Quickly, he removed the little hunting gun from his right pocket and pointed it into the air nervously. He spun his body around in a circle to make sure his sight had covered all areas, ensuring the coast was indeed clear. He noted that if the killer was in the same room as him, Carter would clearly have the advantage of a mid-range weapon as compared to his opponent’s knife or otherwise blade. After a quick look, it was obvious he was alone.
It was then that Carter suddenly felt a cold breath of air spread violently on the underside of his neck. Spinning his body back with a swing, he lifted the gun up to whatever that was standing behind him. Once again, he saw no one at all. A cold draft of air suddenly drifted inwards towards his face and sent a chilling sensation traveling from the tip of his nose down to his throat. In a moment of sheer uncontrollable reflex, he sucked in a deep breath of air and sneezed aloud.
Carter sighed from the embarrassing moment and quickly regained his composure as he surveyed the surroundings for the source of the icy blast of air. He suspected it was a ventilation system of some kind that brought the breeze through. It was clear the draft was entering the space around him from the far end of the room, just opposite of the door. Pointing the gun outwards, making sure he was ready for anything, he approached the corner of the room where the draft was flowing through to check it out.
As he inched his way over, he started to see a small drop off manifest itself and as he went closer, he saw the full picture of it. It looked like an elevator shaft of sorts but with much more space that it could have very well fit at least 3 elevators side by side. Greenish white florescent lights lit the entire shaft as they sat vertically on the opposing wall. A single sturdy looking wall ladder was attached in the middle of the shaft from the very top to the bottom. The drop was easily five hundred meters down and if anyone had fell, it would certainly cause quite a bit of a splat. He shuddered at the thought of finding someone flattened right at the bottom of the ladder. After looking at it for a minute or two, it was deadly obvious that the ladder would lead him to his next destination. He would have to climb down all the way to get to the next part of the building. It was the only route available he could find.
Turning around, he headed back to the door, towards Carla once more. She looked as if she was having a good dream, with her eyes perked upwards in a joyous fashion, but the reality of things were much bleaker as compared to what was plastered on her face. He squat down and took a good look at her and sighed in depression. He knew that this was it for her, her final resting spot. Carter had wanted to carry her back to the group for everyone else to decide on what to do, but seeing as the only route ahead was down the shaft, he knew the risk of falling from carrying an extra burden would be much higher.
Carter sat on his behind as he closed his eyes and thought of the reality around him for a moment. It was just surreal, completely and utterly baffling. He rubbed both his palms onto his eyes in a circular motion to resist the temptation of giving up.
“I can’t take this anymore.” He whimpered to himself. As he sat beside Carla by the wall, he could feel a chilling sensation of despair hit him. Grabbing the little girl’s hand, he checked to see if there was any pulse at all. He felt none.
“Shit.” He cussed as he lay down her hand once again. He was tired. He was finished. He felt wasted. He felt like he was going to be sick. He didn’t want to go on anymore. Morale fell to a serious low for him as he started to feel an odd painful sensation pulsating from within his chest. He felt what he could only describe as a ‘broken heart’. The last time he felt this was when he had to leave home to live in the big city. It was a big step in his life, to grow out of his nest and fly away into unknown territory.
He closed his eyes. He wanted closure. He wanted to forget what he had seen. He wanted to sleep.
Christmas was a yearly affair for young Jeremy. He had always associated it with good food, presents, relatives and a trip to his favorite spot in town. There was nothing like a good Christmas celebration to close off the year and end on a jolly note. This was Carter’s favorite time of year.
It would however eventually become his most hated.
Carter awoke in a fit of cold sweat. He jolted up from the wall and stood up straight. Pictures and memories started flooding his mind as his eyes turned watery. He felt as if somebody had punched him in the gut causing spasms within his intestinal systems. Carter felt like throwing up.
“Heavens.” He muttered under his breath as he tried to catch a hold of himself. He started saying something under his breath that even he himself could not understand. Speaking softly, his legs took him across to the other end of the room and then back again. Carter was pacing in a rhythmic and disturbing fashion, as if possessed by a spirit or worse yet, a ghost. Chanting the words again and again, he felt the weight of his shoulders multiply quickly, as if bags or sand had been lifted and shoved onto his narrow frame.
“Twenty five six forty. Twenty five six forty. Twenty five six forty.” He muttered in loops. He didn’t know why he was saying it but he just couldn’t stop himself from repeating the words. He felt as if his body had been hijacked and was now autonomous by itself. His limbs weren’t responding to the commands Carter was churning out through his mind. It felt eerily reminiscent to a bout of sleep paralysis, only this time, his body was moving.
In a blink of an eye, Carter fell to his knees. His body had lost all strength in that moment and he fell flat to the floor. He panted hard as he tried to take back control of his body and in a mere few seconds, he stood back up straight as can be. He was now fearful of his own body. Had he lost all control of it?
Slowly, he tried moving his arms and it most certainly did twitch to the right directions. Next, he tried to shift his leg to the right and it did follow his command. He turned his neck next in both directions and felt the muscles on the back of it stiffen up. Stretching his body outwards and hands upwards, he felt the entirety of his back stretch and crack. He was now back in the driver’s seat
“What the hell was that?” Carter said in monologue as he scratched his head. “I’m seriously losing it.” He acknowledged as he turned back to look at Carla’s lifeless body. She hadn’t moved an inch since he dozed off and it was clear she was going to stay that way until her body rotted away in this very room. He felt a deep regret for leaving her all by herself back in the mess hall, he should have at least carried her into the kitchen with him to avoid this entire mess, but it was too late now. Far too late to regret what had transpired.
He approached Carla for a final time and squat down next to her. Taking out the final two cookies he had left in his pocket, he placed it onto her skirt that was sitting neatly above her thighs right below the brown teddy bear that was still loosely gripped by both her arms. He patted her head for a moment and gave her forehead a tiny kiss.
“Sorry Carla.” He said. “I messed up.”
Carter felt tears wallow up in his eyes as he took one last clear glimpse at the child. Her puffy young cheeks were now pale white and her lips were in a shade of light pink. Her blonde hair sat in neat curled locks on her shoulders as a bright green ribbon tied a few locks together at the very back of her head. Her eyes were closed but Carter knew that behind their lids were china blue pupils that beamed brightly whenever she had looked at him. There was an almost frightening similarity that Carter did note between Carla and one of his favorite childhood characters: Goldilocks.
Breathing a deep sigh, he stood up and walked away towards the shaft that dropped far down into building at the other end of the room. As he approached the steep drop, he could see the rungs of the ladder digging deep into the concrete flooring. He kicked the ladder with his right foot and a sharp pain shot up his leg. He bit his bottom lip and let out an annoyed and painful groan, at least now he knew one thing: the ladder was quite sturdy indeed.
Looking down the shaft next, he saw the deep drop that made his head feel queasy all of a sudden. One small mistake would lead to a nasty accident all the way down and it would probably mean death the instant his body fell flat onto the concrete floor below. He shuddered at the thought for a moment before sitting down on the floor to begin the descent.
Looking down one last time, he grabbed the top rung of the ladder tightly with one hand and slowly inched his thighs towards the drop off. As it reached the very edge, he let down his left leg first and secured it to a lower rung. Slowly, he brought his other leg off the edge and twisted his body backwards so that his belly was facing the ladder. In one motion, he secured his other foot on another rung and had his other hand catch onto the top most rung. He was now secured and ready to descent.
Moving one foot down after the other and one hand down after the other, he descended slowly. His hands started to feel clammier with sweat with each rung he passed. He couldn’t tell whether it was because he was feeling nervous or whether his hands were feeling tired. He tried not to think too much of it as he was going down the shaft. Occasionally, one foot would miss the rung below it and he would start to panic in fright to regain his footing again, but overall, he handled the ladder with as much patience and concentration he could.
As he moved downwards, his mind started to wander off. A memory ensued, like a bright flash in his mind. A memory he had tried to forget many years ago when he was still a little boy.
Carter knew he had to get back to the camp quick. It was fast approaching twilight, close to seven that evening. The sun was falling fast and the light was fading from the sky as if being sucked away by the horizon in the far west. He felt the chill of winter setting in as strong gusts of cold wind whipped up dried leaves and twigs that was left behind from the dawning of autumn. It was just the beginning of winter and so the real deal had not set in yet but a night out in the cold was clearly a bad idea.
He could hear deep groaning far into the forest as he walked back slowly from the direction he had come from. The entire scenery had changed from a once bright and sunny atmosphere into a dark and gloomy one. The forest was almost unrecognizable at this point of day and Carter had an odd inkling that told him that he was lost.
Walking endlessly into the forest, he sought for a source of light to walk towards as the sun dipped down even lower. He had to find a place to stop and rest and probably get some food, he hadn’t had anything since lunch earlier that day before he ventured off to find the lake his father was telling him about. Now he had regretted the decision to go alone into the forest where even the slightest of sounds seemed like a creature was about to jump out and get him. Nothing would have felt better than to sit back in front of the campfire once again and dine on some roasted marshmallows.
“So much for the jumping salmon, huh?” Carter groaned as he kicked up some leaves and took a deep breath to sigh. His father had told him that the lake not far away from their camp site had a phenomenon where Salmon jumped out of the lake at certain times of the year due to the change in temperature. He didn’t quite believe his father and so decided to take it upon himself to witness the eerie yet exciting sight. When he did reach the lake however, the fish were clearly not biting, neither were they jumping at all.
As he ventured deeper and deeper into the woods, he felt the light from the sky dim into darkness. The woods were now silent. Only the occasional sounds of birds flapping from above could be heard. He was scared. A little boy stuck in the woods as night approached. He didn’t know what to do except continue venturing off to get back to camp. His stomach growled in protest to get him to stop, but he knew that if he did, he would have to stop for the night and who knew what was out there to get him.
He had heard of stories of drunkards and wanted men wandering into the forest late at night to get away from law enforcement. He had also heard stories of monsters and beasts that came out only in the middle to the night to hunt for food when their preys were most vulnerable. There was one story that stood out from the rest however and it always made the hairs on the back of his hands stand up straight when he thought about it.
It was the story of the ‘Croaked Men’.
As Carter stepped off the last rung of the ladder, he felt his body ache in the most uncomfortable way possible. His back and neck creaked and cracked as he reached the bottom. His hands were pulsating in pain from the tight grip he had applied on each rung of the ladder. Sweat and rusted grease covered the palm of his hands in a thick coat of slimy brown liquid. Quickly, he flicked his wrist to get as much off as possible and then rubbed the remaining liquid onto his pants.
Thinking of the story of the ‘Croaked Men’, he cringed for a moment but quickly regained composure by shaking his head violently from side to side to dispel the horrible thoughts from his mind. Looking behind him on the opposite side of the ladder, he saw another huge metal door in the way. This was clearly the way out.
He approached the door calmly and grabbed onto the handle with his right hand. Twisting the knob slowly, he felt an oddly placed warm pulse emanating from the door handle as it clicked. Pushing the door open slowly, a dark blue hue of light peeked through the crack and filled the tiny concrete room in its cool glow.
“Let’s see what’s on the other side then shall we?” He said to himself.
Written By HoiHoiSoi
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