Monday, 24 March 2008

Brief encounter

Happy Easter!

(Gotta love it... ;))

Compared to the Easter "spacetime shift" of Jesus Christ, today's story is even more of a trifle than it would be in any other circumstances... (But that goes for practically any story, I suppose.)

There is a thread over at ATS about "spontaneous disappearances", which triggered the memory of one of the most un-memorable such events in my life. Still, I thought some might find it interesting. (I do - on those rare occasions when I remember it.)

It happened a few years ago, definitely in the new millenium.
It was the cool season (not really cold, I think, but definitely late autumn, early winter or early spring). It was just before dusk, and I was walking home.

There was a very large apartment building near my home, with a passage that I always (literally thousands of times) used as a shortcut to the street where I lived. The passage was very short and also served - rather obviously - as the entrance to the actual building; but the entrance was enclosed in a sort of glass/concrete "box" that was always locked with a key (so that the dwellers only had access to the building).

As I said, the passage was very short, so that I could always see part of the exit, i.e. the other side, when I entered it, even though it was partly obstructed by the entrance "box". (I know this may be a bit difficult to picture accurately without being familiar with the passage - or a drawing of it, at the very least - but do try. ;))

As I entered the passage and was halfway through it, I caught a glimpse of a man entering the passage from the other side, apparently with the intention to enter the building (I could tell because he went straight ahead, towards the location of the glass door; if he were going to just walk through the passage, he would have made a slight turn to avoid the entrance "box").

He was of average height (perhaps slightly shorter than average), wearing a black or dark coat. I didn't see him long enough to be able to estimate his age, but there wasn't anything particular (like a "heavy" gait) to suggest old age. I think he may have had a smallish hat on, but I am really not sure.

As I said, I caught a glimpse of him before he disappeared from my sight, behind the corner of the brick wall of the entrance "box". As such "glimpses", of people entering the building, were a daily occurrence, naturally I thought nothing of it. Besides, I was composing a little tune in my mind (as I often do while walking).

Maybe it was precisely that (the "awareness" of music, of sound) or maybe it was something else, but as I stepped out of the passage - it had taken me, as usually, some 10 or 15 steps in total to cross it - I suddenly realised that no sound was coming from the entrance door.

The entrance was at this point just behind me (maybe 4 metres), on my left side.
I thought the absence of sound was odd and turned around to see why the man was so silent.
As it turned out, he was "silent" because
he was not there anymore. 

Furthermore - and I waited for almost a minute - no lights were on inside the building. (They turn on automatically, and they would have been clearly visible in any case, but even more so in that late afternoon of a grey and bleak day.)

Where did he go?
(Needless to say, I never found out.)

As I said, it may be very difficult to understand how unusual this was without being familiar with the passage and building in question. So I'll break it down and add a few points, better to illustrate the situation:

* The passage is entirely paved with ceramic tiles (the walls, too), which is why every sound resonates tenfold.

* It is only possible to enter the building by unlocking the door or having someone "buzz" them open for you.

* The lights inside the building turn on automatically when anyone enters the building.

* The man was in the passage when I caught that glimpse of him, and was heading towards the main door of the building.

* If the man had changed his mind (or had my assumption that he was entering the building been incorrect) and simply crossed the passage to the other side, he would have passed by me. Obviously, that didn't happen.

* If he had changed his mind and turned back, to retrace his steps, I would have caught up with him or, at the very least, seen him. But there was nobody around.

* If he wanted to enter the building, he would have had to:

- unlock the door (based on my daily experience in that specific passage/entrance, that usually takes people around 4 seconds - assuming they had the key ready in their hand). And unlocking the door is a relatively loud affair in that particular passage, as you can imagine, if you've read its description.


- call and wait for the "buzzer" to open the door.
(And in that passage, the "buzzer" resounds like the trumpets of Jericho.)

But, being the self-skeptic watchdog that I am, I assumed, just for the sake of the argument (with myself), that he somehow slipped in faster than I could have imagined.
(Perhaps the door was - uncharacteristically - unlocked? I actually went back, into the passage, and tried to open the entrance door: nope, it was locked.)

There are no apartments at the same level of the entrance, so he would have had to use the stairs or the elevator; in both cases, his steps would have been clearly audible. But even if he, for some reason, tiptoed or just stood there, somewhere behind the door, the light would have betrayed his presence: it's automatic.

If you now go back and review the actual daily scenario of people entering the passage or the building itself, you will, I hope, understand how unlikely - to put it very mildly - his silent and invisible swiftness was.

So... what happened?
Where did he go?

Would I be writing this if I knew?

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