Jeremy knew his new apartment was strange. The very moment he arrived from San Francisco with only a few boxes and a mattress tied to the top of his Prius, a haggard old lady wobbled over to offer him a batch full of fresh gingerbread cookies.
“You need more meat on your bones” She smiled, scraggly hands coming to pinch his flushed cheeks.
Jeremy politely accepted her offer despite his suspicions, deciding to discreetly throw the treats into a nearby trash bin as she disappeared into her house. To much of his dismay the sweet smell of gingerbread never quite left his senses. Even after taking a long shower and spraying Febreeze across the entirety of his apartment, the scent remained. Jeremy went to bed with a heavy head that night, twisting and turning through retched nightmares of witches cooking fat children in ovens. When at last he awoke in a cold sweat and decided to take a feverant early morning run, the old woman sat watching him from across the street. Jeremy waved only to be greeted with a cold and almost distant stare of hunger.
Street after street he ran, shaking off the discomfort scathing across his skin as he passed desolate houses and shops. Too much of his relief, another woman soon came into sight stopping to take several heavy breaths before jogging in the direction of Jeremy. Soon they were running side by side, exchanging quick and breathless conversation.
By the end, the woman by the name of April offered Jeremy a cup of coffee which he happily accepted, relieved to finally conversate with someone seemingly normal. Not long after he sat contently in a small chair, telling his oncoming friend of his recent move from San Fransisco.
“Where do you live now?” She asked, spoon circling lazily around her mug of hot tea.
“Some apartment on Line Street” He smiled “A weird place I have to say.”
Her eyes widened at his words “Apartment 2b?”
“Yeah. A really strange woman lives across from me”
“You have to leave” Her eyes suddenly grew stern
“What?” He laughed
“Apartment 2b is a dangerous place” She took a small sip of her tea “Move somewhere else”
“What?” Jeremy nearly stammered “Why?”
“I-” She heaved an uncomfortable sigh “a couple years ago two kids were found dead in the ovens of that apartment. Some say…they-they were cooked alive”
Jeremy’s stomach churned, hands twisting together anxiously “Cooked alive?”
“Well according to the kid’s parents that were informed of their autopsy-” She scratched her neck uneasily “Yes, they were cooked alive”
Jeremy felt sick. How was he not heard of this? “So this is the same apartment?”
“Well…” She paused “Not exactly. The apartment was condemned before being bulldozed…but many say it’s still standing”
He took a shuddering breath “What about the killer?”
“Gone. Never found, some think it was the crazy old lady”
“The one across the street?”
“Who else could it be?” She shrugged “Some say she’s even a witch”
Jeremy’s appetite had diminished by the time their conversation had ended. With a small and grateful smile, he thanked April for coffee before reluctantly making his way back to apartment 2b. All the while questions of anxiety and curiosity swarmed his head. How could an old lady cook children? Is there a reason his apartment smelled like gingerbread? Was this all a lie?
In the midst of this confusion, he failed to notice that the old woman across the street had disappeared from her rocking chair to leave only scraggily black cats in her place. At last, he arrived at the base of his apartment door, entirely unsure of whether his blistering headache was only his false imagination. With unheaded frustration, he twisted the doorknob and pulled back only to have the entire half of the front door rip off.
Jeremy stared at his hands, momentarily puzzled by the giant chunk of what he believed to be wood. But the door was to light to be wood and smelled almost sweetly. The moments after passed in uncomfortable silence before realization smacked Jeremy forcefully in the face. In disgust, he dragged his tongue across the board to be met with the only the taste of gingerbread. Something was terribly wrong.
This was no apartment at all, This was a gingerbread house. And he was the witches next meal. As if on cue a chilling laugh rang from the window, the sweet smell of gingerbread dancing around his nostrils in almost a teasing manner.
“Jeremy” She sang “I have more gingerbread cookies”
As if instinctive Jeremy turned from the gingerbread door and beelined for the car, ripping the keys from his pocket fervently. The witches voice sounded strangely softer and younger than he remembered, almost driving him to run back to the false apartment. But with a heavy breath, Jeremy managed to silence his lucid thoughts and slam the side door of his car shut, clumsily smashing his fist against the ignition.
The Prius lit to life before he forcefully pressed his foot on the accelerator and jolted forward, leaving skidded tire marks across the driveway as he attempted to distance himself from the apartment. Even when he swerved away from Line street, incredibly reckless and feverant, the laughing never seemed to stop. Soon enough his hands began to shake uncontrollably, causing him to let go of the steering wheel and sending the small car straight into a tree.
Jeremy spent the next minute trying to catch his breath and push away the marshmallow-like airbag that somehow managed to wrap around his head. When at last he emerged breathless to be met with the shockingly snide face of April he could not help but be surprised.
“April?” he croaked
“Life lesson Jeremy” she smirked “Never have coffee with a witch”