BUILDING NINE

By

B. Michael Conover

 

1.

            Nick Mathews crouched behind the large blue garbage compactor, his long black hair stuck to his face in swooping curls and his shirt clinging oddly to his body. Nick’s pants were wet as well, but not from sweat, because he had pissed himself almost an hour ago and the smell was becoming putrid. His eyes slowly scanned up the long concrete walkway before him, occasionally blinking away the sweat. On either side of the walkway were steel structures holding large cardboard boxes framed in blue metal, each one tucked neatly into its own spot by the large cranes that moved behind them. The cranes were silent now; all Nick could hear was his own labored breath and the fast, rhythmic beating of his heart.

            A noise at the end of the walkway caused Nick to jump and a sharp gasp escaped his lips. Nick clamped his large hand over his mouth, quickly covering all but his wide, terrified eyes. He stared directly at the end of the walkway, unable to see what he knew was there.

            “Ni-ick,” a voice from the other end drew out his name like a taunting schoolboy. “I seeeee yooou.”

            Nick whined through his hand which had gone white from pressing to hard against his face. The fluorescent lights flickered above the walkway and a ghostly figure appeared at the other end, a good fifty yards away. He was not very tall but his lanky build made him look it, as did his tight blue tee shirt and blue jeans that came to rest about three inches above his bare feet. He was a slightly feminine nineteen-year-old boy with pale white skin, pink eyes, and bright white hair: an albino. Thick red fluid coated his chin and trailed down to his shirt, which was soaked down the front. Nick dropped a full load in his pants. The boy’s eyes turned fiery red and his body exploded into a powdery mist before it sucked back into a dense ball of white that hovered momentarily before streaking toward Nick. Nick’s life flashed before his eyes. Birth through manhood was a blur, but the reels slowed at the start of the night’s shift and the events that led him to this end replayed.

2.

            A whistle blew outside the Machinery Tractor Parts distribution center at eleven pm sharp. The second shift workers poured from the doors and headed across the plant road and up the steps to the turnstile. Waiting on opposite side were the third shifters, lined up to the side, letting the second shifters pass. When that sad parade was done, the turnstiles were electronically switched to go the other way. The night shift then filed in one at a time.

            At the front of the line were the permanent men of Building Nine (B9), four red necked men who shared a love of God, country, beer, and all things camouflage. The leader of the group, wearing a thick camouflage coat, was Dean Johnson. Dean was a bear of a man, both in size and amount of facial hair, whose orders were followed even more than the supervisors and he had become accustomed to people flinching when he moved his arms. Next was Jack Thomas, camouflage hat, Dean’s oldest and smallest friend; together they looked like the number ten. Pete Gibson, camo pants and mullet (business up front, party out back) was as stupid as he was ugly and strong. He was the real muscle of the group and the most profane. He said fuck every other word and ended most sentences with a goofy laugh and dim witted smile, no matter the topic. Tom “Two Teeth” Morris, camo socks and underwear, was Pete’s best friend, mostly because he was dumber and uglier than Pete. Others came and went from B9, but always under the suspicious eyes of these four who would never leave Building Nine.

            Nick Mathews was one of only two others working in B9 at the time. He was middle-aged, good-looking and well built, muscles in all the right places. Nick didn’t look like he belonged to the group and given a choice he would have never been there. He had pissed off his supervisor in Bldg. 4 and was sent to nine as punishment. He was just biding his time until someone granted one of his numerous transfer requests and he could say good-bye to those four pieces of shit and the new, quiet freak that he had grown to pity.

            That freak couldn’t be seen in the line up of third shifters by the turnstile. He hung back at the very end of the small parking lot, just beyond the pale yellow light thrown down from the dingy bulbs overhead. He was standing there that night, dark hooded sweatshirt wrapped tightly around his skinny frame, hood hiding his face. His name was Marc Neilson, but he had been called Casper since he could remember. He was an outcast and an exile just because his skin was a different color. Marc was an albino, too white even for the men of B9. He waited until the last person pushed their way through and then he ran to the gate before they shut it down and made his way to Building Nine.

3.

            Building Nine sat at the eastern edge of the complex; at six stories it was the tallest building there. During the day it was filled with workers, a few to each floor picking parts for orders from around the country. The night shift was simply there to pick up the slack of first and second shift. At eleven-fifteen the supervisor would meet with the six at the first floor lunch area and give them the orders that were left, then he would not return again until lunchtime to check on their progress. Truth was the supervisor hated coming to Bldg. Nine, hated the workers there as well. He sometimes would not come back at all; just let them do their thing. It was one of those nights; he was in no mood for this shit.

            “Alright, boys, listen up.” He waited for them to quiet. “You have a pretty slow night, only fifty some orders. Shouldn’t take you long, maybe until lunch. Then I need you to do some cleaning.”

            “We ain’t no fucking maids, boss,” it was Pete. “Ain’t no fucking niggers neither.”

            “Pete, I don’t want any trouble from you,” the supervisor tried to sound authoritative but it came out just a little shaky. These guys all had a few screws loose and he was nervous just being in their presence. They owned Bldg. Nine and they knew it. “This came down from way up top” a lie “it’s a directive from the union safety administrator” a big lie, but necessary “he needs y’all to clean up the sixth floor. There’s loads of trash piled up there between the crane aisles and it caused an accident on second today. You’ve done it-”

            “Fuck you,” Pete was hot, his favorite mood, Tom and Jack began to snigger. “I told you we ain’t no fuckin’ nig-”

            “Hold up Pete,” Dean spoke and all fell silent. “Union directive, huh?”

            “That’s right,” Dean had bit; the supervisor knew it would get done. “It’s for the safety of-”

            “We’ll do it,” Dean’s gaze had stayed steady on the supervisor who seemed to squirm a little under its intensity. “You can go now.”

            The supervisor made to act huffy at Dean’s dismissal but thought better of it. He was just glad to be leaving. He gathered his papers under his arm and strode out the door. As soon as the doors closed Dean, Jack, Tom, and Pete burst into a laugh loud enough that the supervisor was sure to hear. Nick smirked a little and got up to start his work. Marc was already pushing his order cart down to the elevator.

            “That kid gives me the fucking willies,” Jack said as he and his cronies watched the boy climb onto the elevator. “I don’t trust him.”

            “You don’t trust anybody, Jackass” Dean said. “He don’t really cause any problems, so we’ll leave him be. I don’t trust him either, though. He looks at us kinda funny and I’m not sure what it is, but hell, he ain’t a spick, a nigger, or a Jew and sure as hell is white enough!” More laughter from the knuckleheads echoed throughout the building. Nick just pushed his cart and shook his head, man, he couldn’t wait to get the hell out of here.

4.

            The first part of the night went by pretty fast. Each guy went out on their own to fill their share of the orders as quick as possible. Only Pete and Tom stayed together, as always, and their stupid laughs and dumbass conversations could be heard all through the building, echoing between the floors by way of the opening between the aisles where the cranes sat silent.

            Nick finished first, as usual and made his way up to the sixth floor right after lunch to survey the cleaning job. Stacked at the end of the walkway opposite the elevator were two giant piles of trash. There were bags filled with discarded order papers and wrappings and lots of other shit. Nick could tell this was just a crap job that the first and second shifters didn’t want to do and had convinced their bosses to leave for third. Getting rid of the trash meant hauling it to the elevator and taking down to the second floor, where the trash compactor sat. There they would compact it until the bin was full and release it out a slide on the outside of the building that led to a big dumpster. It looked to Nick like there was about three compactor loads there, which equaled to quite a few trips down the elevator.

            It was about two-fifteen and Nick could hear the others still rolling their carts up and down the various floors. Despite the coolness of the night outside, Building Nine was warm as always except for the sixth floor, which stayed relatively cool. Nick’s shirt was pretty much soaked around the collar and under his arms, so he pulled it off to cool down. Sure that nobody else would be up for a while, Nick seized the opportunity for a little shut eye and sat on the concrete floor, leaning his back against a wall, and drifted off to sleep.

5.

            At about two-thirty Marc finished with his orders. Parking his cart next to Nick’s on the first floor, he too made his way up to the sixth floor to wait for the others. The elevator ride up was bumpy as usual and Marc watched as the lights flicked from one to the other, finally arriving at six.

            Looking straight down the center aisle, Marc thought he was alone. He began to walk to the other end where the garbage awaited but stopped when he saw some movement on the right hand side. Marc could tell by the toned arm that it was Nick and he slowed his pace. Nick quit moving and the sound of snores was unmistakable. Not wanting to wake Nick, Marc backtracked down the hall and went up the aisle opposite where Nick was sleeping. From there he could peek through the gaps in the bins and watch Nick as he slept. Marc preferred Nick to the others, he was more…defined. He felt the familiar stir in his pants as he stood alone, not knowing that his biggest secret was about to come out.

6.

            “What the fuck!?” Pete could not believe his eyes. He and the boys had seen Nick sleeping and decided to scare the shit out of him by sneaking up on either side of him, but Pete and Tom got a surprise themselves. “Hey, boy! What the hell are you doing?”

            Marc heard the yell but he had obviously not heard the men approaching. He jumped backwards and tried to pull his hand out of his pants but they were too tight. He stumbled slightly when he came backwards and fell hard onto the concrete, hand finally breaking free. Marc’s eyes were wide and showed emotion for the first time the men could recall He was terrified.

            “I think we got us a fag-boy here, Tommy,” Pete said, smile growing, feeding of the terrified look on the boy’s face. “I should have known.”

            Before Marc could get to his feet, Pete and Tom had each grabbed an arm, dragging him around the corner. Marc’s face was growing as red as it could with embarrassment and fear; he kept his eyes on the ground. Once in full view of the others, Marc was thrown to the ground just at Nick’s feet, who was trying to inconspicuously shake the sleep away. He was now putting his shirt on as he looked down at the boy, who was beginning to cry.

            “What the hell is going on?” Nick knew this couldn’t be good.

            “Naw, Nick, keep your shirt off,” Tom’s laugh was more sinister than dumb. “Seems Whitey here really likes looking’ at you half-naked!”

            “Yeah,” stupid laugh, “Tommy’n I caught him with hand down his pants, touchin’ his pecker while looking’ at you.”

            A couple tears fell from Marc’s face now but he would not allow himself to really cry. Instead, he just stared at the ground, praying for them to let him be. He would not be returning to B9, he told himself; he was going to leave as soon as possible and never come back. He didn’t know how bad the boys of B9 hated faggots, though.

            “Is that right?” Dean was taking control. Pete and Tom nodded together, Tom laughing and showing his blackened teeth. They had come across a faggot once before and had beaten him to a pulp, Tom knew they were going to kick some fairy ass tonight.

            “Wait a minute, guys.” Nick tried to stay cool but he did not like the vibe he was getting. “You must have mistaken-”

            “We know what we saw,” Pete’s gaze turned venomous. “Don’t go callin’ us liars.”

            “C’mon, Pete.” Nick knew bad things were going to happen now. “Just let him be, he didn’t hurt no-”

            “Shut yer fuckin’ mouth.” Pete’s face had transformed to something evil, he had turned beet red and was grinding his teeth. “Maybe you liked it, havin’ the boy watchin’ you. You a fag-boy, too, Nicky?”

            “That’s enough-” Nick stopped as Pete stepped toward him. Nick was sweating again, even worse than before. “Calm down, dammit!”

            Pete reached for Nick’s collar and reared his fist back at the same time.

            “Pete, stoppit,” Dean did not have to raise his voice. He seemed calm and together, but Nick did not like the look in his eyes. “Nick ain’t no queer. This boy, though. We should have guessed. Always so quiet, sneaking around without sayin’ a word to nobody. He’s definitely a fag.”

            Nick had a look of utter disbelief on his face; there was no logic to what Dean had just said. He pulled the front of his shirt down after Pete let go and surveyed the group. They were all looking down at Marc and nodding their heads. They were dumber than Dean so his words must have sunk into their thick skulls like those of a wise old sage. Fucking morons.

            “You guys are unfucking believable!” Pete’s hand was around Nick’s throat before all the words came out and he found himself pushed against the wall. Pete stared him directly in the eyes, unblinking. Nick looked away quickly.

            “Now, Nick,” said Dean, who was still calm and looking over at Nick now. Tom and Jack stared at the boy on the floor, who was still looking down, and rocked back and forth in anticipation. “You don’t have to join us in this, although I would be disappointed. If you like you can just walk down the hall, get on the elevator and head down to the first floor. We’ll take care of all the trash up here. But I warn you,”

            Dean turned his whole body to face Nick, his calm gaze giving way to a sinister scowl.

            “If you try to stop us, or run and tell, you’ll be joining him,” Dean moved in a little a closer to Nick and lowered his voice, “We’re just going to scare him a bit, it’ll be fun.”

            Nick shifted in Pete’s firm grip. He sure as hell was not going to help these idiots, but what about the boy? Pete tightened his grip on Nick’s neck and he began to see stars. That decided it for him; he pushed against Pete who did not move until he received a nod from Dean.

7.

            Nick took the elevator down; he was headed for the first floor. Nick felt like he was in a dream, he couldn’t believe how the night had unfolded. He hated himself for what he was doing, leaving that boy at the hands of those idiots, but he did not want to go back to jail. Nick tried to tell himself they were just going to rough him up a little bit, nothing serious, but he felt in his gut that it was a lie.

            Damn you, boy! Nick punched the elevator wall and the clang resonated up and down the shaft. Why did you have to go and fuck up like this? He told himself it was the boy’s own fault, he shouldn’t have been doing what he was doing, he must be an idiot, too. Nick paced around the elevator, rubbing his sore hand. He looked at the panel to see what floor he was passing. It was the second, and that’s when he heard the first scream.

            Nick pushed the emergency stop button with his whole hand and looked up at the ceiling of the elevator. The caged light bulb cast a yellow light on his face as he stood motionless, listening. A few moments later he heard another scream, this one more chilling. Without thinking about what he was doing Nick pushed the button to take him to the sixth floor. Shit, Nick, you’ve done it now.

            As the elevator ascended, Nick heard the boy’s final scream. It began overhead and got louder, then faded. The scream stopped with a yelp and Nick heard a crunching, snapping sound that he began to pray was not what he thought.

8.

            Nick did not wait for the elevator doors to open all the way; he slid sideways through the opening as soon as it was wide enough. He ran down the hall, still feeling like he was in a bad dream. Slowly, Tom came into view from between the aisles at the opposite end, his face white and his eyes wide. Jack followed with near the same expression. Neither one acknowledged Nick as he swept past them to where Dean and Pete still stood.

            It took a moment for the sight before him to register as real, but when it did, Nick’s stomach sank to his feet. Dean was standing with a look on his face that was neither intimidating nor sober. It was the first time Nick had seen him look as though he did not know what to do. Dean was just staring into the darkness between the aisles, where the cranes moved on tracks along the ceiling and six floors below on the ground. Pete was standing next to a small opening, leaning over the waist high railing holding something in each hand. As Nick stepped just one step closer, he saw that Pete was holding an old tattered tennis shoe in each hand.

            The blood drained from Nick’s face, as it had already from the others’, and he leaned forward over the railing. Looking down Nick could see rays of light that crisscrossed the blackness at each level of Bldg Nine. He allowed his eyes to move down slowly, dreading what he was sure to see. The very bottom, where the track for the crane lay, was nearly pitch black. It was hard to make out anything through the bright strands of light, but as Nick’s eyes adjusted he was able to make out what looked like a clump of melting ice cream straight down from the railing. It was Marc Neilson’s crumpled and bloody body.

            Nick fell backwards immediately. His mind was racing to try and make sense of what it had just seen. It wouldn’t register, his brain would not click. Was it Marc’s body he’d just seen, laying across the crane track mangled and bloody? Nick shook his head and pulled himself up by the railing and looked down again, this time quickly. He gasped, mouth and eyes wide open.

            “Holy fuck,” was all he could say.

9.

            The next thing Nick knew he was walking quickly down the aisle toward the elevator. No thoughts were running through his mind, he was just moving. What he saw with his eyes played out on a giant movie screen in his mind, and Nick was the only person in the theater. He sat enrapt by the shaky image of the elevator doors getting closer. He was almost there when he was pushed from behind and sent lunging out of his comfy theater seat toward the concrete floor of B9.

            “Where the fuck you goin’?”It seemed Tom had regained control of his functions first. “You ain’t goin’ anywheres yet, boy!”

            Nick only stared up at him from the floor, his mind desperately trying to make sense of the whole fucking night. Tom’s eyes were still wide, his skin pale and it seemed his moronic brain was just about to explode. Nick watched as one by one Dean, Jack, and finally Pete, still holding the tennis shoes, appeared behind Tom. They were all looking at Nick and he swore they were deciding whether or not to drop him over the railing as well. That very real possibility drove Nick to his feet.

            “What the hell happened up here?” Nick tried to look angry but was sure he only succeeded in looking as scared as they did. “You were just going to scare him! That was all, remember Dean?”

            Dean opened his mouth to speak but didn’t get the chance. Pete pointed a shoe at Nick and began spitting out words. “Don’t try and say we fuckin’ did this on fuckin’ purpose you son of a bitch! It was a fucking accident and-”

            “He’s fucking dead, Pete!” Color was returning to both Nick and Pete as they spat at each other. “Accident or not that’s fucking murd-”

            “Don’t you fuckin’ say it, mother fucker, don’t you fucking say it was that-” At that moment all five of them began to yell. Spit flew in all directions as each one told the rest to shut the fuck up and fuck yous were sent all around. This went on for almost a minute before a noise caused them to stop.

            Somewhere behind them they heard crying. It sounded like Marc. All their faces went white once again, except for Nick. Nick was the only one who seemed to take this as a good sign.

            “He’s alive!” Nick couldn’t believe it. “He must have survived- we’ve got to get help, let’s go!”

            Nick took off toward the elevator and looked back, seeing the rest standing in the aisle, unmoving. He started to say something but decided not to waste his breathe. Nick jumped onto the elevator and hit the button for the first floor. The dream like feeling was almost completely gone as the doors closed on the group of men standing alone on the sixth floor.

The elevator ride seemed exceptionally long and bumpy as Nick paced back and forth in front of the doors. He was thinking about his next move, getting help for Marc. A part of him felt so happy that the boy was alive and yet another still slapped him and said You left him alone, asshole. You let those bastards drop him six floors just to save your own ass!

            Just then the elevator light flickered, hissed and popped. Nick was in the dark. A freezing cold draft blew over him and he shuddered, thinking the light must have kept the elevator somewhat warm before. Then he noticed that there were no lights in the elevator at all, not even a bulb to tell him what floor he was on. The car was still as well, no longer bumping downward. A cold breeze passed him again and the hairs stood up on the back of his neck, on his arms, everywhere.

            Nick spun around and saw the hazy white face of Marc looking at him through the darkness. In a flash, the pink eyes turned red and the whole image shot up through the ceiling of the elevator. Nick let out a long gasp, he had been holding his breath since the light went out and hadn’t realized it. The elevator lights fizzled back on and the doors opened and he was on the second floor. He pushed the button for the first, but nothing happened. The second floor beckoned in front of him. The dreaminess of the night swept back over Nick as he stepped out of the elevator and onto the second floor.

10.

            The men stood silently on the sixth floor, no one moved. The noise had stopped when Nick left, and now they just stared at the elevator doors. Jack and Tom looked petrified, Pete was red face pissed, and Dean was obviously thinking of their next move. It was Pete who broke the silence.

            “FUCK!” His favorite word exploded from his lips. “What the hell are we going to do, Dean? If that fuckin’ boy is alive we’re in for it!”

            “He ain’t alive, dipshit.” Dean had regained his confidence. “Nobody could survive that fall, we all heard the sound he made when he hit. The only thing we have to worry about is that damn-”

            Another noise interrupted Dean, this one sounded closer. It wasn’t crying this time, it was clanking noise, echoing up from between the aisles. Everyone turned their heads that way except Dean, who turned his whole body. It was Dean who spoke.

            “Is that you down there, Nick?” No answer. “Is the boy alive or not?” Silence.

            Dean started for the end of the aisle, but the others hung back until he was a good ten yards ahead and then followed. As Dean marched around the corner and out of sight, Jack picked up the pace. He didn’t like it when Dean wasn’t around.

            “Hold up, Dean!” Jack had barely gotten the words out of his mouth when a scream echoed so loudly they all flinched and took a step backwards. It was Dean, they all knew it even though they had never heard him scream that way before. A few seconds after the first scream came another.

            “HE’S EATING--” the scream ended in a gargle as if someone had poured water down Dean’s open mouth. The three men ran, more or less, around the corner and Jack immediately blew chunks all over the wall. Dean’s back was to them and his feet were kicking about a foot off the ground. What must have been piss was dripped off his shoes. His arms were moving wildly, hands clawing for the something in front of him. His head was thrown back and shaking violently, hair wet with the blood that spewed up like a fountain and rained back down on him. What had caused Jack to throw up was steaming in a pile on the floor just under Dean’s feet. At first Jack had thought it was shit but he lost his stomach when he realized that the red and brown pile was made up of coils of slippery, slimy intestines, a lot like the ones he pulled out of deer every season. These did not belong to any deer, they belonged to Dean.

The others held their stomachs down, but they were frozen in fear. After a few seconds that seemed like an hour, Dean’s feet quit kicking, his arms fell to his sides and the horrible gurgling sound of blood spewing from his throat stopped. The sound that remained was like that of an animal, chomping and tearing the flesh from its prey. Dean’s body shook with every tear and hung limp during the chomping. All the men felt like running, but their legs would not allow it. Tom found his legs and stepped backwards slowly before he turned and sprinted toward the elevator.

            Pete jerked his head and watched Tom run and stumble down the aisle. Then he turned back to Dean’s suspended body; breathing fast and uneven he stepped slowly towards his old friend.

            “Dean?” Of course, no answer. “Dean, what’s going on?”

            Pete sounded lost. He crept closer, breathing louder and sweating profusely. He reached his hand out towards Dean’s back, he was going give him and nudge and see what happened. Before he could touch him Dean’s body fell to ground like a redneck rag doll. Pete lost control of all his bodily functions when he saw what had been holding him up. A pale white face stared at him with red eyes. Blood was smeared all around his mouth and dripped from his chin. The front of his shirt, of Marc’s shirt, was soaked. It was he who had just ripped the intestines from Dean’s body and feasted on something inside. He still looked hungry.

11.

            On the second floor Nick had heard the screams from above. He ran down to the end of the aisle, directly below where they had dropped Marc. He first looked up to where the screams had come from and saw nothing but shadows dancing in the sixth floor opening. Then he looked down, expecting to see up close the mangled body of Marc Neilson where it should have been lying just below. Instead he saw nothing, not even a splatter stain. Terror rushed over him like a white ghost in the darkness.

            As Nick stared at the spot where a white and mangled body should have laying, another scream came from above. He looked upwards and saw more shadows dancing. The screaming continued for a few heartbeats and then stopped.

            “What’s going on up there?” As if to answer him a giant shadow leaned over the railing on the sixth floor. It looked like Pete, Nick thought he could see the shadow of a mullet. Pete kept leaning over the railing until he toppled over it. The enormous body hurled silently down and Nick pulled himself out of the way just in time.

            As the body passed the second floor it was facing Nick and his mind seemed to take a Polaroid of the grisly sight. Even as he heard the splattering thud as it hit bottom, he saw in his mind the body that hovered at the second floor. It was definitely Pete, his mullet blew in the wind above his neck. His front side consisted of a giant bloody hole that shown bright white rib bones and his spine, no trace at all of his usual well-stocked beer gut. Blood flew above the body like the tail of a comet. Once Nick’s mind was sure of the gory details, it quickly moved to the present where Nick immediately lost control of his bladder and his stomach flipped, as if to assure Nick that it was still intact.

12.

            Tom made it to the elevator and pushed the button frantically. Tears streamed down his face and joined the sweat that was soaking his clothes. He whined and begged for God’s mercy and for the doors to open and take him to safety. He didn’t know what was back there and he didn’t give a flying fuck, he wanted out! Pete’s screams caused him to turn and press his back to the elevator, staring down the aisle.

            When Pete stopped screaming Tom heard the same gurgling and chomping noises he had heard earlier. Then he heard some shuffling and a great splat. Tom was not smart, but he had heard that sound earlier, as well. Pete must have gone over the railing. Tom began to sob and whine like a school girl, like a fag boy who was being held upside by his feet, six stories in the air. Tom would only find redemption at the bottom of the crane aisle.

            Through his teary eyes, Tom saw Jack appear at the end of the aisle,  walking backwards with his hands out in front of him. Jack tripped over his own feet and fell to his back and Tom could hear him sobbing, as well. Tom looked around desperately for an escape. He realized with horror that the only stairs in the building were on the other side of Jack. He turned and began to pry at the elevator doors, thinking there must be a way to climb down.

            As Tom pried, he heard his name being called. He stopped and listened, the voice was not coming from anywhere, but it was everywhere, it was inside his head. It called again, taunting him. Tom turned and pressed his back to the doors once again. He was begging for his life under his breath, asking anyone, God, an Angel, even Satan, to spare his life. They couldn’t help him, the voice in his head told him so.

            Tom looked back to Jack who was still crying and had one hand up as if it would stop whatever was coming at him. Tom’s eyes followed the tip of the hand to the side of the aisle where everything had taken place that night. I see you, the voice in his head taunted some more. This time Tom answered out loud.

            “LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” His voice was broken by his sobbing. “LEAVE ME ALONE OR ELSE!”

            Or else what? Just then a figure stepped around the corner at the end of the aisle. Tom’s jaw dropped when he saw the brazen white hair of the fag-boy and his face and clothes covered in blood. He was smiling at Tom who could only shake and push harder against the elevator doors. The pink eyes of the boy flashed red and Tom felt himself falling backwards. He didn’t make a sound as he watched the light of the sixth floor grew smaller and smaller. His body slammed into the roof of the elevator, still parked on the second floor. Tom groaned into unconsciousness and the elevator roof replied with a creak before it gave way, spilling his limp body into the light of the second floor.

            Up above Jack was still crying. He had lost his two best friends in a matter of seconds and was now about to see his insides eaten while he was alive. It was enough to make most men cry. Jack whimpered and kept saying he was sorry as the bloody boy approached him with red eyes glaring.

            “Sorry don’t cut it, shit-head.” Jack’s high pitched screams echoed through all of Building Nine.

13.

            Nick had run to the elevator when he heard the crashing. Tom lay on top of a couple bags of garbage in the elevator, his only saving grace. Tom fell into his chest and moaned. Nick then propped him up with a hand on his shirt and hit him open handed across the cheek. Tom’s eyes flew open as Nick shook the sting from his hand and they both looked up, hearing the scream.

            Tom quickly regained his strength and pushed past Nick, heading down the aisle. “We gotta get outta here, Nick! It ain’t fuckin’ human, man! We gotta get to the stairs…gotta get out.”

            “What’s going on up there, Tommy?”

            “It fucking crazy up there, he’s eating their hearts while they’re still pumpin’, Nick. It ain’t human, we gotta go!”

            Tom took off, still mumbling, and disappeared around the corner. Nick jogged after him, not wanting to find out what he was talking about until they were safely outside. He rounded the corner, just steps after Tom, and saw him pulling on the door to the staircase. It wasn’t moving.

            “FUCK, man!” Tom’s voice simmered almost to a whisper as he half-heartedly beat his fist on the door. “We gotta fuckin’ hurry man!”

            “Let me try.” Nick pushed Tom out of the way and began to pull on the door. Tom backed up cursing and ringing his hands together. “It’s not moving, Tommy. We need a crowbar or a-”

            Nick had stopped talking when he turned to face Tommy. The look on his faced registered with Tom just moments before Marc grabbed his shoulders and spun him around. Nick watched from behind as Tom’s body went into the air and he screamed until blood spurted out of his mouth.

            Tom’s body then dropped just low enough for Nick to see the boy’s face over its shoulder. The blood that was smeared all over his face steamed in the cool air.

            “I’ve got to drop Tommy off.” Marc’s voice was not rough, his eyes were pink again. “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.”

            His eyes flashed red and then he turned into a sort of vapor that shot up through the opening of the crane aisle. Tom’s body went along with it, suspended in the middle of the mist.

            Nick immediately turned and tried the door again. He frantically looked around for something to pry it open with and when he found nothing, he ran. He didn’t know where he was going to run to, but he headed towards the elevator, knowing in his soul that it was useless. As he ran, he heard the wet thud of Tom’s body hitting the redneck pile on the crane tracks and his heart began to beat faster. He spotted the compactor to its right and jumped on top of it. He then slid down the other side, between it and the wall, and waited.

14.

            The white ball of light stopped suddenly just in front of the compactor and the boy returned. The blood on his face and clothes were now gone, his eyes their calm pink. He stared at Nick through the gap and turned his heady slightly, like a confused puppy. He smiled at Nick and even seemed to blush.

            “Come on out, Nick. I don’t want to hurt you. I like you. I always have. I just want to be with you, even if just for a moment. Come out and talk to me.”

            Despite every cell his body screaming at him to stay put, Nick felt himself rise and crawl over the compactor, never breaking eye contact with Marc. A fleeting wave of relief swept over him as he thought he just might survive this night, survive Bldg. Nine. The boy looked harmless now, almost like his old self but more confident. Nick’s old feelings of pity for the boy even returned, though just slightly ebbed.

            “You are a very good looking man, Nick,” Marc definitely blushed this time. “I have wanted to tell you how I feel so many nights now. But I resisted, I kept it inside.

            “When those,” --- his eyes flashed red briefly and his face contorted demonically, but quickly regained its soft look --- “goons caught me tonight, I was even slightly relieved. I thought for once I was spared the agony of desire from afar. You would at least know how I felt about you. I was touching myself while watching you. I was thinking of what it would be like to be in your strong arms.”

            Marc reached out to touch Nick’s arm but Nick’s natural reaction caused him pull away. Pain swept across Marc’s face.

            “Well,” Marc looked down, hiding his face as he spoke. “Now you do know. You know how I feel and so do those goons. Or at least they did before I ate their pumping hearts right out of their chests. I was hoping it would end differently for you, Nick. Even though you did leave me up there alone with those bastards. I thought you would help me when you realized how I felt. I thought you would…..”

            Nick didn’t like where Marc was going with this. His bottom lip began to shake. He stared at the top of Marc’s head and searched for words himself, something to calm Marc down but his brain wouldn’t cooperate. No words came to his lips before Marc began to speak again.

            “It doesn’t matter anymore, Nick. You know how I feel and I know how you feel, you pity me.” Marc’s voice was different again. Nick’s whole body shook along with his lip as rage overtook the hurt and softness in Marc’s tone. “It would have been good, Nick, even if it were only for one night, it would have been good. But I guess you’re not really much better than them. You should have saved your pity for yourself.”

            Marc’s face shot up and his eyes burned red. The blood had returned to his face and clothes and for the last time that night screams echoed through Building Nine. When the echoes subsided, and the final splat was heard by no one, Building Nine fell quiet again. Stacked at the end of the crane track were the bodies of the last six people to ever work in Building Nine. On top was a special boy, painted white by God and splattered with red by the pity and hate of the ignorant, smiling up at the crisscross pattern of light shooting through the darkness.

END



“Building Nine” is copyrighted 2005 by B. Michael Conover and may not be reproduced without permission. Mr. Conover welcomes your comments and you may email him at bmconover@hotmail.com

 

 

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