Dear Smithereens asked last month if anyone would be interested in writing a collaborative ghost story. How could I resist? You can find Chapter 1 here, Chapter 2 here, Chapter 3 here, and chapter 4 here. Now, on to Chapter 5.
...And I ran away as far as possible...
...which, for the second time that night, turned out not to be very far. What had appeared to be a very long corridor only moments before (or was it hours? I'd lost all track of time) now seemed to be closing in on me. I've never been one to suffer from claustrophobia, but then, I've never been one to hallucinate, either. This was to be a night of firsts, I supposed, as I had already begun to wonder if someone had drugged my soda with hallucinogens earlier in the day. Now I felt my throat tighten, my heart knocking at my chest's door, and a panicky, overwhelming need to get out of this cramped corridor, where I could still hear that symphonic music off in the distance. I don't know why (maybe I was subconsciously checking for stereo speakers), but I looked up and discovered a major source for my feelings of claustrophobia. Had I been maybe two inches taller, I could have reached up and touched the ceiling. I'm only 5'4" tall. Touching ceilings is not something I can typically do without a ladder.
When I looked back down again, I realized I was standing in front of an elevator. This was a different elevator. The sort from when? The 1930s? I've never been very good with the history of things. All I know is that it had those sorts of doors that have to be pulled open by someone, thick things that look and rattle like cages. Someone -- some elevator operator -- was opening them for me now. He opened the door and then returned to the business of operating the huge black lever that was used to get from floor to floor.
It was the same man. He was tall and thin. He was pale. His cheeks hollow, eyes sunken. But he was younger, much younger than he'd been before. His hair, which had been white before, was dark tufts sticking out from under the cap he wore as part of his red uniform. He had no lines on his face. He could have been a teenage bellboy at The Plaza back in the day.
"You didn't last long," he noted. "Make a visit to Returns?"
I stared at him, hesitant to step onto an elevator he was manning. But then I heard the barking and growling. I turned to see Angelo's dog, grown much bigger and even more beast-like. He'd be on top of me in a minute. I leaped into the elevator. The dog yelped as if kicked and immediately retreated. I just caught the image of him running back, tail between his legs, as the elevator operator pulled the door shut.
"Make a visit to Returns?" he repeated, his voice deep, almost a growl.
"No...umm...Repeats." I don't know why I answered him. I should have remained silent. Actually, I should have been praying to the god in whom I don't believe. But, somehow, I felt compelled.
"Hmmm..." he said, his voice now an octave higher. "Funny. Repeats don't usually wind up here. Oh well, it just means you'll be back."
He was mad. I wasn't coming back here. In fact, the minute I got out of the door of this godforsaken place, I was going home and typing up my letter of resignation. I wouldn't even be back to hand it in to Angelo and my boss. I'd mail it. Maybe I owed my boss more than that, but my job description had never mentioned anything about dealing with scary basement corridors and ominous elevator operators.
I was standing there, composing the letter in my head when the sinking feeling that had begun to take up residence in the pit of my stomach moved in some more furniture. Something was wrong. I looked at the operator who was staring at me with penetrating black eyes. I tried to look away. I couldn't. And then it dawned on me. The elevator, which should have been creaking and swaying was completely silent. We were standing still.
"What do you know about this building?" my companion asked.
"This...building?" I stammered. "It's...uh...where I work." (I would never win the Philip Marlowe Snappy Answers in Hair-Raising Situations Award.)
"So, you don't know what once happened here?"
His eyeballs rolled back in his head. When they returned, they were a fiery red. He grinned wickedly. I've never seen such sharp white teeth on a human. Had I been a different sort of woman, I would have fainted. Instead, my heart stopped knocking at my chest's door. I thought it might be about to stop for good, but then it began pounding. I could feel the sweat on my brow. Beyond caring about the close quarters of an elevator, I reached for that bag with the can of mace. But there was no bag. God knows when I had dropped it. I was stuck here, with him, and with no protection.
"Let me tell you," he nearly growled.
To be continued by Courtney.