Hi there! My name is Cece Sawyer. I am Tom’s girlfriend and I have a very strange tale to tell.
It all started back when we moved into the little apartment in Victoria, British Columbia a couple years ago. Tom was always working. Every single day it was a kiss goodbye before heading out to his office to do writing, heading out to do shows with the band or heading out to clean the big building up in Saanich. He’d send me little texts now and again to let me know how things were going, and after doing some housework I would keep myself occupied with coming up with ideas or meeting the neighbours. This would usually happen when I went downstairs to get the mail or do the laundry.
There were two strange things about the building. One was how the staircase on the front of the building lead to a big empty room with plants. We live on the top floor so this room is just one floor above us. I remember when I first went up there. The room was dark so I actually wondered for a moment if I was intruding on someone else’s space.
“Hello?” I said as I neared the dark room.
It was a bit silly as I found out, turning on the light to reveal a single room on the top of the building, filled with old furniture. It was like someone had gone to a second hand store and bought everything. Big leafy green plants were in every corner. There was an old record player with one of those metal horns that you only see pictures of. There were old couches that looked like the one my Grandma had in our house on the Beecher Bay Reservation where I was born.
And there were books. So many books and old copies of National Geographic that I also hadn’t seen since being at Grandma’s house. She had them in the basement and didn’t want to throw them out because they were Grandpa’s. I recognized one of the ones that were on the coffee table in the room. I was from the 1960’s and had a big pull out map of the moon. There were issues with that classic yellow border about Zimbabwe and Nepal and the first plays in Greece. I liked reading when Tom was away so at first I would just pop upstairs and go through the books. Some of them were kept in this one shelf with a glass case and they looked very old, like they had been rescued from a sunken sea chest. I had to be very careful as I open these books as the binding was very frail and the first couple pages had disappeared.
I did this until months ago when I asked our neighbour about the other room.
Down by the laundry room, and around the corner from the mailboxes was this room or apartment, or at least a door that had no number. Over the security viewing hole, like an apartment’s door, was the word “OOG.”
To this day I’m not entirely sure why it said that, even with what I know now. Or I think I have an idea.
Anyways, I noticed after a while that I had never seen anyone ever coming in our out of that door. I was sure I would bump into someone when I carried our big, round laundry basket downstairs but it never happened. I feel a little bad about this, but one time I even dared myself to listen closely. I never had the nerve to knock or go right up to it.
So, I ended up talking to our neighbour Wayne who had lived next to us on the top floor the whole time. He’s lived there for just years and he was always going upstairs to take care of the plants.
“Oh, that’s just storage. Yeah, no-one actually lives there,” he laughed as he went upstairs with his mail.
So that was that, but don’t worry because it gets way weirder.
It was when I was doing laundry downstairs, in the big white room next to the OOG door. I had just done the dry cycle and was putting clothes on the long table under the bulletin board. Everything was going normal as I was taking clothes from the white basket and organizing them when one of the socks fell off the table and went right behind the dryer. I was annoyed of course, but more relieved it missed the garbage with all the lint in it so I moved that out of the way and went down to reach behind the dryer. The sock had somehow gone into this little square opening on the back of a dryer which was sort of hard to get to. After moving the whole dryer a little and squeezing behind there I finally got it and was about to leave when a flash of something got my attention.
It was a key. Attached to the key was a little brown wooden tag that said, you guessed it, “OOG.”
Now I know what I really should have done. I should have popped it in the mail slot in the office since it was clearly property of the building and maybe they needed it to get into the storage room. But maybe they had another key. Surely they would have noticed if a key went missing. I sat there kneeling for a bit looking at the little copper colored key and its wooden tag for a moment. I heard the click of the front door of the building close and some people talking and at that moment the key slipped into my pocket.
I gathered up the rest of my laundry and went upstairs.
With the laundry put away and everything else done, my mind was immediately drawn back to the key. I seriously tried to not think about it. That was impossible. I mean, it couldn’t hurt to look inside the little room. I mean it was just a storage room and the building manager was only here for an hour in the morning. It was already the afternoon. As long as I closed the door behind me, no one would be the wiser.
And that’s exactly what I did, my heart just pounding the whole time until I closed the OOG door from the other side and found the light switch.
It was a storage room, alright. It wasn’t just boxes but tonnes of stuff that I couldn’t work out what they were for. The room had been a large bachelor suite on the lower front of the building and light from outside crept through the white curtains into the low light from the overhead, illuminating the dust and the hodge-podge of everything from long water pipes, to sinks to very old appliances. I walked along the wall just kind of having a look. I couldn’t see anything that was really that interesting as everything looked a bit old and I didn’t want to actually take anything from the room because that would be stealing.
After all, my rule was I was going to just look. So, I was just looking.
Then I got to the door. Not the same door that I had come from but one at the corner by the front window. It was interesting to me because there was a door in the laundry room, so I naturally supposed this was going to lead back into that. It was kind of funny as the door wouldn’t really need to be there. The laundry room was literally around the corner from the front door so why would this flat need a second door just for that? I opened it and came into a hallway.
That’s right, a hallway.
It was very short and went to another door that was locked from this side. I have no doubt in my mind now that the second door is the door to the laundry room. I’ve never gone through that way because that isn’t the interesting bit. Stepping into the hallway is when it got interesting.
This is when I discovered what I have just come to call The Grotto.
For you see, between the door back into OOG and the door into the white tiles of the laundry room was an intersection of a hallway that sloped sharply down towards a blue painted door that had been left slightly open. I could not resist this. I went down and, just like upstairs…
Going inside was a like a trip back into the nineteen sixties, not that I had ever been there. What I found below what I thought was the lowest floor of the building was a fully furnished and rather extravagantly laid out apartment. There was an old fridge that was thankfully empty (in no-one had been down here since the sixties…UGH!), big raised couches that curved around like something out of a magazine, doors of beads, paintings, more books and in one room there was even blankets hanging from the roof. There was a glass ball in water that when you turned it on would turn about and put out little clouds of white smoke. There were little eves in the wall that had shot glasses from all over the world and two pistols over the couch with mother of pearl grips. There was some very expensive looking wine and family photos in the kitchen. There was this one room that was locked and so help me, I couldn’t open that one.
And the photos! The place was obviously rented by a very handsome young man back in the day, because he seemed to be in every photo next to famous people from Freddy Mercury to the Dali Lama.
It took me a moment to realize…someone was still paying for this place. Someone was paying for it but no-one had been down here in decades. I looked to see if the television still worked, like the electricity.
And this is where things got really crazy.
(To be continued!)