Job in hand, now it was time to look for an apartment. A clerk at the guest house happened to have a friend renting out a room for cheap.
It sounded too good to be true. Daniel lived in a three-story apartment in a gated community just up San Yue Road west of the Old Town. He was renting out a furnished room on the second floor for just 1000 rmb. There were two bedrooms on that floor, but the second one he was turning into a guest room for visitors. In essence I’d have the whole second floor. Plus, Daniel traveled for work to other provinces, often for a month at a time, during which—it sounded like—I’d have the entire three-story apartment all to my lonesome.
He asked for three months rent up front plus a one-month deposit. That seemed a little steep, but he said if I chose to leave early, he said just give him ten days advance notice and he’d refund the remainder.
When I returned to hash out the details, he mentioned that instead of turning the second bedroom into a guest room, he had promised it to a friend for a short time. This other tenant preferred the larger bedroom, but since I had come first, I had first dibs. I said I would take the smaller bedroom provided he installed a makeshift partition in the hall, so that I’d still have a private bathroom.
When I went back to pay him the money, the other tenant had already moved in to the larger bedroom. But he wasn’t keen on having to use the downstairs bathroom, so the partition was nixed.
Even though I had just taken out the equivalent of four months rent from the ATM, I made a gut decision to pay only one month plus the deposit.
The first night was uneventful. The second night I was lying awake in my bed at midnight trying to get to sleep when suddenly the door swung open. There, silhouetted in the darkness, was a tall, strange man.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hello? Who’s there?” I repeated.
The tall man let loose a guttural grunt.
Okay, I thought, I’m either having a nightmare or I’m trapped in a low-budget 1980’s horror film. There’s only one way to find out. I’ll reach for the light switch. If it doesn’t work, I’m in a horror film.
I reached to the light switch. There was none. That’s when I remembered the only light switch was beside the crazy ax-murderer grunting in my doorway.
Okay, now that we’ve established I’m in a John Carpenter movie, it’s my cinematic duty to do what any idiotic horror victim must. Get out of bed, walk toward the killer, and turn on the light. All the while saying stupid things like, “Hello? Who is that? Hello?” as the silhouette responded with baritone grunts.
I was right in front of him now. I switched on the light.
It was the Other Tenant. He was either extraordinarily drunk or sleepwalking. Either way, the light snapped him back to consciousness.
He looked at me in surprise. “Sarry, so sarry.” Then he turned away and stumbled into the bathroom.
I made a mental note to lock my door at night.
Not a bad opening page for your next book.