This happened to me a few years ago when I was working for a small-time administration office as a security guard.
The building had just been purchased by the company and was in a sad state of disrepair, so while there were no actual employees working in the building at the time, we had to be there to oversee some of the contractors that were working on the place.
It was a small team consisting of Jake, Miguel and myself.
While we didn’t know each other prior to working there, the long hours meant that we got to know each other pretty quickly.
Jake would tell us about his wife and kids and Miguel would talk about his life growing up in Columbia. All in all, they were really cool guys. Heck, we even met up for beers on the weekends sometimes.
* * * * * *
It was six days to Christmas day when Miguel and I received a call from head office.
They told us that Jake wouldn’t be coming in because he had been taken to the hospital the previous night with chest pains.
Since he was only in this early thirties, Miguel and I assumed it was just a panic attack or something; but then later that day we got the news that he had passed away at the hospital from a massive heart attack.
The rest of the day was glum, to say the least. We asked if we could go home early, as we both had become close to Jake; but we were told to stay until the plumber left.
* * * * * *
Two days later I called Jake’s house looking for funeral information. The day after that both Miguel and I carpooled to the church to attend.
The ceremony was deeply catholic, which was a little strange and foreign to me since I’ve always been an atheist, but Miguel seemed to be right at home so I kept it to myself.
When the funeral was over we went to the graveyard and watched them lower Jake’s casket into the ground. Then after giving out condolences to his grieving widow and children, returned home.
* * * * * *
That night I had trouble sleeping. I always do when I drink heavily before hitting the hay.
Weirdly, I kept having dreams about our weekend bar visits with Jake and even though everything about it was normal, Jake included; I knew in the back of my mind he was dead and therefore the whole situation was wrong.
As if to assure me that everything was fine, in the dreams Jake was super attentive to me.
“What’s wrong? You don’t look so well,” he would say.
* * * * * *
The next day I considered phoning in sick due to the hangover, but decided against it because I got word that Miguel had already called to say he would be staying home. I knew that security guards were easy to come by in the current economy, so I went in to save face.
With Christmas drawing near, there was unlikely to be any workers scheduled to come in so I stopped for a coffee on my way.
When I arrived I was surprised to find another car in the massive parking lot.
It was snowing pretty hard so I didn’t get a good look at it until I parked myself and approached the building.
It was Jake’s car.
Even though it was strange, I shrugged it off. After all, I figured it was just Jake’s wife maybe here to collect some of his work things. Through the haze of the hangover that seemed as likely as anything.
* * * * * *
But when I found the building locked up tight, I did steal a glance back at the car before pushing into the main entryway. It was dark as all the lights were off except for an exit sign which cast a red glow over the scaffolding and tools strewn about.
I moved behind the security desk and booted up the system so I could take a cursory look at the cameras.
While it booted up I took my jacket off and hung it up on the back of my chair and began to sip at my coffee.
Once the ten different views popped up on the screen I began to scrutinize them one at a time.
About halfway through the various views, something moved onto the last camera sights and then quickly out again and I barely caught it out of the corner of my eye.
The last camera was set up in our shipping and receiving warehouse at the back of the building which was a small trek down a long hallway with no windows or doors and around a corner.
Sighing, I got up and turning the light system on; journeyed down the hallway with my coffee in hand.
* * * * * *
The shipping room was a total mess from the all the construction garbage that they had been loading into dumpsters in the back of the building and there was less light due to the reliance on the large windows and the dreary morning.
I moved in a full circle around the room, looking for a raccoon or something that may have slipped in to get out of the cold. But what I found was a whole lot of nothing, and a microwave the workers had set up for reheating their lunches. “Hello?” I called out for good measure. “Mrs. Galloway?” I added in case it was Jake’s wife.
When there was no answer I was about to turn around and leave when I heard footsteps coming towards me down the long hallway.
Thinking that it must be a worker or maybe Jake’s wife answering my call out, I moved back that way.
As I reached the end of the shipping and receiving doors, a figure moved around the corner from the long hallway. I couldn’t believe my eyes and neither could my hands apparently as the coffee just slipped right out from my grasp splashing the hot liquid all over my sneakers.
There, standing in his security uniform; was Jake.
He was pale even without the help of harsh fluorescent light and his normally bright blue eyes were glazed over and unfocused.
I opened my mouth to make a noise of astonishment but my voice caught in my throat as his mouth fell open.
His tongue lolled down over his bluish lips, wiggling like a worm and his eyes suddenly snapped to focus on me. “What’s wrong?” He slurred like a drunk man.
I began to tremble and instinctively move backwards as the smell of rot and compost hit my nose.
Jake’s tongue retracted slowly back into his mouth as his face began to droop on the right side, his nostrils flaring up to triple their normal size.
“You don’t look well,” he stammered in a desperate almost yelling tone as he took a shaky step towards me.
“Jake… Jake, you’re dead,” was all I could manage in a shaky whisper.
“What’s wrong?” He asked again, taking another shaky step as his face began to droop more and more.
I tried to scream but it came out as a low groan as Jake drew closer, his face looking more like a loose-fitting Halloween mask than an actual face.
He reached his hands out for me as it to embrace me in a hug as he gargled: “You don’t look so well.”
I ducked as his hands closed in and sprinted passed him and out of the room.
Although I didn’t look back until I was in my car and speeding away, the whole way down that hallway I could hear his voice as if it was right behind me: “What’s wrong? You don’t look so well.”
* * * * * *
I quit the job that night and advised Miguel to do the same. When I looked into it I discovered that Jake’s grave was untouched and that his car had never left the driveway where he left it at home. I still don’t know what he would have done if he had grabbed me. After all, we were good buddies and I can’t imagine that he would do anything to hurt me.
I worry to this day that he was actually the one in pain, scared; just reaching out for a familiar face. But I don’t regret running.
I’ve made it a habit of leaving flowers on his grave every year around Christmas time, generally the day after I have that same dream of the three of us back in the bar. While seeing him every year like that makes me uneasy, I’m just happy that his face is back to normal.
Credit: Thomas J. Sotvedt
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