My computer blinked angrily at me as the screensaver flickered on, casting the dark room in an eerie glow. I cursed silenty. Three hours I had been working on my boss's finance report, and I was nowhere near finished. The black hallway loomed ouside the office's glass partition, like an evil beast, waiting to consume me. Spooked, I stared expectly into that darkness, but of course, nothing was there.
Only me. I was the only living thing in that place -- not counting my boss's lovely fish swimming slowly throught the murky water on my desk - - and that simple fact did not provide much comfort. I shivered and plunkered at the keys slowly, resisting the urge to pass out. My eyelids were wieghted down by sheer exhaustion. My hands kept missing the correct keys. I fought ruthlessly with the need to sleep, but it was all too obvious that I was pathetically losing. Finally, my face met the cool wood of the desk, and with a sigh of relief, I sunk into a deep slumber.
Only to be rudely awakened.
The sound had come from down the hall. Short and muffled, it could have been mistaken for the air conditioner kicking on, or the halting of a clock's gentle ticking. But no. It was all too...human.
Shaking myself awake, I contemplated a choice of action. Forgetting about it seemed logical enough, and so convienant. Leaving the possible dangers of the office and going home seemed an even better idea. But I, in my complete and utter stupidity and curiousity felt that investigating the noise would be such a more worthwhile alternative. I reached for the iron paperwieght on my desk and peeked out into the hallway. I could see absolutely nothing.
Still, I tiptoed a few steps to the light switches, and carefully flicked them all to 'on'. Nothing happened. The lights did not flicker on like I had expected. The hallways remained uninviting and hauntingly black. I peeked in at my computer. It was still on full power, the screensaver sending different pictures across the screen. So, the power is not out, I thought, intriqued.
Even then, the thought of turning around, grabbing my keys, and making a run for the door did not cross my mind. That would be too safe, too easy, too smart.
Carefully, I made my way down the North hallway, the dense obscurity pushing in around me. I could vaquely make out closed doors along the walls. The building was once again silent, and the air stagnant. Unconsciencely, my breathing had become fast and shallow. I stopped for a moment to calm down.
Looking behind me, I could still make out the dim light of my computer, but it was fading. A few steps further and the darkness would swallow it up completely. I turned back around and noticed the outline of an open door just ahead.
That's wierd, I thought. Everyone was supposed to close and lock their office doors when they left. I swiftly made my way to the open door, careful to not make a sound, and peered inside. The paperwieght dropped from my hand with a dull thud.
The window was open, letting in a powerful wind that had wreaked havoc on the stacks of papers that were now covering the room. The full moon cast it's light through the window, illuminating the body lying sprawled out on the floor. Blood seeped around the body, staining the sheets of paper and the pale blue carpet.
I attempted to regain control of my insticts and bravely crossed the office to check his pulse. There was no heart beat beneath my fingertips. He was dead.
Taking in his navy blue uniform and the trashbag lying next to him, I inferred that he was a janitor. Must have been working late, like me, I thought, frightened. A chill went through me. I tried to convince myself that it wasn't the dead body, but the cold wind that sent the shivers up and down my spine.
I got up and walked over to the window. Before closing it, I realized that there was a string tied to the sill. A shadow crossed the room as something glided across the sky. I looked out and noticed a kite flying lazily in the wind. It was white, pure and innocent. However, on the fabric, written in red -- blood,I assumed-- were the words
My heart caught in my throat. This wasn't a joke. This was a murder. Someone was dead. Whoever did it was some sick psycho. And he was still in the building.
I crossed the room in one quick stride and picked up the phone. No dial tone. I pulled on the cord and suddenly held the frayed end of a wire in my hand. I reached for my cell phone, and then remembered that I had left it on my desk.
My heart beating angrily, I peeked out the door in the direction of my office. Darkness.
My computer had been shut off.
Resisting the urge to cry, I shuffled back in the room and looked at my surroundings. There had to be something. Something i could use. The moonlight glistened off of something on the janitor's belt. There his keys hung haphazardly. Two seconds later they were in my hand.
I peered across the hallway and barely made out the number on the door across from me. 418. I found the key with that same number and grasped it tightly. I jolted across the dark abyss and pushed the keys into the lock. The jangling of the keys brought my heart to my throat. I turned the key with shaking hands. A sound coming from my office distracted me for a second. A footstep.
I turned the keys harder and heard the lock click. Another footstep sounded from down the hall. Then another.
Pushing with all my might, I flung the door open. Now the footstwps were faster, louder. I pulled at the keys. They were stuck. The footsteps weren't that far away now. I heard a chuckle. I pulled again.
This time the keys came free, just in time to see a tall shadow standing in the doorway. I saw the glow of his eyes and the gleam of his teeth, right before I slammed the door shut.
I leaned up against the door. My breathing was hard and raspy. My heartbeat was out of control. I took deeper breaths, trying to regain control of my fear. I couldn't beleive this was happening.
The doorknob rattled, I jumped away from the door and watched cautiously as the doorknob turned in quick jerks. With a grunt of dissappointment, the murderer realized it was locked and the noise stopped.
I dashed to the phone, and quickly dialed 911. It rang. Thank god, I thought, relieved.
"This is 911 Emergency. Please state your name and your emergency," the tired voice droned on the other end.
"Um. This is...um..." I stuttered, still shaking from the encounter, "this is Savannah Tyler. I'm at 740 East Broadway; the bank. There's been a murder. I was working late...and I heard a noise..and oh my god." The reality of what was happening sank in as she heard herself report her situation. It was like a movie. How could this happen to her?
"It the murderer still in the builiding?" thewoman on the other end of the phone asked, worry thick in her voice.
"Oh my god," I mumbled heedlessly, still reeling from the reality of the sitution.
"Mam! Listen to me. Is the killer still in the builiding?" the woman asked again.
Shaking myself I said, "yes. yes, he is still in the building. I just saw him. He chased me."
"Are in you in a safe, secure area now?"
"Uh.." I looked around the room for any other means of entrance. The large air vent above me caught my attention. I paused.
"Mam?" The woman questioned.
"Uh..yeah," I said, breaking away from my thoughts. "Yes, I'm safe for now."
"Ok, I'm paging a squad down there now. They should be there in about fifteen minutes You said a man as already been murdered?"
"Yes.A janitor. He's in the room across from me."
"And what room are you in?"
I looked at the key still grasped tightly in my hand. "Uh, room 418 on the second floor."
"Ok, and you are sure you are safe where you are at?" the woman asked again.
"Yes, yes...I'm sure," I said, feigning confidence.
"Alright, then I'm going to..."
The line went dead.
"Hello?" I whispered into the phone, "Hello!!??" The phone dropped from my hand as I realized he must have cut the power. My heart thudded against my chest, almost painfully. I willed to be still. The beatiing was so loud that I felt as if I couldn't hear the sounds around me.
A soft muffled laughter came from the hallway. I heard a scratching at the lock, like small fingernails or....
He was picking the lock.
I launched into action. As fast as I could, I grabbed the nearby chair, placed it under the air vent and crawled up. I foolishly grinned as I noticed how easy it was to just push thevent up and over. The scratching at the door continued. With all my strength, I placed my arms in the cool tunnel and pulled myself up. A few times I almost fell, but the incessent chuckling outside the door was the motivation I needed to successfully climb up.
Thinking skillfully now, I swung my leg down out of the tunnel and kicked the wheeled chair back over to the desk. I didn't want him to know where I dissapeared to right away. Then, I quietly placed the vent back on to the sqaure opening, just in time to hear the door lock click, and open.
I held my breath, holding my body motionless, as I watched the murderer enter the room. He grunted angrily as he searched for me. My leg fell asleep and was aching terribly, but I dared not move it. Instead, I tried to memorize the particulars about my opponent.
He had red hair which had obvioussly not been combed or cut in years. He stood about six feet tall and seemed fairly thin from where I sat. On his arm, exposed by his ratty t-shirt, was a long, dark scar. That, I thought, is what I need to remember.
The minutes ticked by. How long had it been now? Five minutes? Ten? I silently prayed the cops would arrive soon.
Finishing his search and finding nothing, he stood directly under Ithe vent, thinking. Suddenly, he looked up. In the darkness, his eyes looked black. I gasped and leaned back, hoping against hope that he had not seen me.
"Found you," he chuckled.
He punched the vent, sending it flying from it's place, and landing on the other side of the tunnel. I crawled backwards, deeper into the dark cavity. I heard him pull up the chair and climb up. His head and arms poked into the tunnel. He laughed.
"Well aren't you just a little mouse in the pipes. This has been a fun game, but I'm afraid I'm done playing," he chuckled again.
This guy is crazy, I thought fearfully.
He reached for me. I backed away quickly. He pulled himself up and reached for me again. He was almost completely in the tunnel now. I dared not turn my back on him, so I simply crawled backwards a little further.
I'm going to die, I thought helplessly.
"Freeze!" A deep voice sounded from below. The killer and I both froze.
He growled, "you called the cops? Why? Why would you do that? Why would you ruin our game?"
"Come down out of there with your hands up!" the cop ordered.
The murderer stared at me. Suddenly he looked hurt, like he was going to cry. "I thought we were going to play?" he said, choking on his words.
I shook my head, stunned. He simply shrugged his shoulders and sighed. Then, he slowly dipped out of the tunnel and handed himself over to the cops.
"Is anyone up there?" another cop called, as the first one read the murderer his rights.
"Y--yes," I stuttered quietly.
"We'll get you out in a moment. Just hang on," he said reassuringly.
I took a deep breath. It was over. It was all over.