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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Chase and the fruitless orchard

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-07 - Updated: 2009-10-07 - 1562 words - Complete

After only a few minutes wandering among the cubicles, Chase wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take.

He kept hearing— or at least imagined he was hearing— those weird corpses getting back up and crawling after him, primeval murder in their glazed eyes… Kept glancing at the floor as he stepped around every corner. Now that he was past those shambling shadows of humanity, he feared there might be more of them about. That the commotion of their skirmish may have drawn their attention.

All of these cubicles seemed to be arranged to go in circles, and he was also afraid he might come back around to the same spot. Just seeing them again would be bad enough, but he didn’t know which thought was worse: if they were still there, or if they weren’t. Perhaps that his attackers were no longer there anymore, but awaiting their revenge deeper in the labyrinth. So, though it was not his intention, he finally did it. What every frustrated office worker, in any world, always wanted to do.

Frustration, desperation, it was with a mix of these that he kicked the nearest cubicle wall down.

Wishing he hadn’t shouted so loudly, he looked down and realized that his half-dead attackers had actually shown him a simple solution to this puzzle.

Found a shortcut through your maze, he thought, a vicious grin coming to his lips.

Channeling all of that rage, he started knocking down one divider wall after another, working his way in one constant direction. In addition to making a good workout, he decided, it would allow him to release some of this tension so he could think more clearly. After a lot of demolition, he finally found the outer edge of the cubicles. From there it was just a matter of finding a door to somewhere, anywhere.

At the far end of the dim chamber, he finally found it. Incongruous against the ultra-modern office look, the door itself was of the heavy wooden variety, with dark metal bars across the top and bottom of rough planks. Chase didn’t care much what it looked like; he just opened it.

At first blinded— but heartened— by a glare that could only be daylight. His hopes were dashed, though, when he got his first good look at his surroundings. Rather than Centralict, he stepped outside to find himself in a field.

Its exact dimensions were lost on him, for they were obscured by rows of trees running both ways. All of them forming perfect rows and columns. Though the trees themselves were mostly bare and dead-looking, there was scarcely a leaf to be found in the brown grass under his feet. The trees themselves were fairly thin— not too many years past sapling— with an equally sparse spread of branches, reaching about twenty feet high. The pungent odor of recent rainfall hung in the air, yet the sky overhead was mostly clear but drab as far as he could see.

Much like everything else he had seen in the last several hours, he didn’t like it. But he liked it better than he had the skeletons or the office maze. Just thinking about that dark place behind him, the grim battle he had fought, made him shudder in spite of himself.

Pushing the door solidly shut behind him, he resolved to keep moving forward. He now understood that this place would manage to be at least somewhat scary, no matter where he went. Part of it was just the bizarre nature of the place itself, yet even more than its constantly-changing environments, he felt that the shopkeep from Obscura Antiques was wrong. Rather than great treasure, he was somehow certain that this building hid some monstrous secret.

Wanting to shake off thoughts of the undead (or the unliving, a part of him was certain that something worse than death had befallen those doomed souls who wandered too long in this place and became a part of it), he turned his attention to the way by which he had come, the door he had exited from. At first he thought there must be some sort of mistake as he gazed upon the small, squarish stone structure set in the midst of this eerily symmetrical forest, too small to possibly house the massive block of cubicles within, feeling his legs try to buckle under him for a moment. He may not have seen that otherworldly doorway to Tranz-D, but were Kato ever to tell him about it, he would now understand all too well the mental vertigo it could induce.

The inside is bigger than the outside…

Looking right and left, he saw, about two hundred yards either way, high stone walls, by which he somehow knew he was still inside the Building.

Straight ahead were trees as far as the eye could see. Figuring that any way was as good— or as bad— as another in this place, he started that way. Anymore, he had no idea which way he was supposed to go; it seemed to make no difference. He knew not what lay ahead, but he had seen for himself what was behind him, and he wasn’t going back.

After a few paces, Chase paused, hearing a creaking sound behind him.

He only needed to see the door swing slowly inward out of the corner of his eye before he broke out running from the little building with a horrified cry. Got about ten yards before he looked back again. But before he could see anything clearly, he tripped and fell flat on his face.

“Shit!” he hissed.

Rolled over, scuttling backwards, trying to get a good look at something he probably didn’t want to see.

Yet he saw nothing. No ghouls. No zombies. No monsters.

Just the door to that tiny building hanging partway open. He sat there for a long moment, sawed-off disrupter rifle trained on that entrance, deciding that at least he could bottleneck whatever came out, pin them down in the doorway. As he looked in, it dawned on him just how dark it really was in there. Half expecting to see red glowing eyes glaring out at him from the gloom, something, it really made him want to go back and shut the door.

For a moment, at least, then he remembered that to close the door would mean to go back. And he didn’t want to go anywhere near it. Jumping in spite of himself at the vision of shimmering tentacles reaching out and dragging him back into that darkness, he wanted only to put as much distance between himself and that door as possible. After another moment, he hauled himself to his feet and took off at a brisk pace.

And frequently looked over his shoulder.

It was the only bad part about his interest in the Unknown, he reflected, at times like this his curiosity was too compulsive for his own good. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t convince himself that door had opened all on its own. Still, he was pretty sure ghouls couldn’t come out in broad daylight anyway.

Could they?

In all that whole struggling for his life, he hadn’t exactly gotten around to asking them about it. Or course, while ghoul was the term that came first to mind, and not some other foul creature of the night, he wondered why he was so sure they were really something else. Perhaps the experience of being in this place escalated over time, which he suspected was true, but he wondered if something else also happened to those damned wanderers, a fate he was sure they didn’t deserve.

Though he was fairly confident that he was safe for now, as long it was still light outside. Yet the trees themselves just didn’t inspire confidence. Having open sky over his head should have been encouraging, but the walls off in the distance seemed to silently testify that he was still inside the Building. Its true scope was quickly becoming apparent to him. A voice in the back of his mind seemed to ask, But isn’t everything inside the Building?

So this is how it starts… he realized through quiet panic. First it spooks you, then it scares you, then it starts planting creepy thoughts in your head. A scrolling marquee in his mind’s eye that read: The Building is hungry! over and over. If the Building is alive, could it be hungry?…

“Quit fuckin’ with my head!” Chase screamed. At who? The Building?

He knew he had to find a way out here soon. Or he believed he would also end up like those guys back there. His most recent experience made him worry all the more about George. Made him wonder if Kato would ever find out what happened to them. He was already beginning to think that perhaps what happened to them might be the fate of anyone who challenges the Harken Building.

Then his fiery resolve returned.

“Not to me…” he muttered, fishing out that odd key he bought at Obscura Antiques, strangely certain it might be his trump card here in this place of mazes and locked doors, and pressed on, deeper into that dead orchard.
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