"Watch out for Sadie."
"Watch out for Sadie. She haunts the garage."
I searched the face of Carol, the woman who had been training me for the past week, waiting to see her wink or twitch the corners of her mouth into a mocking smile. Instead, I received a deadpan stare. Apparently this was serious business.
"I don't believe in ghosts," I said.
"Say what you want, but don't let the doors shut on you. We've had some nasty incidents in that area, and we don't fool around in there." She sighed, "Oh, never mind. It looks like I'll just have to come with you. I can't trust you to take this seriously."
Somewhat nonplussed, I followed Carol down the hall to the "garage". In reality, it was where the office supplies were kept, but it had been a garage once upon a time in the building's past, so the name stuck. Or so Carol told me.
I had applied for the open sales position at the company about a month ago. Just around the time I had given up hope the H.R. department called me back saying that they wanted an interview. I knew absolutely nothing about the hair products they wanted me to sell, but I was desperate for any kind of occupation at that point. My first job out of college had been for a big name grocery chain, making sure that certain items were coded correctly, but when the grocery store needed to make cuts I was one of the first people to go.
Carol had been extremely friendly to me from the start. The company was housed in an old building with the previously mentioned garage attached. The staff was comprised largely of women, most of them beautiful and stylish, with a few male employees speckled here and there. Unfortunately, with the exception of Carol, many of the other employees seemed offended in some way by my casual appearance. In the past I had never been the type of girl to worry about brushing my hair or putting on lipstick. I did make an effort for my new line of work, and I pulled my hair into a neat ponytail to appeal to my peers. However, my lack of face paint or glitzy ornamentation deterred most from approaching me. Carol of course, being a free spirit of sorts as well as my trainer, did everything she could to raise my spirits. She batted her sooty eyelashes and pursed her lips in dismay when I told her of my fears of being permanently ostracized.
"Don't you think about those silly girls for a minute, hon. You are here for a reason and you can go places."
Well, she was confident about my potential, anyway. But she didn't take any nonsense. As she marched down the long hall in her startlingly pointed stilettos, I couldn't help but notice that she was glancing back at me and tossing her head in a way that meant something was irritating her.
"You don't have to come," I said.
"I don't want you to get hurt," Carol insisted.
We arrived at the turn that would take us to the garage. At the end of a shorter hallway was a set of heavy steel doors. They swung inward, revealing rather ordinary, if not dreary-looking, cement flooring and walls. On the other side of the room was the door that would have opened to let cars or trucks in, and it seemed to have been bolted down permanently. Shelves lined the walls, and I took a quick mental inventory of where things were stored should I need to come back later. Meanwhile, Carol kicked a doorstop underneath the door to keep it from closing.
"That's important," she said, giving me a stern look. "The doors don't open from the inside, and there's no telling how long you would have to wait for someone to come and get you. As if that wasn't enough, the switch in here is faulty. Sometimes you can't get the lights to turn back on." I nodded, to prove that I was taking the ghost of Sadie and the task of closing the garage very seriously.
"So, has anyone seen this Sadie?" I asked.
Immediately, Carol clapped her hand over my mouth. The smell of her fruity perfume, Juicy Couture, I found out later, enveloped me.
"You don't ever say her name in here," Carol snapped.
After that, it was pretty routine. Carol showed me where the light switch was on the far wall. She flicked it down, and even with the door open on the other side I felt a small tingle of fear creep up my spine. What if that door were to shut on us? What if everyone went home and we had to spend the entire night in that supply room, in the dark? I still didn't believe in Sadie, but the fear of being trapped was very real. During the last hour of the work day, the chance of anyone coming near the garage was slim. That was why we had someone come down to do a last minute check to make sure the light was off. My coworkers were often careless and left the light on—or so I thought at the time. It turns out that neglecting to turn off the lights was a conscious decision by many.
My coworkers soon warmed to me when they realized that I wasn't afraid of going into the garage to turn off the light before it was time to head home for the day. It became part of my nightly routine. Even though Carol rolled her eyes and told me to stop babying the other women, I saw no harm in taking it over, since everyone else was superstitious about the supposed entity that lived there.
If I were being truthful, I would have admitted to the others that I was noticing strange things about the garage. For the most part, I allowed myself to give natural explanations to every circumstance that spooked me. For instance, on more than one occasion I would find myself forced to duck as things fell off the shelves above my head. I told my supervisor, who lectured my coworkers about putting supplies back in an orderly fashion, but they didn't seem keen on heeding her orders. I also noticed in the mornings, when I went to turn the light in the garage on, that sometimes I had to flick the switch up and down a few times. It was almost as if it didn't want to turn back on. A silly thought.
One night, I was turning off the light switch in the garage when I heard a faint scraping noise. Looking over my shoulder, I saw that the door was sliding closed. I must not have secured the doorstop properly. Heart hammering, I darted to the other side of the room and threw my arm out to catch the door. I grunted as the thick steel shut on my arm, but I was able to wedge the door back open. I slid through, and happened to glance up as the door was closing. Something white darted back into the shadows, as if it had been trying to follow me but didn't want to be seen.
I wish that I had been more imaginative. But I was able to convince myself that there was a rat or something in the garage. I reported it to my supervisor, who called an exterminator, but they found no signs of vermin. This didn't bother me much. I had always been the rational type. I was proud of my bravery.
I was stupid.
The incidents in the garage happened more frequently, and I finally allowed myself to think of Sadie. Maybe there was something to the superstition that my coworkers had. The garage was certainly an unlucky place to be. Carol twisted her ankle that winter when she was fetching printer paper, and while that could be chalked up to Carol's dubious footwear choices, another woman named Monique was hit on the head by a falling carton of envelopes. She needed stitches. The sales department also seemed to have a high turnover rate. Every other week we had someone leaving who needed to be replaced. These incidents worried me a little, but not enough to cause me any true fear. I was doing great at selling, and my supervisor was talking about cross training me in other departments.
Then, after the new year had come and gone, I received proof of the warnings that Carol had given me when I was first hired.
I was caught off guard, I admit, because my coworkers had taken over the task of closing the garage for two weeks while I trained in the accounting department. I didn't think about the doorstop much—I just kicked it idly as I walked in, not noticing how close to the edge of the door it was. I turned off the light and simultaneously heard a familiar scraping noise. I was too late to react this time. The door snapped shut behind me. My world became total darkness.
I went to flick the light back on. Nothing.
My mouth went dry, and I tried not to panic. Maybe someone would come by. I hadn't told anyone I was closing the garage, so it was likely that someone else would come down to take care of it. I only had to wait a few minutes.
Something cold fluttered against the back of my legs. With a yelp, I jumped forward and banged into a shelf. A box crashed behind me, and it sounded heavy. I had to be careful—if I hit my head and no one came by, I might not be found for hours. I tried to explain away the thing that had touched me. Rats. It had to be rats. The exterminators weren't looking in the right place when they investigated.
"I misssssed you."
That voice. Whispering into my ear. How can I describe it? Gravelly, as though it hadn't been used for decades. And slightly muffled, as if the speaker were talking with a scarf around their face. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
"W-who are you? Carol? This isn't funny." I stepped backward and squinted in vain, trying to see who was in there with me.
My heart went into my throat. I suddenly recalled what Carol had told me last year. She had mentioned all the "nasty" incidents that had happened in this garage. I had never thought to ask about them.
I couldn't breathe.
"Stop it," I whispered. "Stop it right now."
"Come into the dark with me. Come into the damp and dark. It's nice."
If Carol hadn't opened the garage door then, I'm not sure what would have happened to me. Suddenly, the blinding light of the hallway was pouring in. I recall abruptly being face to face with two dark holes set deep into taut and colorless skin. And the terrible, inhumanly wide grin, inches from my nose. I also got the impression of long stringy black hair. I had always thought ghosts were transparent, but this one seemed very solid. In that moment, I had a horrible feeling that she wished to consume me. But Carol had the back of my shirt in her fist, and even as Sadie lunged, jaws snapping with a horrifying clacking noise, Carol dragged me out of that hellish place. She yanked the door shut behind us and we collapsed, gasping, on the floor. My eyes were glued to the gap beneath the door, where pale fingers with long and cracked nails scrabbled madly for a few moments and then retreated. Perhaps I was seeing things, but they looked as though they were fading, like smoke dispersing through the air.
I quit the next day. I'm still looking for a new job, but I think it's important to take my time. Carol and I meet occasionally for coffee. Neither of us likes to speak about that day. I'm not sure how much she saw, but we share a strange bond between us. I as the survivor, and she as the rescuer. I contacted some of the other women who used to work for that company. Few wanted to speak to me about Sadie, but I did learn some important facts. Sadie has only gone after people who turned out the lights, and she has a special attraction to those who know her name.
I sleep with the lights on in my apartment now, and I don't go out at night. I know Sadie has been in that garage for a long time, but I can't help feeling that she wanted to follow me. Sometimes, when I step out of a room I imagine, or I think that I imagine, the sound of her scraping those long fingernails down the walls. Occasionally I find that the objects I place on my kitchen table have fallen to the floor while my back was turned. I might just be psyching myself out. If Sadie did follow me home, why would she be taking so long to finish me off?
Maybe she's just waiting for me to turn off the lights.