I do not know what time it was, but I do remember admiring the dusk as it enveloped the skyline in an amber haze. It was a Friday sometime in the winter. I had stayed inside all day, as was my habit during those days. The first scratch jarred me out of an awake slumber…

Sorry. I have already gotten ahead of myself. I think that it is only appropriate to tell you a little about myself before presenting and concluding this weird tale. My name is Terrence. I am not unique in the slightest. I am of average height, sport an average look, and have an average intelligence. The only thing remarkable about me is my predilection for somber moods.

Even as a child, when others were chasing sunshine or playing with magnifying glasses, I preferred solitary pursuits that did not require me to leave my bedroom. I collected stamps, I studied Victorian novels, but most of all, I watched the world (and my life) go by.

To say that my humor worried my parents would be an understatement. They could not believe that their son—a product of the hardworking and reliable Henry Davis and the realistic, down-to-earth Agnes Davis—could be so inclined to melancholy. I would go to bed most nights thinking about all the nasty things that my exasperated father would say to me whenever I failed to join him on fishing trips or try out for my school’s baseball team. My mother (bless her) tried very hard to get me interested in scholastic pursuits, but she gave up when I was in high school and in danger of failing every subject.

I have been called lazy and idle all of my life, but I do not think that these adjectives fit. I do not know what I am, but I do know that I am a slave to my odd whims. That’s why, on the night in question, I was sitting alone in a rented Brooklyn apartment that had been given to me by my tired parents.

Ostensibly, I was spending a month alone in the city in order to complete my thesis on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s medieval romances. In reality, I used the apartment for nothing in particular. I sat at the wooden table in a plushy chair, or I rested on the linen couch with the white fur blanket. I read some, and sometimes I watched television. But mostly I brooded and did nothing.

That is probably why I could hear the faint scratching so clearly. From my seat at the table, which ran parallel with the apartment’s kitchen and living room, I turned around. The faint scratching continued, so I pressed one of my ears up against the bare white wall. The scratching sound was there. It was soft, measured, and clearly had no power behind it.

I crouched there with my ear to the wall for several minutes. Eventually the scratching stopped. When it did, I chalked it up to a mouse trapped in the woodwork. Or maybe another animal, like a rat or bird. The truth did not interest me at first.

The first few hours of my slumber that night were easy. Then, sometime during the early morning hours, when even the city of Brooklyn is dead quiet, I awoke in a sweat. The cause of my distress was a terrifying nightmare. In it, my mind’s eye saw a detached finger clawing from inside of the wall. It was a female finger, for I clearly saw a chipped but long nail coated in red nail polish. Fully awake, I tried to dispel the strange image from my head. Nothing worked, so I poured myself some coffee. For hours I did nothing but sit, drink coffee, and fret about my nightmare. At some point around noon, I managed to fall back asleep.

The scratching came again. This time it was louder, more forceful. In a haze, I pressed my other ear to the wall. I could hear now that the scratching came from a human source. Furthermore, I could clearly discern the sound of cracking splinters from inside of the wall. In a flash, I saw the disembodied finger cutting itself on sharp pieces of wood. I saw brownish yellow splinters digging into the hardened skin of the fingertip. I saw faint traces of blood mixing with the bright red nail polish.

I called “Hello” to the other side of the wall. I received no answer besides the continued scratching. I called out twice more. Still nothing. I even knocked on the wall. I was all alone. My only company was the growing cacophony of the scratching.

For the rest of that night, I tried to forget about the noise. I put headphones in my ears and listened to everything from Mozart to sports radio. No distraction was off limits. None succeeded, however, as I could still feel the pain of the scratching in my bones even though I could not hear it.

This lasted for two days. I tried and tried to stop thinking about the infernal scratching, and yet I failed every time. I stopped sleeping. I stopped eating. Yet the scratching continued and grew louder each hour. At some point, when I had already descended into some kind of delirium, I began to hear feminine moaning coming from inside of the wall. Like the scratching, this moaning was initially soft in character, but grew more powerful as time elapsed. At night, I could hear the moaning turn to screams of horror, with an incandescent shirk jolting my nerves and sending my brain into a panic.

In a blind rage, I removed a butcher knife from the apartment’s barren kitchen. I plunged the steel blade into the wall. Flakes of plaster rained down as the wall began to give way with ease. I dug and dug into the flesh of the wall until the knife’s blade broke, creating a shark’s tooth of an implement. I managed to cut myself in my excitement, but rather than staunch my bleeding, I raced back into the kitchen in order to find a new implement. There, at the bottom of a cluttered drawer, I found a simple rubber mallet. Looking back, I have no idea why the previous tenants had left a mallet, or why they would have had a mallet in the first place.

Putting these thoughts into the pit of my stomach, I grasped the mallet’s wooden handle and began swinging wildly at the scarred wall. I bludgeoned whole sections of the plaster and broke through to the wooden beams. Once those were cleared, I stopped and looked at what I had done. A human-sized hole—black at the center and full of dust—stood where a perfectly intact white wall had once been.

The first horror was the void. I looked everywhere for the source of my torment, but could not find anything. The space in between what had been my wall and the wall belonging to the empty apartment beside mine was devoid of anything, human or animal.

Then I looked down. That is where I found her. She was in the fetal position with her legs pulled close to her sunken chest. She was naked, dirty, and looked barely alive. Her ribs poked through her stomach due to weeks of starvation. Her breathing was shallow and irregular. Realizing that the scratching and moans and screams had been this woman’s last attempts at freedom, I ran to the refrigerator and secured some items of food. I also filled a glass with tap water. These items I brought to the unknown woman in the wall and presented them to here.

I told her drink and eat. But to my sadness she did not stir. Her eyes remained closed. I regret that I tried to forcefully stuff pieces of cheese and bread into the woman’s mouth, but her lips rejected the food. The same was true of the water. Nothing I could offer her seemed capable of sustaining her life.

The revelation only came when I started watching her left leg twitch. It was the first sign of life I had seen since discovering her. The muscles in her left leg twitched with a few spasms, then the leg began to bounce a little. The cause of this movement was no mystery, as her leg was coated in my crimson blood. Blood? Yes, blood. It was at that precise moment that I recognized that blood was the key to sustaining this helpless woman.

From that night until the morning, I fed the woman my blood. I squeezed blood from the cut on my arm, plus I opened new wounds on my fingertips and hands. I watched as her other leg moved in concert with the left one, and I even watched as her arms began to slowly move back and forth. The feeling was indescribable. I felt like I had given this woman her life back, and if nature had not stepped in, I would have bled myself dry for her.

As it turned out, I began to lose consciousness the next day. When I was lucid, I swayed back and forth. When my eyes grew heavy, I would startle myself awake with the thought of death. Despite my willingness to harm myself, I still did not want to die at that point. Indeed, I had every reason to live as I wanted to rescue the girl in the wall from a terrible fate.

How could I feed this girl? How could I provide the girl in the wall with enough blood to revive her? I thought about going out into the night and picking up a random stranger at a bar. I rejected that notion because I had never been to a bar before, plus, given my look at the time, no one, drunk or sober, would willingly come back home with me. No; I needed a different plan.

I then thought about a stray animal. The part of Brooklyn nearest the apartment was known for its stray cats, and yet I had to put this idea out of my head as well. My weak arms and battered constitution would never be strong enough to corral a feral cat or stray dog.

For minutes I sat in a soup of my own blood thinking about what to do. I racked my mind for answers, but few rose to the surface. Just when I thought of one solution, I was forced to cancel it due to obvious drawbacks.

I was left then with only one option: Fedor. Fedor was the only other person in the building at that time. I had met him by accident on the one day when I had left the apartment in order to buy a few grocery items. For some unfortunate reason, Fedor decided to tell me about his situation. Fedor revealed to me that he was an illegal immigrant from Belarus who was squatting in an upstairs apartment that belonged to his employer. When not avoiding everyone, Fedor worked off the books at a diner three blocks away. He told me that he planned on saving up enough money to buy himself a car and eventually buy himself citizenship.

I had not thought of Fedor—poor, lonely, and scared Fedor—until I realized his usefulness.

Fedor answered after only one knock.

“Hello, my friend. Are you okay?”

The look in his eyes told me that my appearance was startling. Sweet Fedor actually cared about my health.

“No, I am not. Look, could you please help me with something?”

Fedor hesitated. I pleaded my case a second time and assured him that nothing illegal was happening in my apartment. With this reassurance, Fedor followed me to my door.

“What the hell happened?” he said upon discovering the hole in my wall.

“I found something incredible. Look!”

I pointed out the prone figure inside of the wall. The sight struck Fedor dumb. He stared in horror at her, at her poor health, and at all of the dried blood that stuck to her legs, arms, and face.

“Whose blood is this? Is this your blood?” Fedor asked with his back turned to me.

I did not answer the Belarusian. Instead, I aimed the mallet at the back of his head and swung as hard as I could. The impact made a dull thud. I watched Fedor fall forward, convulse a little, then start snoring in such a way that his chest heaved up and down. This signaled that my blow had rendered Fedor unconscious.

With the broken butcher knife, I slit Fedor’s throat. The sheer volume of blood that came flowing out of his wound sickened me. However, I watched with joy as the crimson river covered the girl from head to toe. Within seconds her body began to twitch as if it had been charged with electricity. First her torso twisted, then her knees went straight down. What really made my heart flutter was seeing her eyes open for the first time.

“Hello? How are you? Are you okay? What is your name?” I peppered the wounded girl with a million questions. I regret doing that, for the shock of it all must have been too great. The trauma of her past coupled with my aggressive questioning must have sent her into insanity. Rather than answer me, the girl from the wall began screaming loudly. Her screams proved to be so loud that pedestrians passing by outside heard them and were convinced that I was torturing her. Some nameless person called the police because of the screams. They arrived as I tried to muffle the screams by placing my hand over her mouth.

That is my story. I was arrested, charged, and committed. I defended my case to no avail. Even though I sit here in this protective suit and in this protective room, I refuse to believe the doctors when they accuse me of a million awful things. No, I saved a life. They of course do not believe me. They talk about how I have always been “off.” Even my parents refuse to see me anymore.

I am a lifesaver, no matter what. A good Samaritan. I revived the girl from inside the wall. I am not just some ordinary murderer. If they could have just talked to her, then all of this would be cleared up and I could go back home to my beautiful hole in the wall.