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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Each passing day for Alexis, Hadi, Carol, and John meant more people could be entering the structure, encountering whatever was using the place as its residence. Alexis spent less time listening in her classes, skipping a few near the end of the day. Hadi, still piecing together his assets, worked harder to push out thoughts surrounding the mall. Carol went on as usual, marking off the two days between their planning and the night they went to the mall. She calls all of them up around six pm on the 28th to make sure they are all ready to enter the building – and if they got any more information to share.
But, by the time they arrived at abandoned mall, there was nothing else more to add.
Carol was the first one to step out of the car, leaving the car in standby with the keys still in the ignition and pops the trunk. Hadi and Alexis each took a long look at the dark building before they got out, unsure of they were even in the right place. Both of them turn to Carol.
“Spooky place, right?” Carol laughs then tugs their three bags over the edge of the lip of the trunk. She rewraps her scarf around her face and beneath her bobbing hair, and motioning over to Hadi and Alexis. “I would say it’s going to be exciting, but… it wouldn’t be right.”
“Yeah, I can tell,” groans Alexis before lifting out a double-shoulder strap from the trunk and pulling it over her shoulders. Hadi pulls his bag out and the waist-mount holster for his gun, throwing the small bag over his shoulders and stepping back on the curb to secure the holster. Carol, done fiddling with her scarf, pulls up the hood of her coat and throws over her bag. Alexis struggles to connect the carrying case for two of the cameras on the harness, letting Carol hold up her backpack to put her arms through. “Thanks,” she grumbles, still fussing around with the straps between the carrying case and the shoulder harness.
John lays across the back seat with his well-worn backpack tucked beneath the passenger’s seat. Carol peaks in on him, pulling her phone out of her pocket. “Here, remember the plan?”
“Yeah, call up every half hour, and four times within an hour if there is no pickup. Any instructions on what to do afterwards?”
Carol looks down at the driver’s seat for a moment and looks back up. “Call the police, since this time, there’d be some proof some crazy shit is going on in there. I’ll give a quick call before we enter, so we won’t be out of sync.”
“Right,” John sat up to take Carol’s phone and tucks it in his pocket.
“I got it on low, if you want to change the volume, it’s on the left side from the front.” Carol clicks the master lock and the car gives a short clunky click, and she stands up with a gloved hand still on the door. “Got everything?” Hadi and Alexis give an assorted yes, so Carol slams the door and the lights inside click off. The bright screen of John’s handheld console becomes the only light within the car and John remains lying on the back seat. Alexis slams the trunk and joins Hadi on the curb, followed by Carol shortly who walks past them and over the short wall – Hadi and Alexis follow close behind.
The three of them cut through the knee deep snow with re-paving steps, Carol making the first steps with Hadi and Alexis behind her. Winds batter them and kicks up loose snow around their legs, forcing them to move slower and in the direction with the wind. The large white rat stands in a mound of snow and the black scribbled door blends in with the overall stark darkness of the building, the bay door sits open, snow pushing against the walls and footsteps barely visible any more.
Beneath the overhang, they take a break away from the snow and rub off clumps of white from their boots and pants. Carol motions to Alexis for her phone, “side pocket, my right,” and Alexis turns her back to Carol. She pulls her glove off her right hand and pins it underneath her left arm and fishes out the cell phone.
Carol stands against the wall of graffiti, tapping the head of her flashlight against the paneling while she waited for John to pick up. A few seconds pass before John picks up, “hey, we are at the bay door entrance now, you got the time?”
“Yeah,” John half responds.
“What time is it in there,” Carol crosses her flashlight below her right arm.
“Oh, uh,” the rustling of John’s clothing tells his movement. “It’s 9:17.”
“Alright, call back around 9:40, thanks again.”
“No problem,” and the call clicks to an end, and Carol stuffs the phone back into the side pocket.
A small sigh, and Carol turns to Hadi and Alexis. “We ready?”
“As much as I could ever be,” Hadi looks away from the wall of graffiti.
“Good, then let’s go,” Carol passes both of them and eases herself down to the slope in front of the bay area. Her flashlight clicks on and illuminates the room full of snow and the trail of the door’s path, a quarter sweep hidden in beneath fresh snow. Alexis and Hadi join her in the dark room, pulling out their own flashlights and making their own light trails against the wall. Carol, holding the handle to the only door in the room and her flashlight beaming down at the ground, takes a deep breath through the scarf, and opens the door.
She releases her breath into the dark service hall, flashing around the doors on the right and the corner ahead. Hadi and Alexis fit their way past her, their flashlights dancing along the corridor. “Well, nothing yet,” Carol sighs, walking up to one of the doors and jiggles the door knob – nothing. Hadi and Alexis walk past her to test the other doors, and Carol finds a door into a stairwell. “Stairwell here,” Carol looks back down the corridor.
“Got an unlocked door down here,” calls Hadi at the end of the hall.
“All locked over here,” Alexis calls from around the corner, her flashlight beaming along the wall over to Hadi. “Go through this one first, and stairs after a bit?”
“Sure,” Carol shouts back then closes the stairwell door – it slams and the three of them flinch. “Shit, sorry,” she whispers and nudges her light over to where Hadi stands in the doorway of an open door. Carol goes in first, followed by Alexis then Hadi who closes the door slowly, letting the door only tap itself close. They’re standing in a kitchen area, a counter sitting halfway through the dusty room.
“And I thought Centralia was quiet,” whispers Carol, flicking her flashlight around the floor and the few flat surfaces. Alexis pulls out her photography camera and starts taking pictures, and Hadi walks past the doorway into the rest of the room and stares at the busted glass scattered around the front. Carol pulls Alexis away from photographing long enough to walk out into the main room and looks around a bit. “Well, nothing so far,” she starts walking back and pulls down on the door’s latch. Letting go of it, she pulls down and tugs the handle with two hands. “Uh, Hadi, Alexis, I think the door locked on us.”
“What?” Alexis looks away from a wall scrawled in a mural and over the registry counter, Hadi walks over and Carol lets him past. He pulls at the handle a few times, then kicks above the handle.
“Yeah, it’s locked tight,” Hadi pats his right hand over his pistol beneath his coat, “I guess we’re stuck here until we find… whatever is going on.”
“I bet it’s a spirit,” sneers Alexis, and Carol pulls her cross necklace out of her shirt and flashes it over to Alexis.
“I would be able to tell if it was a spirit,” Carol stuffs the cross back into her shirt and adjusts her grip on her flashlight. “And if it was, I couldn’t tell, because everything is cold already.” She walks past Alexis and into the little bit brighter area of the mall. She stands there and lets the flashlight drag around the structure and listens to the fair whistling of the wind. Alexis comes over and taps her on the shoulder, Carol turns over to her.
“Why didn’t you answer?”
“I asked you what we should do now, but you just kept standing here.”
“I heard nothing, seriously, I can barely hear the wind from here,” Carol turns over to Hadi and shines her flashlight on him. His mouth moves, but nothing comes out until he steps within arm length of her.
“What did you do that for?”
“Where you trying to say something when I flashed you?”
“Yeah, why, you want to answer it?”
“To the question about what we should do now?” Carol looks into the far back of the room with the flashlight and takes two steps into it. “Can you hear me?” Alexis and Hadi just stare at her, and she walks back to them. Her right hand pulls on the chain holding the cross and rubs it, she stares at the ground for a moment and looks to both of them. “I said something in there, and neither of you heard it?” Both of them nod, and Carol looks off to her right and left.
“Should we search one shop at a time? Just to be sure,” Hadi brings up, flashing his light over to the sealed doors of what would have at one time been a large chain store.
“Yeah. Let’s look over on that side first, looks like the rest of it is off to the left.” Carol kicks away broken glass and walks past the sealed front of another storefront. The three of them stand out in the middle of a four way path, looking between two blocks of closed stores, and Carol chooses the ones on the right. Inside the first one, they find nothing front to back, and Alexis walks over to the other one and she ran back into the first one.
“Carol, Hadi, oh thank god, you both are still here.”
“Why would we leave? What’s wrong,” Carol walks over to Alexis, who stands bent over and her camera hanging from her left wrist.
“There was… there was something in the other room. I heard sobbing, and it was broken up by moaning and then more sobbing. But,” she stands partly straight up, her hands still on her knees, “there was a circle of blood by one of the doors!” Carol looks up to Hadi, and Hadi pulls out his handgun and switches off the safety. He is the first to walk out off the room and the girls follow behind him. Alexis hides behind Carol, and they walk into the room watching Hadi walk towards the back, his flashlight focused on the expanding massive puddle of blood.
Carol trained her flashlight on Hadi, as he held his gun before him and walked around the corner and stalled, his gun lowers, and he looks over through Carol’s light. “There… there’s a guy here. He snaps his handgun back into its holster and holds a hand up to his mouth and pukes in a corner. Alexis doesn’t move from behind Carol, and falls back when Carol steps into the twisting puddle of blood. She caresses her cross while she watches the blood twist and turn, spiraling into the center were two bloody shoes sit. Her flashlight rises over torn pants and exposed bone, over a bloody white shirt exposed by a torn up jacket, and Carol holds a hand in her mouth to keep from puking.
“Please,” cries the small man, his arms limp at his sides, and Carol rises her flashlight over his face and turns it away. No eyes, she has to swallow down, and turns the light back over him. “Kill me, please, it hurts,” he’s sobbing without eyes, his cheeks torn to bone. Carol looks over at Hadi, who keeps off far from the massive puddle of blood Carol keeps standing in. “Kill me,” he screams, blood pouring over his lips, “kill me or run! Before he comes for you, and pops your eyes too.”
Carol steps through the puddle of blood and looks over to Alexis and Hadi, standing off and away from the open doorway. “Who? Who’s the person that we should run from.”
“The…” the teenager, Carol realizes now, it’s the teenager she talked with, the one that lead her to the mall. “The reaper, he’s come for us, all of us.” Carol crouches beside him, and works her thumbs against his face. She starts to take a breath and looks away, her flashlight stuck beneath her arm.
“Oh god, is it you Jessica? Why are you here!” His head moves side to side, Carol’s gloves slide with the blood.
“No, I’m not Jessica.” Carol has to look away, “I’m the black girl with the dark car, who asked how to get here… weeks ago.”
“Why are you here. Where is Jessica, where is John, where is Kate and Bennie! Have you found Nick?” His face slides around in Carol’s gloves and she lets his head go.
“John is safe. He’s helping me and my crew –“ she looks away again, thinking, and turns back,” we’re here to find out what is going on. I left that night with Jessica… but she came back alone – you, her, and Kate and the big guy are on the missing persons list.” She pauses and almost touches her face with his blood. “You three have been missing for over a week. Who is the reaper, what does he look like?”
“Fucking, bloody all over, torn to shit. He came for me, he still came after me after Kate and Bennie jumped him – oh god, he was bleeding on me when he came for me. Over and over, he stabbed me with Kate’s knife, the one she brought with her!”
“Do you remember any details of the reaper before he was jumped by them? Please, Vince, it’s important.”
“He was in torn clothing – like riddled with bullets torn! And he was covered with bloody clothing, like red head to toe – his face was smashed!”
“Vince, focus! Anything like hair, height,” Carol looks over to Hadi and Alexis who are turned away, their backs to her.
“I don’t fucking know, brown hair, had a few wrinkles, that’s all I remember! Please, kill me, I don’t want to be in darkness anymore…” Vince is sobbing again, his head leaning back on the refrigeration unit.
“I’m… I’m sorry Vince. If you saw how much blood you’ve been leaking… I can’t say that you shouldn’t be dead by now.” Carol walks back out of the circling blood, her boots squishing as she walked back to Hadi and Alexis. “We need to find Jessica, and Nick, and the others.”
Alexis checks her watch, “It’s 10 now, should’ve he called?” She finches when Vince screams at them, “please, let’s just get out of here, I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Okay okay, we’ll find a way out, and get the police,” Carol backs out of the store front, Alexis mute inside the store. She waits for the both of them, and watches Alexis’ face drain and a loud slap hits the ground behind Carol. She turns and just stares. A man without a shirt, torn to shreds and a knife sticking out of his arm lays quiet. Alexis and Hadi stand beside Carol, and Hadi pulls out his gun, then the guy moves and grabs the knife from his arm.