Nestled in the apartment network, spreading out of number ten-ten was a dead space.
It was a phenomenon every Navi residing in the complex was aware of, couldn't not
be aware of. In such a densely populated space, so many personal connections stacked atop one another, the Net World tended to mirror its composite reality. In this case, links to homepages were stacked into scaffolding towers of walkways and access points, interconnected and sprawling like a massive, multiplayer game of snakes and ladders. Deep in the tower ten stories up, a hole yawned where no Net seemed to exist at all. All paths around it appeared to stretch around a corner the eye couldn't track, and disappear, leaving everything on the other side of it curiously tunnelled and magnified. The effect persisted from any angle; any distance within the complex; any time one looked into the nothing that was #1010.
One such Navi did as Navis were wont, and talked to their Operator. In this instance, the Operator in question was the owner and manager of the complex; an unremarkable Electopian woman of middling age, she was unique amongst the residency as the only person ever to have spoken to ten-ten's owner. In such a tall tower, it was unlikely for any one person to say they knew everyone in the building, but most floors kept passing relationships with their neighbours at least, the sort of quick hello-goodbyes when you bump into each other in the laundry room, rarely more than that.
Nobody on the tenth floor had ever seen #1010's door open.
Packages would pile up at the door, addressed always to one Arch Voldt. They showed up regularly enough that everyone passing by had at some point peered at the labels, and learned the occupant's name. The door, though, remained shut to all who stood before it, for it opened only in the dead of night, when the halls were empty. Once or twice over the years, a curious neighbour had knocked on the door, for reasons only they might have fathomed. There had never been an answer, and so they left the door alone. Left the mystery of Arch Voldt lie, and returned to their ordinary lives.
The woman was standing before the door now, hand poised to knock. It hadn't changed in the decade or so that Mr. Voldt had moved in, white paint and a simple brass plate for the number. Nothing hung from the outside, nothing to indicate anyone lived here. No welcome mat; this, more than anything, the woman noticed.
Twice, in the ten-odd years since he'd moved in, had she actually laid eyes on the elusive Mr. Voldt. The first time, when he had bought the apartment and come to collect the keys. He'd been scarcely more than a boy then, she recalled, and an off-putting, uncanny child at that. He'd paid for the small suite in full, and spoken no more than the absolute minimum necessary. There had been no good afternoons or thank yous from him; the memory of that was still strong ten years later. No, he had simply collected his keys, made his nest, and then effectively vanished.
She would not have seen him again since, if not for an exceedingly late night that had her driving home in the early AM. Parking in the underground garage and hurrying to the door, she was momentarily arrested at the sight of a dark figure lurking in the corner. A man stared at the wall, sorting his recycling in the dead of night. It took her several long moments of overtired gawking to recognise this anomalous man as Archibald Voldt, a hand-span years of solitude later. By the time she'd regained her senses, he had finished his task, walked right by her to the stairway door, and left without a word. He hadn't even looked at her.
What was he doing in there, she wondered. What purpose was his, that he craved such solitude? Her hand was still raised to knock - how long had she been standing there? She gave the white door three smart raps, and stepped back.
It was so quiet.
What was she doing there? Had she herself been asked, she might not have had an answer. Officially, to investigate the dead space in the Net that everyone was swearing had to be from here. That had been going on awhile, though; surely someone else had tried to approach him before?
No answer. She knocked again, twice. They sounded obscenely loud, ringing down the hallway. Surely it wasn't this quiet everywhere in the complex! No, it couldn't be, the woman thought. Here, though - here, alone, she could start to imagine what was behind the white door, as she stood in the silence leaking through its frame.
She raised her arm once more, and was surprised to find it weak and shaking. How long she'd held it up to the door, she couldn't have said. Her heartbeat could have been the thunder god's own drum, and there was a coursing pulse in her ears she could feel
was her blood flowing in its veins, her organs excreting and producing fluid, her bones grinding against one another. She made to knock, once more...
...and ran. Fled down the halls, sprinted the stairs to her penthouse until her gasps for air drowned out that unnatural quiet. To her Navi, who hovered anxiously nearby, she shook her head and said she was sorry, but she didn't know what the problem was.
(It was a lie, though she did not know it. Deep in the same guts she'd heard clench around her own terror, she knew that whatever was containing the sound inside #1010, was keeping everything else out too, to the point of making a bubble of vacuum in the Net around the apartment. Either he wanted nothing to get in, which she was forced to respect - or there was something in that apartment he didn't want to get out)
And so she returned to her life, resigned to the reality where the door remained shut, and she was not the solution to this particular problem. The dead space remained where it was, a local mystery forever unsolved. The woman had learned the same lesson the rest of the apartment complex had long-since accepted as fact.
You did not disturb the man in #1010.