenyuan, of the eminent legal firm of Yao and Lee, would have his punctual hand on the doorbell of the Taylor Wimpey flat in Golden Lane. It was a comfort to reflect that Yao was so punctual—the suspense was beginning to make his host nervous. And the sound of the doorbell would be the beginning of the end—after that there’d be no going back, by Chairman Mao—no going back!
May all your investments fail! May whispering sounds keep you from sleep! May unease dog your every step! May ominous darkness envelope you! May ghastly shadows menace you! May dreadful loneliness befall you! May spine tingling shrieks terrify you! May the living dead pursue you! May your skin crawl for no reason at all! May eerie silences unnerve you! Cower in fear as the curses the Cripplegate Coven come true!
Not a window was broken/ And the paint wasn’t peeling,/No balcony sagged -/And yet there was the feeling/ Once past reception/And out of the hall/These were the homes of/No one at all/ No one who breathed/Nor laughed, nor ate/Nor said “I love,”/Nor said “I hate.”/Yes something walked/Along the stair/Something that was/And wasn’t there./And that is why keys/Wait at reception/For apartment owners/Who’ll never collect them/For something walks/Along the stair –/Something that is/And isn’t there.
It is the strangest yellow our wallpaper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper—the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the flat. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here. It creeps all over Taylor Wimpey’s luxury ghost home development The Denizen. I find lying in wait for me on the stairs and in the lift. It gets into my hair.
There are things in our wallpaper that nobody knows but me, or ever will. Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder—I begin to think—I wish Chang would take me away from The Denizen! We could go home or just go somewhere else in London, I’d be happy to be anywhere that isn’t a Taylor Wimpey luxury investment apartment. The Denizen is ninety percent empty but it isn't soulless, it is creepy!
An empty new build, a property investment. I would say a haunted house and reach the height of romantic felicity—but that would be asking too much of fate! It is The Denizen, a block of 99 empty flats on Golden Lane erected by Taylor Wimpey in the face of fierce opposition from local residents, people whose homes and local park it overshadows. Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it. Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have so few people living in it? Chang laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage. Chang is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.
Some will remember that inexplicable affair in Bunhill Fields eight weeks ago, where permission for a burial was obtained by a businessman whose wife had committed suicide. Getting approval had cost a fortune. On each occasion the coffin was found in the course of a few days again protruding from the ground. After the third attempt, in order that the thing should not be talked about, the body was buried elsewhere in unconsecrated ground. Where it was secretly buried was just inside the iron gate of Fortune Street Park. This was the body of the woman who had committed suicide in the ground floor apartment I’d been given in The Denizen. Her name was Julia Li.
“I think you’ll be comfortable. It’s only a one bed apartment, we have six dwellings in Taylor Wimpey's The Denizen but if we put you in one of our bigger flats you’d be sharing it with others. Most of the year they're all left empty but when we visit London we like to have a lot friends with us. Originally we only had five flats here but we were able to buy the sixth one cheaply and fully furnished after a woman committed suicide in it. Would you like to go and see it now? By Yanluo, I believe that you are right, and that we are going to have a thunderstorm. How dark it has become.”
As I returned from round the back of the Jewin Welsh Church which abuts part of the west side of The Denizen, I caught the hooning whistling of Chan's luxury apartment, coming down strangely through the stillness of the night. It had a queer note in it, low and constant, queerly meditative. Once I'd climbed onto the balcony I was able to see the floor in the middle of the living room was puckered upward in the centre into a strange soft-looking mound, parted at the top into an ever changing hole, that pulsated to that great, gentle hooning.
I slipped out of my room and made my way to The Denizen. Keeping my revolver handy, I made my way up to the floor on which Jason’s flat was situated. I hung a protection belt of garlic around my neck and the smell of it seemed to fill the corridor and give me assurance. It is a wonderful protection against the more usual Aeiirii forms of semi-materialization, by which I supposed the whistling might be produced. Though at that period of my investigation I was quite prepared to find it due to some perfectly natural cause, for it is astonishing the enormous number of cases that prove to have nothing abnormal in them. In addition to wearing the necklet, I had plugged my ears loosely with garlic and as I did not intend to stay more than a few minutes in the luxury apartment, I hoped to be safe. When I reached the door and put my hand into my pocket for the key, I had a sudden feeling of sickening funk. But I was not going to back out if I could help it.