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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

the Custodian

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-07 - Updated: 2009-10-07 - 1482 words - Complete

Bandit padded silently down another stretch of hallway in this strange place, wary of every doorway and opening he passed.

Somewhere along the way he had gotten separated from Max, and had nearly been surrounded in a blind alley. Surrounded by those creatures that walked around on two legs like humans, but whose scent was sweat and fear and spent adrenaline, like his human companions’ body odor when they hadn’t showered in a while. Only much worse. And, underneath that primal b-o there was an undersmell more like that of the dead animals he sometimes came upon back in Paradise. Everything about them was just unnatural.

It was only after a harrowing chase through narrow, confined areas that largely hindered his speed advantage that he finally eluded them by bounding up a series of containers and ledges before they could completely surround him. The creatures, of course, started climbing after him, so he was forced to jump into an open window on one of the ledges. From there, he was able to press his speed advantage, bolting down various passageways.

Deeper into this foul place. Though he had left his pursuers far behind him by now, he also had no idea where Max was. Now he was all alone here. First there had been his mercifully brief experience with the alien, sterile atmosphere of Tranz-D, where everything smelled wrong and the whole place seemed to hum like a thing alive. Then there was the Mall, where he was bombarded by all new smells, but had quickly discovered most of it only smelled good on the surface; underneath, it all smelled rotten. There was also a vibe to that place, which he was so indescribably elated to finally get away from.

This place was like the Mall, only more intense. Just the feeling from the surface, from outside, was almost enough to make his fur stand on end. But Max and his human friends insisted on going in anyway, and now he was discovering just how much worse this building could be on the inside. The intensity of it made his time at the Mall seem like a warm-up for this place by comparison. He wanted out, but he also wanted to find Max, all the while resisting the terrible desire to just curl up in a corner somewhere and hide.

This was another Jungle, only here the hunter had become the hunted.

Right now, he was following a scent, the only human scent he had encountered since losing Max. He could tell it wasn’t Max, but at least it wasn’t one of those shambling things from before. For now, it was all he could do to focus on this one thing, to keep moving forward.

Around the corner, Bandit found the human he had picked up on earlier.

Baggy denim cargoes, untucked t-shirt, earphones hanging around his neck, and a hat that— could Bandit make anything of the strange symbols that his human friends seemed to rely on so much— read Harken Facilities Services. The young man stood about halfway down the hall, in front of an elevator door. Next to him was a cart loaded with a mop bucket and other cleaning gear.

The custodian stood before the door, arms folded, foot tapping, a bubble nearly as large as his face in the works. So absorbed he was in whatever he was thinking about, he never noticed Bandit walking up and sitting behind him for a moment until his bubble finally burst. When at last he did notice, he jumped back against the elevator door with a cry of alarm.

“Whoa!” he finally managed. “What the hell are you doing here?” Then he paused for a moment, saying, “Um… Hi, kitty!” as if remembering his manners, “You enjoying the night air?…”

Another long, awkward pause, then the custodian walked up to the big cat, and Bandit let the young man pat him on the head; could tell from his scent, as well as his aura, that this one was alright.

“Yeah, you’s a good kitty!” he said in a high, chirpy voice, scratching Bandit behind the ears, right where it always hit the spot. “You scared the hell outta me, little guy,” he confided, “then again, maybe you’re not so little, now that I think about it.

“People gettin’ in here left and right tonight, my friend. First one of them just falls asleep in the hallway, then that dude who was being hassled by bums, then the wankers actually broke in, now exotic pets…”

He paused for a considerable moment, just staring at the panther.

Then, “Black-and-white cat… about the right size… Dude! You must be the cat that guy was looking for!” After another pause, he said, “You’s Bandit, isn’t you?”

Bandit perked up at the sound of his own name.

“Wow! And I thought that guy was just pullin’ my leg about your size! What kind of kitty are you?” Resuming what he was doing before, he pressed the elevator button again with an impatient sigh, then said, “Unfortunately, I don’t know where your friend went, or I’d take you to him.”

He looked above the elevator door, watching the numbers descend, then stop and go back up again. He jabbed the down button again, muttered, “You come back here right now! Damn thing’s got a mind of its own…”

He had to argue with the elevator, but he slowly worked it back down to his own level. It stopped on one floor for a long moment on the way, and the custodian stared at it with resigned disgust while he waited. When it finally arrived, he pushed the cart aboard, and Bandit tagged along. It was cramped inside, and he barely squeezed in between the man and the cart.

“I hate that color,” the custodian muttered, trying not to touch the dusky orange-painted walls. “Gives me the screamin’ hoodoos. Reminds me too much of a scary story I read once. Hell, I need to quit this temp bullshit and get a real job…”

He pulled out a knot of keys from the long chain clipped to his belt, inserting one into the keyhole in the elevator controls.

“This is the only way to the top floor, kitty, otherwise the button doesn’t work,” the custodian told him. The two of them rode on in silence for a couple floors, then he said, “There’s the abandoned wing. Glad that’s not on my run…” and shuddered.

Of course, Bandit entered the elevator only because the custodian seemed to know what he was doing. Fast decided this human should thank his lucky stars he couldn’t see what he saw. Other colors that hurt both his eyes and his mind.

This elevator was wrong, even compared to most of the rest of this place.

“This one always makes me a little nervous,” the custodian told him, blowing another bubble, “but good gum helps take the edge off. I mean, what can I say? There was another elevator around here that started acting up like that, and one day it just crashed. Shoulda quit this job as soon as I found out I was hired to replace that poor schmuck…”

They made it to the top without incident, and the custodian pushed the cart into the doorway, then let Bandit slip past him.

“If I let that door close behind me, I’ll have to chase my gear all over the building,” he explained. “I wish I knew where your friend ran off to— I’m lousy with names— but he said he was also looking for someone else. Maybe I’ll run into him, too. Well, the only thing I can think of to help you…”

He dug out his keychain again, unhooking a ring with only two keys on it, each marked COMM. He bent down, attaching the key ring to a strap on Bandit’s pack.

“Those are the keys to the building’s intercom system. Spares anyway,” he told the cat, patting him on the head. “If your friend knows what to do with those, they might help him find his friends. It’s almost time for my break, but for now I’ve gotta get back to work. You know, exotic creatures like you technically aren’t allowed in here, but I just can’t help it. Well, good luck finding your friend, kitty.”

With that, the custodian resumed pushing his cart down the hall on this level. After meeting this strange young man, Bandit found he felt somehow less afraid in this place. Seeing as how this human wasn’t of any further use to him, Bandit set out again.

Yes, this place could be creepy, but he was sure that if he was with Max again, everything would turn out fine.
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