Few people notice the absence of Victor Lewis, an Urbex that targets one building a month, taking pictures and recording video. Two weeks ago, he targeted an abandoned mall, and told friends of his plans – only they made the connection to his plans and disappearance, and share it on a small local forum. As the rumors spread, more follow after Victor’s footsteps.
Mature | Death; Body mutilation; Body horror;
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The following week etches a habit into Victor, dragging himself through his shifts and taking detours that loop around the mall before heading to his apartment. With each pass nothing changes at the mall, something he knows all too well as each corner drills in the layout – to the point of seeing it every time he closes his eyes. He catches himself unable to sleep, lying prone on the floor staring at the ceiling until his consciousness wears out and he goes out. Coffee mugs worm their way into every morning, sneaking them in the middle of work and buying a few before driving back home – always drifting towards the mall.
But does he regret picking the mall?
No, he doesn’t. Responding to every little question brought to his thread and adamantly stating that – despite the dangers – he’s planning on spending a night or two there. Victor eyes the gunsafe sat on his desk, reminding himself that it’d keep him safe; he convinces himself. No one messes with a man holding a gun.
On Friday he spends his day in the back room, drinking coffee and staring at the ceiling, thinking about getting into the mall, taking pictures of the intact interior, and sleeping in a dusty back room so the teenagers won’t come across him in his sleep. He smiles and sinks down to the floor, the cup in his hand empty and he tries to take another sip. He sits quiet besides a stack of boxes, falling asleep against a metal shelf.
A co-worker kicks his leg until he wakes up, still between the boxes and shelf.
“Vic, are you feeling alright?”
“Yeah, yeah, just needed a nap.” He rubs his face, the cup falling onto the floor.
“You’ve been sitting here for an hour,” the co-worker lifts a box off the metal shelf, “you haven’t been the same since last week. What in the hell happened to you?”
“The month’s target, can’t stop thinking about,” Victor stumbles out from between the boxes and shelf, leaning against the wall and holding his face. “I’ve barely gotten any sleep, can’t stop thinking about the damn thing. Haven’t gotten a good amount of sleep. One to three hours top, on the floor.”
“You should probably just call in ‘feeling ill’ and go home,” the co-worker pushes the door open and the lunch shift cook can be heard shouting. Victor slaps himself in the face a few times until he can walk out the door, get into his car, and get a coffee. It takes time for the drink to take effect, and he stares at the trees while he waits, piecing together what he should take with him tomorrow.
Sleeping bag, flashlight, gun, the special camera, and take a time-lapse as the sunsets.
“Yeah, that sounds good.” Victor smiles.
He takes a detour home, riding the highway and passing the mall, staring at it, thinking, drinking from an empty cup of coffee before actually driving to his apartment. He fumbles up the stairs and struggles with his keys, sticking the lock with the key to his gun safe. “Goddamn stupid piece of shit, fit.” He grumbles, then starts yelling, and kicking at the door.
“Cut that shit out!” yells someone from down the hall.
Trying another key the door clicks, Victor shoving himself through and slaming the door behind him. Off goes his shirt and pants, leaving him to stumble onto the bedroom floor. Victor scrambles to grab the phone from the dresser, knocking down the alarm clock and the calendar. It’s slow to start up and he drums his thumbs against the front until he can get to the main screen. For the first time in days he calls someone.
“Hey yeah how you doing,” he shouts from the floor.
“Victor, what the fuck. I told you not to call me at this time.”
“I’m doing fine! How are the kids.”
“Oh my god, you’re drunk. You shit,” the call ends and Victor stares at his phone.
“Tch, whatever. I didn’t wanna talk with you anyway,” the phone hits the dresser and lands on the floor, Victor curling on the floor even as the open window leaks in cold air. He rolls on the floor, shivering and grasping at the blanket far from reach. He lays there in a daze, staring at nothing.
“Why can’t I sleep,” Victor whimpers, lying with his arms over his face.
Screeching from the alarm clock brought him out of sleep, finding himself laying face down on the floor and in his arms. He lies there until the alarm screeches again – it was 30 minutes after the first screech. “Alright,” he says beneath his breath, pushing off the floor, “today’s the day, thank god.”
He pulls up the bed and stumbles to his feet, falling against the wall. Three times he punches the wall, and three more times with the side of his head. He takes his time to get to the couch and into the kitchen, dragging out an energy drink and downing it completely. The can lands and rolls across the floor. He makes his way out to the car in a hurry, almost forgetting the plastic bag of things he was going to bring along on the kitchen counter. It takes a trip to a local coffee shop to focus him enough to drive straight, downing the first for three before starting down the highway. The other two get choked down on the highway, never stopping the car before it hops the sidewalk near the mall and bumps into the small wall.
With the camera he stumbles out of the sedan, already filming the bleak exterior as he crosses around to the passenger side. “Here it is. The Mall. Closed for six months after opening,” he pulls open the passenger door and grabs his gun, stuffing it into a side pocket, “It’s been a week since I was last here; only a survey though.” He shoves his small dinky flashlight into another pocket, “there were a few kids around last week; they probably won’t start anything. I can get out before anyone else can come in later tonight if need be,” he slams the door and trots through the mounting snow.
The camera flashes around the dull concrete and the plasterboards covered in graffiti. “As you can see, a lot of tagging here. There’s more by the entrance I found.” He walks through the low drifts made by other people, recording the graffiti and occasionally turning to the sky. At the next entrance he points the camera to the covered window. “There’s one of these at each entrance, but I think they’re covered in a black tarp. Saw some flashlights by some kids that were moving inside – so there is a way in. I’ll keep recording the outside for now.”
The bare walls take up the next few minutes he takes to get to the next entrance, where the White Rat holding a spray can watches over. A shout slows him from rounding the corner, huddling onto a wall with the camera peaking around the corner. A second voice laughs and the bay doors slam shut. “There it is,” Victor walks around the corner and zooms the camera’s focus on the bay door, “the entrance to the mall. A bay door with a brick to keep it open enough. I’ll wait a little bit before going in, just to see if they’ll come back out.”
He stood against the wall with the camera focused on the bay door, then to the purple arrow, and then he started walking towards the black painted door. “Here’s the door. ‘The Devil’s Hole’, wish I knew what it meant by that.” He flashes the comment above the door and turns back to the bay door and starts towards it. “Given them enough time,” whispers Victor, walking over towards the bay door, and passing the camera to his other hand, “It’s safe to go in, I hope.”
With one hand besides the brick he pulls and it does not budge, he pulls again and it does not move. “Shit” Victor places the camera on the ground, steps over it, and pulls at the bottom with both hands. The bay door rattles as it rolls at the top and slams on the top guard.
Victor is silent for a minute and then picks up the camera. “Well, that was loud,” he laughs and steps in, one hand pulling the bay door back down. Again it rattles and slams on the brick. In the darkness, holding the camera with one hand he pulls the flashlight from his pocket and turns it on. The light goes across the small room, the camera following it in sync. “Here’s the store room, not much I know.”
Through a door left ajar he enters a hallway edged with graffiti and trash along the floor, Victor flashes the camera and flashlight along the wall. At each door he jiggles the knob, flashing the camera over the few rooms that remain unlocked and empty of sound. At a corner he comes across the back room of a store that leads straight out to the center of the mall – he closes the door to check the rest. Two doors later sat a door partly open, a bag of food sitting on a counter with two people standing beyond another door talking amongst themselves.
He backs out and returns to the corner door, flashing his camera and light across the empty room with furniture stacked along the walls. “Looks like this used to be a small restarunt,” he whispers, “chairs stacked up, discolored squares on the floor.” He flashes the camera around the room from one end to the other, listening to the two men on the other side of the wall, the camera doesn’t pick it up.
“When he came to a few hours later, he had no clue why everyone was laughing,” one giggles, the other snorting.
“So how long did it take to get off?”said the second one between coughs.
“About, what, a week?”
“Jesus fucking Christ, Chip.”
Victor moves away from the wall and steps over broken glass at the base of what was once a window. He continues sneaking, looking back over his shoulder with every laugh from the two teens. Flashing the camera around to stores covered in plasterboard and graffiti, he crosses through the darkness to a directory and flashs the camera across it.
“Okay, so there’s an entrance to an underground garage. Maybe that’s where the ‘Vets’ are.” He smiles to himself and continues towards the center, making a path between broken glass and trash. “Damn, must be a party here every week with this much shit lying around.” He laughs. “Shit man, I should’ve tried to talk with one of them.” Back in the dark hallway glass cracks and the men are laughing again, one of them jumping on more shards of glass. “Shit.” Victor pulls himself behind the directory, shutting off the flashlight and turning the camera over behind him, waiting for the two men to go somewhere else.
Ahead of Victor shined down a broken skylight, the arches of the store lengths and the broken benches inside a carpeted ring. A dry fountain sat in the middle of the ring, with bottles stacked around the sides, bullet holes riddle under the bottles and among the lip. Victor, forgetting about the two men walking around behind him, turns his camera to the center as he walks towards it and looking among the details. “Oh man, that’s a good use,” he speaks loud, “a target range in an abandoned place.”
He steps over broken glass and drops his flashlight, putting both hands onto the sides of his camera – zooming in and out at the bullet holes among the fountain. He ignores the glass snapping behind him and crouches down, trying to find a perfect angle for a well lit image of the fountain.
“Dude, what the fuck are you doing here,” yells one of them.
“Taking a photo,” he replies, keeping his back to the two teens.
“You’re taking a picture of a fountain you moron. K, what in the fuck.”
“I have no clue. Yo,” the first person, K, kicks Victor in the arm lightly. “get out of here before you get hurt.” Victor does nothing and resumes making a video. “Are you fucking listening?” K kicks Victor in the arm again, pushing him off his knees.
“Woah woah,” Victor drops his camera and holds up his hands. “Don’t try anything, I got the same right to be here as you.”
“We were here first,” Chip, the other guy, pulls out a knife and holds it, “he said get out, so I suggest you quit with your shit before you get cut.” Victor takes a step back and pulls out his gun.
“Shit, shit, dude chill the fuck out,” they both hold up their hands.
“Hey, we cool now right?” Chip slowly puts the knife down on the floor. He looks over towards K, tilts his head, and looks back to Victor, stepping around to his far right side. Victor watches him with his gun on K, adjusting his grip on the gun a few times.
“Yeah, we cool. We cool,” Victor whispers, looking back at K and the knife he was reaching down to grab. Then Chip jumps on his side, pulling Victor down to the floor by his right arm, the left hand still holding the gun and his finger slips to the trigger.
The gun only clicks, and Victor slams his gun into the guy’s head.
“Chip!” K runs over and takes hold of Victor’s left arm – but his right arm comes free and he hands the pistol over to his right holding it by the barrel as he pistol-whips K. Still in a daze Chip makes an attempt to grab Victor’s leg and gets a knee to the chin. Chip falls away from both of them, holding his jaw in pain. K, bleeding from the left side of his face, punches Victor a couple time, trying to tear the gun out of his hand with his free hand on the grip and trigger guard.
“Let go of it!” K spits at Victor, holding on tight to the pistol grip with his left elbow wedged into Victor’s right arm that held the front of his shirt. Victor shoves K over onto one knee, K trying to rise to his feet while Victor kicks at his stomach with both hands holding onto the barrel tight. Another impact and one of K’s fingers slip to the trigger, the gun clicks once, and the second tug rings out.
Victor has a bullet wound in his chest, spitting blood and gurgling, trying to turn over while K drops the gun and falls back. “Holy shit. K, what did you do?” whispers Chip, rubbing blood off his lips. They sit back and watch Victor struggle against the ground, swallowing, coughing, dragging himself along the carpet towards his camera. He reaches out with one finger and taps one side of the camera until its turned towards him, blood smearing the joint of the preview display.
“Sarah, I’m sorry,” he coughs, spitting blood then rolling over onto his back; a hand over the bullet hole torn in his chest, fingers digging in. “Sh-shit,” he coughs again and vomit flickers past his lips. Eventually his breathing slows, one hand moving over his face and lies over his eyes and his gnashing teeth. He remains still as he passes.
“Dude, you shot a man…. You killed a guy!”Chip yells, getting up to his feet, falling back onto a bench. “Holy shit, you shot someone.” His head falls into his hands and he stares at the ground. K kicks the gun away from him and threw Chip’s knife into the darkness, where it strikes shards of glass. The sounds that came from both of them were empty sobs.
“What the fuck do I do now… fuck, god fucking damnit!” K gets up and starts walking away, then paces back and forth, holding his head against his fingers. “Oh shit, oh fuck,” he spits onto the floor and sits on the balls of his feet, spitting at the floor every so often. “What the fuck, Chip, what the fuck do I do?” he turns and yells at Chip, turning back at the sight of Victor’s body.
“I don’t fucking know dude. You fucking shot him!” Chip throws a glass bottle and it shatters against another plasterboard wall. “Lets just, fuck, not talk about this, never come here again, maybe?”
“The fucking monthly meet up is tomorrow, Chip! What the fuck am I suppose to say when they see fucking blood and a body here.”
“I don’t fucking know jackass!”
When a third voice groans they watch as Victor – still covered in blood, vomit, and in stained pants – rolls back over and pushs away from the ground, throwing up more blood. Even more blood comes from the hole still in his chest, leaking huge drops of blood that makes the puddle of blood beneath him larger, thicker, and more circular. The camera, sitting in front of him, soaks in the blood, and Victor spits onto it. “I’m….” he pukes completely, hacking and gasping for breath at the end and his head on folded arms.
Each movement that follows make Chip and K spit out their nausea.
Victor, caked with blood on his back and vomit dripping off his chin, hands, and down his shirt, sits up on the sides of his feet. He is still bleeding, spitting blood with every breath. The clouds above the broken skylight pass and he holds a hand to the sky, curling one finger back at a time. And he screams, grabbing onto his chest and into the hole dug into his lung. He turns back, holding onto his chest, and speaks. “Help me,” he starts with a whisper. “Help me,” he rises to his feet, one hand held out. “Help me,” he takes a step forward and blood splashes onto the side of the fountain, filling the bullet holes. “Help me!” he stumbles and holds onto the side of a bench, the hole exposed and his shirt making a triangle towards it.
Chip and K run back into the darkness, K grabbing the flashlight Victor came in with and leading them both out of the mall. Victor stands still for another moment, and falls onto his knees, almost falling to his side again. “Oh god, I’m going to die again.” He vomits again, and holds his head in his bloody hands, and then through his hair. “please,” he leans back and stares at the distant sky. “Help me, someone,” he whispers. His head falls back into his hands, and he sobs as he still bleeds and tastes copper.