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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

intercom: Shades' side

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-17 - Updated: 2009-10-17 - 2171 words - Complete

Shades paused in the middle of the hall once again, fingering that strange key he had found on Bandit’s harness. As he had from time to time since their parting. At times, he wondered if perhaps he should have left it there, but even if Max and Bandit somehow managed to find each other again, he wasn’t so sure his friend would have any idea what to do with it.

He, on the other hand, believed he may have just found its use.

After a few hours wandering around the “outside” and stopping to rest his legs and have a snack, he came to the conclusion that there was no exit to be found out there, and all the ways beyond where he was led back down into that creepy nest of alleyways, so at last he reluctantly went back “inside” to try to find another way. Which left him standing in front of a box mounted in the wall, the other piece of this puzzle. It was part of an intercom system. There was even a keyhole that looked to fit the key.

Perhaps it was just desperation, that after walking around in circles he was at wits’ end, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do as he walked up to it. Turned out the key did fit the slot, and he was able to unlock the intercom controls.

Unable to come up with anything else to say, he just simply called out, “Hello?…” hearing nothing but static. So he added, “Is there anyone else out there?…”

Still static.

“Anybody hear me?…” As the silence dragged out, he started rambling: “Max?… Justin?… Kato?… Chase?… George?… Stupid question…”

As if all his desperation sought escape through his lips, his voice poured out names.

“Justin?… Max?… um… Bandit?… John?… Amy?… Anybody?…”

Having run out of names, and out of wind, he released the button, letting his head fall against the intercom box. After all, he had no right to expect a response, no idea if any of his companions were near enough to an intercom to hear him. No idea if any of them was even still alive to respond.

Then, just as he resigned himself to the possibility that he might have to camp out on this location for a while if he was going to have any chance, another voice spoke up.

“Shades? Is that you?”

Shades just stood there for a moment, trying to work some moisture back into his mouth. The voice was grainy, but still recognizable.

“Max? Max! Are you alright?” His voice already gushing a flood of relief, without even knowing the situation.

“Yeah,” Max assured him. It sounded like a bad long-distance connection from Neptune, but the more he listened, the more certain he was. “Shades, have you run into any, um… strange people in here?”

“No,” Shades replied, though Max’s words brought to mind that backpack he found, that sense of a desperate flight, and Bandit’s disconcerting response to it, “but…” He just couldn’t find the words to tell him.

“Watch out,” Max cut in, and something about that warning raised the hairs on the back of his neck. “They’re dangerous. Even stun mode won’t work—”

“Max,” Shades interrupted, pulling himself together and going for the direct approach, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to tell you this, but I ran into Bandit earlier, but he ran away again and…”

“Shades, it’s all right,” Max told him as he stumbled over the words. There was something in his friend’s voice that was a little too reassuring. At least until he heard him say, “I found him again. He’s right here with me. I know you did whatever you could… Uh, Shades, why are you talking on this thing anyway?”

“Well,” Shades explained, “Bandit was wandering around with these keys hung on his harness— I don’t know where he got them, but it seems they’re keys to the intercom system here, so I thought I’d see if I could, you know, talk to any of the others…”

“Has anyone else answered?”

“No,” Shades admitted. “I’m really glad you found Bandit again, but I’m worried about Justin and the others.” Another long pause. “Max, we need a plan. I mean, you could walk around at random forever and…”

He trailed off, alarmed at the frustration and worry creeping into his own voice.

Then the silence began to weigh on his mind, and he asked, “…Max? Hey! Max! Are you still there?”

“Yeah,” Max’s voice replied after a moment.

“Don’t scare me like that, man,” Shades told him. “I don’t know what happened to you, but all the doors I open…”

He stopped when he heard his friend blurt out something like “That’s it!”

“What? Did you say something?”

“Yeah,” and Max again sounded as if he was thinking about something Shades wished he knew the rest of, “I finally remembered. The dream. Try looking for doors that pull open.”

“Max, what are you talking about?”

“It’s hard to explain…” But Max tried anyway. “The point, if I understand this right, is that if you go through doors that pull open—”

“You only have to push them open to get back out…” Shades’ finished. For some reason, it made him wonder how Amy would have fared if she had tried pulling on that door in the blind alley. The whole concept was dredging up thoughts he could have done without. “Because if you push a door open, then that means you have to pull it back to get back out again…” A trap. Then he realized. “Max, every door I can remember has been a push door since I found that damn book…”

“Book?” Max asked, in a tone that really made him wonder. There was a long pause, then, “Shades, you need to find a blue exit sign. The rest are all fake.”

“Okay.” Shades wasn’t sure where Max was coming up with all of this, but it made an eerie kind of sense, the way things did in dreams. He was stunned to realize somehow that that was how he could tell if the doors Amy took in those chase dreams were traps or not… For now, though, he decided to run with it. “I guess we’ve got a plan. I’ll try your idea of using only pull doors, and try to find one of those blue exit signs.

“And since it takes one of these keys to activate the intercom, I’ll leave this one switched on. Keep an eye out for more of these intercom boxes, and if you run into another one, stop if you can and try to get in touch with…” And he tried to swallow his doubts, telling himself that if Max was still alive, then surely Justin and Kato, at least, must also still be, as well, “with any of the others. Good luck, Max.”

He was about to set out again—

“Shades, wait.” There was something in Max’s voice that stopped him in his tracks. Then, “Be careful. Those guys I ran into… they look like people, but they’re different somehow. Don’t try to talk your way out—” His friend’s words brought to mind his near-fatal confrontation with the Flaming Ghost. “—they won’t listen. They’ll just try to kill you. I mean it. Just run. And they’re faster than they look. Whatever you do, don’t let them corner you. Just… come out alive.”

“I will…” Shades had never heard Max sound so creeped-out in all the time he had known him. When he realized that his friend was clearly speaking from personal experience, it sank in. Just how serious Max was about that warning; just thinking about that alleyway again gave him a whole new appreciation for Bandit’s reaction down there. “And you be waiting for me when I get out, Max.”

“No way I’m gonna let this thing beat me,” Max declared, in a voice that sounded more like himself than anything else he had heard in this conversation.

“I think the longer we stay in this place, the worse it gets,” Shades informed him, “so I think we should get going. Good hearing your voice again, Max.”

“You too, Shades.” Max replied.

And then he was alone again.

Shades stared at the box for a long moment, then busted the key in its lock. Afraid someone, or something, might turn it off behind him. That last exchange had sounded way too much like last words for his taste. Resolving to keep an eye out for more intercom units, and feeling even more as if he were playing the doomed character in some horror movie, he continued on his way.

All the while keeping an eye out for any of those strange people Max had warned him about. Between that grim scene in the alley, Bandit’s abject fright, and the unnerved tone of Max’s voice giving that warning, he was quite certain that he did not want to meet the cause of any of these things. Yet, given that nothing had attacked him down there, in spite of his feline friend’s abrupt departure, on one hand he was fairly sure he had avoided that particular peril, yet on the other, he somehow doubted that whatever had chased the previous owner of his new weapons was actually limited to just prowling those alleys.

His first test was the first door he found that appeared to open by pulling. He winced as he turned the knob, but once open, he saw that it led into another room. Apparently only push doors led to back to the Flaming Ghost. Adding some weight to Max’s bizarre hunch.

Unfortunately, no matter which way he went, he couldn’t find another door that pulled open. He was about to give up and camp out back at the intercom, when he remembered his new weapon. Much like Max’s laser sword, or Justin’s staff, these things also had cutting blades. Firing one of them up, he quickly carved out a chunk of wall, finishing it with a high kick.

On the other side was another stretch of hallway, leading into an area he was pretty sure he hadn’t explored yet.

“Looks like I found a shortcut through your little maze…”

Still, it was slow going, and there was a lot of backtracking involved— for every door he found usually ended in a series of dead ends— and the pull doors themselves were few and far between, but after hours of blundering through one unsettling section after another, he eventually found what he may have been looking for. All the while keeping a sharp eye out for the “they” Max had spoken of in such fearful tones; he had no desire to meet anything his friend was openly afraid of. He still kept his guard up, even as he examined the door before him.

White, with four panels, looking for all the world like that spooky door to the basement all the apartment kids used to dare each other to enter when he was a little boy. The word EXIT glowing in blue letters above it. Just as Max had described.

“Well, I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t…” Shades muttered as he opened it.

And gasped at the all-too-familiar stairs, leading downward from it. Vowing to retreat if it led any closer to the Flaming Ghost, and fearing this might all be some twisted joke, he descended. Before he reached the bottom, though, he could already see another blue “exit” sign over that one, as well.

If he had heard it from anyone but Max, he would have decided it was some kind of trap out of hand, but he felt he could trust his friend’s intuition. Of course, the thought had crossed his mind that that might not be the real Max, but he got a “genuine” vibe from that conversation, just like he got from Bandit. That, and he doubted an impostor would have bothered to warn him about any of the other dangers of this place. Combined with the undeniable fact that he really had nothing else to go on, was fresh out of bright ideas.

Closing his eyes, and trusting in Max, for everything he had told him held true so far, he opened the door…

And stepped out into the alleyway next to the Harken Building.

Max and Justin stood on one side of the alley entrance, apparently swapping stories about their recent misadventures. Kato stood on the other side with two companions he presumed to be her missing party members. Everyone safe and accounted for; he sighed quietly.

“Shades has left the building.”

And was more than glad to have done so.
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