Falling into the Siphon; [08]

Summary:
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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In her car, alone in the dark visitors parking lot of the college Alexis started in last year, Carol pulls her binder with the copied information back out and throws her backpack in the back and the binder into the passenger seat. She goes over it once, then starts her car, rolling out of the parking lot and onto the main road. She stops at a burger joint, swallowing down the cheapest burger while she reads over it a couple more times, marking it with a red pen. Her backpack sits beside her open, the binder peaking out and the loose papers ruffled. At around eleven she finally gets back home, her dog jumping and scratching at the door when the headlights flash over the living room window.

She gathers her things, carries them inside, and tosses her backpack onto the couch, stumbling into the kitchen. Her black and brown dog follows after her, bouncing at the back of her feet. “Not now Tilly,” Carol grumbles as she digs into the breadbox, dragging a bag of white bread out and stuffing three pieces into her mouth and throws one for Tilly.

On her way past the living room Carol locks the front door and pulls herself into her bedroom, Tilly following just behind and walks past as the door is held open for her. Not missing a beat, Carol drops down onto her bed and throws the covers back over her. Tilly attempts to jump up, succeeding the second time to a worn out Carol.

The dog walks up and down the bed twice before laying out beside Carol, her head lying almost on top of Carol’s. “Tilly, only for tonight,” Carol reaches up and pats her dog before curling into her sheets, falling asleep with Tilly breathing into her ear.

Carol leaves her house at 12:30 that Sunday, letting Tilly watch the house and tossing her backpack into her car again. She gets a bag of cheap fast food before she rides the highway to Findlay, letting her radio roar rock and metal all the way down. There she drives around aimlessly, letting a GPS app keep track of her location and where she has already been.

Around 3:14 she pulls into a parking lot. “Where the fuck could it be,” muttered Carol, stuffing a cold half eaten hamburger into her mouth. She sits there fiddling with her phone until it beeps. “Hello?”

“Carol, I went and told my neighbor about the missing guy. They’re the same person.”

“Oh shit, really?” Carol drops the wrapper into the paper bag. “Have you told Alexis?”

“She has class right now, but I can call her later.”

“Ah, alright, can you call me back after you talked to her? Or have her call me.”

“One question though; are you in Findlay now?”

“Uh, no.” Carol looks into the paper bag and pulls a few fries out of the bottom. “Why?”

“Carol, don’t tell me this is one of your hunches again.”

“No, for serious, this dude could be in serious trouble! I can feel it.”

“You feel it about a lot of,” Hadi cuts himself off and sighs away from the phone. “Just promise me you won’t go anywhere near the thing if you do find it. Research before action.”

“A careless Urbex is a helpless Urbex. I’ll see you later,” Carol cancels the call and crumples up the paper bag, throwing it down at the floor of the passenger seat. When she sets the GPS app on again and restores the previous trail, and starts the car up again. “How can a mall be so hard to spot,” she mutters to herself, turning off onto another main road and following it west along Tiffin Ave. An hour passes before she pulls off into another parking lot, stepping out and walking around her car twice before getting back into the driver seat, her feet sitting outside the car. She watches the traffic pass, shoving her nose into the artificial fuzz around her hood. Her distant stare is broken as a group of teenagers walk down the sidewalk, talking among themselves.

“Excuse me,” Carol starts, closing her car door and walking over to them. “Can I ask you a few questions?”

“Who are you?” One girl stares Carol up and down, “you got some ugly clothing.”

“Never mind that,” Carol keeps herself from commenting on the girl’s own coat. “Is there an abandoned mall anywhere around Findlay? I’ve sort’ve been looking around for it for the past few hours.”

The teenagers, who all around had similar coats, look to each other. The first girl answers again, “Are you talking about The Devil’s Vortex?” her face is twisted into general concern, the teenagers behind her whispering. “I wouldn’t go there if I were you, the White Rats like calling that place their ‘zone’. They don’t like anyone else coming in to their turf.”

“Do you know where it is located? I’m not planning on going anywhere near it at this point.” Carol lets another person not part of the group walk past.

The lead girl looks to one of the younger boys, he barely stands 5’4” “Toad, you know where it is right?”

“Yeah,” groans the boy, the scarf covering his nose and the bottom half of his face. “But there ain’t no way to tell unless I got a little… compensation.” He rubs two fingers together, one of the other boys laughing.

“Jacob would you knock that shit off, honesty,” scoffs the other girl in the group. “I know where it is – well the general area. It is on the north-west side, a short way off the main roads. Just look for the White Rat.” The second girl in the group looks to the first and nods, then they walk off, letting Carol stand alone in the middle of the sidewalk.

“North-west side, huh?” She starts her car again and drives straight for the far top side of Findlay, slowing her car whenever possible to look for a White Rat spray painted on a fence or building. The first of a long chain of rats sits within a thin alley, Carol catching a glimpse of it while driving through an intersection. Following white rats crawling on the walls, sitting with spray cans beneath their paws and grins on their cartoony faces. As she keeps following the white rats painted on walls, she starts seeing few teens in white hoodies wearing coats, bundling themselves up an staring down at the snow as she passed them.

When she made a full pass around the outer rims of the north-west corner, she drives for the center, still looking for White Rats and the tell-tale white hoodie-teens walking along the side walk and standing in store-fronts and back alleys. Off from the central road, after she takes a turn back to the outer rims,  Carol drives two blocks from a tall building disconnected to the smaller shops and chain stores, buildings with dilapidated structures boarding the rim between the massive structure and the surrounding roads.

Turning in to a side street and then another, Carol drives up besides a fence between the road and the building. A line of graffiti borders the bottom and snow piles on the parking lot and on the plants dead besides the concrete.

Carol calls Hadi. “Hey, yeah, Hadi, I found it.”

“What?”

“I found the mall VTLewis was talking about I think. It has a whole line of graffiti at the bottom of it and it doesn’t look like the parking lot has been cleared off for about a month. Lots of signs pointing to it being the one.” Carol drives her car around the perimeter of the building and its parking lot, looking for another White Rat to mark it. “I got some information that a small gang operation likes to use it as a sort of base camp.”

“Who told you this?”

“A couple of kids, they know this place a lot better than any of us. They also called it the ‘Devil’s Vortex’, so there is at least some public knowledge or notoriety about the place.”

“Well, fair enough, but it’s not a lot to go on.”

“Yeah, I know, but at least we know where this place is now.”

“True – but don’t get any ideas that you can figure anything out yet.”

“Yeah, yeah, it won’t be another Erie incident.” Carol smiles and laughs at herself, remembering Hadi having to bail her out of jail for trespassing. “I just need to drive around it a little while and then I’ll head back home, I need to take Tilly out for a walk anyway and visit my parents.”

“Alright, talk to you again later.” This time Hadi closes the call and Carol drops it into the cup holder. She rounds the far side of the second entrance and watches a pair of people drag a bay door open then close – she can hear it slam from across the parking lot. Behind the wall of what could’ve been a large chain store sits a White Rat, sneering  and holding down a spray can. Not too far from it, completely painted black with red words scribbled on it, is a maintenance door. “So, that bay door is where people get in and out… good to know.”

Her car pulls into the snow covered lot of the mall, makes a U-turn, and she drives straight out, giving the building a second glance before it vanishes from her sight. Her radio roars again to a rock station and she remembers the two walking into the building; but her concentration is broken by a wall of missing persons posters on the side of a coffee house. Five faces stare at her as she drives by, and she keeps driving onto the highway and out of Findlay.

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