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Hope’s End

Hopes end


Estimated reading time — 20 minutes

The buzzing of my phone pulled my eyes away from the road. An image of a smirking dark haired woman and the words HeartBreaker filled the phone’s screen. I thought about answering it and screaming at her to call Dylan.

“He’ll keep you warm at night while I’m working. Dylan is more trustworthy too. What an upgrade you made, you selfish wench.” Scoffed Jack.

But that wouldn’t really scratch the itch. I imagined her on the road ahead of me, rolling over the top of my car before crashing behind me on the concrete.

My phone buzzed again, and again HeartBreaker was displayed on the screen. I reached for the phone just as the screeching of tires and the blaring of a horn pulled my eyes back to the road. An ambulance trying its best to warn me of the oncoming head to head collision. I pulled the steering wheel hard back into my lane, narrowly swerving around the ambulance. Its sirens grew quiet as it pulled away down the road. I exhaled and unclenched my grip on the steering wheel.

“Well hey,” I thought, “If I did get in a wreck, better an ambulance right?”

Someone else’s life was probably in danger though.

“God, I’m awful.” I admitted out loud.

Slouching back in my seat, I looked in the rear view mirror at my art supplies poking up out of the back seat, slightly obscuring my vision of the road behind me. Adjusting the rear view mirror, I checked that my hair looked okay, and pushed a few sandy blonde strands back into place behind my glasses. I tried to smile. I was on the way to my first day on the job as a security guard.

An artist in the area who owns a private studio and gallery. Why this artist would need a private security guard to watch the place overnight was beyond me. However, it paid very well and I was told I would have free time I could spend how I like so long as the job was being done well. The perfect opportunity to paint in what I imagine will be a beautiful location, surrounded by inspiration and art.

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The road wound to the left, and the No Outlet sign I was looking for came into view. Turning the car down the heavily wooded road, the twisting branches overhead and dense foliage bloated out what little sunlight was left in the darkening sky.

I turned my brights on and eased off the gas. The isolated road stretched on into a veil of dark trees my headlights could not pierce. I drove in silence, the evening breeze stifled by the woods. The world lay still around me, reminiscent of an animal listening after a predator snaps a twig. A hot buzzing sensation pricked at my right cheek, an urge to stare into the night festering. The urge to snap my head and catch whatever was staring at me. It built into something unbearable and just as I was about to give in.

The tree line came into view.

A building at the end of the road centered in a black frame of dark trees and pavement, a twilight sky as the backdrop. I could see that it was one of those modern buildings. Flat white walls with oddly jutting architecture of contrasting colors. And an unsettling amount of glass revealing everything inside. Tall ferns in red pots, rows of paintings lining the walls of the hallways, and the man standing in the doorway.

“Deep breaths Jack, you already have the job.” I muttered, wiping my hands dry.

I put the car in park in the roundabout driveway and got out.

“Mr. Hope.” A statement, not a question. The voice of a professional.

“Yeap!” I said, “I’m Jack, we talked on the phone yesterday.”

“Your shift starts at 10pm.” Said the man turning away, already stepping inside.

I checked my watch, it read 9:52.

“Late,” I sighed. I was supposed to arrive a half hour early for orientation. The man was already inside, walking towards a desk just off to the right of the front door.

“Mr. Brown, right?” I asked, “What do I need for the shift?”

He didn’t even so much as cock his head to the side to better hear what I was saying. Either he couldn’t hear me or couldn’t be bothered to listen.

I locked my car and stepped inside. My glasses immediately fogged from the sudden temperature shift and I rubbed at the goosebumps on my arm.

“Hold on, I need my jacket.” I said, turning back towards the door.

“There isn’t time.” Again, not a suggestion, but a command.

“Oh, well… okay.” I thought, deciding I would just get the jacket later.

I stepped over to the desk, my footsteps echoing on the marble floor.

“Listen closely,” Mr. Brown turned around with a flashlight and a folder, “here is your flashlight and rules for the evening. The keys to lock up are in the top drawer. The lights for the building are next to the desk. Read the rules quickly, and get started. Should you have any questions, I will answer them in the morning. Your shift ends at 0600. Trust the rules.”

Dropping the flashlight and folder in my hand, he stepped towards the door. Mr. Brown gripped the handle and opened his mouth to speak once more. “There’s a jacket in the bottom drawer, good luck.”

The soft latching of the door closing behind him echoed throughout the hallways. I could hardly hear his black SUV as Mr. Brown started it and drove off. I opened the desk drawer and found the jacket, navy blue with SECURITY, printed in bright yellow on the back. I put it on, sat down, and opened the file, inside was a single piece of paper with the rules of the job. I started reading through them.

The black door in the basement is to remain closed at all times.

What basement? I scanned the area around me and found the basement door was directly behind me. How did I not notice that before, it was one of the only sections of wall that wasn’t glass? I really need to pay better attention. Sounds like something HeartBreaker would say.

At the start of your shift check that all windows and doors are locked, except for the door mentioned in Rule 1.
At 10:30pm cover the painting An Evening in Red with a sheet and promptly uncover it at 10:45pm.

Oddly specific.

Look at the floor when walking through the west wing, never look up, no matter what you might see or hear.

An uneasy feeling stirred in the bottom of my stomach.

Music will start to play at midnight, when this happens turn off the lights to the building, and get under the security desk.

The feeling grew and I quickly read through the last few rules.

If you hear breathing, hold your breath until it stops.
At 3:00am, turn the breaker off in the basement. Then follow its instructions.
At 3:15am, make sure you are in the west wing. Do not leave this wing until 3:30am.
From 5:55am to 6:00am, run.
Don’t listen to what he is saying.

“There’s no way this is real,” I laughed.

I decided there wasn’t any harm in following the rules, probably just a mean spirited joke. I looked out the window to the right of me as the last of the twilight sky rolled behind the hills. My watch beeped, 10:00 o’clock.

Well, better start locking up, I thought, but before I do… I smiled to myself, got up, and went outside.

Ten minutes later I had an easel set up with a fresh canvas and some paints laid out on the desk. I figured there would be no harm in killing time painting. This building was full of inspiration, just like I’d imagined. I glanced over at a particularly interesting painting, a red kite on the moon, the earth in the background, but the water was red, and the land a pale brown. It was unnerving but beautiful.

“Better get started.” I said to the empty room.

Reaching into the top drawer I grabbed the key ring, got up from the desk and made my way counterclockwise through the building. My footsteps echoing softly through the halls, I kept an eye out for the painting with a label reading An Evening in Red. The dark forest on my right drew my eyes, the light from the building shone a measly ten feet. I tried not to think about it, tried to avoid the hair standing on end, the hot buzzing sensation crawling down my spine. The urge to spin around and look.

Finally, I found the painting I was looking for. It was in the north hall. It was an image of a meadow full of red flowers lit by a late autumn sky, loving detail given to each petal. The painting was lovely, but it felt wrong. I got the same feeling looking into the painting that I did looking at the dark woods behind me.

“Oh grow up Jack, it’s just the woods.” I told myself.

Pulling my eyes away, I locked the secondary door directly across from the painting and kept moving. The building was shaped like a rectangle, just four halls looping into each other. There was a basement apparently, but I had no reason to go down there until 3:00 A.M. as per rule number seven.

I reached the west wing and remembered the rule to look at my feet just as I crossed the threshold. As I approached the hall I noticed that this wing had no windows, just solid brick walls, not even the same smooth white drywall like the rest of the building.

A soft thud brought me to a halt.

A second thud, and my heart began to pick up pace.

A third thud, it was coming from somewhere else in the building.

I walked to the southern wing, back to the start, and heard a fourth thud. It was coming from the east wing. I looked up to see three figures outside the windows, thud, an egg cracked against the glass, its yolk running slowly down the glass.

“Hey.” I said weakly, then again trying to instill more authority in my voice. “Hey!”

“Wait, they can’t hear me,” I realized.

I unlocked the front door and came around to the side.

“You kids can’t be egging the windows.” A suggestion, not a command.

“Oh, run boys!” Cracked a voice, followed by hurried steps. By the time I got around the corner, they were already gone. I looked over at the window, five egg yolks frozen to the glass at various heights.

“Dang, I wonder if I’m supposed to clean that up?”

I checked my watch, 10:28. I headed back to the building, conceding to cleaning up the egg later and found the painting again in the north wing. A new figure was in the painting, a woman. She had long red hair, a dark red dress, and was looking straight at me. Her face was made up of only red eyes, they were open wide, and locked with mine.

I fumbled with my jacket and covered the painting as quickly as I could. I checked my watch, 10:31. The feeling in my gut grew to a nauseating level.

Did I miss that lady in the painting before, had she always been there? She was a small detail, I could have missed her, but she was definitely there the second time.

The front door opened. I had forgotten to lock it behind me. Soft footsteps approached the west wing, was it those teenagers again? Stepping closer to the west wing, I listened to the footsteps drawing closer. I peered down the hall quickly and saw a body lying on the floor. Its navy blue jacket, stained with blood. The footsteps stopped at what sounded like halfway down the west wing hallway. But all I could see was the body. I backed away from the hall, my heart beating hard in my chest.

The sounds of paper fluttering came from behind me, from the security desk. I took quick but cautious steps back to the desk, peered around the corner and saw the folder and the rules list had been scattered on the floor. Then, I watched in horror as my easel lifted a foot in the air and splintered violently against the window.

This wasn’t worth $450 a night! Dropping the key ring in the lobby, I ran out to my car, half concealed in darkness. My fingers were trembling as I fumbled with the car key. The key slid smoothly into the lock which popped with a twist. Jumping into the car, I locked the door and went for the ignition. Nothing, not even the clicking of an effort to start.

“No, no, no, come on!” I wrenched the keys forward again, and again, nothing. A twig snapped in the woods to my left. I scanned the forest while moving as little as possible.

Panning my eyes back and forth against the black tree line, the wind rustling the leaves and branches I tried the car again, and again nothing. Another twig snapped, closer this time. I looked into the dark and caught the faintest shifting of tree limbs, followed by the snapping of another twig. Something was stepping out of the woods.

I jumped out of the car, not even closing the door behind me, and ran back into the building. I closed the door behind me, nearly dropping the keys, and locked the door.

“The painting!” I checked my watch, 10:44.

I ran back to the north wing and pulled the jacket smartly away from the painting. The girl was gone. I let out a sigh of relief and sucked in a breath of cold air. I slipped the jacket back on and made my way to the desk, picking up the paper and the folder, I checked the rules. Nothing else for an hour and a half. All I had to do was sit here. Easy enough. I checked the light switches, making sure they worked. The building was plunged into darkness with only a single switch, I snapped them back on. No need to be in the dark if I don’t need to be.

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I checked the building one more time, making certain that there was no else here, and sat down at the desk. Quiet washed over me, I took deep breaths, trying to steady my heart rate. Fifteen minutes passed and I decided to try and calm myself down with painting, easel or not.

I had just propped my canvas up on the desk when my phone rang, from an unknown number.

“Hello?” I said, answering the phone.

“Hello, this is Mr. Brown. I just wanted to check up on you, many prospects leave after the first hour.”

I wasn’t sure what to say, I was scared and wanted to leave. But I also didn’t want to disappoint. Plus my car is dead.

“I think I made a few mistakes.” I admitted.

“Hmm, what rules? Depending on the rule, you could be in quite a bit of tr-.” Mr. Brown’s voice cut off in heavy static.

“Hello? Hello?”

“Yes I am still here.” Said Mr. Brown, his voice cutting through the static.

“Well, I was late to cover the painting and I left the front door unlocked. I think someone entered the building, but I haven’t seen anyone.”

“Did you hear footsteps?”

“Yes.”

“Where did they go? Think clearly, Mr. Hope, this is quite an important detail.”

“Ea- no, west, the west wing.”

“Hmm understood, you should be fine. The door is locked now, right?”

“Yes!”

“Good, just follow the rest of the rules, and you will be okay. It’s almost midnight, I’d make sure you’re near the lights. It can be quite fast.”

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“What?” Almost midnight? It’s maybe 11:05. I checked my watch, 5 till midnight. “Mr. Brown, what, how is it midnight?”

The line was already dead. The call must have dropped. How is it already midnight? I waited the last few minutes, watched my watch strike midnight, and promptly shut the lights off and made for the desk. The music started – not really music, though – just the first few notes of a song, repeating over and over softly. There was some kind of odd, metallic instrument playing along. I strained my neck and tried to listen.

Two evenly spaced quarter notes, followed by two quick eighth notes. The instrument made a clicking sound, stopped, then burst back into song, much more rapidly, straight sixteenth notes now. Not an instrument, feet. What I was supposed to be hiding from. I noticed that I had leaned my head out to listen to the sounds and tucked back under the desk, cursing my stupidity. The sixteenth notes grew louder, but slowed down, back to its original two quarter and two eighth notes.

The sounds changed, metal on wood, no longer metal on marble. It was crawling over the desk. Now I could hear a soft, whirring noise. Then it breathed, a ragged breath. Rule six filled my mind with panic and I sharply inhaled. The feet stopped.

I’m dead. No way I was coming back from this one. A minute dragged by and I could still hear the rasping breath. My lungs burned and I could feel the rising pressure in the pit of my chest. Then the music stopped, followed by the breathing, and I attempted to stifle my exhale. I sat in silence, drawing in deep, quiet breaths, feeling the oxygen rush around my body.

In. Out. I kept telling myself to breathe. I willed my hands to unclench, wincing at the indentations left in my palms as I tried to flex my hands. I listened for anything, satisfied that whatever it was, was now gone. I crawled out from under the desk and peeked over the top. The top of the desk now looked like a well used cutting board. I felt along the divots, they were jagged, like a serrated knife had been used to cut meat here on the desk. My meat being butchered, would I scream? Or pass out from shock? How long would it take me to die? How long would it take for someone to find my body? Would Mr. Brown just bury me out back and find some new college graduate, desperate for money, to sacrifice to this place? I shuddered at the thought. He can’t seriously expect me to survive this night.

I only had a few rules that I had yet to experience, I trusted rule five, and I’m still alive. I resigned to trust the rules, for now. Thinking of what was next, the breaker in the basement, and its rules.

Time came to turn off the breaker. Cool air flowed past me when I opened the basement door, and the smell of salt filled my nostrils. Flicking the light switch next to me, I took a tentative first step, the board fiendishly announced my presence. I held my hand against the stone wall and crept down the stairs, tensed, body half turned, ready to spring up the stairs should anything happen. Three steps left.

Two steps.

One.

My foot landed on the concrete floor. The unfinished basement walls concealed a great many shadows. The landing was isolated from the rest of the basement and there was an unfinished frame where a door would go three feet in front of me to the left. I inched closer to the frame and listened for a moment. Hearing only the sound of my heart, I peered around the corner. The room was bare, save for a black double door on the far side and the solitary breaker on the left wall. The double door was chained shut, a tall line of salt crossed the door, there was even salt placed on top of the door frame. I took a closer look at the door frame I was peering through. Salt filled the crevices in the unfinished wall, surrounding the frame.

My watch read 2:58. It was now or never. I took the first steps into the room, just beyond the threshold the room shifted in temperature. It was hot, swelteringly so. Stepping up to the breaker I grabbed it, checked my watch, 2:59. With a beep the screen changed to 3:00, I pulled the lever down and the dim light in the basement went out.

“Don’t let go.” Whispered a voice behind me.

Every muscle in my body locked tight. Hot breath fell on my neck, and still I felt a chill run down my spine.

“Good, now stand perfectly still.”

The door to the basement creaked open and thudding footsteps began a slow descent. A deep moan eoched down the stairs and the floorboards creaked with the uneven pace of the horrifying, painstakingly approaching. I counted the steps in my head, one, two, three, it was half way down. My first clenched tighter on the breaker, I could feel my heartbeat in the palm of my hand.

“WRONG!” The voice was still a whisper, but it was loud, and right in my ear, “I said, perfectly, still.”

I felt a sharp poke in my side and I resisted the urge to flinch. Fearing what would happen if I did.

“Better,” chuckled the whispering voice.

The footsteps continued their slow descent. Another moan echoed, louder than before. It was full of sorrow and pain. The moan of a creature hungry for release. One, two, three more steps. With a soft slap, the horror reached the bottom of the steps. The creaking, now replaced by feet shuffling. It was somehow slower on an even plane, its steps were sporadic. It would take two or three steps in quick succession, then stand still, like it was tired… or, perhaps, like it was listening.

Maybe it couldn’t see in the dark. I tried to take small comfort in the thought. Another moan filled the basement and the source turned the corner into the basement proper. Its chilling moan was all too clear with nothing to break line of sight.

“Yes, yesssss.” Whispered the voice.

The steps stopped directly behind me, the smell of rot now filling my nostrils.

“Now, run.”

A wet and meaty hand grabbed my shoulder. Panicking, I dropped to the floor, out of its grasp. Scrambling on the floor I made my way towards where I thought the exit was.
“Stay down here.” Whispered the voice.

Silently cursing I found my feet, placed my hand on the wall, and tried to run away from the horror. The footsteps shuffled towards me. They were slow but steady now, enticed by the idea of catching me. I circled around the room trying to keep away from it. It moaned again, as it picked up its pace. I felt its hand graze me as it dove head first into the wall next to me. Its body crumpled loudly to the floor, before rising again.

“Now you may turn the breaker on, and leave.” Whispered the voice.

I circled around the room trying to find the switch, fingers finding the gap where the door frame was. I crossed it and kept circling. Until again, I found the door frame. The voice laughed at my torment.

“Come on, turn the breaker on, Jack.” Taunted the voice.

“Jaaack.” Moaned the creature. Its pace once again picked up.

It dove for me again. Panicking, I dove into the middle of the room and tripped. There wasn’t anything in the middle of the room to trip over. I felt my way back and found a metal cylinder, thin enough my hand fit all the way around. I tugged on it and it shifted to one side. Realizing what I had found, I flipped the breaker. The light came back on, illuminating an empty room. The creature that had been pursuing me was nowhere to be seen.

I checked my watch, 3:14, and ran.

Turning into the west wing I remembered to look down only after I had taken three large steps into the hall. I slowed my pace to walk, stopped, hunched over, and tried to catch my breath.

My watch read 3:16am, had it just turned 3:16? Had I made it into the wing on time? I didn’t hear anything happening, the lights didn’t flicker. It was utterly silent. As I stood there staring at the ground, catching my breath, I thought to myself. Would I do this again? Was $450 a night worth it? Now that I know to take this seriously, I could probably do this a whole lot better next time. I’ve made a few mistakes, but I’m still alive. Only 2 and a half hours left until it was over. What rules do I have left?

9. From 5:55am to 6:00am, run.
10. Don’t listen to what he is saying.

The last two would make or break the night, run for 5 minutes? How fast did I have to run, from what, to where, and who is he? Is him Mr. Brown? Or someone else, something else?
Sound. My ears were flooded with sound, bone vibrating amounts of sound. I covered my ears and hunched over, dizzy with the volume. The sound of multiple jet engines erupted from nowhere. I panned around trying to see anything without lifting my vision too far up. I thought I could see the sound waves, it was a miracle the glass had not shattered.

“Help!” Screamed a woman’s voice, barely audible over the roar of sound.

It sounded like it was coming from below me. But that would be impossible, no way I would hear anyone downstairs. She must be in one of the adjacent halls.

“You up there, help, it’s quite loud, and hot, I’m scared!” Screamed the woman.

Up there? I thought, then she really is downstairs.

I checked my watch, only ten more minutes left until 3:30. A siren warbled, adding itself to the noise, furthering the pressure to my eardrums.

“Ahhhhhh!” Wailed the woman.

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There was no way I should be able to hear her now. I’m no fool. I curled up on the floor to try and shelter myself from the noise as much as possible. I found myself staring at an air vent.

I could hear her crying, a tiny sound, bouncing off the interior walls of the air ducts. A high pitched ring joined the sound. The ringing made my head swim. Did the artist have some girl trapped in the basement? Or is it really a scary haunted painting calling me? The sound stopped, my watch read 3:30. I stayed there, curled in the fetal position with my ears still ringing, thinking about the woman. Her voice sounded familiar to me.

One last rule to go.

Run.

My phone rang again, it was the same number that called me earlier. It was Mr. Brown.

“Jack, hello.” Said Mr. Brown.

I didn’t say anything.

“Jack, answer me, it’s quite rude to ignore someone speaking to you.”

“Yeah, I’m here.” I sighed.

“Listen, something is wrong, I’m on my way.”

“What?” I sat up straight. “Wh- what’s wrong?” I said, my voice trembling.

“You’ll have to trust me. If I am not there by 5:55, open the black door and get inside.”

“But, rule 1.”

“That was before, I’ll b-.” Mr.Brown’s voice cut off with static.

“Hello,” I said, pressing redial over and over, “Hello!”

“Damn.”

I stood up and walked to the front door, checked it was locked, and walked back to my desk. Then back to the front door, back to the desk, door, desk, back and forth. I passed the time until 5:55, pacing, making sure my shoes were tied. I couldn’t afford to trip while running. Maybe whatever I had to run from was outside. Maybe it would come up from the basement. I propped the chair up under the handle of the basement door. I continued my pacing. My desk shifted three inches to the right and I felt the hot buzz of fear and panic start from the nape of my neck, spread down my spine, and into my stomach. Twisting around to see what moved the desk I checked the time, 5:55. It was time to run, but from what?

The desk lurched again and I felt something grab at my leg. I kicked on instinct and only found air. Cold tendrils crawled up from the veins in my foot. I turned to run and found I could not move my leg. I lost my balance and fell flat on my back, the air rushing out of me. A second icy tendril grabbed my other foot and started to drag me. I kicked again and again and felt one foot come free.

Turning onto my newly freed foot, I threw myself in the opposite direction. My second foot came free. Scrambling to my feet, I ran. Barreling down the south wing towards the west wing. Turning the corner, I looked dead ahead, rule be damned. The body, the one from earlier was there, now standing with its head hanging low. It stood against the wall, only turning slightly as I ran past it. A crash behind me let me know my pursuer was giving chase. I turned into the north wing. My heart was racing and thumped in time with my frantic footsteps. The paintings on the walls were yanked from the wall and thrown with great force into the glass.

Three paintings back, two paintings back, one painting between me and the invisible force. I turned the corner, my desk coming into view, it was in pieces. I imagined a similar fate befalling my should I be caught, ripped, smashed, and torn to pieces, scattered around the room. A mess for someone else to clean up. A second set of deep breathing joined in with mine. Two events at once? Do I need to hold my breath? Could I hold it and keep this pace?
I took a deep breath, and slammed my mouth shut, still running for my life. The breathing was keeping in pace with me. The invisible force threw another painting into the glass, only two paintings behind me. Running through the south wing my lungs were already protesting for more oxygen. Back into the west wing. The body was now turned to face me and began to shuffle towards me. I locked eyes with my own face, my bloodshot eyes looking back at me with hunger. The painting directly behind me pulled from the wall. I tried to focus on my feet, left, right, left, right.

“Help!” Called the woman from downstairs.

In the north wing splintered paintings littered the floor. The breathing stopped and I took no time greedily sucking in air. Something cold licked my heels. I pushed myself harder.

“Please, help me!” Called the woman again.

I placed the voice, it was Heartbreaker.

I turned into the east wing, and saw the basement door was open. I checked my watch as best I could. Did it say 5:57? It had only been two minutes and I could already feel myself slowing down. Feeling I had no choice, I ran to the basement, pulled the chair aside, stepped in, and slammed the door shut behind me. The invisible force slammed into it behind me, sending slivers of wood spraying over me. Another slam and the hinges threatened to give way.

I found the handrail and rushed down the stairs, turning into the basement proper and coming face to face with the black door. The basement door banged loudly on the concrete behind me, and settled loudly on the concrete.

I turned towards the door, felt for the keys, and found a lone key made of black metal. The basement door was shoved aside, only feet behind me.

“Help, let me out.” Pleaded Heartbreaker.

I covered the few feet, slid the lock into the keyhole, removed the chains and stopped.
Is this the right choice? The thought filled my mind, but I didn’t have time to think it through.

The rules say to never open this door, but I had broken many other rules and survived. Besides, Mr. Brown called and said to do it. The air around my neck began to chill as cold tendrils reached for me. Did the severity for breaking the rules increase as the list went on? I have broken rules two, three, four, and survived.

Did she deserve to be stuck behind this door? Was I saving her life or condemning it by opening it? She had betrayed my trust once before, did she deserve this fate just for being unfaithful? Did the punishment match the crime? Perhaps I should forgive her, trust she won’t break my heart again.

I slid the door aside and dove in. The cold tendrils around my neck uncoiling as I stepped in.
A solitary painting hung on the opposite wall, lit by a single hanging light bulb. In it, a tall man dressed in black was surrounded by an ocean of red. There was no one in sight. No Heartbreaker. I turned, braced for the force, and the moment passed. Then another moment passed, then a third. I checked my watch, 6:00am.

“Hello!” called Mr. Brown from atop the stairs.

“Oh god, is it over?” I yelled out, stepping out of the room. Or at least trying to step out of the room. The air was solid across the doorway. Mr. Brown stepped out from the stairway. Stepping over the fallen door, he said, “What are you doing? I told you to trust the rules.”

“But you said,” I stammered, “when you called.”

“I didn’t call you,” there was ice in his voice, “I told you I would answer questions in the morning.”

He stepped closer to the door.

“Step out of there.”

“I can’t, the air is quite solid.” I said pressing my hands against the air.

“I see.”

Mr. Brown stepped up, gripped the door handle, and said, “rule 10, don’t listen to him.

Then slid the door shut.

Credit: K. Maestro

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