There was an unfinished apartment building not far from our block. It had been there for as long as anyone could remember, a gray giant of concrete and steel looming over the neighborhood. The absence of scaffolding and workers clearly indicated that it had long since been abandoned by its constructors.
Sometimes though, I would notice small changes taking place over the building. I was walking to work with one of my friends yesterday when I brought the matter up.
"You know what? I heard sounds of construction last night." I said.
"Yeah?" My friend nodded absent-mindedly as he checked his watch. "So?"
I looked up at the apartment's outer walls, and there it was: a small patch of newly applied ceramic tiles had appeared just above one of the windows on the 10th floor, forming a sharp contrast with the crude concrete walls around them.
"Hey, look at those tiles." I said, "They weren't there yesterday, were they?"
"No idea." Came the reply. "Come on, we're gonna be late."
The unfinished apartment was something everybody had grown used to, and thus no longer warranted any real attention. The noise of construction which sometimes came at night was dismissed as commonplace in an urban environment.
Whenever I heard the sound of hammers and drills in the middle of the night though, I would sit up in my bed and listen carefully. On the following morning, I would always find that something new had been added to the apartment: maybe a patch of tiles, or a pipe, or a brand new aluminum window fashioned with tempered glass.
Many of the homeless in our neighborhood had gone missing these days, and no bodies were ever found. The local newspaper had been ranting on and on about what they called the "deteriorating public safety conditions" for weeks, calling for the government to take action. Some of my neighbors were beginning to gossip about drug dealers and Mafia members--mere speculations, nothing more.
Looking out from the second floor balcony of my house, I saw wavering light shinning through the hollow windows on the lower floors of the apartment--some homeless folks must be camping in there. It may not be a very comfortable place to sleep in, but the concrete walls at least provided some shelter against the weather. The light was muffled out as I watched, and the sounds of construction soon began to resonate through the night. I turned away with a shiver, fancying that I had just heard a distant scream coming from the abysmal darkness beyond the apartment's gapping windows.
When I pass by the unfinished apartment on the following morning, I had a hard time fighting back the idea that the red stains on the newly painted walls somehow resembled the face of a screaming man.