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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Chase races against the dusk

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-08 - Updated: 2009-10-08 - 1539 words - Complete

Chase was okay for a while, but as the sky began to darken, and the shadows lengthened, he began to worry.

The ground was rough, and there was no real path through it, so the going was slow enough when it was still light out. And that low-level drowsiness was creeping back. He now knew even a full nine or ten hours’ before entering the Building would be little help. The sheer size of this place defeats everyone. At last he decided that if it got much darker, he would change course and give the stone wall that continued on his right a try, though it didn’t offer much hope of anything helpful.

He imagined himself just slumping against one of those gangly trees to catch his breath. Then, of course, to rest his eyes for a moment. Just a moment, but once he nodded off, he pictured shimmering tentacles wriggling up out of the ground…

When he shook off that unnerving image, his mind instead turned back to those guys in the office maze. Despite the brutality of that battle, he didn’t really think he had murdered them, wasn’t even sure he had killed them, at least not in the way most people would think of it. Whatever had once dwelt behind those glazed eyes was long gone, in a way he couldn’t fully fathom. And the Building had somehow moved into that vacancy.

Nobody’s home… he thought, and shuddered yet again.

Chase wasn’t so sure he “killed” them so much as he finally made them understand that they were already dead. Just didn’t know it yet…

Admittedly, it wasn’t his first time in mortal combat, still he found himself taken aback how much it shocked him. He had certainly injured his share of enemies in the course of his— and later, the Triad’s— escapades, but there was only one other time he was forced to kill to survive. To his defense, the other guy had tried to kill him first, and Chase was forced to take his life in order to get out alive himself.

It was something he didn’t really like to dwell on. Neither proud nor ashamed of it; he just did what he had to. Still, his experience in the cubicles made that other fight to the death seem pleasant by comparison.

The whole mess made him uneasy, so he decided to drop it.

After a short while, he noticed that his course was moving in a decidedly uphill direction. Up ahead, he spotted crumbling stone steps leading up into a forest of not-so-symmetrical trees. It was still only twilight, and he was liking this fruitless orchard less and less the longer he was in the midst of it. Figured high ground might help, so he ascended the steps.

His pace quickened as the shadows grew longer. He could tell, instinctively, that this was a race, a race against time. That there would be no second place if he lost. Had no idea what would happen, all he knew for sure was that he didn’t want to still be out here after dark.

Indoors, it didn’t seem to matter if it was light or dark. Then again, no matter where he looked, he knew he would see the scary side of this place. Though the path he had traveled with the Triad hadn’t taken him to very many of them, he had heard tales of them, and was beginning to suspect that the world contained quite a few of these sort of places.

The thought both frightened and inspired him.

As Chase continued his ascent, the trees became larger and larger. Great hoary, mossy things of abnormal proportions towering over him. Casting deep shadows all around him. He couldn’t figure out exactly what it was about them, possibly everything, but he seriously didn’t like them.

Before long, full twilight was upon him, and it was all he could do not to break out running, and trip over one of the trees’ massive roots. Which to him looked too much like tentacles for his taste. He had just whipped out his flashlight when he stumbled out into a clearing surrounded by those ugly trees.

Though it was what was in the middle of this clearing that caught his attention.

In the midst of this blank dirt circle stood what had to be easily the biggest of these unpleasant trees. And set in the very side of its massive trunk was a plain white door with four panels. It just stood there on half-seen hinges, seemingly leading into the tree itself. Above the door, which didn’t seem to go anywhere, glowed a blue “exit” sign.

Chase wondered for a moment if this was some kind of sick joke, but his time for pondering such things was brief. It was so weird, but darkness was falling, and he was out of options. He wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of entering one of those trees, but he wasn’t sure if he could find anyplace else in time.

When he started hearing strange, indistinct noises from the gloomy forest below, that made up his mind. Throwing aside all thoughts about mysteries, he hauled open the door and saw a rude stone stairway leading underground between the great twisting roots. This didn’t look too good, but he doubted he would last long out there after dark, so he started down. The only thing that convinced him to go down was the sight of another blue exit sign at the bottom. But the door was locked, and he wasn’t sure his flashlight would provide enough light to try picking it in any reasonable amount of time.

He was about to try it anyway, when his hand stumbled upon the small silver skeleton key in his coat pocket, which that creepy shopkeep at Obscura Antiques had given him, remembering the old man’s cryptic remark that he would find a use for it in the near future. Chase pondered the key for a long moment before he made up his mind. Seemed a waste to use such a rare and useful thing so haphazardly, but if it saved his life…

Then it was time to find out if it was for real. In spite of all he had seen at Obscura and heard along the way, he was genuinely surprised when the key slid home and turned with ease. Then there was sharp, static-like shock, and a flickering spark that jumped between the door, the key, then his hand, after which the key broke in half, and the door swung wide open.

He stepped out into a gloom barely brighter than the tunnel—

“Well Chase, it’s about damn time…”

“Kato?” For a moment, he was totally disoriented as he stepped out into the alleyway next to the Harken Building, then by the fading light of the setting sun, he spotted his friend standing near the street end of the alley, hands on her hips.

“You get lost in there?” Though she was now acting cavalier about it to cover it, he could tell she was spooked by his unexpected appearance. To him, she seemed just a little too spooked by his appearance.

“What happened to you?” Chase asked. “Don’t tell me…”

“That damn building happened to me, asshole!” she told him. “I told you to wait for me! Why can’t you just stay put?”

“We got bored,” Chase replied, trying to stay as nonchalant as possible. His mind was still telling him to be on the lookout for whatever was in that forest, even as he stood safely outside the Building. This whole drastic shift left him at a loss, both looking and feeling rather sheepish as he explained, “Well, I talked to this guy…”

He trailed off, realizing that whatever lurked in that creepy orchard might come out after them. Yet when he looked behind him, all he could do was try to figure out when the door had shut behind him. Not that he cared; just seeing that door had no external handle satisfied him immensely, just knowing that “They” couldn’t follow him anymore. Still, just seeing that cryptic warning slashed on the wall gave him a strong urge to go join Kato out on the sidewalk.

“So, hat-head, did George go in with you, too?”

“Well, yeah…” Chase fumbled for a way to change the subject, finally asking, “So why aren’t you still at the library?”

“For your information,” Kato replied, grinning as if to say told you so, “it just so happens that while you were running around in that fucked-up place, I found the other two Tri-Medals.”

Chase’s jaw dropped at that last.

“But thanks to you, George is still trapped in there, along with the guys who have our Tri-Medals, so we had to go in there looking for you. If those guys don’t come back out, then what?”

“Well, um…” Much to his annoyance, he found that he couldn’t come up with an answer to that as he joined Kato’s vigil outside the alley.
Sign up to rate and review this story