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The young woman had just moved into her apartment.
Her name was Amy, and she had a husband and a little girl. During the daytime the husband went to work and the girl went to school, so Amy was usually alone. There wasn’t much for her to do at home besides housework, since the only other resident of the building that she knew was the landlady, Mrs. Ross. Mrs. Ross lived on the top floor apartment, by herself. She was an ugly, unsociable woman with crooked yellow teeth and long, bony fingers. Since Amy would much rather wash dishes or vacuum than talk to Mrs. Ross, she usually spent her afternoons in dull loneliness.
One day, Amy had a large, heavy load of dirty clothes to be washed. When Mrs. Ross had first sold her the apartment, she had given Amy permission to use the washer and dryer in the basement for her laundry. This was quite handy, since Amy and her family lived on the first floor, only a staircase up from the basement.
Clothes hamper in hand, Amy walked down the stairs to the basement. It was pitch dark, and smelled of something very old and very slow. But Amy was a brave, intelligent woman, and it took more than the lack of light and a musty odor to frighten her.
Once Amy entered the basement room, she felt along the wall and found a light switch. She switched it on, and a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling flickered once and then shone dimly. Amy walked across the room to the washer and dryer, which sat there like two large, shadowy animals.
As she loaded some shirts into the washer, Amy got the sense that she was not alone. She tried to shake off the feeling, but it wouldn’t go away. Taking a deep breath, she turned around. The room was empty. But there was still that feeling…that sense of eyes watching her, a sense of large, dark, piercing eyes. Amy felt like the eyes were looking at her from a certain direction…there, that far left corner.
She stopped loading the washer and took a few cautious steps toward the corner. The feeling was stronger now, even though there was nothing she could see to prove that anyone was there. As Amy walked right up to the wall, the boring gaze was overwhelming. For some reason, she looked up. Something small and white was stuck to a loose beam on the ceiling. Amy stood on her tiptoes and reached towards it, pulling it out of the wood. It was an old Catholic holy card, the kind people give away at funerals to commemorate the person who has just died. There was a little picture of Jesus on it, and a short depressing poem. The thumbtack that had been keeping it on the beam was rusted, as if it had been there for a while.
Amy stared at the card for a while and then stuck it back in the place where she had found it. She walked back up the stairs to her apartment, the musty smell in her nose and the feeling in her heart of the dark eyes watching her disappear from sight.
Over the next few weeks, Mrs. Ross began to act very strange. She could often be heard pacing and muttering to herself up in her apartment, and her mood towards others was even more distant than usual.
One day, Amy was talking to a neighbor over the back fence out in the garden.
She hadn’t been meaning to gossip, but Amy said, “Mrs. Ross has been acting weird lately. I mean, she was never exactly friendly, but I’m starting to wonder if something’s wrong with her.”
“She wasn’t always like that,” the neighbor said, shaking his head.
“What do you mean?” Amy asked, feeling a chill quiver up her spine.
The neighbor sighed. “She was much happier before her husband died all those years ago. I wouldn’t blame her for acting so strange; it was terrible the way he died.”
Amy wanted to know more, but she didn’t want to prod further on such a delicate topic. She stayed silent and hoped the neighbor would say something more.
He didn’t. But after a moment of silence, the neighbor furrowed his brow and remarked, “Her husband, he was very tall, with dark wavy hair.” He paused, and smiled a little. “And he had these big, dark eyes that just seemed to pierce right through you.”