Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 09 - "The Building is Hungry!"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Shades vs the empty room

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2009-03-05 - Updated: 2009-03-05 - 1390 words - Complete

There was a point at which Shades was sure Max would hear him if he called out, but now he was not so sure even Bandit would hear him.

He originally intended to explore each fork before, yet had already covered more floorspace than this building could possibly occupy, at least based on its exterior. Now, as he made his way back to try to catch up with Max, his ordinarily keen sense of direction deserted him as he tried to navigate his way back past all the forks he had passed on his way. At first, he kept telling himself it was just the architecture, but he was increasingly certain that he had never seen some of these forks before, blind corners or no blind corners. That, and though the Harken Building had an abundance of windows on the outside, he hadn’t seen a single one in here.

It was starting to remind him of the Mall. He had encountered a similar phenomenon there, but nothing on this scale. That, and that sense of being boxed in by walls, both visible and invisible; he was beginning to fear he understood why people who entered never came back.

“Some rescue this turned out to be…” Shades muttered to no one in particular, not liking the sound of his own voice breaking the silence. Not that there was anyone around to hear it. Who’s gonna rescue us?

To think he had felt such an enormous sense of relief to no longer be spinning his wheels in that mall. Out of one maze and into another… Exactly what he was afraid of to begin with. And as far as their chances of finding and helping one another in such a vast area were concerned, they may as well have waited outside.

He could just about scream. This place was about as much as he could handle as it was.

Just kept telling himself it was simply the way it was designed, but that failed to dispel the feeling that he was not alone in here. And that wasn’t counting those he knew had entered the building lately. It didn’t help that he kept spotting hitchhikers out of the corner of his eye, just like the one(s?) he saw that fateful night.

“You’re messing with my head, aren’t you…”

Talking to the building. This place is getting to me. He wasn’t sure he wanted to believe he had actually said that out loud as he wondered what he had gotten himself into.

This was like wandering through one deserted building after another, surely much bigger than the entire block the place sat on. It made him uneasy, more so the longer he kept on. The more unreal it felt. The how and the why of a place like this, he suspected, were probably irrelevant on this plane.

At last, he gave up on trying to find his way back to the stairs, or the entrance for that matter, and concluded that he would have to focus on finding his own way out. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he just couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that no matter how far back he went, that entrance would no longer be there waiting for him. Just couldn’t help thinking that this maze of hallways was somehow rearranging itself behind his back.

At first, he tried comparing it to the Mall, but the more he saw of it, the less similarity he found. For a while, he was at something of a loss for anything to compare this to, out of all the bizarre tales he had read years ago. Until he remembered the Winchester Mansion. A house that was never finished, its owner adding on new rooms for some reason he couldn’t quite remember.

Then it hit him: evil spirits. He had once read of houses with doors and stairways leading nowhere, purely for the sake of confounding ghosts and evil spirits. This place had that same haphazard feel to it, of rooms and halls and levels tacked on, seemingly at random. He had no clue if it was of any use against spirits, but he had to conclude that it sure as hell seemed to work against the living.

Had to admit that he was totally confounded.

For a little while, he thought about putting on some tunes. But each time he raised his headphones, it dawned on him that even though it would drown out the subtle noises of the building, he would also not be able to hear anything else that might be going on around him. Felt an inexplicable urgency, a need to catch important sound cues, though for what, he had no idea.

His current hall ended in a door that opened on what appeared to be a cafeteria, dimly lit by the failing, guttering light of dying fluorescents. A line of coffin-like tables folded up neatly against the wall gave this chamber all the feel of some institutionalized mausoleum. Reminding him of childhood and adolescent conversations, deals, threats, and other transactions. Off ahead and to his right, his eyes stopped at the fading gloom behind the lunch counter, to the dark kitchen beyond.

I don’t like this…

His first impulse was to turn around and walk away, but something inside of him refused to back down from an empty room. He could feel unseen eyes following him as if he were a new transfer student or something as he made his way through. Strode quickly, but purposefully. Never let yourself look lost… he remembered Master Al saying on the subject of self-defense. Sensei’s voice carried on: …Not in a place like this. It can play terrible games with you, man…

Shades, of course, already knew the kind of games public schools could play.

Trying not to think about how this expanse of floor could seem so exaggerated just by his unease. Kept telling himself that now was not the time to be creeping himself out. Yet he found he just couldn’t help it; all that came to mind was pictures he had once seen of the Winchester House, or else of one of those places built to ward off evil spirits, images of spectral figures wandering lost among passages leading nowhere…

His footsteps echoed all too loudly for his taste, he just never dreamed that a short walk of twenty or thirty paces could seem so long. When he reached the door on the other side, he kept his sigh of relief as silent as he could. If it had been locked, he concluded as he pushed it open easily, he felt that would have been a sure sign of a trap.

Shutting the door solidly behind him, he wondered what had made him think of traps. Were there any traps in here? As he walked down the next hall, he figured there had to be some reason why all those people checked in and never checked back out. Perhaps they simply lost their minds or something after wandering around long enough.

Once he was farther away from that dark room, he felt safe. Relatively safe. Yet away from that eerie cafeteria, where all those nonexistent students’ presence still lingered, he felt increasingly ashamed of his own nervousness in there. He was sure Max wouldn’t let it bother him. His friend, though younger than himself, displayed a stoic courage, and an enthusiasm that gave him his mysterious ability to walk into unknown circumstances with a confidence he had never seen in anyone else.

Along with an immense sense of relief at having helped himself, and his friends, with their comeback against NK-525, he had also experienced a sense of victory, a rush that almost perfectly resembled what he imagined it would be. Hardcore. In spite of the fear clawing at the back of his mind like an alarm, it made him wonder if maybe he did have what it takes to be one of Max’s tribe. To still feel a desire, deep down, to face the challenge of the Unknown. Just as Max seemed to have been doing since…

Since when?

That was a good question. He vowed that someday he would get Max to tell him about his past.
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