❝ “It’s been going on since the day we moved in,” the apartment superintendent’s wife said, looking at the bubbles on the coffee. “Knock-knock in the middle of the night… Just like someone’s walking. Someone lives inside our walls … ” ❞

This story participated in the 1st National Short Story Competition organized by Yazı Dükkanı Akademisi and was first shared there. Thanks to Enes Talha Coşkun for the translation.

“Pathetic!” said the woman who threw the fork in her hand on the table. When the fork and spoon collided, a ringing sound was heard. “I tell you I can’t sleep at night, these rattles aren’t normal! God only knows if there are rats or bugs! What kind of an apartment superintendent are you?”

Kemal, who had a headache because of his wife’s tiny voice, rolled his eyes and said, “How could it be! You’re the only one who can hear these rattles. No one’s complaining! My dear listen to me, there is a difference in temperature between day and night, so the materials inside the walls also expand and shrink. It is extremely normal that there are such sounds! Happens in every apartment. Don’t worry, my dearest.”

He approached to kiss her on the cheek, but she had already turned her head. “There is something living in the wall cavities,” she said. “They are taking steps. You must spray the apartment, we’re being infested! If something happens tomorrow, this gives you a headache, Kemal.”

The man rubbing his temples, keep quiet, and thought: “I already have that headache; because of you!”

“Have you ever talked to the neighbors?” said the woman.

“No, there were no complaints. “

“You especially asked, right? You implied that if they hear rattles at night or don’t.”

“Well…” said Kemal, raising his hands. “There is no need to throw something like this out and make people nervous. If anyone hears a noise at night, especially if they hear a footstep like you said, they will come and tell us. Since they did not say it, apparently there is no such problem.”

Meanwhile, Meltem raised her eyebrows and started to beat her palms together. “Bravo!” she yelled. Whoa! Did you ever think that the people maybe neglecting this issue by saying, ‘Did I hear correct? Whatever, I went to bed too late anyway.’ or another possibility, that even if women heard these rattles, they wouldn’t be able to say it because their husbands are ruffians like you?”

“Oh!” said Kemal, frowned. “You are behaving shamefully, Meltem.”

“You are not doing your duty and saying me that I am the one who behaving shamefully.” The woman got up and started collecting the empty plates on the table. “Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to be a superintendent.”

“Don’t call an exterminator! We need to collect money from the apartments for this job.”

“Yes, I know that too! I’ll talk to the neighbors.”

The next morning, Meltem woke up early with the seriousness of her duty. She carefully put on makeup and put on her tight skirt and frilly shirt. She opened the door of the ground floor of the fifty-year-old Sefa Apartment and started to climb the stairs.

She rang the bell on the first floor. A man named Emrah, who she didn’t know what his job was, and his thin, young wife Gülümser were living there. When the door was opened, a woman appeared, her hair was on her shoulders and look like saffron, her blue eyes were titled to the ground, and her face was sorrowful.

“Yes, miss!”

Meltem swallowed with pain. There was blood on Gülümser’s right eye. Unlike her name, Gülümser couldn’t smile most of the times. She always had bruises all over her face. Although Kemal and Meltem reported it to the police several times, “He is my husband.” said young lady, she was married for three years. “He beats, but he loves!”

“Hello dear, how are you?”

“Thank God miss, we are fine. How about you?”

Meltem had just moved to the apartment two months ago and learned from other neighbors that this couple once had a baby named Ramazan. However, when the baby was six months old, she disappeared – the neighbor on the third floor who described these events was quite sure that Emrah had killed the baby and dumped it somewhere – and left a mother whose psychology deteriorated because of the inconclusive searches. Therefore, she would answer the questions asked individually in a plural way.

“Do you hear any rattling at night?”

“I don’t understand, miss.”

“I say at night, is there a sound coming from the inside of the walls? We suspect that there are rats in the apartment.”

“No, there is not. If we hear, I’ll let you know.”

“Okay, thank you.”

The next apartment was on the second floor, where a psychih husband and wife lived. Emine was an elderly woman who graduated from primary school, she and her husband used to solve the endless problems of the neighborhood with their exorcising sessions. Meltem rang the bell shyly, and stepped back.

The door opened. First there was a heavy, oily smell. Then a huge belly covered with a checkered shirt appeared, then the owner of the belly: Ümit, who muttered something with a yellow coif on his head and a wooden rosary in his hand.

“Greetings Mr. Ümit, I am…”

“Yes, girl, what happened?”

“I came to ask if you hear any rattling at night. We suspect that there are rats in the apartment.”

“My dear, we can’t sleep! “ he said. “We couldn’t sleep for nights!”

Meltem exhaled with relief but old man said, “There are no rats, girl. Do you know what these rattles are? Jinn! This apartment building has been girded by jinns!”

“What?” said the woman, quickly relieving herself of her surprise. “Why don’t you say prayers these jinns to go away?”

“These jinns tribe is very powerful,” said the man, whose eyes grew anxiously. “I can’t afford it. We need to get some warlocks together and pray. Look, my daughter, two years ago, Emrah’s child, in the downstairs, disappeared. The kid was crying all the time anyway, he was beating up the kid, I guess. And last year, the manager… The manager in the upstairs, I don’t remember his name, their kid became lost.”

“Doruk?” said Meltem. On the third floor were Metin and Seda living, and both had jobs: One was a manager, and the other was a secretary in a plaza. They were well off.

“You are wrong, Doruk is not missing, he lives in England. They sent him to his relatives abroad to learn English.”

“Then why doesn’t the kid come home even once? I’m telling you, girl, they lost this kid. They can’t tell anyone because they don’t want to be disgraced. Two missing persons cases in an apartment building! There could be no explanation except for jinns!”

Meltem ran, stepped up to the third floor and knocked on the door. It was a weekday, so there was no one in the apartment at the time. There was only the fourth floor left. A very old woman named Ayşe lived there, she owned all the flats in Sefa Apartment, and she used to live on rental income. Her ears were hard of hearing, she even barely understood the things the apartment superintendent’s wife said, so it was impossible for her to hear any rattling at nights. “Come, girl,” she said sadly, “I’ll make you some coffee. And you tell me what happened.”

The house was full of stuff. Show cabinets with trinkets and crystal plates, row of paintings on the walls, seats decorated with lace… Meltem was on the end of a single seat in the living room. A few minutes later, Mrs. Ayşe, whose silver-colored hair was overflowing with cheesecloth, brought a silver tray and put the smoking coffee in front of her guest.

“It’s been going on since the day we moved in,” the apartment superintendent’s wife said, looking at the bubbles on the coffee.

“Knock-knock in the middle of the night… Just like someone’s walking. Someone lives inside our walls. My husband, supposedly the one who in charge, has no interest in this matter. So I thought I’d ask the neighbors if there was a problem and let’s spray.”

“Don’t do that!” said Ayşe. “You become a murderer.”

Meltem could not understand this sentence and looked at the upstairs neighbor’s face in surprise.

“Have you talked to the other apartments?”

“I did. The teacher on the second floor said some very strange things. Seda’s child Doruk, did not actually go to England. He’s missing. Two missing kids in a building! Though… It is not necessary to take into account the words of a charlatan.”

“Three.” said the old woman, whose shoulder had collapsed with the weight of the secrets she knew.


“Three… Three children are missing. By the way, do you know what crime this impostor Ümit is guilty of?”

Meltem’s eyes glased up. “What did he do?”

Ayşe made grimaces. “Ten years ago, he was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months in prison for ‘sexual abuse of a child through molestation ‘.”

“So… The third missing child…”

“No,” said the old woman. “Our charlatan has nothing to do with the events in this building for the time being.”

Meryem took a deep breath, she was looking absentmindedly in the foam of her coffee. After seconds of silence, “I wonder what those missing children are doing now?” she asked.

Ayşe’s voice was rotund and determined. “Are you ready to know?”

“How, I mean you… Do you know what happened to those kids?”

“Ramazan was killed by his mother when he was six months old. She beat the baby to death, our neighbor Gülümser. The sick woman, who started to beleive that whacking is love because of the whackings of her husband, was showing her love to her baby in this way.”

The apartment superintendent’s wife opened her mouth, but she couldn’t make a sound. She was horified. She even suspected the mental health of her neighbor on the top floor, but continued to listen without coloring.

“Doruk… The child was banging on the walls out of the lack of care. His parents used to go on vacation for three days and lock the kid in the room. They used to give him meal in pots, bread in bags, water in plastic bottles. And they gave him an empty bottle so he wouldn’t pee his pants.”

Ayşe rose slowly from her seat. Looking into the pupils of her guest, she said, “You think I’m senile, I made it up, don’t you?”

With the haste of someone caught red-handed, Meltem said, “No, madam, of course not!” but these were the things that have passed through her mind. “I’m just curious, not everyone in an apartment can be bad!”

The old woman walked up to the console and took a picture from the drawer. “Ramazan, Doruk… You didn’t ask about the third missing child.”

Upon the other’s silence, she said “Sıla.” She said this word sadly, as if humming a song about foreign lands far away. She gave Meltem a picture of a brunette in a high school uniform.

“Fifteen years ago, the beautiful Sıla was living alone with her mother in your current apartment. She wanted to be an architect. She used to spend the weekends with experienced architects and used to try to learn the job early. She found the constraction plan of this apartment. She learned that the building was designed with an elevator, but due to lack of budget, the elevator could not be built.

One day, after school, she was raped. This neighborhood full of ignorant people, they declared Sıla a bad woman. They took advantage of this incident because they were jealous of her youth and hard work. They couldn’t say anything to her face. Then they threw up the indecency of their hearts. Sıla was embarrassed. Not from herself, of course. She was ashamed of the potential for evil in human societies. One day we searched the earth and the sky but couldn’t find her. We found out later that she was hiding in the elevator shaft in the apartment.

Only her mother and I knew that. We couldn’t convince Sıla to get out of there. We tried to force her to go out, but all our attempts ended with Sıla hurting herself. She was trying to kill herself the moment we turned our backs. She only felt comfortable in the elevator shaft, she had the strength to live there.

In time, we had to accept this situation. Besides, the apartment space is better than the outside world where vile human beings exist, right? We met her needs. Moreover, despite disappearing, there were still people in the neighborhood who talked behind her back and wanted to disturb her. We couldn’t afford to sell the house and move away. Maybe Sıla knew what was best for her.

Yes, the voices you heard at night belong to Sıla. That’s why I said, ‘If you spray the apartment, you’ll be a murderer.’ She still lives in the elevator shaft. She’s wandering through the wall cavities. I choose my tenants specially at her request. I identify child abusers, lure these families into my building. We kidnap their children, hide them in the apartment for a while, then put them up for adoption in distant cities with different identities. My son handles this kind of thing. Sıla takes care of the children, and I destroy the rest of their families. So far, we have wiped out twenty families without leaving a trace.”

“Wiped out?” Meltem said with big eyes.

“What should I do! Should I let the people who torture and rape those young bodies live in a secure prison, in comfort, and prosperity? What we’re doing is illegal, but it’s in accordance with the laws of our conscience! Those people… They are not ashamed, Meltem. They don’t know how to be ashamed. Shame is becoming a burden on the victims’ shoulders. Even when they are drinking the poisonous coffee I offered them, I see the horror and anger in their faces of the monsters who are in the throes of death. They have no humanity, they do not regret.”

Meanwhile, the resident of the ground floor was drinking her last sip of coffee. She sprayed and said, “I didn’t do anything! I don’t even have any children!” she yelled.

Ayşe was laughing and saying, “Don’t be afraid. There is nothing in your coffee. I brought you here not because you’re a bad family, but because I’m too old and I’m going to die soon. I’ll leave the house to you. Instead of me, you will look after Sıla, summon new families and destroy old families. Now come into the kitchen and I’ll show you how to put the poison in the coffee.”

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