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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

The Book of Fate

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-04 - Updated: 2009-10-04 - 2849 words - Complete

For Shades, minutes stretched out like hours as he paced the room; even stopping for a brief bite from his backpack bounty did little to calm him.

Ever since he first faced up to the grim ramifications of his new life, he had started putting together a personal lockpicking kit, for Arthur had loved to tinker, and his old friend had shown him a few tricks. Though in the intervening years he had perfected a few techniques of his own, the door’s very design, with a metal plate, prevented him from using any of them. He tried shooting the plate, the hinges, the place where the lock was supposed to be, but his shots left only black scorch-marks, causing no real damage.

Though he doubted it would work against something solid enough to shrug off laser fire, had even tried kicking the door with his best back-kick, and hardly even rattled it. That same technique put multiple holes in the walls, but beneath the sheetrock was always stone wall on all sides. Once he had seen Master Al, and other, more advanced students, bust cinder blocks with their fists— could even break a couple himself with a good kick— had even seen one accidentally damage a brick wall in a demonstration, but the stones of this room looked as thick as castle walls. There was no furniture in the room, so he had no way to get at the ceiling.

All the while, wrestling the irrational idea that heavy footfalls, like the kind that had spooked him that night working on the Bermuda Triangle paper, were going to come barging in and when it did, he wasn’t going to like it one little bit…

For a while, it got so bad, he whipped out his Cam-Jam and listened to some music for a while in the dead-end room to calm his nerves. He had lots of different playlists for different occasions, and had selected one consisting of more mellow, relaxing tunes, the kind of thing he might listen to back at the Mall in order to help him go to sleep.

Only to find, when he dozed off for a little bit, that it had worked a little too well. Even leaning up against the wall next to the door— the side the door didn’t open on— power pistol in hand, so he would have the drop on anyone who barged in, catching them from behind before they could turn on him, he was still alarmed that he had fallen asleep so easily in this place. After that, he got back to his feet and started pacing to wake back up again.

As he listened to the hollow thump of the floor as he stomped back and forth, it occurred to him that perhaps the answer to this dilemma was right under his feet. Starting at one corner, he began tearing up the carpet with his pocket knife. The carpet was tacked down well, so it was slow going at first, but after a few minutes, he had pulled up the greater portion of it, revealing a wood-paneled floor.

And, upon closer inspection, a trapdoor hatch.

“Gotcha!” Shades hissed.

Much to his surprise, after everything else, the hatch wasn’t even locked. Not that he was complaining. The trapdoor itself weighed more than he expected, but he was able to heave it up.

Below was a narrow stairway. He had to admit, it looked pretty spooky down there, but this looked like his only chance. Starting down, and trying to pay no mind to how much the steps creaked, he whipped out his flashlight and descended into the darkness below.

It was a long trip to the first landing, and the whole way there, he tried not to think too much about what he might find at the bottom. This whole business reminded him of the basement of an apartment they lived in for a while back when Dad was stationed in Alaska. There was a big, white door at the bottom, and when he was a kid, all he could think about was that spooky door from The Twilight Zone. The other kids in the neighborhood used to dare each other to go down there.

At the bottom was a door, and though it wasn’t white, it still reminded him too much of that door for his taste, yet he opened it anyway.

Beyond were more stairs. Nothing to do but proceed. After what he guessed was a comparable distance, he found another door. Where the first one had been plain wood, this one was blue. It was beginning to look, he reflected bitterly, like he was going to end up seeing the Harken Building’s basement anyway.

Wondering just how deep these stairs went, he came upon a green door. He was beginning to wonder if this was some bad campfire joke when he reached a yellow door. Deeper and deeper he went, past an orange door, then a red door, then a purple one, then black.

Still more stairs. The farther he descended, the more he thought about that door, the door none of them ever accepted the dare to pass through alone when they were children. Realized that he felt as if he were seven years old again, trying to figure out why he was so nervous. He got his answer when he found a door at the bottom that looked nothing like the others.

This can’t be good…

Unlike before, this door was taller and wider than the others, and the landing more than just standing room. The whole thing made of dark wood planks, with fancy black metal bars. Across the top-most strip, something was ornately inscribed, but it was too swirly for him to make out.

“Abandon all hope?…” Shades trailed off, deciding that his last crack wasn’t very wise, or very funny, in this place. He had no more idea what it was supposed to say than he knew how far down he had gone by now. Having nowhere else to go, he took a deep breath, then got it over with and opened the door.

He had read of so many eerie experiences over the years, his imagination was running wild in the couple seconds it took to push the door open. He wasn’t sure exactly what he expected, but what he got was a large, stone-walled chamber. The room itself was bare, save for a massive podium, with a pair of tall candelabras topped with candles burning bright green.

Now he knew he had truly stepped out into the Unknown.

That color alone made him want to search for another way out. Yet upon the podium sat a book. A very large book. Helpless against his own fascination, he crossed the room for a closer look.

Up close, the book was even bigger than it appeared, nearly three feet wide, four feet tall, and well over a foot thick. Making it the largest book he had ever seen. Something, perhaps morbid curiosity, compelled him to open it.

The cover was totally blank, and on the front page was printed a strange symbol, or rather a bizarre, eye-bending melding of symbols that didn’t quite sit flat on the page. Just trying to look straight at it hurt his mind in a way that was hauntingly familiar, like something half-remembered out of a dream. There was something he seriously didn’t like about it, so he quickly turned the page.

On the next page was a single word: FATE.

No author, no table of contents, no foreword. He flipped to the next page to find that this volume got right down to the point. The format was simple: a list of names, accompanied by a short blurb about how they were supposed to die. They all seemed totally random, listed in no particular order that he could discern. Incredulous, he rifled through several pages, hoping not to see any names he recognized.

But he did. On one page:

BLACK, JUSTIN— will die impaled on a stick (Murder / Revenge)

“Gotta warn him…” And then wondered how. First, he would have to find him in time. He didn’t have to think about it for long to be vexed by the book’s format; it never mentioned when these people were supposed to kick the bucket.

Unable to stop himself, he read on, flipping to random pages. Along the way, he found some names that jumped out at him. As if some unseen hand had guided him to them…

AREMAC, ALEXANDRA— will die from falling a great distance (Trap / Sabotage)

CLEO— will be killed by an old friend (Accident / Death By Misadventure)

VANDENBERG, MAXIMILLIAN— will be killed by a formidable opponent (Fatality)

Could that be our Max? Shades wondered.

TRYON, JASON— will be eaten by spiders (Trap)

ERIX— will die from falling a great distance (Death By Misadventure)

Shades was struck by the fact that this fellow apparently had only one name, just like Max. And, as if pondering such things somehow summoned it:

MAX— will die by the hand of an unknown enemy (Assassination)

“So he really doesn’t have a last name…” Not that he had ever really doubted his friend, but it was just strange actually seeing what appeared to be independent corroboration like this. Shades wondered what manner of unknown enemy the passage was referring to. And assassination… meant that someone would be hired to kill him? Does he even have any old enemies? Or is this somebody we have yet to meet?

Just one of those times he wished his friend would tell him a little more about himself, he concluded as he read on.

FLETCHER, JESSE— will be killed by an old friend’s old enemy (Murder / Mistaken Identity)

In the midst of his bleak ruminations, he happened upon the worst possible name he could.

DOE, JOHN— will kill himself (Murder)

“Not you…” Shades whispered, feeling the full weight of the guilt and shame of that night. Even as he despaired over what he could possibly do to save his old friend, he was struck by one odd point of that entry that confused him. Will kill himself… and murder… How could it be murder? Shouldn’t it be suicide? Not that either possibility appealed to him. Is this a riddle or a typo?

Still he read on, fearing what else he might find.

SPENCER, CHASE— will be killed by a hungry mob (Ambush / Murder)

And somehow, he was pretty sure that was Kato’s Chase that was written of. Wondering if it mentioned George or Kato anywhere, he read on, hitting on a name he never would have dreamed he’d come across, and a grim conundrum almost as baffling as John’s entry.

ADAMS, CARLOS— will never wake up (Nightmare)

Archenemy or not, he found he still didn’t wish any such thing on him. That, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know how a nightmare could kill someone. It set his mind on a less than reassuring track for the next name he spotted.

O’CONNOR, AMY— will wake up dead (Trap)

“Please, no…” In spite of his unsettling dreams on the subject, he had kept trying to tell himself that she at least was alright. Safely back in Lakeside, and either pissed off at being stood up, or worried sick about his disappearance, he would gladly settle for either one. This worried him greatly. Not knowing where she was, or what was happening to her, any more than he did John, only made it worse.

Yet he found he still could not stop digging.

BERKOWITZ, GARY— will get run over (Ambush)

QUINN, ASA— will be eaten alive (Prey)


“Don’t call me Dexter!” Shades muttered at the book, already dreading its pronouncement.

—will die a terrible death (Torture / Punishment)

That’s it. I’m outta here. At first it seemed that he might keep hunting for every name he knew, but the chill that ran up his spine at this final listing, of actually seeing his own name, was enough for him. Shades took a deep breath and closed the book. This is creepin’ me out…

His thoughts ground to a halt as he turned to leave, seeing something that chilled him still more. He was not sure how long he had been reading, but the chamber had changed drastically since last he looked up from the book. Now moss grew in every corner of the room, the stones of the walls appeared aged and slightly rusted, cobwebs draped from the ceiling.

Now there were skeletons leaning against the walls in chains.

“You have read from the Book of Fate…”

The disembodied voice’s words were a statement, not a question. Only a few paces in front of him, a spectral flame materialized.

“…And you shall spend eternity here for it, Interloper…”

As the voice continued, it coalesced around the growing flame. And as it expanded, it began to take the form of a blazing figure. In light of the flaming ghost’s words, Shades couldn’t stop thinking about those skeletons, perhaps others who had dared to read of the book?

“You cannot escape—”

“Oh-no-you-don’t!” Shades bolted for the door, seeing it slowly closing out of the corner of his eye. He barely slipped through as it slammed shut solidly behind him.

His sigh of relief was brief, though. Even as he searched for a lock or a latch of some kind, a transparent flaming hand reached right through that ornate door as if it didn’t exist. It nearly grabbed his shoulder before he took off again.

He raced back up the stairs, slamming the black door behind him. For all the good it did; the flaming ghost passed right through it, as well. Shades didn’t even bother wasting time or energy on the other doors as he came to them.

Purple, then red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and wood. The flaming ghost, so slow-moving at first, was picking up speed. It was only as Shades began to tire that he remembered that at the top awaited a dead end.

He was still wracking his brain trying to figure out how he was going to deal with it when he reached the trapdoor. Only now it opened into a wide spiral staircase. His legs were beginning to feel like stretched-out rubber bands, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep this up. And to make matters worse, the flaming ghost was catching up, slowly but surely; it seemed that the harder he ran, the closer that fiery hand came to him.

Shades very nearly stumbled when he abruptly came out on level ground. A few steps later, he instinctively ground to a halt, feeling his feet curve over an edge. Ahead he could see nothing but pitch-blackness.

And the flaming ghost behind.

“You have an easy choice, Interloper…”

Shades wheeled around, nearly losing his balance on that precarious precipice, to see the flaming ghost just a few paces from him. Glowing red eyes gleaming with a hunter’s satisfaction. Cornered, he nearly fumbled his power pistol bringing it to bear against the burning apparition.

For all the good it did— as he feared, his shots passed harmlessly through it.

“You can either go back with me…” the flaming ghost continued, unfazed by Shades’ attacks. Then looked beyond him, into the darkness. “Or you can take the easy way out…”

“Look…” Shades began, trying to figure out precisely where to begin, “I didn’t know the book was forbidden—”

“The easy way out is not as easy as it looks…” it said as it took a step toward him, gesturing to the void. “It is bottomless…”

“And what if I don’t want to go with you?” Shades demanded. “Can’t we talk this out?”

“You have no choice…” was flaming ghost’s toneless response. “Only cowards take the easy way out…”

Took another step toward him.

“Come, we can work something out…”

Advancing a step at a time.


“What do you mean, no?”

“Exactly what I said. What part of the word ‘no’ don’t you understand?” Shades didn’t trust this creature, not after reading that entry in the book. And he was not about to let this mysterious being take advantage of him. That was exactly what Max— and Master Al before him— had warned him about, what he had been doing all this time. Frozen on the spot. “You can call me a coward all you want.”

“Come…” the flaming ghost said menacingly, moving closer, closer. Reached out for him with a wildly burning hand. “Before I take out that option, as well…”

With the thing’s hand almost upon him, there was no time left to decide. As they had done so many times before in his life, his feet decided for him. Before the flaming ghost could catch him, he reflexively stepped back.

And fell into darkness.
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