We had our routine. When I finished my work for the day I would catch the train to Kings Cross station, walk past the police station, down Amos Lane and buzz the intercom at the Roslyn Apartment complex. The apartments were perched on the sandstone cliffs that wound down to Rushcutter’s Bay.
I would usually call Johahn on my phone as I walked down Amos Lane towards the intercom and let her know that I was approaching. I would stay on the phone with her as I punched the numbers 3 and 4 into the intercom and, through the phone, I would hear the loud “tring” of the intercom bell in Johahn’s room as she would leap out of bed and buzz me through the locked gate. The gate would click open and I’d walk across the footbridge that led to the apartment building. I would then catch the elevator to level 5 where Johahn’s apartment was - apartment number 34. Entering Johahn’s apartment, I would always see her curled up in her bed, greeting me with a wide smile.
“Don’t forget to latch the door behind you” Johahn would say.
This routine would continue for months. Finish work, catch the train to Kings Cross, call Johahn as I walked towards Roslyn apartments, punch the numbers into the intercom and listen to the “tring” through the phone, watch the gate click open, catch the elevator to apartment 34 and be greeted with a wide smile.
It was the end of May now and unusually warm for this time of year. After finishing a trivia night at the Woollahra Hotel, I began to make my way towards Edgecliff train station to catch the train to Kings Cross and meet Johahn. I had spoken to Johahn on the phone 30 minutes earlier to let her know that trivia was nearly done and I would be heading over soon.
I walked out of the hotel and down the autumn-leaf covered streets towards the train station at Edgecliff. As I strolled I kicked big piles of dried leaves and watched them scatter and swirl before me.
I arrived at the station's ticket barrier, descended the escalator to the platform and boarded the train bound for Kings Cross. The train ride was a short 3 minute journey before I reached my destination. Exiting the station, I began my walk down Darlinghurst Road towards the police station. At this stage I thought I should call Johahn and let her know that I was getting close to the intercom. I pulled out my phone and called her. It rang for longer than usual. Johahn usually answered her phone within one or two rings, but today it seemed to ring at least ten times. When Johahn finally answered the phone she sounded a bit groggy and I guessed she had been sleeping.
“Hello” Johahn said in a slurred voice.
“I’m nearly there” I said.
“Okay” Johahn said, and then she went quiet.
I stayed on the call as I approached the intercom and punched in 3 and 4. Weirdly, I didn’t hear the intercom “tring” in Johahn’s room, through the phone, as I usually did.
“Are you home?” I asked Johahn, feeling confused.
The gate clicked open.
“Yes, I’m home. See you soon” Johahn said, and then she hung up the call.
It was very odd that I didn’t hear the sound of the intercom through the phone, but I brushed it off and assumed that maybe Johahn had set her intercom to silent mode somehow, even though she had mentioned many times that there was no way to turn down the volume of the loud alert of the intercom.
I entered the apartment building and caught the elevator to level 5. Johahn always kept her apartment unlocked for me so when I reached apartment number 34, I turned the doorknob and entered the room.
The apartment was dark, only illuminated by a shard of moonlight streaming through the window. Johahn’s bed was empty and the apartment was eerily quiet.
Apartment 34 was a small, one room studio and it was completely empty. Johahn was nowhere to be seen.
Was she playing a trick on me? Was she hiding?
My phone rang and I saw it was Johahn’s number. I hurriedly answered the call.
“Where are you?” Johahn said.
Her voice sounded different, as if it was a decibel lower than usual.
“I’m in your apartment. Where are you?” I urgently spoke, feeling very unsettled.
Johahn didn’t respond. The call was silent.
Suddenly a creaking groan emitted from the phone. It sounded like old wooden floorboards. The creaking increased in pitch and then the call went dead.
As I stared at the phone in my hand the temperature in the room dropped dramatically and I could see the vapour of my heavy breathing coming out of my mouth in a fog. The room became shrouded in mist and I was disoriented and bewildered. I tried to feel my way towards the apartment door but my hands touched cold, smooth wall. I kept feeling my hands across towards the door but was only met with endless cold walls.
The door was gone.
I turned back towards Johahn’s empty bed and my shallow breathing caused me to feel light headed. My mouth was dry and felt like sand.
A thick, dark cloud moved over the moon and the dimly moonlit apartment was plunged into blackness. The apartment was now a cold, black void and the swirling dark curled its fingers around my neck as my skin began to turn to ice.
I was frozen in the dark.
As I stood there, paralysed in a grim trance, the silence in the apartment was suddenly broken by the sound of groaning, creaking wood.
The moans and groans of the old wood came from beneath Johahn’s bed. Covering the mattress were crumpled white bedsheets, barely visible through the gloom. In the inky shadows the white sheets took the form of a dark, jagged glacier that was slowly carving its way, an inch per century, down a mountain.
Flattening my back against the icy, smooth wall behind me I watched the crevices in the bedsheet glacier begin to pulsate and widen, beckoning me towards it. I felt pulled towards the deep trenches of the bedsheets and I knew that Johahn was trapped down in there somewhere.
I had to find her.
Inhaling a long breath and holding it in, I took a step towards the bed.