A short story: The man laughing upstairs

The three of them were at Peter’s apartment. Peter, Eric, and George. They were spread out on his couch in anticipation for a boxing match that was coming up that evening. They all saw each other very regularly, but they were catching up on what was new.

Peter was worried he had failed his recent exam, Eric was thinking about getting a different job, and George was telling them about how his relationship with his girlfriend had recently taken a turn for the worst.

“Wait. She threatened to kill you on the voicemail?” Eric asked George.

“No. No. Well yes. But she is not serious of course.” George responded with a lack of concern. “She has a lot of spirit you see, she just get’s a little carried away. She could never hurt me.”

“Why is she so mad at you?” peter asked.

“She seems to think that I cheated on her with her sister. She is wrong of course. I spent an evening hanging out with her sister, by the sister’s invitation. I have learned since then that the two sisters have a bit of a feud. Her sister, may have told Brooke that something happened between us to intentionally enrage her. I have just tried to deescalate the situation by staying away from her. When her fiery emotions settle, I should be easily able to explain to her that nothing happened. Oh look another voicemail. I get one every couple of hours. She is very passionate.” George explained. Seeming determined that she had good intention’s.

“I don’t know that sound’s pretty intense. I wouldn’t want to get involved with a crazy family conflict like that.” Peter said empathetically.

“No No. You just don’t understand. Brooke is a very misunderstood woman. You have no idea what she goes through. It will all work out in the long run, she has a good heart. But anyway, enough of me. Do you really think Patterson is going to knockout Bronson?”

The fight was just about to start. Everything was as expected. Three good friends, just enjoying the moment. And then all of a sudden, their attention gravitated to something else. They could hear a noise in the background.

“Is that coming from upstairs?”

“Yeah it sounds like it’s coming from directly above.”

They could hear laughing. Not just your typical snicker you can hear through the wall, but hysterical laughter. The type of laughter that sounds uncontrollable, like somebody has lost control over their own body, the type of laughter that brings tears to the eyes. After the first episode of hysterical laughter, it seemed relatively normal. Sometimes people just have a good laugh, nothing worth noting. The three even found some amusement in the level of enthusiasm they could hear in the loud laugh. It lightened there spirits. But then it continued. Again, and again. It wasn’t completely non stop, there were short breaks in between episodes, but it was very frequent. Again, not necessarily unusual to hear frequent laughter, but it was the level of enthusiasm combined with how frequent it was. Most people would laugh to that degree perhaps once a month, or once a year, or a uptight fellow may never laugh to that degree in their entire life.

“Do you have any idea who that is Peter?” George asked.

“I honestly have no idea.” Peter answered.

” I still can’t believe how loud it is. If my eye’s were closed I would wonder if it was coming from right beside me. Have you ever heard any noise from that guy before? It sounds like it’s just one guy laughing. Who laughs that loud?” Eric said.

“No I don’t think so.” Peter considered the question. “At least not that I can recall. I sometimes hear footsteps or objects moving, but I don’t ever recall hearing that guy’s voice before. I agree, it sure is loud.”

“It must be a comedy.” George declared confidently.

“What?” Eric inquired somewhat rudely.

“A comedy Eric. That guy must be watching or listening to some sort of comedy. Trust me, I would know.” George explained to Eric.

“Just because your a failing stand up comedian George that doesn’t mean you have magical powers to know why somebody is laughing.” Eric responded. Both Peter and eric laughed.

“Failing standup comedian? Did you see me at Qortsville last weekend? No neither of you decided to come support your friend. I can assure you that everyone in the crowd sounded exactly like that guy upstairs.” The three of them all snickered as they could hear the hysterical laughter from the man upstairs simultaneously as George mentioned it.

“Now what you too unfunny individuals don’t understand, is that if you have told enough jokes Infront of crowds of people, their is a certain type of laughing that is exclusive only to jokes from comedians.” Eric scoffed at that.

” If you have heard it enough times, trust me you would know it it too. Now trust me, that guy must be watching comedy. Peter, are you sure you haven’t heard this guy before? Perhaps he just moved in?” George said.

“I doubt it. It’s the middle of the month, and there is a board in the lobby that lists the vacancies, and I don’t ever recall seeing any vacancies on the sixth floor since I have lived here.” Eric answered.

“Well Peter, I don’t mean to pressure you, but may I ask you a favor?” George looked over and said to Peter.

Peter just stared back at George, waiting for him to continue talking. Peter had a resentment on his face as if he expected George to ask him something that would cause him discomfort.

“Well as you know, I love comedy. I am a comedian.” George declared.

“Failing comedian.” Eric interrupted.

“hey, everyone start’s somewhere, I am getting better, alright?” George started again.

” I don’t think I have ever heard somebody laugh like that for so long. Even the best comedians can’t make somebody react that way. That man sounds like he is possessed. I have to know, or I would like to know what comedy or what comedian that man is watching, perhaps it’s a comedian I have not heard of and need to learn from him. Or if perhaps it’s one that I already know of, I would like to know which one. Like I said Peter, I don’t want to pressure you. This is your building, It is totally up to you. But would I have your permission to seek this man out and ask him what has caused him to laugh to this extent?” George asked of Peter with a tone as if this was more important than his words might suggest.

“You can’t be serious?” Eric interjected confrontationally.

“Why not?” George responded.

“Uh I don’t know? Perhaps the complete invasion of privacy. Intruding on some random guy to ask why he is laughing. Seriously? The guy has been laughing hysterically nonstop for over an hour. He is probably a madman. You want to get Peter mixed up with some maniac that lives in his building so you can possibly add fuel to your failing comedy career. What is wrong with you?” Eric said.

“Like I said you don’t get it. Peter what do you say.” George said.

Peter was slouching forward in between the two with his hands covering the bottom half of his face, he seemed to be struggling with the decision. He looked back and forth between his two friends like he was considering both of their reasoning.

After a few more moments he brought his posture back up, looked over at George.

“Okay. You can go and try to talk to him…..” George rocked his fist in celebration.

“But. Okay. But….” Peter started again. “I will come with you. And you will knock once, only once. If he doesn’t answer, we leave. If he shows any protest to us in any way…..”

“We leave.” George interrupted. “No problem. I assure you I will not offend him. It’s me were talking about. I am great with people. And since he has been laughing so much he is probably in a jovial mood. I am sure we will get along great.” George said in great spirit’s.

“Okay. We can go up after the fight. Eric will you come with us?”

“Sure. I don’t want miss this. especially if it goes bad.” Eric responded. He seemed to find the situation amusing.

The three put their focus back to watching the final rounds of the boxing match. George and Eric maintained the same spirit and continued going back and forth with each other, and Peter got especially quiet, in deep thought, and unable to pay attention to the fight as the other two enjoyed themselves. The laughing hysterical laughter from upstairs continued all the way through the fight.

The three of them were in the elevator, heading up to the sixth floor.

“I really mean it George. Don’t cross the line. If he doesn’t want to talk to us, we need to leave right away. If you cause any trouble I am going to be seriously pissed. Okay?” Peter declared in the elevator.

The three of them got out of the elevator. George walked Infront of the other two. He was a short Lebanese fellow. No taller than about five foot six. His body would waddle back and forth as he walked. Peter and Eric followed behind. Peter and Eric’s looks mirrored each other for the most part. They were both tall and thin with brown hair, although their aura was unmistakable. Peter walked as though every one of his steps could fall him into endless pit and there were infinite eyes constantly watching him, whereas Eric walked as though he could care less if he stepped on the foot of the queen of England.

They were looking back and forth between a few of the units. It was unclear which unit was the one directly above Peter’s. All of a sudden one of the doors of the units opened. A man walked out. A very big and tall man. At least half a foot taller than any of the three. He had a black hoodie on, with the hoodie up over his head. Peter and Eric just stood there wondering if that could possibly be the laughing man, but they just stood there, not in any way prepared to approach him out of the blue. The man was holding a garbage bag in each hand, he kept his head down as he walked by, heading toward the end of the hall towards the elevator. George after a few moments, started charging after him.

“Hey you.” George yelled out.

The man didn’t respond. He continued walking down the hall.

“My friend.” George once again yelled out again. This time a little closer to the man.

This time the man stopped and looked back at George. As George was still charging towards him, the man pulled down his hood and smiled. He was a very good looking, with pearly white teeth, and effortless smile. He had blonde combed over hair that had a strong contrast to his black hoodie.

“My friend.” George was now face to face with the tall good looking man. ” I have a question for you. If you don’t mind. Seriously. I don’t want to intrude on you.”

“No No. There’s no problem.” The tall good looking man responded. ” What can I do for you?” The man was still smiling, his face seeming genuine to his polite response.

George looked back at Peter, who along with Eric was now standing right behind him. He smiled at Peter to acknowledge the man was happy to make his acquaintance, and that George was not crossing the line as Peter had insisted.

“I apologize. This may sound a little strange. What I am going to ask of you.” George started. ” Are you sure your not too busy? Your taking out some garbage? Your still holding them in your hand’s, they look heavy, your arms must be getting tired, are you sure I am not bothering you sir?”

“No No. Don’t worry about it, your good. These are light garbage bags.” The man shook them around to show their lightness. ” Ask me anything.”

The garbage bags the tall good looking man was holding were clearly stained with red from the inside. Both Eric, and Peter had noticed this, they had both been eyeing them but attempting to not be overly obvious about it.

Perhaps the tall good looking man sensed this. He looked down at the two garbage bags, shook his head back and forth.

“Spaghetti. Can’t get enough of it. Got a little too overboard with the tomato sauce.” He looked down at the garbage bags again and let out a loud laugh. It was instantly recognized by the three.

“Like I said, this may sound kind of strange. You see I am a comedian. It’s my passion to try and make others laugh. And when me and my two friends were downstairs we could hear somebody laughing up here. Somebody laughing with a great deal of enthusiasm. A level of laugh that contained so much enthusiasm that I am not sure I have heard anybody laugh like that before. So as a comedian, I wanted to know what that man might be laughing about. Were you by chance the man that was laughing so enthusiastically?” George asked.

“Was it really that loud?” The man asked. He smiled, seemed completely unfazed by Georges strange inquiry.

George laughed and embraced the man immediately, patting him on the shoulder.

“Yes my friend, it was quite loud. Haha. But don’t worry about it. It means you enjoy yourself. I love to hear that. What was it that caused you to laugh like that? If you don’t mind me asking. Was it a comedy?” George looked back at Eric after he asked the question.

“Well sort of. It may sound kind of strange, but I was writing a story actually. That’s what was making me laugh like that.” The tall good looking man answered.

“You write comedies?” George got very excited. “My goodness. I am so happy I have come to meet you. Is there any chance I could read it? When you are finished of course. Could you send it me?”

“Well as a matter of fact I just finished it. But it could be kind of tough to send it to you as I wrote it on a typewriter. I am Stephen by the way.” He put the garbage bags down on the floor. Extended his hand out for a handshake.

They shook hand’s.

“My name is George. And these are my friends Eric, and Peter. It’s great to meet you Stephen.”

“nice to meet you guy’s.” Stephen said as he smiled at the three of them. Both Peter and Eric didn’t say anything. They just nodded at him with blank faces.

“I’ll tell you guy’s what, if you want to hear it, I would be happy to read it to you. It is best received to be read out loud anyway. What do you say?” Stephen asked them.

“Absolutely. We would love that.” George answered, he started looking at the palm of his right hand. “Shall we go into your place?” He ran a finger of his opposite hand to feel what was on his right hand. “I think I might have gotten some of that spaghetti sauce on my hand.” George said to Stephen.

Stephen looked slightly shocked.

“Oh no. I don’t think that’s spaghetti sauce, that might be blood. I cut my finger opening up a box of spaghetti.” he showed that he had a band aid on the pointer finger of his right hand.

“I am so sorry. I never should have shook your hand with my cut finger.”

“No No don’t worry about it my friend.” George assured Stephen.

“I will go get you something to wipe that up with.” Stephen started rushing back towards his apartment door. “I am so sorry.” he yelled out.

Peter and Eric were standing right next to each other.

“Does this guy seem a bit off to you?” Eric whispered quietly right into Peter’s ear.

Peter turned his head and looked over at Eric with an intent look on his face, opening his eyes up real wide, looked right at Erics face, and nodded. His face was undeniable. He needn’t say a word for Eric to understand how Peter felt. The two just stood there. Not looking at each other. They were both looking forward at red stained garbage bags Stephen had left behind.

“Unfortunately I only have one roll of paper towel, and it has blood all over it. I will roll it out and it might be clean in the center.” Stephen said after he had come back into the hall.

His roll of paper towel was indeed covered in blood. Somehow so soaked in blood you could hardly see a single spot of white on the entire surface. He started unrolling the paper towel all over the floor. Peter and Eric looked in bewilderment as Stephen continued to do this for what seemed like a especially long period of time. As he did this the paper towel didn’t get any cleaner. Eventually he was left with a empty roll in his hand, and bloody paper towel spread in a circle all over the floor.

Stephen let out an obnoxiously loud laugh for about 10 seconds.

” I didn’t realize I had bled that much. Somehow it soaked through the entire roll. It was just a little cut on my finger haha.” He stuck his injured finger out.

“Don’t worry about it Stephen.” George said all of a sudden. ” I can wash the blood off at Peters apartment. You have some paper towel Peter, right? I still want to hear that story though. How about you come down into Peters place, I can wash the blood off my hand, and then you can read the story for the three of us. What do you say? Oh and Peter your good with that right? It shouldn’t take that long. It’s not a really long story is it Stephen?”

“Yes absolutely that sound’s like a great plan. And no it is not very long at all actually. Should only take about 5-10 minutes.” Stephen told them.

“Uhm, excuse me.”

Stephen turned around. There was a a women standing there. A little 30 year old Indian women with camo shirt, and pant’s and, red sunglasses. She had a shocked looked on her face. her mouth was wide open. She was observing the bizarre scene Infront of her. The four men in the middle of the hall, circled around the pile of bloody paper towel.

“Have you seen Jennifer? Sorry I thought I saw you go into her place.” The women spoke very quietly and timidly. Like she was so shaken she could hardly say anything.

“Yes. Well not for a week. I am her brother. She is on a business trip in south America. I have been staying at her apartment” Stephen said to her confidently.

“Oh.” She seemed surprised. “I didn’t realize she had a brother. I haven’t heard from her and haven’t been able to get ahold of her over the phone. The Yorkson’s are on tonight and she usually comes over and we watch it together. So I was wondering were she might be.” The lady said nervously.

“Yeah she is going to parts of Brazil were there isn’t cell reception. She told me to not bother trying to call her. She will be back in a couple day’s, I will let her know you were asking about her. You are?”

“Christine.”

“Okay. I am Stephen.”

“Okay. Nice to meet you.” She said timidly and walked slowly back into her apartment looking back at them multiple times.

“Okay. I will take this garbage out and I will head right down there. What unit are you in?” Stephen asked.

“504.” Peter answered reluctantly.

The three of them were back in the elevator.

“And you thought Peter had a mad man living above him.” George broke the silence. “I can’t wait to hear that story.”

“Do you have any idea what you have done?” Peter blurted out to George. In a manner and tone foreign to anybody that knew peter.

“What?” George didn’t understand.

“Do you have any ability to see anybody’s red flags?” Peter was now yelling. He realized how loud his voice was and he took a deep breath and regained a more level tone.

“A madman? Yeah have you ever seen one before? Because you just made friends with one. And you invited him into my apartment! You son of a bitch. You could have at least invited him into your house and let him murder you, but of course you have to drag me into it. You don’t even care to know if you have my permission. You just do these things and act like everything is all jolly and good, and never think about anyone else’s perspective or of the consequences. Do you even care if I was okay inviting him into my place?”

They stepped out of the elevator and stopped Infront of Peters door.

“Peter I am really sorry. I can’t believe how upset I have made you. But I did ask you for your permission, you didn’t say anything so I thought it was okay. And murder? Why are you talking of murder? Stephen seemed like a nice guy. A fellow comedian.” George said very sadly, Peters rage seemed to really bring down his spirit.

“What am I supposed to say right Infront of the guy? You call that asking permission? I usually try to not upset maniacs, okay. I just hope my friends are good enough to not invite them into my home. And don’t worry about why I am concerned about the guy. Clearly you don’t get it. Everyone is a good person to you. Your judgment means nothing. Even Eric said he seemed off.”

Both peter and George looked to Eric for his opinion.

“Well…” Eric seemed unsure what to say. ” He definitely seemed odd. I would definitely say that, and the blood and the laughing….”

“It doesn’t matter.” Eric interrupted. “He’s not coming into my apartment. You can wait outside and tell him I am not feeling well. Eric you can come in, or leave or whatever you want. But he is not coming in. No chance.” Eric explained, completely enraged. If he wasn’t trying to control the volume of his voice he would have been screaming.

“Come on Peter….

Ding. The elevator door opened.

Stephen was standing there with his story in his hand, and a smile on his face. He stepped out of the elevator and approached the three.

“Come on! 5! 6! 7! 8! 9! one more! 10! Yes!”

The lady slammed the barbell back onto the rack and rose up from the bench. She was clearly a big strong women. Standing nearly 6 fit tall with big broad shoulders. She had pretty blonde hair and a face that seemed to mirror rage no matter her mood. Psyched up from the bench press she gave a violent high five to her friend that was just spotting her and counting out her reps. Her friend grasped her hand in pain from the high five. She was a very small women by any standard, and completely dwarfed by her bench pressing friend.

” That was a new record right!” The smaller lady yelled out in excitement.

“That was nothing!” The bigger women said still psyched up. “I’m going to do 12 this time!”

“No rest. Come on. right now. Get ready to spot again.”

The smaller lady happily got back into position to spot her friend on the next set. Although by her appearance she didn’t appear capable of providing any assistance if needed.

The bench pressing proceeded. “1! 2! 3!” But was suddenly interrupted. They could hear laughing all of a sudden. HAHAHAHAHAH

Hysterical laughter. The type of laugh you almost never hear. It appeared to come from the floor directly above. It sounded like at least 3 men were laughing. But from one specific man most of all. The noise of the loud laughing man seemed to be coming from the heating vent on the wall. They could just barely hear the other men’s laughs, but the laugh coming from the vent filled the whole 1 bedroom apartment like it was coming from a speaker.

On the fifth rep the lady rested the barbell on her chest. The smaller lady grabbed at the barbell to help her friend pull it up, but the lady bench pressing tugged it back on her chest.

“Wait.” The bench pressing lady ordered to her friend who followed her orders and stood their with a confused look on her face.

The bench pressing lady continued to hold the barbell at her chest, and looked to at the air vent like she was listening to the laugh that was coming out. She moved her head back and forth, and mothed words looking like she was unsure of something.

“Bastard.” She yelled out.

She grunted and pushed the weight off her chest, slammed the barbell back on it’s rack, got up, and stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door without saying a word.

She went to the elevator and smacked the up button with fury.

The elevator opened, it was full of people, She was about to enter.

“Sorry we forgot something we have to go back down.”

The bench pressing lady stood there, looking at the group of people with enough rage to ignite them with just her eyes. As the elevator was almost closed, she could hear someone laughingly say “sorry” like they found her rage amusing.

She proceeded to kick the wall. and pace back and forth like a raging bull. After about 3 minutes of waiting, her rage once again ignited. She was done waiting. She looked to her left and saw a door indicating it led to the staircase. She went over to it, and kicked the door open, nearly knocking the door off of it’s hinges. As she walked through the door she had to step over a man who was knocked to the ground by the door being kicked open on the other side, he was covered in popcorn as the popcorn bag he was holding spilled everywhere from the impact. The bench press lady said nothing to him as she stepped over him and made her way up the flight of stairs.

She took the door to enter the the fifth floor. As she started making her way down the hallway, she saw three men exit the door of one of the apartments. They seemed to be in a great mood, they were all laughing about something.

“Why would there be a goat in an karaoke bar?” One of them said. Their laughter ignited. The question was not answered.

The bench pressing lady stopped right Infront of the men. George looked up at her. He was in complete shock. The bench press lady looked at him with so much rage her face might have exploded. She was clenching her teeth like she might say something but she was so enraged she couldn’t find the words. She was a head taller than George.

“Brooke” George said to her. You could hear the weakness in his voice.

He opened up his arms for a hug, and smiled at her. After a few moments of not seeing a change in Brooke’s face, and getting a clear look at the fury in her eyes, the anxiety returned to Georges face.

“Brooke. I am sorry.” His arms were still held out for a hug, but his voice was trembling.

Brooke headbutted George, knocking him straight to the ground. She jumped on top of him and to attempted to strangle him. Luckily Stephen, and Eric were there to stop her, along with Peter who heard the commotion and came into the hall, along with multiple other neighbors who came out of their apartments, most of which were needed to keep Brooke separated from George as Brooke’s fury did not dissipate for the entire 20 minutes it took for the police to arrive and take her away.

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