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?”
“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.