"One, two, three," James Brown whispered as he lay in his bed in his apartment.
"One, two three," he whispered again, staring up at the ceiling.
He gave a soft, irritated growl. This had begun happening every night, precisely at eleven o' clock, ever since the new neighbor had moved into the apartment above him. He wasn't sure how long whatever activity the man upstairs did every night lasted, but he was sure of one thing- it was very, very, very irritating. It was also just loud enough to keep James awake into the early hours of the morning. He rolled onto his left side and sighed. He knew he would, once again, be awake until his body became too tired to notice the annoying noise that his new neighbor was making and just shut down for the night. Again. Then, he would sleep through his alarm. Again. After that, he would have to rush to get ready, not have time to eat breakfast, and be late for work. Again. Finally, he would be closer and closer to getting fired. Again!
Come to think of it, James had never even seen his new neighbor. The only indication of gender he had was the name that had been recently taped onto the mailbox slot above his own, Jonathan P. Jones. He knew nothing else of the annoyance upstairs. There was no hint of age, no knowledge of where he had come from, not even the sign of where he got the steady income that was required in order to rent his apartment in the first place! It was as if the only thing the man had was his name. Along with his strange habit, of course. That was the one thing that couldn't, under any circumstances, be overlooked.
Running his hand through his thick, unruly brown hair, James rolled onto his back again to stare at the ceiling with his bloodshot blue eyes. He yawned and glared upwards, as if the man who lived above him were able to see him. How he wished the ignorant freak up there would just drop dead with one nice, final thud. Hmph. Wouldn't that be lovely? Jonathan P. Jones' life being ended with the very sound that was making James' own a nightmare. Pfft. He could only dream.
The young man looked at the clock next to his bed as he ran his fingertips across the short beard that was growing on the bottom of his chin. He scowled at the red box-like numbering. Eleven o' three. He had only endured three minutes of the seemingly never-ending punishment he had begun to receive the night Jonathan P. Jones moved into apartment 507. James then wondered if any of Jones' fifth floor neighbors were as annoyed as he was. Surely the noise had to be even more unbearable if you were living next door to him rather than under him, right?
After a few moments, he sighed. Trying to think about how he was more fortunate than the residents of apartments 505 and 509 was somehow not working to help him ignore his current situation. His bloodshot eyes continued to stare upwards at the ceiling as the sound continued.
Thud. One, two, three. Thud. One, two, three. Thud. One, two, three. Thud.
James groaned and rolled onto his stomach. He rested his head on its right side and folded the pillow over his head to block his ear. All right. The sound was slightly muffled now. How he wished he could use ear plugs. If he didn’t have to rely upon an alarm clock to wake up for work, ear plugs would be the perfect solution to his problem, now, wouldn’t they?
This is getting ridiculous, he thought angrily. Why did that insane, nocturnal freak have to move right above my apartment? Why couldn’t he choose apartment 609? Mark from 607 is a freaking alcoholic. He’s passed out by now, anyway! James sighed angrily and flopped onto his back again, dropping the pillow and glaring at the ceiling. He was half tempted to pull the “grouchy old widow” trick and jab the ceiling with a broomstick to let the neighbor know he was being too loud.
The brunette didn't know how long he stared at the ceiling while steady rhythm of the racket above him continued on. He was growing even more tired by the second, and eventually couldn't even keep his eyes open. Thud. One, two, three. Thud. One, two, three. Thud. One, two...
James opened his blue eyes and stared at the glowing red numbers next to him.
"Crap!" he half-shouted. It was seven-thirty. How many times did I hit the snooze button?! he thought. I don't even remember doing it! He quickly sat up and ran to his closet. He pulled on a pair of black pants and a light violet button down shirt after half ripping off his pajamas and changing his boxers. He would have to shower when he got home. He threw a pair of strawberry Pop Tarts in the toaster and ran back into his room, digging in the top drawer of his dresser for a pair of socks.
The young man sat on his bed as he pulled his socks on and forced his shoes over them, not even bothering to untie them. He quickly ran into the bathroom and smeared on some deodorant before running a comb through his messy brown hair. He then turned and ran out of the bathroom, grabbing the Pop Tarts out of the toaster and his keys off of the table. Finally, he locked his apartment door and ran out, closing it behind him.
James dodged people, mailboxes, street lamps, and cars as he ran down sidewalks and across streets to the office where he worked. Wheezing and hardly able to breathe, he drug himself to the employee lounge, where he punched in. He sighed and rested his forehead against the wall after he looked at the clock. He was five minutes late for work. Again. After resting there for a moment, he walked to his cubicle, still slightly short of breath, and sat down in his chair.
After what felt like days, the lethargic James trudged out of the building. He had narrowly escaped the sharp, deadly claws of unemployment by lying to his boss and saying that he was having rough times with his family. It wasn't exactly a lie if his father died three months ago and he was still a tad upset, was it?
The tired man walked to the small café on the corner of his street and sighed as he stood in line. He yawned and looked around until he was first in line. He ordered his favourite coffee, caramel with skim milk and no sugar, and then paid for it when he received the hot cup in the small cardboard jacket. Carefully carrying it out, he breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that the next day was Sunday, and that he could sleep in.
He carefully took a sip as he entered his large, brick apartment building. Pulling the set of keys out of his pocket, he walked towards the mail room. He set his warm cup on the small wooden table in the little room and singled out the smallest key in the set. He slid it into the tiny golden lock on his mail box and opened it before pulling out the small stack of white envelopes inside. Tucking them under his arm, he closed and locked the mail box before grabbing his coffee and exiting the mail room.
James joined a few other residents that he didn't know very well in the elevator and pressed the fourth floor button. He sipped his cup of coffee before looking around at the three other occupants of the tight space. To his left was an elderly man who looked on the verge of keeling over as he rested his shaking weight on his thick black cane. His soft brown eyes stared blankly upward at the numbers that slowly lit up as each floor was reached. The elevator stopped at the number two, and the old man shuffled out, narrowly escaping the closing door.
To James' right was a mother and her son, who couldn't be more than five years old. Both had a deep tan complexion and extremely dark hair and eyes. Neither of them moved or spoke as the elevator slowly continued its ascension to the third, and then the fourth floors. All three passengers exited the small elevator and walked in opposite directions down the long hallway.
Fumbling with the keys with one hand, James looked at the ceiling above him as he heard steady footsteps pass overhead. He then jammed his key into the lock on his door and unlocked his apartment. He kicked his black shoes off at the door and closed it, resting his coffee on the small end table.
Flipping through the mail, he walked to the couch and sat down, switching the envelopes with the remote on the table. He turned the television on and surfed through the channels in a bored manner. Not finding anything interesting on, he turned to the news channel and started watching a story about Gina Something being attacked, beaten up, and hospitalized by Terri Something Else because of what seemed like boyfriend drama. He let out a slightly frustrated groan. The news seemed to be taking Jerry Springer's job of exploiting peoples' stupidity and quarrels over relationships. Boring. He yawned as he began to feel his eyelids grow heavy and set the sleep timer on the television for half an hour. He laid across the worn grey couch and yawned again, rolling onto his left side and closing his eyes.
James opened his eyes and looked around.
Medium blue eyes narrowed. You've got to be kidding me, James thought. It's waking me up now?! This is the last straw! I don't get enough sleep because of him, and I almost got freaking fired today because I'm always late!
The young man stood up and blinked a few times to wake himself up fully. He looked at the clock and scowled. Precisely eleven at night. The same time the noise had been starting since that Jonathan P. Jones had moved in! He opened his door and walked into the hallway. Knowing that the elevator would wake someone up, James turned left to take the stairs.
He opened the stairwell door and turned the light on. He waited and blinked a few times for his eyes to adjust to the light. After he could see fully, he angrily walked up the first flight of stairs to the small square landing. He turned the corner and sneered when he saw the fifth floor door above the second half of the stairs. He felt his blood boil slightly, knowing his foe was past that door and down a small stretch of hallway.
James stared at the door a little before walking quickly up the stairs. As he reached the top step, his foot slipped. He reached for the railing and missed as he tumbled down the small flight of stairs down to the landing. There was a sickening crack as his neck broke, killing him instantly.
James Brown would never have to worry about losing sleep, being late for work, or unemployment again.