Based on a true story: In a dismal place, sinister things lie in wait for two brothers treading a gloomy stairwell.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Downstream condominiums, Malaysia, 2004. Talk about a condo that had significantly more units than people. Not to say that those vacant units were ‘empty’, per se. There were definitely other things lurking within those ‘empty’ places. Walk up to any random resident and they’ll always have a story to tell about disturbing noises coming from their inexistent neighbors, or disembodied screams right outside their 15th-storey window, or fleeting shadows in the corner of their eyes—all sorts of strange stories along these lines. And let’s not even talk about homicide and suicide.
Living there, even if the weather forecast said the day would be ‘bright and sunny,’ Downstream was always gloomy, always shrouded under dark clouds. Every wall discolored, drab and grey and blotched with stains, creepers climbing up to windows, alleyways littered with trash, smelling of piss, flies buzzing.
And the ever so caring management at the time, made sure that the lift hardly ever worked, probably because when it did, it’d always stop on the fourth floor, without fail, every trip. Stereotypical horror style, here’s how it goes: lift stops, fourth floor, doors open and… lo and behold, that same old rusty, ‘empty’ wheelchair’s just sitting there in the dark. It’s a stereotype because these sorts of sightings have happened one time too many. For real—that’s how it went.
Talking about the dark: every fluorescent light in every stairwell, corridor and lift lobby were either dim, or flickering, or just straight-up busted. The ever so loving, caring management, made sure that the residents got only the best experience, having us all take trips through dusky, dingy stairwells and climbing all the way up to our places.
Needless to say, Downstream condominiums was one of the most haunted places my family and I had ever lived. We stayed on the 17th floor, so it was always a fun trip taking the stairs. This was all the way back in 2004 when my middle brother was 13 and I was 11. I was, and still am, the youngest of three brothers.
All sorts of stories we heard from friends in the area, and we have several of our own, but this one’s the worst yet. Here’s how it goes:
As kids, my middle brother and I were dumb enough to think that we had to take our cat for walks like a dog. So, on the day that shook our childhood, we were walking the cat. Dusk was just about setting when we decided to call it a day. Fat cat in my arms, we head back home after a round or two around the condo; took a turn into our block, caught a brief glimpse of some teenagers hanging out in the lift lobby. The lift wasn’t working—as it so frequently was—so it was strange that those teenagers were just hanging out around there, but we didn’t give it much thought. Teenagers are strange anyway.
On either side of the lift lobby are the stairwell entrances. Both stairwells were just as equally dingy because, of course, the doting management loved us so much.
From where we enter, we take the stairwell on the left, and we wouldn’t have guessed it was the wrong choice.
I’m the one holding the cat, and I’m walking several steps ahead of my brother. When I take the first flight of stairs up to the first landing, my brother’s still on the ground floor, just about reaching the stairwell entrance.
Then, for some reason, the fat cat in my arms starts freaking out all of a sudden—and he’s fat, and he’s strong, and he’s really freaking the hell out. Eventually, he breaks free from my grasp and scampers the heck out from the stairwell, all terrified, fur all standing. Right after this happens, my brother, who’s still on the ground floor, shouts my name out, so I turn around and look down at him from where I’m standing on the first landing. He’s looking up at the corner slightly behind him, so I look up at what he’s looking at.
My blood drains. I become a straight-up white dude—and I was, and always will be, a dark-skinned Malaysian dude, aside from this particular terrifying moment, I become the whitest dude in town.
So, my jaw drops, eyes widen, and I legitimately cannot feel my face at all. In the shadows of the upper corner near the stairwell entrance, I see two floating paperwhite identical faces staring straight at me. Their eyes and everything else, apart from their faces and bob-haircuts, were covered in shadows from what I see.
Absolutely voiceless, all I do is run for my life immediately. So, I’m running all the way up to the 17th floor with my brother always one flight of stairs behind me. Altogether, that’s about thirty-four flights up to our place. I was a chubby kid, and under no other situation would I have made that thirty-four flight climb at such great speed, because cardio was my greatest enemy.
But adrenaline’s thrown all pain and tiredness out the window, and I feel like I’ve been running forever, all the while afraid that we were being followed. Finally, after ages of sprinting up thirty-four flights, I’m standing before my house door.
Hands shaking violently, I unlock the door, we get inside, and we fall to the floor, our shaky legs incapable of holding us upright anymore. For some reason, we just start laughing really loudly as if we’d lost our minds—the after effect of an intense adrenaline burst, I suppose.
Once all the laughter’s done, I ask my brother what the hell that was all about. So, from his perspective, here’s what happened:
The cat runs right past him at full speed when he enters the stairwell, too quick for him to catch. When he turns to look at the running cat, something else catches his attention from the corner of his eye, the juxtaposition of pure white against deep black. Standing beside and slightly behind him were these two paperwhite, really skinny teenage twin girls, slightly older and taller than us. These girls, looking like messed up mannequins with bob-haircuts and abnormally huge eyes, stare at him, unblinking.
Ghost twins, I know: stereotypical horror, but a stereotype because these sorts of sightings have happened one time too many all around the world.
At first sight, funnily enough, my brother thought they were just really messed up twins. They wore ordinary clothes—colorful striped tees and blue jeans. And when he saw them standing there beside and slightly behind him, observing him as if confused of his presence, after a while he realized they weren’t human at all. That’s when he called for my attention, shouted out my name.
Then, he said, their necks shot upwards all of a sudden, stretched all the way up to the same level I was standing on the stairwell’s first landing, and they directed their gaze onto me. That was when I turned as pale as the twins, he says and laughs because a dark-skinned Asian kid turning pure white must be pretty funny.
And then we ran. My brother’s fear was that their necks would’ve elongated all the way upstairs, following us while we made a dash for it. Luckily for us, that did not happen.
But here’s one little strange detail: those teenagers we saw in the lift lobby, my brother said, two of those teenagers were the normal versions of the paperwhite twins.
Here’s our theory: the ‘spirits’ in Downstream condominiums, like shapeshifters, sometimes take on twisted appearances of real people. For example, I actually saw my dad’s ghostly doppelganger in our house once. Who knows, maybe another pair of unsuspecting victims might’ve seen strange versions of my brother and myself, maybe those victims were the original paperwhite twins. How funny would that be?
About a year later, we move out. 2019 comes around and we’ve made about 3 or 4 moves since then. But the last we saw of Downstream, it made a 360 change for the better—I’m talking aesthetic swimming pools, warm lights, huge guard house and all. Driving past Downstream, I wondered if the current residents are even aware of the history, or if the place has even really changed in the first place. One thing I know for sure, I’m not gonna go finding that out myself.
Aside from having a made-up condominium name and a few dramatizations and exaggerations made to such things as the setting, and the wheelchair (although the wheelchair part is mostly true), most recounts remain undisturbed—as shocking as it may seem, the description of the paperwhite twins are not dramatized or exaggerated. However, since this happened to us many years ago, for some parts, my brother’s recollection of events seems to conflict with mine. For example: who was holding the cat? I was, in my memory, but my brother insists it was him. Memories of “Downstream” seem to be suspiciously foggy.
And although I recall having seen the teenagers in the lift lobby, and my brother telling me that the paperwhite twins resembled two of them, that is where my brother’s memory fail (or mine), because he can’t even remember seeing any teenagers, and I’m starting to doubt my own memory. In any case, even if this part is fictional, it adds an interesting element to the whole story. In fact, if this story ends up popular, I’ll consider making it a novel—with many more fictional elements, of course.
Last and foremost, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it.
Follow me | Give me feedback | Keep in touch
Stay updated (spam-free) on free short stories, upcoming books and more.
*Please check your spam/trash folder if you cannot find the opt-in email