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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Justin vs the void

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-15 - Updated: 2009-10-15 - 2314 words - Complete

After striding up several parking levels, and finding no clue as to how many remained, Justin finally gave up on it.

At the far end of his current level he pulled open a broad double-doorway which led to a sky-bridge. As he crossed the bridge, Justin looked out the windows, seeing at first what he thought was a way to escape. Yet as he took in the dim scenery outside of the skybridge, it didn’t really shed much light on the situation, but only gave him a clearer idea of just how twisted this place really was.

He stepped over near the edge, peering through the glass. The view was both stark and impressive. The walls at each end of the bridge were all rough stone, like cavern walls. He could see nothing but darkness above, though below, by the light of the bridge, he could make out mist and jagged rocks thrusting out from below. He stared at those depths for a long moment, but still couldn’t see the bottom.

Finally, the eeriness of it got to him, and he continued on his way. Keeping to the center of the bridge until he was all the way across. When he noticed that his hand had once more crept into his pocket for the figurine, he nearly threw it down in frustration.

Still a little voice in the back of his head stayed his hand, in much the same way he believed it had saved him from potentially catastrophic errors in Tranz-D not so long ago.

Beyond was a long hallway, with light panels placed on the upper corners of the walls. He kept looking back at the skybridge every few steps until he was around the next corner. That alien landscape back there caused his imagination to try to picture things that those unsettling meat slabs in the frozen storage areas may once have looked like, and he didn’t like it one bit.

At the end of the hallways was a catwalk traversing another cavernous chamber, this one lined with storage vats and tanks. The whole place smelled strange to him, the vats filled with liquids and semi-liquids the like of which he had never seen before. And the more he examined it, the more rickety the catwalk itself looked to him.

Just as he had about made up his mind to go back to the parking garage and try another level, he heard breaking glass and a loud crashing noise from back that way. Imagined the glass shattering, and the whole skybridge collapsing into the dark mist below. Then came a rush of wind, gusting from ahead of him, pushing him back toward the hallway.

For some reason picturing water pouring down a drain, imagining this doorway as that drain, Justin started forward, not wanting to get sucked back into the hallway, fearing he would get dragged back into the misty darkness.

“Hold together…” The moment he stepped out onto the catwalk, Justin discovered just how flimsy this thing really was, and that gusting wind wasn’t helping any. Still, he could hear more jolts and thumps from back there, so he decided not to stick around to see what was causing that.

Yet as he neared the middle, the way became still more unstable, began to sink and sway from side to side. Every step became a toss of the dice, sometimes he would jerk his hand back from a section of railing that broke away at his merest touch, and one section that partially collapsed under his feet, nearly spilling him into a vat of some impenetrably murky sludge. At first, a piece of metal railing that did fall in almost seemed to float on top of it, then started smoking as it began to dissolve and appeared to melt into the vat. Even with the stiff breeze blowing most of the fumes away, the smell was still acrid, eye-watering.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit…” Justin half muttered, half coughed, as he crawled up onto a more level section of the catwalk.

When a section he had crossed earlier actually fell apart, leaving several section lengths’ worth of gap, he knew he was long past the point of no return.

The gale seemed strongest back near the door, where it nearly pushed him back into the hall, but the farther he got from it, the more it diminished. Now that he was farther away from it, it seemed to him more of a pull, dragging him back, than a push. Yet that pull was steady, and the fact that he could feel it all the way over here was hardly reassuring.

Time seemed to stretch out like a rubber band, but when he finally reached the other side of it, he couldn’t help feeling as if someone just stepped on his grave as more catwalk sections gave way. It was then that he realized he had been so preoccupied with escaping the wind-tunnel in that hallway, he hadn’t even noticed that there was no door on this side. He looked about frantically, but all he could find was a ladder.

So he started climbing, clinging to every rung as that raging wind whirled, whipping at his hair and clothes; he hoped it was just his imagination, but it seemed to be getting harder to breathe the longer he struggled. Several times he nearly lost his grip, but he scrambled on anyway, feeling as if he was now in some kind of race against time. Trying to keep his imagination at bay, trying not to picture vague, unhallowed forms crawling into the ruptured openings of the skybridge… from…

Someplace else…

Past the ceiling, the ladder continued up a narrow shaft. Remembering the push of the waterfall back in Paradise, he felt as if he was climbing against a current trying to pull him down even harder than gravity. Below, all the while, he continued to hear those crashing sounds and this only made him try to climb faster in spite of his growing exhaustion.

Just when he thought he couldn’t possibly climb another step, feared he would be dragged down to his doom by this mysterious air current, he came out onto a platform. It was small and cramped and lit only by a small bulb set in a low ceiling. At first he could see no way out, but then he spotted a circular lid above him.

Even though he couldn’t even stand up all the way, short as he was, with this low ceiling, he felt as if he was trying to breathe underwater, and even his mightiest effort couldn’t budge it.

Seeing spots in his vision, and knowing that he was somehow running out of time, he whipped out his laser staff, cutting around the edge of the lid. Glad that he wasn’t standing directly underneath it as it tore loose and plunged down the ladder shaft with a force that would have smashed his skull. Hearing it crash back-and-forth down the narrow shaft, then hit the bottom with a strangely muffled boom. Now he could feel that same suction, trying to drag him into that square hole behind him, and for some reason knew this was why it was so damn hard to open in the first place as he jumped up through the hole above.

He rolled over for a moment, certain he was going to black out at any second, but a gust of fresh air revived him a bit. It was the realization that all the air was being sucked out of this place, as well, that dragged him back to his feet, gasping for breath. His whole body felt like lead, dragging him down as he stumbled on along what appeared to be a narrow, low-ceilinged concrete shaft.

He no longer cared where it led, as long as it involved air.

Having more air to breathe helped him regain some of his strength, but in this confined space, he was pretty sure the air supply wouldn’t last long. Only the knowledge that he would die here if he didn’t keep moving kept him energized as he staggered along, often leaning on the wall for support against his growing dizziness.

At one point he stumbled, watching the little carved figurine the shopkeep had given him fall out of his jacket pocket and tumble into the darkness. Reflexively, he tried to reach for it before he realized what he was doing, stumbling and falling on his face. Since he was already down there, and since his fuzzy mind was filling up with vague premonitions about the thing, he fumbled around on hands and knees and finally found it. Stuffing it back in his pocket, he had to lean against the wall for support as he fought his way back to his feet.

He felt he was losing this race anyway, and wasn’t sure if he could even take another step, wondering if bothering to pick up the figurine might have been the worst mistake of his life, when he came to a second small box-like room, with another manhole lid above him. Focusing all of his strength, as Max had taught him, he hurled his backpack up first, then jumped, barely hauling himself out of the tiny chamber. Seeing another lid like the one before next to him, he summoned the last of his immediate strength and pushed it over the opening.

The suction slammed it tightly in place.

Justin sat, leaning against the wall, panting and straining for breath, for some time, before he even thought about getting up. It was seeing the coin-size holes in the lid, and feeling the faint shift of air being sucked into them, that gave him his second wind. The force was greatly diminished this far away, but he feared this place here might also become part of the growing vacuum. Finally bothering to take note of his surroundings, he saw that he was in a tiny room giving way to another series of narrow concrete halls.

With nowhere to go back to but his own grave, he pushed on, the exercise helping to clear his head now that he had enough air to breathe. There were few lights in this section, so he had no choice but to whip out his flashlight and proceed with caution. Power pistol held firmly in his other hand, though he hated that in such a compact space, he would have little warning if anything did attack him.

Thinking only of getting as far away from that open void as he possibly could, he paid little heed to which passages he took, pulled open one door after another, shutting them behind him in hopes of slowing down that vacuum suction a little.

Eventually, he came upon a door that reminded him of the door to the freight elevator earlier. He pressed a button, and it snapped shut with a sharp hiss. Not quite sure why, he paused for a moment, reaching his fingers near the rubber-sealed doorcrack.

Not even a hint of suction.

So he pressed on, moderating his pace so he could catch his breath, now that there was enough time and air to do so. After wandering around in the dark for what felt like hours, he eventually came to a small room with just one door. It was white, with four panels set in it, and looked a little spooky to him for some reason. It was the glowing blue sign above it that really got his attention.


Seeing no other way out, and hoping after all he’d been through that this wasn’t some kind of mean prank, he pulled open the door.

For a moment, he was nearly blinded by the shaded daylight of the alley, stumbling out into the early light of dawn next to the Harken Building.

At the street end of the alley stood Kato, and two people he assumed to be Chase and George. And, much to his dismay, no sign of Max or Shades, or even Bandit. As the others noticed him, Justin walked over and addressed the matter point-blank.

“Kato, don’t tell me…”

“You got it,” she replied, shrugging with obvious frustration.

“Anybody else come out yet?”

“See ’em anywhere?”

“Shit.” Justin was pretty sure he had taken too long getting back out, but he had also quietly hoped they would decide to wait awhile. Still, the fact that four people had found a way to escape offered at least some hope for his friends.

He just hoped they hadn’t used up all their luck on just that. Or worse, used it all up against NK-525, even before this mess. He had spent so much time hoping Max and Shades hadn’t entered the Building, it was only now that he realized he had no contingency plan for what to do if they had. Much to his dismay, all that came to mind was the thought that Max had been willing to brave the perils of Tranz-D to come back for him, and feared he might now end up doing the same for Max.

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait.” Kato turned to her friends and said, “This is one of the guys I was talking about, Justin Black. This guy’s also from the Triangle State…”

She figured she may as well swap stories while they waited. The other two were the ones with the Tri-Medals; Justin by himself was no good to them. Nothing to do but wait. And go back in if necessary. Though still shaken by her own disturbing experience, she was starting to regain her nerve. A growing part of her didn’t care how hungry the Building was.

It wasn’t going to eat her Tri-Medals.
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