tilly with the others: part 25

Tilly didn't have to work the next day. She didn't have to go out for groceries. She didn't need to check e-mail. She didn't need to houseclean.

She stayed in bed, telling herself that she didn't even have to get up at all, for a whole extra hour before she admitted to herself that it wasn't doing any good.

She was going to have to do some research on the "hostiles" for the Others today.

The Others hadn't told her anything about the hostiles, and Tilly wasn't sure she'd recognise them if she did wind up confronting them. The Annex was a very pleasant, friendly neighbourhood, far more friendly than the suburbs had been, but that didn't make its residents immune from the infamous Toronto prickliness. She could just as easily wind up annoying a regular human and report on the wrong person.

And there was the question of when, and what excuse she could give for wandering around the hallways... Tilly sighed, got up, made herself get washed and dressed, and had a cup of tea for breakfast. She sat at the dining room table so that she faced the front door.

She could hear the mother from down the hall taking her children to school, talking to them in Spanish. Something about having all their books on them, she could make out that much. She heard the children's answers fade and then stay at the same volume. They must be waiting for the elevator.

A man's voice joined them, or else maybe a boy and a man... no, it was that teenager who lived at the opposite end of the hall from Tilly. Poor thing, his voice was breaking and simply wouldn't stay broken. Tilly liked him. He was always polite when she met him in the elevator. He lived with his father, and Tilly had never been able to find out if the mother was dead or just not present.

She could hear the father now as well, and then the elevator door chime. Right, everyone was going to work and school now. So now wouldn't be a good time. Even if the floor got quiet, no-one would be around to report back on until evening.

And dinner-time would be bad, because people were just as likely in this neighbourhood to eat out as to stay in.

And after dinner would be bad, because lots of people went out to see films or hear bands or whatever it was they got up to.

And the middle of the night would be bad because everyone would be asleep... Tilly sighed and sipped at her tea. Maybe she was making this too complicated.

She spent the rest of the day going through the motions of eating meals, doing the dishes, and attempting to watch daytime television (which was even worse than she remembered). She was watching television, checking the clock and thinking it was almost time for bed, when it occurred to her that anyone who was in was likely doing the same thing she was, and that anyone who was out would probably be out until just after midnight.

"All right," she muttered to herself. She turned off the television and got changed for bed.

She put a more substantial nightgown on than she usually wore this time of year. Something she could be confident wasn't see-through. After checking herself in the washroom mirror against the light, she put her pink terry bathrobe on over top anyhow.

It was still too warm for slippers, but Tilly didn't like the idea of walking the outside corridor in bare feet, so she stuck her feet into the pink fuzzy slippers she'd just bought at Honest Ed's.

She walked to the front door and carefully stuck her keys in the pocket of her bathrobe. She didn't hear anyone outside, so she took a deep breath, made herself a fresh tinfoil hat, and ventured out. Earlier she had decided that if anyone saw her, she would claim she was putting out the garbage and the hat was to protect her hair while she gave it a hot oil treatment.

The apartment building was L-shaped. Tilly lived at one end of the L. She shuffled as quietly as she could down the hall.

Most people were watching television. In point of fact, most people were watching the same television show. Tilly made a mental note in case that meant anything.

The couple whose unit was right beside hers had the television show on a bit louder than the norm, probably to cover up the loud sex they were having. Tilly rolled her eyes and wondered why they didn't just go to the bedroom if they didn't want other people to hear.

Past the elevators, she could hear the teenage boy and his father having an argument about homework.

The next three units were quiet. Tilly noted that there weren't any visible lights under the door.

Maybe the dark, quiet units were the ones housing the hostiles, because there didn't seem to be anything at all of interest going on.

Tilly trudged back along the hall, this time sticking to the wall opposite the one here unit was on. Just before the elevators she came upon the garbage disposal chute. Under that door, she could see a crack of light.

Odd. She'd taken out the trash once in the evening and checked for a light, but hadn't found one. Maybe it was recessed into the ceiling.

Tilly opened the door slowly, half-expecting to find another tenant inside, dumping garbage, but the closet-like room was empty. The light source wasn't the ceiling, but the gap between the chute door and the edge of the chute.

Tilly tsked to herself. The building supervisor was constantly leaving things in disarray during times when he figured no-one would be using the common facilities. Then he'd forget about putting things back in order until someone complained.

She pulled open the chute door expecting to see that the chute was partially dismantled for maintenance, or that he'd left a worklight on while he was adjusting the compactor, or.... or something. The man needed a secretary, she was sure.

The light was so bright it blinded her, but wasn't so distracting that she didn't notice the voices that started babbling excitedly. She let go of the chute door and ran back to her apartment, locking all of the locks behind her.

She stood panting in the dark for half an hour, standing behind her triple-locked door and peering out of the peephole whenever the halls were especially quiet. When she finally convinced herself no-one and nothing had followed her, she crumpled up her hat and put herself to bed, not daring to use the bathroom light while she brushed her teeth.

Tilly didn't let herself fall asleep until the dawn made the bedroom pale and visible. Whatever it was, it had seen her full on.

And all because she'd paid attention to that damn pizza order.