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It seemed like a fitting job; it wasn’t too formal and the work didn’t seem too hard. The hours weren’t too great, as sometimes I’d have to work into late hours of the night, sometimes early morning. It was OK, though. I’m only in my twenties, and no family to take care of. I didn’t really need to worry about schedule.
It was a job in a fairly large office building, for publishing and all. Not too bad. See, my job was to be more like an errand boy. I wasn’t given a specific idea of what would be required of me, so the pay wasn’t too fantastic, either. I didn’t care, though. Like I said, I didn’t have to worry for a family. All my money could go to video games and crap.
The interview went well enough. The boss intimidated me a little, as she didn’t make the job sound like it would be easy. I just shrugged it off – in my mind of course. I wanted the job, so I was as professional as possible in the interview. At the end she finally nodded and simply said that I was looking like a likely candidate. I got the job and started the next week. All pretty straightforward; none of this crap is really important.
The job went quite smoothly for the first few days. I had odd jobs like organizing pieces of projects, and fetching whatever the higher-ups wanted. Also, of course, making the coffee. There was a part of the building no one spoke of, that I had discovered quite quickly on my own, however. Fetching whatever crap the lazy butt bosses needed often took me to the basement, where we had paper supplies, ink, paper clips, whatever the heck you needed. The majority of that stuff was kept in the basement because of a lack of space in the other parts of the office. It was a total pain, then, when the printer ran out or whatever. You - or often I - had to make the trek down to grab whatever we needed to refill.
I was stuck working late hours one night, like around twelve or one. One of the higher-ups or whatever called me into her office. She had a task for me – she needed me to fetch her a record from the archives. No one ever spoke of the archives. That was the place I told you about. The archives never spoken of, sitting in a room I’d never been in in the basement.
She wrote the year and archive number on a piece of paper and sent me away. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what we had archives for. We were an office building for publishing, after all. Maybe books we’d worked on? I had no idea.
But I took the paper and made the darn walk to the basement. The basement was pretty much unfinished. The floors were concrete, with wooden ceilings, the wires to the light bulbs visible along the dank walls. It was just storage, anyway. The room was pretty big, actually. Not like it was overwhelmingly open, just a reasonable size. I was so dark down there before you would turn on the lights, though. There was only a bulb at the top of the stairs before the next bulb in the basement. The huge darkness of the room seemed to swallow any light possibly left from the bulb at the top of the stairs.
Once you had found the lights, though, it wasn’t much better. The walls were stained with what I figured was water damage. I’m not sure how old the building was, but it’s never appeared very new. The basement was a bit cluttered, but that wasn’t surprising really, considering no one really spent much time there other than to grab what they needed and get out. That was all I generally had to do, but now I was tasked with getting some archives for who-knows-what.
The archive room was in the very back of the basement, marked only by the faded sign; the words “archives” etched in peeling white over a sandy coloured plaque. I walked slowly through the very dimly lit basement. Just because there were bulbs down here didn’t mean they all worked. A few were out, especially near the archives room. It was like the dark corner of the basement.
My footsteps resounded around the room, bouncing back to my ears and filling every empty space. Gosh, I hated that basement. I’ll admit it. I felt like I was sucked deeper and deeper in to something sinister with every step, like the darkness clawed away at my sanity. Like something in that basement was actually sucking in the light itself. There’s just something about isolation, which makes the whole atmosphere darker, quieter. Not to mention, I was always hearing things in that darn basement. I knew it was my imagination, just something to fill the silence, but it was still horribly unnerving. And it always felt like it was getting louder the longer I stayed down there.
The staircase was metres away from me now. The basement just made me uncomfortable, all in all. I was always eager to get out, every time I was sent to that godforsaken place. I took hold of the nob to the archives room; its cold, old metal, sending chills through my hand. I twisted the nod gently, and it offered a little resistance, which was to be expected from a door rarely used. I pushed to door open, which, too, offered a bit of resistance. Its old hinges creaked, and the door scraped the floor, its eerie sound resounded through the walls. I cringed a little at the sound, and peered around the door into the dark room. I couldn’t even judge the size; all vision was swallowed by the thick darkness.
I set a soft footstep into the room - my footsteps always seemed to echo more than would be natural down there - and laid a hand on the wall. I recoiled, pulling my hand back. The walls were cold. Very cold. I cautiously connected my hand with the wall once again, feeling it over for a light switch. It took me a few uncomfortable minutes – you could feel the grime from age on the walls – but I eventually located the switch, and clicked it on. For a moment, nothing happened, and I was worried the light was no longer in working position. The there was a fizzle and a popping sound, and the light came to life. Or I should say, the lights. The celling was very high, like an entire expansive warehouse. Actually, it was that big all around. My breath caught in my chest, and I just kind of stood there, I wasn’t sure if I should be terrified, or just plain confused. How did this even fit down here?
It was a library, practically. Huge, expansive shelves lined the room. And this wasn’t just any worn down old basement room, it was almost elaborate. I couldn’t see the boundaries. Lights were fixed into the shelves – large shelves carved from rich, dark wood. The lights were like chandeliers. Small, but elaborate. Here and there, there was a larger one fixed metres above on the high celling. The celling had the most splendid pattern. It appeared to be a pattern carved of light glazed wood. It had the feel of the Victorian era. The floor was of a dark, almost blood red carpet. The only thing unsettling, however, was the occasional dark stain in the carpet. Huge, dark stains. I supposed from age.
The walls weren’t much better, anyway. I had expected concrete from the cold feel of it in the dark. I was almost right; the walls were covered in an elaborate wall paper. It had a Victorian style pattern to it, as well, and was peeling in places, which was why my guess hadn’t been too terrible, because the wallpaper was peeled away where I had felt, exposing cold concrete underneath. The wallpaper had the same dark stains as the floor in places. Water damage, I supposed. Age and water damage could destroy what had once been beautiful.
There was one more unsettling feature, too, however. The smell. It was that of mould and decay. That wasn’t too strange, though, considering all the papers kept here. Moisture and paper were not a good mix. And it was obvious the room was very old. That was unsettling. I knew the whole building was old, but when I say that, I mean seventies, maybe sixties. Never the eighteen hundreds. It just didn’t make sense. Unless of course it had been designed to have the appearance of a genuine Victorian style library. But honestly, what would be the point of that in and office building, for goodness sake? I could find none.
But now my dilemma was what to do. I had been tasked with finding some files, the ones written on the paper that I realised I still held in my hand. I glanced down at the meaningless numbers. I had no idea where to start. Surely it would take me hours to find anything in here. And I can’t say I felt comfortable with the absolute strangeness of the whole situation. Not to mention the eerie sounds I was always hearing to fill the silence. I considered simply leaving and demanding an explanation from the lady who had sent me. But then again, why would she have sent me here without know what was in this room? Obviously she had to know. There had to be some reason. I could risk getting myself into trouble for disregarding her orders simply because I felt unsettled. I decided I might as well take a look. I was already there, anyway. There was no point in going all the way back, and my curiosity was insane at this point.
I glanced back down at the numbers scrawled across the paper in my hand. 1929. That was the year the records were from. Why the heck did we have records from 1929? My uneasiness grew, but in a room this size, there had to be records from every year since the beginning of the world, anyway.
I walked slowly, deeper into the room, looking for some sort of order so I’d know where to look. I noticed at last dates scratched into the sides of each bookshelf. They were very broad dates, most of the time, though. Say, 1980-1990. That didn’t exactly narrow it down too much. But all I had to do was find the right self now, at least. The problem with that, however, was that even though each individual shelf was ordered, the shelves themselves were not. It might go from 1850-1860, then the next shelf labeled with 1940-1950. For the life of me, I couldn’t find 1920. And of course, it was extremely strange just how far back our records went. I still didn’t understand the point.
I delved deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of shelves and folders. The intense silence made my skin crawl, especially when it was broken only by that disembodied sound of the subtle tapping of feet, but I didn’t want to give up now. Even though I moved softly, I could still hear my every footstep, breath, and heartbeat. My heart rate quickened and my uneasiness grew every time I saw dates going back as far as the fifteen hundreds. Something didn’t feel right, I knew that. This had to be some kind of joke.
At last, I was walking through an isle with records from the late seventeen hundreds when at last I noticed the scratched numbers “1920-1930”. I relaxed just a little, knowing I wouldn’t have to be in here too much longer now. It was three shelves deeper into the room from me. I already couldn’t see the door any longer, and felt increasingly worried about finding the way out. I figured I could just walk the way I’d come until I found the front wall, then walk along it until I reached the door.
My soft footsteps echoed around me, off every full shelf, for an unnaturally long time, like something was matching my footsteps with their timing just off. I approached the aisle containing records from the 1902’s, and glanced down at my paper once again. 1929 No.3962. Seemed simple enough now, since they were all in numerical order in the aisles. It took far longer than I had expected, though, considering the height and length of each shelf. The files went on forever, it seemed. I had probably been looking in this aisle for twenty five minutes now, at least.
The sound of shuffling of feet and footsteps intensified. I figured I must be hallucinating because of the intense silence. I had to have been in there for at least in hour by this point. Just footsteps. Soft, with an echo, coming from the back of the room. I hadn’t even seen the back yet. It was still far out of sight.
My heart rate quickened every time I thought I heard it. I was searching franticly by this time. I just wanted to get out, but I was so close. I felt like every time I heard the footsteps they were closer, louder. I was really losing it. Everything felt wrong.
Aha! I pulled the file marked 1929 No.3962 from the shelf. Now I had to know; just what in the world were these files even for? I opened it, the old brittle yellow folder crinkling in my hands. My breath caught when I saw the contents. It was simply loose leaf notebook paper, written on in messy handwriting. That was what I had spent so much time looking for?
I began to read the contents, however. When I realised what it said, I dropped it to the floor. I had to get out. On those pages, were death records. But not ones that made any sense. It said things like, “Samuel Wilson. sacrificed June 11th 1929. Tried to fight it off. It won easily. Was not a large meal, however.” I frantically pulled more files from the shelf, quickly scanning each one. Each was the same; names of “sacrifices”, the date, and a brief description of how they responded to it.
Confusion pulsed through my veins. It wasn’t right. You don’t write sacrifice on a death record. I dropped all the files all over the floor, each of them loudly slapping the floor, and the sound bouncing through all the momentous room. But I could still hear the footsteps. Over the loud noise of every file, and the pounding of my heart, the footsteps pounded loudly through the halls. I was losing my mind, I was sure. I stopped reading the files, and began to move quickly through the never ending labyrinth of shelves. The footsteps still grew louder. I turned, out of sheer horror at having lost my mind so badly, to the point of really believing I’d been followed. At the point I realised I hadn’t even been running the right way. It couldn’t have been right. Now the end was out of sight for either side of the room. I fell to my knees. I just needed to breathe. Something was so, so wrong. Sacrifice.
Or maybe I was really just losing it. The footsteps still sounded loudly around the room. My maddened mind just accepted it now. Calm down, calm down. Why shouldn’t there be death records? They have to be kept somewhere. But those records weren’t right. Sacrifice.
Just then, there, just a few shelves ahead of me, a figure moved. It was so brief, I didn’t even know if it had really happened, but at that moment the footsteps stopped. The silence made me feel madder, even. The all of the sudden, slowly, a line of darkness approached. I could hear the pop of every light in the whole room. Every light on every shelf was going out, in a steady, even line from where ever the front of the room was. Horror gripped me so tightly now. I just stared, as I had nowhere to really go. I only sat there for a few seconds before every light around me was out, steadily affecting all the room behind me now. You couldn’t see a thing. Not even your hand in front of your face. The whole room was thick black now.
I stood, and began to walk forward now. I still had my sense of direction. I was going to get out now. No matter what. I walked only for a brief minute, struggling in the dark, when the footsteps sounded again – right behind me. They stopped right at my back. So this was what madness felt like, I figured. I slowly turned my body. My heart stopped. And there, right in my field of vision now, was a face, barely viable. It had a wide smile, one of madness, and eyes that were the darkest things you’d ever see on this planet. I could only make them out because they were darker than the surrounding darkness.
“This is Pandora’s box…”it whispered. It lunged toward me. I turned to run, but my feet couldn’t even seem to function now.
File No.193478 Mathew Conway. Sacrificed October 27th 2014. Tried to run, but tripped and could not fight it. Made a fine meal.
Written by DarkWriterDaKu