12 Sep The Sixth Floor
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"The Sixth Floor"Written by Stephan D. Harris
Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
“Thou Shalt Love Thy Demon,
For He Hath Damned Thineself
To The Soul of Thee.
Waste Not This Gift of Sacrifice,
And Purge In The Flames of Mercy.”
The corridors of the hotel still had the smell of laundry detergent and disinfectant. This smell, however, was obscured greatly by the overwhelming stench of ash. Three months ago there was a kitchen fire that quickly spread to the rest of the prestigious hotel, and rather than try to rebuild or renovate, the owners thought it better to simply collect the insurance money and sell the property. No one died in the fire, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any ghosts to haunt these charred halls.
It wasn’t difficult to get into the place, about as hard as ducking under some yellow caution tape and kicking in a locked door. There were plenty of windows on the second floor that I could have reached with ease, but something told me that they had been used recently and that they should be avoided. The entrance I used wasn’t even safe. Three steps into the building and I nearly got my leg caught in a bear trap. Obviously, someone wanted intruders to be wounded or killed for their curiosity, and for that reason I resolved to proceed with utmost caution. I pulled out a flashlight from my trench coat and began my search, the shadows dancing around the cone of white light before me.
The first girl was found dead about a week ago, floating in a lake, her skin grey and sagging away from muscle. “De-gloving.” Morticians call it. The forensic guys on the news said that she had been dead for about three days, her throat slashed open and joints broken at sharp angles. The reason she was floating was because her lungs and stomach had not been flooded with water and the skin slippage around her ankle allowed her corpse to loosen itself from the cinder block that had been weighing her down. The next day when the lake was trenched for more evidence, three more girls were discovered at the bottom, each in a state of decay that could make even a sewage worker vomit.
The city panicked. There was a killer on the loose, every man a suspect, every woman a potential victim. A curfew was implemented, and the police were scrambling to find any information on who this boogeyman was. How I managed to track this sick bastard to the hotel, well, that was just pure luck.
My main hobby is photography. Specifically, I like to take pictures of urban decay when the weather permits, usually at night. Rarely I use the flash, as I prefer to set the shutter to its slowest speed to allow the maximum amount of light to imprint the film. There are other technical procedures I use for the lens adjustments and the tripod, but that’s irrelevant to anyone but me. I had just finished up a series of photographs of some abandoned farm houses on the outskirts of town and had decided to move on to the fire damaged hotel. Well, that, and the police asked me to stay away from the farm houses after the bloated girl was found. They suspected that a condemned house just outside of town would be the perfect place for the killer to hide, and they wanted to stake out a few locations which turned up some potential evidence. So I moved on to the hotel. The first night I got some decent shots of the outside perspective. (Style: Outside broad shot, outside looking in, and last a shot of the inside looking out) The pictures came out great, I loved the way the smoke stains leaked from the sixth floor windows, and I was getting ready to move in for a closer view when I saw him.
Climbing into the sixth floor window from the fire escape, was a large man in a brown coat carrying a duffle bag. From where I was I could tell that he was about six feet tall, muscular but with a slight paunch. A white guy with a shaved head. I decided against staying to finish my work, not with some strange man roaming around the place, and I had planned to return later in the week. That was a promise that I managed to keep. At the time, though, it never occurred to me that I saw the face of a monster.
Not until tonight.
Tonight was the night that I had intended to return. About fifteen minutes ago I was prepping my gear to finish the photo run, when the weather report on T.V. was interrupted by a breaking news flash of a girl being forced into her own car at gunpoint outside of the department store where she worked. A coworker managed to get a brief description of the kidnapper and promptly called 911. She told the police, “A tall white male with a bald head wearing a brown coat jumped out from behind a tree and threw –no name- into the passenger seat.” As I heard the report, I got a deep, horrible sinking feeling in the base of my gut, the slow creeping feeling that I was somehow to blame for being too stupid to spot a murderer when one sits right in front of me. I had to do something.
I dropped the camera gear and instead grabbed a flashlight, my cellphone, and a meat cleaver from my kitchen. Just in case. Just in case I meet this sick piece of shit face to face.
I got to the hotel about three minutes ago. Drove like a cheetah on crack to get here too. I parked my car a block away and sprinted the rest of the distance. Kicked in the door about a minute ago. Why didn’t I call the police immediately? Well, first of all, I needed to make sure the girl was still alive, or at least here. The second reason is a little hard to explain. Maybe I have a hero complex, or maybe I just want to make sure this guy suffers adequately before the cops get to him. Or, maybe, I have some sort of demon in me that saw a chance to get out.
So here I am, running as carefully as I can down a burnt hallway looking for a girl who could already be a mutilated corpse, all the while her killer could pop out from around any given corner. I start up a flight of stairs, keeping to the edges to avoid falling through. Part of stairs collapse beneath my feet, but I grab onto the railing just in time. I shimmy the rest of the way up. I’ll find another way out later. Let’s think, left or right? Right, down a new corridor so damaged by fire that all I see is black. So black that I almost think my flashlight went out. I taste charcoal and cough louder than I should. I hear a noise and my heart drops, I freeze in place. I don’t move, I don’t breath, I just listen. Then I hear it again. Not a man’s voice. No, it’s the muffled sob of a woman. A woman crying, alone and afraid, and I can tell that she cries only because she hasn’t given up hope.
I follow the sound to a room, one of the rooms that was once used by those in need of rest and comfort. I see no light from the slit beneath the door, and I turn the knob cautiously. The slow creek of the hinges prompts more stifled screams of pain. As my light floods the room, it’s her eyes I see first. Washed out and red from tears, so wide from pure terror that she looks like less of a human and more of a wild animal backed into a corner. The rest of her body is stretched naked and chained to a bed, her arms and legs covered in cuts leaking blood into the mattress. Her mouth is choked with a ball gag, and from a brief glimpse, it appears that portions of her scalp are missing. Without a shadow of a doubt, she has endured obscene agonies within this last hour.
She starts snorting and struggling when she sees me, until I hush her. “I’m going to help you,” I say, “but you need to stay quiet.” She isn’t calm, but she understands that her nightmare is about to end. I search the rest of the room for signs of what-have-you. The desk next to the bed is littered with pliers and knives, but no key. I check the bathroom. Nothing. Then I notice the orange extension cord leading from the window to a pair of flood lights in the corner of the room. “He brought his own light source, but why risk it?” I ask myself. Turning away from the corner, I focus my attention on the closet. It was as I walked towards the closet door that the lights in the corner flickered to life.
He’s coming up the fire escape.
Fast as lightning I fling myself into the closet while simultaneously punching 9-1-1 into my phone. I get ahold of the dispatch officer just as I close the door behind me, leaving just enough of a gap to see the bed.
“What is the emergency?” The voice on the line asks.
“The missing girl from earlier tonight, she’s in the —- Hotel on the corner of —Street and —–. Sixth floor, room number 5B. Send an ambulance.” I rush every syllable through a hushed panic and hang up before the officer can ask any follow up questions. I haven’t heard the window open yet, so I still have surprise on my side. My heart beats like a hammer, a bead of sweat rolls down my brow. Adrenaline saturates every muscle, the tension stretches time across a slow motion frame. Finally, after what felt like a thousand years of waiting, I hear the window open, followed by two heavy footsteps. One after the other, and a short grunt. My fingers grip the handle of the cleaver, while I hold my breath.
Now I can’t see the girl, the man is blocking my line of sight, but her agonizing noises pick up again. I want to rush him now, but there’s a voice in my head telling me to wait. It’s a voice, but also not a voice. More like a deep, rasping feeling of hatred. The words are unclear but the meaning is inherent. It wants me to wait for the man to move closer to the closet.
I hear the clicks of padlocks, and footsteps turning towards the closet. I don’t know what’s in here with me, but it’s something he wants.
I raise the cleaver above my head.
His hand reaches for the doorknob.
The rasp in my head screams for the moment to come.
It screams for what it wants.
Credit To: Stephan D. Harris
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