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Showing posts from July, 2012

The Warehouse: Part 6

Time for the final installment.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5


After for what seemed like ages, he saw a light, a bright white rectangle in the dark, blinding him with its brilliance. John smiled and stood. His feet planted firmly on solid concrete, and the air stirred in a faint breeze. His eyes adjusted and by the time he stepped through the portal he was no longer dazzled.

He stood in a hospital room, smelling strongly of disinfectant. Machinery whirred and beeped, surrounding a small bed. On the bed covered with a faded yellow blanket lay Mr. Smith. John moved closer to him and gazed down at the wasted figure. The droopy ears looked even more ridiculous now on his gaunt skull. John waited.

Lashless eyelids fluttered and slowly opened. Faded blue irises surrounded by yellow corneas streaked with red stared up at him. One of the machines began to beep faster.

“Hello, Mr. Smith.” John smiled. It was a distracted, humorless smile. “I brought someone to visit. He's an old friend, and he's very disappointed in you.”

Mr. Smith struggled weakly in the bed. His breath wheezed in and out, and the little tube in his nose was knocked loose. “....mistake...”

“No mistake. The only mistake was yours.” John sneered, his face turning dark and animalistic. “Deceiver. Traitor.”

He stepped aside as the Master rolled forward on roiling appendages, round tooth-filled orifice gaping open.  The old man shuddered so hard the whole bed shook and rattled.  Mr. Smith moaned and there was a loud, wet, sucking sound.  John didn't watch, but he smiled as the life was drawn out of his former employer.

---

That's it.  That's the end.  I know it kind of ends abruptly, but that's the way it ended, and I couldn't make it end any other way. 

So, for those of you who have followed this whole thing, what do you think?  I wouldn't mind hearing some real criticism in the comments.

I'll be back on Wednesday to for IWSG.  See you then.

Awards and Upcoming Blog Fests

In the past few days I've have been the recipient of a few awards.  Candilynn Fite has awarded me the




L.G. Keltner has honored me with the following awards:



So many pictures.  There are more coming up later.   I'm trying to cram a lot of stuff into one post today.

I'll answer the questions for the Booker Award since that's the one that doesn't involve writing 7 things about myself, and call me a bad blogger buddy, but I just can't muster up the energy to forward these to 7 people.  So people out there, I'm sending good vibes, but no awards (most of you probably have them already anyway, and if you don't, feel free to help yourself to one.  Or five.)

So with the Book Award I just have to list my 5 favorite reads:

1.  Charlotte's Web-Quick story about this book:  I got it before I understood the concept of chapters so the first time I read it I thought each chapter was a separate story.  I read the whole thing out of order.  I also learned the phrase "Magnum Opus" from this book, and as much as I would love to use it in everyday conversation, I never get the chance to.

2.  American Gods

3.  It

4.  Let the Right One In

5.  Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Second item of business:  Upcoming Blog Fests.  I've signed up for two starting in August.  Well one starts on July 30th, but close enough.  Click the links above the pics for details. 




With the What If? blogfest you're supposed to choose a team to write for, but I can't decide whether to go with Team Comedy or Team Plot Twist.  I'm never intentionally funny, and my plot twists are usually in they vein of "mundane, mundane, mundane---And then his head was ripped off by a giant spider!"  Maybe I can squeeze in a comedic plot twist.  The spider tells jokes while he noms on heads.

Anyway, Sunday will be my final installment of The Warehouse, and Wednesday will be the next Insecure Writer's Support Group.  Plus I have to start writing for the blog fests and I'm still about 5,000 words short of my 70,000 word novel (which will probably be the subject of the IWSG post).  So see you in a few days.

And the Winner Is...


Candilynn Fite has honored me by choosing my flash/sketch fiction Fireworks as the winner of her second Follow My Lead Flash Fiction Contest.

I was so excited to hear from Candilynn, and I was so excited that someone else enjoyed my story as much as I did.  When I started writing it I had no clue where it was going (as most things I write start), but by the time I scrunched it down to 300 words I could see so much of the story that wasn't being told and I think I might expand on it in the future.

Please stop by Candilynn's site to visit her and to see the other entrants.  There were some great stories submitted. 

As a prize I get a free copy of Fireseed One by Catherine Stine.

Ok.  Time for me to go to sleep now.  I'm up way past my bedtime.

The Warehouse: Part 5

Part 5 of The Warehouse.  Catch up with the previous parts here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

---

He sees flashes of images that are not his own: fire, deep bruised-looking furrows in the earth, black skies with no stars. There are creatures with bulbous heads, gaping sucking mouths, maneuvering on long whip-like tentacles that moved with no discernable rhythm. He is one of those creatures. He is trapped in a stone as punshment for crimes his human mind can barely comprehend in their barbarity. The stone is hurled into the universe where it drifts for millenia, before coming in to the gravity well of a faint yellow star. He is sleeping then, but still dimly aware of falling towards a small blue and green planet. When he lands the stone shatters, sending shockwaves across the world throwing dust and debris into the air, causing a winter that lasts for decades. He is unleashed.

He feeds on the lumbering giants that roam the world, but after a few years they become scarce, as their own food sources were destroyed in the cataclysm caused by his arrival. He finds smaller and smaller prey until his is reduced to hunting the small hairy animals that squeal so deliciously when he traps them in his rows of needle-like teeth. But they are not enough, so he sleeps again. When he awakens millions of years later he finds the world vastly changed, rain forests replaced with open savanahs, and on the savanah he finds furry creatures larger than the ones from before. Some of these creatures walk on two legs, and are especially delectable. Soon he makes a discovery. The greatest nourishment comes not from the flesh of the two-legged animals, but from their minds. He learns to live off of the psychic force that emanates from them, finding it to be so much more enjoyable.

He lives this way for a very long time, longer than even he can fathom, and as his chosen prey begins to change and evolve, they lose their fur, they grow taller, and they spread out from the savannah. They begin to wear clothing, to create art and music. They learn to grow grain, and to breed animals. They build villages, then towns, then cities. They spread out across the world, and where man goes he follows.

Man isn't the only one who has evolved. He has become dependant on their psychic energy. Soon he finds that he can feed off of one human for decades, and so he does. He and his host develop a symbiotic relationship, and for thousands of years it is a mutually beneficial relationship, until he grows bored with his host. Then he finds a new one. The old one finally succumbs to the ravages of age they have always avoided.

Then he meets a young man. A man whose psychic vigor is positively exhilerating, it makes what passes for a heart in his alien body beat fervently with joy. For many years they enjoy each other's benefits; the man is exremely fortunate in all his dealings and surprises everyone he meets with his vibrancey long after his hair has turned white. He luxuriates in the manna that exudes from the man's mind. But then the man turns deciever. Traitor.

The man has discovered a place where the lines of the world unite, where the walls between worlds wear thin. The man erects a metal building, and here-through trickery, and deceit - the man traps him here in the walls between worlds. And here he languishes, biding his time, making his plans, sharpening his knives in a metaphorical sort of way. He won't need knives when he finally escapes his prison.

One day a new man appears, but he is deemed unworthy when his mind is fractured in the warehouse. So he waits a little longer, and much to his surprise another, stronger man appears. He takes his chance.

This one is so strong.  This one won't break like the last one.  This one will serve.

---
Join me next week for the conclusion of the story.

Fireworks


Time for another Follow My Lead flash fiction.  Candilynn Fite runs this blog fest and you can visit her site for the other entries.

This month's prompt is this wonderful picture:




The fireworks flashed silently in the night sky.

Daria watched from her window, the air hot and sticky on her bare arms and legs. Calvin had once asked if she ever got bored watching the same show every night. She never did. She couldn't even begin to remember how many times she had watched these lights bursting outside her window.

Calvin crept into her room. He always seemed to think he could sneak up on her, but she knew when he was there.

“Hey,” she said softly.

“Hello.” He approached the window on silent feet, his movements smooth and fluid. “Are you watching the show?”

Daria responded with a shrug as a new flash of silent light burst across the sky.

“The Guardians are debating whether to remove the time lock.” He said.

“Why?” Daria straightened up, no longer focused on sky. “I thought the lock protected us.”

“It does. The question is how much protection do you need?” Calvin was watching the sky, his unnaturally smooth brown face lighting up in the flashes. Even in the dim light it was obvious he wasn't human. The Guardians had stopped far short of creating a convincing likeness of a man.

“Some have decided that a thousand years is enough time. If the lock is removed, you and your people will be returned to your home. You will rebuild and live on.”

Daria tried to imagine returning to a world where days moved on to weeks and years, where she would finally grow old, and eventually die. She didn't know how she felt about the prospect.

She turned back to the world outside her window. The fireworks were over, the sky still and black. A new day had begun.

The Warehouse: Part 4

Welcome back to the next installment of The Warehouse.  You can read the previous installments below:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

John and Carl watched the car drive down the block. As soon as it was out of sight Carl turned to him and asked, “What did he say to you?”

“What? Nothing.”

“John, did he say anything about the warehouse?”

“No. We talked about my family, or lack thereof. He asked me if I like working here.” John was reluctant to talk about the warning he was given or the cold hard looks that the grandfatherly man was capable of giving.

“Last time Mr. Smith was here, Rick was on the street the next day.” Carl placed a hand on his shoulder. “I tried to get a hold of him a few days later, but it was like he had disappeared into thin air. They actually investigated it as a missing person because so far as the police could tell he wasn't planning any trips.  He talked about the warehouse to Mr. Smith.”

“What happened to him?”

“I told you, he disappeared.”

“What's the deal with the warehouse?” John asked.

“Don't know, don't care,” Carl replied. “It gives me the creeps, even after 15 years. I've never seen any open doors though. But Rick saw them, and I know you did too.” He leaned in closer, the hand on John's shoulder gripped hard. “Rick said he saw something like a giant squid that wasn't a squid moving around in there. Did you see it too?”

John shook his hand off. “I didn't see anything.” He didn't want to talk about this with Carl. His colleague was starting to worry him. The man was so agitated that he was beginning to breathe heavily and even under the arc light John could tell that his face was a disturbing shade of deep red. “Carl, calm down. I think you're going to give yourself a heart attack.”

“Just...be careful, John. I have no idea what happens in the warehouse. I just know that Mr. Smith has something in there. I think it's alive.”

John went back into the guard shack and stared at the monitors showing the camera feeds. He had looked at these images every day for months, and nothing ever changed, except when he was on his rounds. He looked from one screen to the next; it was like watching a tv program that was paused during the most boring part of the show. Carl came in behind him and offered to take the next round. John agreed without taking his eyes from the screens.

He watched as a mini Carl in shades of black and grey moved from one screen to the next. He answered when Carl radioed that each of the doors were secure. He made notes in the log. Carl did all the remaining rounds that night and not once did John see a change on the screens.

The next day, John arrived at the warehouse at his usual time. Carl was already there, relieving the day shift guards. The senior partner on days was a man named Thomas who sported a beard to make Santa Claus jealous, and the junior was Carissa, a young woman who John occasionally flirted with, but today he had his mind on other things.

When Thomas and Carissa left, the two men settled into their duties as normal. Carl suggested taking the rounds again, but John would only agree to split the shift. “Like it's supposed to be anyway.”

Carl, seeing that he wasn't going to convince him to change his mind, reluctantly agreed.

A few times during the night he tried to bring up the subject of doors, and John redirected the conversation at first, before snapping “I'm not talking about this anymore,” after the fifth time it was mentioned. Carl looked hurt, but what was he supposed to do? Assure him that he was going to leave it all alone, just let it drop? John was the type of person who let a lot of things drop, but this was different. He felt the warehouse pulling him.

When it was his turn to do the rounds he grabbed his flashlight and radio without a word. Carl tried to say something, but he walked out the door without a look back. He didn't bother making a show of checking the perimeter or the other doors. He headed straight for Door 2.

It was waiting for him, yawning open like a toothless mouth. John paused staring into the blackness. He could imagine that there was nothing but a bottomless pit on the other side, even though it was straight ahead and not down. It felt like something was waiting expectantly for him to make his move. He took a step, then another, and he was in the blackness.

All was black and empty. He had no sense of movement, or air, or the floor beneath his feet. There must be a floor, he was standing on something, but he couldn't feel anything. He was blind, and turning around, he could not see the door he had entered through. There was nothing. He stepped forward, but there was no sense that his legs were moving. He inhaled, there was no sense of air rushing to his lungs. He said “Hello?” just to hear something, but the word fell dead from his mouth, hardly more than a muffled whisper. He started to panic. What the hell had he been thinking, just walking into the warehouse? The answer came immediately: he hadn't been thinking, not really. He had been fully aware of what he was doing, but the voice in his head that usually talked him out of anything that wasn't routine, had been as silent as the inside of the warehouse. 

John turned in circles.  At least he thought it was turning. The whole place was so disorientating, with no light, or sound or sense of direction. Was he on his feet or his head? Maybe he was sideways. John began to panic, his mind racing, but his body was inert. He tried to scream into the absolute nothingness, but as with everything else it was a dead thing in the warehouse. He imagined himself running, and perhaps he was actually running, how could he tell in here? He ran for a long time-the warehouse never seemed to end-and when he finally came to grips with the fact that he was going nowhere, he stopped. In the empty space that running had filled in his head, a new idea began to take root. He was no longer alone.

The presence slithered and rolled into being, crowding his mind, sliding icy tentacles into his brain. He whimpered as they poked and groped his mind, prying open his thoughts and memories, caressing, then tightening around his soul.

The Warehouse: Part 3

This part is going to look familiar as I posted it several weeks ago.  Surprise! It was part of this story, so I'm just going to repeat it for continuity.

Part 1
Part 2

-----

He was an old man, bent and trembling slightly. His hair pure white and sparse and parted directly down the middle. On either side of his head two large ears stuck out like handles with drooping lobes quivering in the air. His face was wrinkled and spotted with age, and his watery blue eyes glistened weakly in the bright light thrown by the arc light overhead. Christ he must be a hundred years old, John thought. Ms. Walker led the old man towards the shack. He didn't shuffle as John expected, but he lifted each foot , and deliberately placed it ahead of the other.

“We didn't expect to see you here, Mr. Smith,” Carl hurried ahead of the couple to open the door to the guard shack.

“Mr. Smith believed it was time for him to visit the property,” Ms. Walker responded. “It has been far too long since he was last here.”

“Oh yes,” Carl held the door open and stepped to the side to let them through. “It's been quite a while.”

Inside the shack, an area designed for 2 was woefully overcrowded with the 4 of them. Carl managed to maneuver a chair into position for Mr. Smith to sit in. The old man lowered himself slowly grasping Ms. Walker's arm with one hand and his cane with the other as Carl held the swivel chair steady. To John the whole exercise seemed to take a painfully long time, though it could not have been longer than a few seconds. He tried to stay out of the way of the others, it seemed they knew what they were doing. Carl managed to bustle about in the cramped space, shuffling papers into some semblance of neatness, tossing the boxes that contained the remnants of their take-out dinner into the round trash can beneath the counter. The whole time their employer sat still, his veined hands now both resting, shaking, on the head of his cane. Neither he nor Ms. Walker said a word. The only sound was Carl muttering to himself as he tidied up.

After a few moments, the old man spoke: “Mr. Nelson. I would like to speak with Mr. Coe privately.” The voice was high pitched and just as shaky as his hands.

Carl stopped his busy work, but his hands still fidgeted as if they continued to find papers to shuffle in mid air. “Sir, is there anything I can do for you? John hasn't been here that long. I'm sure I can answer any questions you have.”

“No, no, Mr. Nelson,” Smith's eyes wandered about, taking a leisurely tour of the room before landing on John. “I would just like to get to know you Mr. Coe. We haven't met properly yet.”

“No, Sir,” John said. “I am happy to finally make your acquaintance.”

Poor Carl hesitated, a worried look on his face.

“Mr. Smith wishes to speak to your colleague in private,” Ms. Walker said. She rested a hand gently, but firmly on his arm. Carl had no choice but to follow her direction as she led him out of the guard shack. As he left, he shot John a look, as if he was trying to send a message to him telepathically. John could only guess at what the message might be, but he thought it was Don't say anything about the door.

Once they were alone, Mr. Smith motioned to the other chair in the room. “Please have a seat Mr. Coe.” John settled himself in the chair, sitting up straight, hands on his knees. “I have been very derelict in my duty as an employer. What kind of man does not make himself known to the people who work for him?”

“No worries, Sir. I figured you were a man who liked his privacy.”

“Yes, yes. That I am. But still, it's rude.” He shifted in his seat, and stroked the head of his cane. “How are you getting on? Are you content in your work?”

“Ah, sure. It's pleasant enough.” John had never worked anywhere where his boss asked how he liked his job. He was a little unsure of what the right answer would be.

“And Mr. Nelson, has he been helpful to you in learning your duties?”

“Oh yeah. Carl got me squared away pretty quick.”

“Oh good, good. It's always good to have a team that works well together.” He paused. “Your background check shows you are unmarried. Do you have any family. Anyone you're close too?”

“Not really. There's my mom, but she's in Arizona now. Couldn't take the winters anymore.”

“Oh yes.” Mr. Smith said, his shaking voice pepping up a little. “The southwest. I spent some time there when I was a young man. New Mexico actually. It wasn't a state then, but beautiful nonetheless. Ms. Walker thinks I should move south, better for the old bones, but I love the winters, the cold. You don't hear that often from an old man!” He cackled in a way that made John uneasy, but he chuckled along with him.

“No Sir. You don't hear it from the young very much either.” John mulled over the information. Before New Mexico was a state? How long ago was that? 
 
“Everyone wants to be warm, Mr. Coe. From the smallest infant to the old man on his deathbed. They all search for it and they will find it, but in the end the cold wins out. I like being on the side of the winner.”

John decided his best response was to nod in agreement. It was a strange thing to say. His own hands began to fidgit on his lap. They sat in silence for a moment until Mr. Smith's quavering voice peeped up.

“How is the building? All secure?”

“Yes Sir. Every night the same thing. Nothing comes in or out, except me and the other guards.”

“I had heard that you have been having problems with animals?”

“Some coyotes dug under the fence and were wandering around the yard, but we filled in the hole and they haven't come back in yet. They have been hanging around though. You can hear them howling and yipping.”

“Not good to have animals about. Coyotes are dangerous creatures.”

“I know. Luckily nobody has run into any of them in person. We just saw them on the cameras.”

“Nothing else out of the ordinary?” Mr. Smith's eyes were fixed on John's face. They had lost their weak and watery appearance and were now shrewd and sharp as ice.

John acted as if he was trying to recollect anything. He shook his head. “No. Nothing else. Everything else is the same every night.”

Mr. Smith sat up straight in his chair. He still looked like a centenarian, but his body language had changed from doddering old grandpa to that of a man 50 years younger who sensed he was not hearing what he wanted to. He stared at John as if he could see the truth in him. John tried but lost the staring contest. Mr. Smith continued to watch him after he found something less threatening to look at.

“Mr. Coe,” he started, “It is vital that nothing out of the ordinary occurs at this warehouse. I have...valuables stored here, and I, an old man, often have delusions that they may not always be secure.” He sounded like a man far too serious for delusions of any sort. “You have never seen anyone-anything-that might make it seem as though the premises were not completely...safe?”

John steeled himself and looked back to the old man. “Safe?” Mr. Smith continued to watch him. “Mr. Smith, I don't know what you think might happen, but I never see a change from day to day. I make the rounds every hour and the gate is always locked, the fence is always intact, except for the incident with the coyotes. The warehouse is sealed tighter than...I don't know what, but it's locked up. Always.”

Mr. Smith did not believe him. It was obvious in his posture, the hardening look of his eyes the clenching of his jaw. John waited for him to call out his lie, but he only sat silently evaluating him.

“Mr. Coe,” his voice was no longer high and quavering, it was low and solid. “This warehouse holds things that are best left undisturbed. If you ever notice anything-anything- that would compromise the security of this building you must notify me at once. Failure to do so will result in disastrous consequences for you.” He leaned forward. “The blackness is not empty.”

“I-I don't know what you're talking about.” He knew exactly what the old man meant.

They sat in silence for an impossible amount of time. Mr Smith stared at John, John stared at a spot just above the old man's left shoulder. John couldn't bring himself to look directly into those sharp blue eyes. He felt if he did he would drop his gaze and that would be even more damning than not meeting the gaze. Finally Mr. Smith called for his assistant. “Ms. Walker!” His voice was high and quavery again.

Ms. Walker entered the guard shack and helped him to his feet. John didn't move to assist her, but followed them out the door and watched her gently ease him into the back seat of the black sedan.

“It was a pleasure speaking with you, Mr. Coe” Mr. Smith said.

“Likewise,”John replied. Ms. Walker closed the door, slid in behind the wheel and drove off without a word.


Insecure Writer's Support Group

It's the first Wednesday of the month again.  Ok, first Tuesday, but I figure with the 4th of July tomorrow, I'll just get this out of the way.

Last month I announced my goal of writing 70,000 words in 90 days.  60-some days down and I'm at 40,462 words.  I did the math.  I have to write 1230-ish words a day 6 days a week  to make my goal.  I'll give it my best shot.  I'm dreading the end, because then I'll have to start rewriting, and that will be a chore.  I know that first drafts are supposed to be bad, but as a whole this is turning out to be an unholy mess.  Mostly because I keep tacking things on as an afterthought.  I'm avoiding a major emotional scene, because I don't like talking about my own emotions, and writing about someone else's (albeit a fictional person) does not appeal to me.


I participated in Candilyn Fite's Follow My Lead blog fest, and I think my entry was pretty good.  I didn't win, but as always everyone who entered was great.  You can see the winners here.

Otherwise, I'm feeling pretty good.  I hope that next month I'll be able to announce that I completed my first draft.

How are things in your world?

Inspirational Monday

Inspirational Monday is the brain child of Von L. Cid over at The Growing Writer.  The first Monday of each month you are supposed to write about something that inspires you. 

When I first saw this, I thought "New blog hop.  I'm getting in on the ground floor on this one."  I imediately signed up, and then I immediately forgot about it.  Whoops.  In my defense, I once forgot my own birthday.  It was 5 pm on my birthday before I remembered what day it was.

But enough about that. 

What inspires me?

Other blogger/writers I have met since I started seriously writing again, if I can call what I'm doing serious.  People like Von, L. G. KeltnerMichael Abayomi, and Alex Cavanaugh.   Well basically everyone I follow. They are all people in different phases of development, all doing their own thing, all making writing a serious part of their lives.  When I grow up I want to be just like them.

So, Internet, what inspires you?


The Warehouse: Part 2

You can read Part 1 here.


The next night, John began his walk through as normal. He considered asking Carl to do his fair share of the work for once, but after thinking about it decided that it would seem strange that he would suddenly want to change his habits after what had happened the night before. He grabbed the radio and flashlight, and started his rounds.

The perimeter was the same, no surprises there. At the warehouse he anxiously checked Door 1 and the bay door. Both of them were secure as usual. Western wall the same. He turned the corner and walked confidently towards Door 2. He could see before he even reached it that once again it was wide open. He forced himself not to alter his pace as he approached the opening. All his caution stemmed from a sense that allowing anyone, even Carl, to know that the warehouse was open was asking for trouble.

He stopped in front of the entrance, and looked into the blackness. Again he noted how the light didn't penetrate the interior of the building. Again, he felt that someone was watching him from inside. John stepped towards the doorway, one step, then another, until the toes of his boots were just on this side of the emptiness. That was what it felt like, empty, but not empty. Someone was in there watching him, waiting to see how far he would go. His raised his hand, extended it, stopping just short of the dark again. He felt nothing, yet something. John pressed his palm forward slightly and felt the slightest resistance, as if across the doorway to darkness the thinnest, sheerest membrane stretched, keeping the world at bay. He increased the pressure-

-and felt the membrane push back.

John snatched his hand back in shock and disgust. The push back felt as if someone had pressed their hand to his through the membrane. Only it wasn't a hand; it was something very un-handlike, no individual digits like the human hand. John pressed his palm protectively to his chest, still gazing into the dark.

Something moved.

How he knew something moved, John couldn't tell. The blackness was so complete that movement could not be detected, but he saw it, heard it, felt it. He had a sense of a large fluid body rolling across the doorway with multiple appendages pulsating and roiling across the floor. Then it was gone. He blinked.

The door was there. Cold, silent, still.

John turned towards the camera trained on him and the door. He put on his cheesiest grin and gave a thumbs up to Carl back in the guard shack.

“Door 2 secure.”

“Roger that,” Carl replied without hesitation.

Back at the guard shack John logged his walk through, noting that all was secure with nothing out of the ordinary. Carl made no mention of the time that he had spent hanging around the black entrance and John had the idea that Carl hadn't noticed anything strange.

“So, uh,” John began. “There was a guy before me right?”

“Of course there was a guy before you,” Carl replied never looking up from the small TV that was showing an episode of Seinfeld. “Rick.”

“Rick,” John said the name. “What happened to him?”

“What do you mean, 'What happened to him'?”

“Why do I have his job now?”

“I'm not at liberty to say,” Carl looked up from his show. “Let's just say that he had some problems, and the job didn't agree with him.”

John grimaced. He hated non-answers. He wondered if Rick had seen the open door. He wondered if Carl ever had. He suspected not.

Three nights later Mr. Smith came to visit.

In the preceding nights, John made his rounds, but Door 2 remained closed, locked and completely inert. He said nothing to Carl about what he had seen and felt, and was starting to feel like maybe he might have had some sort of stroke and imagined the whole thing.

Mr. Smith's visit solidified his belief in what he saw.

They were in the guard shack enjoying the warmth. The temperatures had dipped into the 40's during the night, and while not overly cold, it was much more comfortable inside. They were watching rerun of How I Met Your Mother. Carl loved anything with a laugh track, John cringed at the sound of canned laughter. As fake laughter filled the air, a dark car pulled up to the gate. John had never seen anything pull up to the gate in his tenure at the warehouse, and looked to Carl for guidance.

“Shit,” Carl breathed. He suddenly looked far more concerned, even scared, than John had ever seen him.

“What? Who is that?”

“Mr. Smith.” Carl stabbed a pudgy finger at the power button on the television set.

“Oh,” was all he had to say. Finally, the (un)famous Mr. Smith. John had been given the expectation that he would never meet the man who paid his rent. Carl had never mentioned him, and Ms. Walker had only spoken of him in the vaguest terms. He was starting to believe that the man didn't exist, or that the name was just a cover for a shadowy cabal with hazy plans for world domination, or at least the domination of one 4000 square foot warehouse.

“Don't say anything about the door,” Carl said, putting on a big smile for the boss. His voice, however, was deadly serious, and for the first time John realized that his coworker wasn't just a rent-a-cop stereotype, more interested in crappy sitcoms and donuts. He knew. He knew what John knew and was very good at keeping it hidden. John suddenly felt full to bursting with questions, but for once had the good sense not to ask them. Instead he followed Carl out of the shack to greet his boss.

Carl unlocked the gate to allow the black sedan to pass through. It pulled up behind the guard shack and the engine was left to idle as Ms. Walker stepped out of the car. She was a woman that John guessed was in her mid-fifties, her hair dyed an ash blond color and pulled back in a severe bun, every strand in place. John knew she wasn't a tall woman, but the heels she always wore, and the military straightness of her posture gave her an imposing presence. On his first meeting he had realized that he was a little afraid of her, and subsequent meetings only made the feeling worse.

“Good Evening,” Carl greeted cheerily. “Bit chilly tonight, Ms. Walker.”

Mr. Smith's assistant merely nodded and went to open the rear passenger door. The overhead light inside didn't seem to fully illuminate the figure in the back seat, and John had a momentarily disconcerting feeling that the only thing sitting there was a pair of legs and one arm, clad in a black suit jacket, and one pale blue veined hand resting on a black trousered lap. Ms. Walker reached into the car and gently grasped that arm and helped it's owner out of the vehicle.