My thanks to Chuck Wendig for another challenge via his terrible minds blog.
Here’s the link to this week’s challenge info.
And here’s my piece, based in part on a creepy dark tower on a Ibis Hotel I had to climb some years back.
What we know…
It wasn’t what I was paid for, that much I knew, but beyond that, on that day, I really couldn’t be sure about anything else. Not one hundred percent sure, anyhow.
I know what I think happened, what I think I saw and who I think was there, but none of it could be taken as gospel truth. No by me and, I doubted, by anyone else who had also been inside the tower.
Things started off pretty much as they always did. I arrived at the location for the meeting, exchanged pleasantries with the client, over coffee – something that was becoming a rarer treat these days – so few people had the time to spare it seemed. And then, when we’d discussed the bare bones of the job to be quoted for, we ventured outside, into the car park of the hotel and, squinting into the sunlight, we stared upwards, three pairs of eyes adjusting to the brightness, those of my client, my boss and me.
Now, normally that would be it. I’d take a few photos from the ground, closeup enough to be able to count the bricks when I printed the images off, enough to have a reasonable stab at the approximate dimensions of the tower and of the large illuminated letters that were bolted to it. The rest of my part of the project would be done from the comfort of my office, using the images and a keyboard and then that would be that – the client would hopefully accept the quotation for his new signs for the hotel and then all the outside, cold and high up work would be over to our on-site team. The paper-pushing salesman could move on to his next target.
But, on this occasion, that was not it.
The client uttered a few words as I closed my briefcase and I could do little but nod in agreement.
‘Okay.’ He said. ‘Let’s take a look inside and see what you think about where the electrics run through.’
Less than five minutes later the large steel door of the tower that rose up from the flat roof of the hotel slammed shut behind us and we were plunged into total and absolute darkness. It was a dark I had never before experienced – a dark where, no matter how long I waited, my eyes refused to adjust, there was no ambient light anywhere around to pick out any details, not even a mere chink of light under the door behind us.
‘I’ll hang on down here’ The cowardly words of my boss echoed behind me as I carefully edged forward, dragging my feet across what I assumed was a solid floor, my arms outstretched before me like a zombie, hands clawing at the air until they found purchase on something. I gripped the metal pole in front of me, feeling it vibrating with the steady footfall of the figure in front of me who was scaling the ladder towards the top of the tower. I reached about with my other hand until I located the other vertical pole of the ladder, then placed my first foot on the lowest rung and proceeded to climb, keeping what I hoped was a safe distance between my head and the shoes of the man who was scaling the ladder into the darkness above me.
Then the vibration stopped. The man had reached the top, I assumed, and was likely now struggling to open a hatch at the top of the tower. I paused, remaining where I stood, bracing myself for a sudden pouring of light to flood down from above when a hatch was thrown back on the tower roof above me. But there was nothing sudden, just a steady creaking sound as the man steadily eased something open and I began to glimpse a thin bead of white directly above. A bead that grew slowly wider and brighter. I turned my head to the side, not wanting to be dazzled by the light, not even sure how far I had to fall if I did. It was then that I saw them.
Just faces at first, cold white faces staring hard at me out of the darkness, their features caught quickly by the moving light. Then I saw their hands, their long fingers and fingernails, their reaching for me, fingertips just inches from my face before the white light filled the interior of the tower and, from above, I heard a crash as the trapdoor was forced right open back on its hinges, slamming down on the roof above.
They were gone with the light, all of them snatched away quickly again into the darkness.
‘Okay.’ My client called down as I watched his heels disappear into the light as he stepped off of the ladder and onto the roof of the hotel tower. ‘That’s us up – you okay back there?’
My hands were welded tight to the rusted ladder, knuckles aching with the grip I held. There was no going back down, not yet. But I would have to. After we’d taken a look at what we’d come to check, then I’d have to climb back down, back past them, there wasn’t any other way.
‘Yes.’ I called up. ‘On my way.’
I willed my hands to release their grip and started to climb the last few rungs, stepping out, squinting into the bright sunlight, dreading the darkness which was certain to return.
‘Great. Not many want to come up here. Don’t know why not. It’s a hell of a view when you get up here.’ The man’s voice called back down the ladder. ‘It is worth the climb.’