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.
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.