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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Shades' escape a dud

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-13 - Updated: 2009-10-13 - 2062 words - Complete

Shades, to be quite honest with himself, found he was ashamed to walk away from one spooky book, especially given how many he had read in his life, but even with Bandit as company, he still didn’t like the vibe he was getting from those passages.

Had finally had to quit reading it in this environment. Was simply reading too much into it. Could “the book’s tomb” refer to the Book of Fate? Or was it just some creepy coincidence? Lines about things prowling abandoned places, and talk of black-and-white movie shows, especially those creepy old horror flicks, made him wonder exactly what was more real than they could know. And if he really wanted to know, himself.

And that word. Fate.

He never really liked the word itself. Its implication that all the major plot twists in his life were preordained. Then again, he had escaped from his own prescribed fate. So far.

In that spirit, Shades climbed up onto the shelves and opened one of the windows lining the ceiling on that side. Though near the ceiling, it was a basement window, and he could see the bottom and tires of an old school bus, with weeds poking out through every chink in the pavement. It was a narrow fit, and he had to shove his backpack through first, but he slithered through himself. Much like a cat, if Shades could fit his head and shoulders through an opening, the rest of him would fit as well. Like the cat he was, Bandit slipped through quite easily.

As he crawled to his feet, Shades could smell dirt and plants, and the oily odor of the bus, and it brought back a flood of memories. But the fact that he was out here was proof that he had found a new way to avoid the Flaming Ghost. He looked up to see an open sky over his head, and for a moment he wondered if he hadn’t just found a way out of the Building.

Yet when he looked around, seeing that walls surrounded him on all sides gave silent testimony that he was still inside. Again the maze had folded itself up around him, even out here. Clearly, the Building was determined to keep its occupants inside.

After all, it’s hungry, you know…

Shades shook that thought off, and Bandit shook himself free of dirt and grime as he climbed out of the window. It was the jingling sound that caught Shades’ attention, the jingle of a pair of keys hung on his harness. Reaching down, he pulled the keys off the harness to take a closer look.


He wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, or where his feline friend got it from, but he got the odd feeling it might just come in handy. Standing back up, he wondered what a bus was doing in such an enclosed area. Then he saw the garage door in one of the walls. But he knew that would just lead back into the maze of doors; what he needed was a way out of that…

It was then that he realized the bus itself was the key. Unlike the flat-front models he used to ride to school when he was a kid, this one had a protruding hood. Climbing up onto it, then easily onto the top of the bus, and from there he found an easy jump to the closest roof edge. And Bandit followed him effortlessly. Now from here he should be able to find his way back to the street back in Centralict.

Or so he thought.

Just when he was thinking he could escape, worrying about how that would involve leaving Max and the others behind, yet how perhaps if he found a way out, he could find a way to help them find it, too, he saw it. Once he stood up and got a good look around, he saw the endless— not to mention streetless— maze of rooftops that stretched out before him, and saw that his escape plan was a dud. There were narrow alleyways running between some of them, dirty and dingy and abandoned-looking. It was disorienting to be looking from on high after climbing out of a basement window.

Shades decided that it was better not to think about it. The inside of no building could possibly be gargantuan enough to fit all of this. Yet here it was. Just another example of this place’s mix-matched… Warp Architecture. It was as good a name for this phenomenon as any other, as far as he was concerned. And to think he had once thought the Mall would be better, easier to hide in, if it were infinite in scope.

After seeing this… “I take it all back.”

All those rooftops, and he was still only at the middle levels of it. Though that creepy poem mentioned nothing about this, it still reminded him of it. Especially those alleys, so eerie and brooding. Leading to places whose names would never appear on any map from his own plane of existence.

If he thought those alleyways looked like something from the set of a horror movie from above, he liked them even less when he found no other way to go but down a fire escape. Once down below, Bandit seemed more uneasy than he had ever seen Max’s companion before. Kicking trash out of his way, Shades found it tough to figure out where to train the power pistol. His narrow range of vision made him feel more claustrophobic than he ever had in his life.

He had already made up his mind to take the first way back up that he could find, when his own apprehension was ratcheted up another notch by Bandit’s abrupt pause. The big cat just stopped, sniffing the air. After a moment, Bandit started growling.

“Hey Bandit? What’s wrong?…”

Before Shades had any time to be frustrated by his travel companion’s inability to speak English, Bandit bolted, racing back the way he came. Shades didn’t bother calling out, just took off with him. Unfortunately, he didn’t get more than two or three turns before he lost Bandit altogether.

“Dammit! Bandit!” Shades stumbled to a halt, wishing he knew what to tell Max. Something had definitely seized Bandit’s undivided attention, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to stick around to find out what. At times he got the distinct impression that cat knew what he was doing more than anyone else in this crew. “Now what?”

As Shades stepped forward, he nearly tripped over a backpack lying on the ground. At first terrified it might be Max’s, he was unspeakably relieved when he realized he couldn’t place it. In fact, it was all dusty and frayed, and looked as if it had lain there for years.

Farther ahead was another fire escape, even a trashcan to stand on to reach it. He picked up the pack, deciding to seek higher ground to avoid whatever it was that had spooked Bandit. To be someplace safer before he dared to stop and take stock of things.

Now that he noticed it, in addition to the backpack, there were other random items strewn across the ground in the immediate area, what to him seemed to be signs of a grim struggle. This only further increased his haste as he made for the ladder. Found himself glancing over his shoulder until he was over halfway up, and then just because he could no longer see anything useful down below from above that height.

Looking back down, he could see how truly grim and foreboding that area looked from above, and wondered why anyone who saw this view would dare to go down there.

On this rooftop, he found a cracked plastic flashlight lying near the ladder, and a canteen a little farther along. Then several skeletons lying around, sprawled on the rooftop in blood-stained clothes. Shades gasped, just about biting his tongue in an attempt to avoid screaming. For fear that whatever left these stark remains— quite possibly what frightened Bandit so much, too, while he was busy being paranoid about it— might hear. In the midst of these loosely ranged remnants he found a power pistol; when he tried it, he found it was out of juice. Near the ladder on the far side of the roof, leading up to more rooftops several stories above, was another useless power pistol.

Spent. Every round exhausted.

At the bottom of the ladder was yet another skeleton, its cracked skull and splintered ribs all but screaming of the impact of a full drop from at or near the top of that ladder. Somebody’s been here with the ugly stick, Shades concluded, but from the looks of the aftermath, whatever went down here had clearly happened years ago. Ridiculous as it seemed, he couldn’t get the image out of his head of these half-dozen or so skeletons simply pulling themselves back together and attacking him, like something out of a video game or a “B” horror flick, so he quickly pocketed the power pistols and made a hasty ascent.

Vowing to be more conservative with the unknown quantity of his remaining power clip as he climbed this ladder. By the time he reached the top of that one, he was tired enough to stop and actually look in the extra backpack he had lugged up here with him, a cursory look around showing him that there were no corpses on this rooftop. Keeping a wary eye on the top of the ladder in spite of himself, he found the bag’s contents mostly consisted of a moldy old jacket, some feminine items he glossed over, a power clip he decided to arm one of the empty power pistols with as a last resort, and some old foodstuffs that he was certain would be the death of him if he even thought about eating them. Otherwise, not much of use.

Until he found a pair of items buried in the smaller pocket. Each looked like a t-joint with perpendicular handles. One end of the cross was longer than the handle end of it, partially sheathing what to him looked a lot like the business end of Max’s laser sword.

Wisely pointing that end away from himself, he hit the tiny switch near the joint of the two hand-grips. And a bright orange energy blade flickered into shimmering existence. The “blade” itself was just a little over a foot long, but it allowed him to see the weapon’s true form, deciding that it was just about right.

After all, it looked just like his pair of tonfa back home.

Firing up both of them, he held them in a casual fighting stance, finding that the “sheathing” opposite the other end of the “t-bars” kept the blades flush against the backs of his arms without actually touching them. With the staff as a close second, tonfa had been his best weapon in Master Al’s class, and he had sorely regretted having to abandon the guards’ nightsticks (which were of similar design) back at the Mall. Twirling them in each hand, he executed the first tonfa kata his sensei had taught him years ago, finding the weapons’ handling very much to his liking.

Staring out at the vast expanse of rooftops, he turned them off, deciding that if they were to be of more use to him than they were to whoever dropped them, he needed to conserve power. Though they were likely pulse weapons, like Max’s laser sword, or Justin’s staff, he still wanted all available power for when— though hopefully only if— he needed it. Having some close-range defensive ability, and hopefully a regenerating pulse weapon on top of it, made him feel more confident about his chances of getting out of here as he set out once again.

His newfound hope, though, was tempered by his lingering anxiety about losing Bandit, as well as the nagging mystery of how the big cat and his human companion got separated. To say nothing of the ominous intuition that whatever scared Bandit so badly back there may have a been a clue to both mysteries.
Sign up to rate and review this story