The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Put to Bed
by Selah Janel
“There’s nothing to be afraid of!” he laughed and swung his flashlight beam over the old, dilapidated interior. “Just old rooms in an old building. Come on, this is supposed to be fun!”
“Really not my idea of a date, Brian,” she grumbled, one arm curled tightly around her chest, the other brandishing her flashlight like it was the only thing keeping her sane in a strange world.
He grinned, and it was somewhat knowing, and somewhat amused. That grin alone guaranteed that it was the first and last time they’d be going out. “C’mon, Shelly, you said you wanted an adventure, something different than the same ol’ same ol!”
She followed close behind him through the halls of peeling paint and dangling wire, tracing the detail with a dusty trail of light. “And you jumped right to breaking and entering.” The flashlight’s glow seemed to push away the dark as little as possible, as if the darkness itself was part of the building and was pissed off at being infiltrated. If our lights go out, the darkness will come for us. It was a horrible, intrusive thought, but Shelly couldn’t deny that it felt all too correct.
“C’mon, let’s see what’s in here. And it’s not breaking and entering, this ol’ place has been deserted forever! Everyone at school comes here at some point.”
“What was it, anyway, before it was just creepy?”
“Newspaper offices. Shut down in the seventies.”
“It went out of business?”
“Nah, people say everyone just stopped coming to work one day. Or they just disappeared. No one really knows, there are all sorts of urban legends.”
“Let’s get out of here, Brian, please.” She could have sworn there were things in the shadows, things that waited and watched, like reporters ready to take down their every move.
“Hey, look over here!” He pulled away, leaving her swaying on her too-tall shoes.
He could’ve at least told me what he had planned! Not everything has to be a surprise! She was half-amazed she’d made it this far as it was. If the building had been in any worse shape, she likely couldn’t have done it in a skirt and her heels.
“Shell, look!” She followed his voice to the far wall where countless front pages and articles were hung up, yellowed with age and framed. “Look at all these headlines!”
“Yeah, great.” Her legs ached and she had to fight the urge to run with every breath she took. She started at a shape against the opposite wall. Just a chair. Nothing weird there. “Brian, I’ve gotta sit down for a sec.”
“You sure? Everything’s probably covered with toxic mold or shit,” he teased, still transfixed on all the headlines of the past. “Seriously, Shell, this is amazing. The Titanic sinking, the end of World War II, Kennedy’s assassination, Martin Luther King…I bet these are worth a fortune. I wonder if we can get them off the wall.”
She rolled her eyes. The flashlight beam cast odd shadows of the chair against the wall, revealing peeling wallpaper and crumbling plaster, and the remains of an old desk on the floor. It was an old-fashioned chair, and didn’t look comfortable, but it looked like it could hold weight. What struck her as odd, though, was the newspaper draped on its seat.
“Brian, are you sure they went out of business in the seventies?”
“I think someone else is here. There’s a paper over here, and it looks brand new.”
“Now who’s being weird?”
“Brian, I’m serious! This looks like it was printed yesterday!”
“People still read papers?” he laughed.
She ignored him and leaned over the crisp paper and vivid ink. Something deep in her wanted to run, wanted to get out of there now, but also had to know. She focused the light and felt her stomach drop. “Brian,” she whispered.
“Alright, alright, what? What’s the big deal?” he sighed and carefully made his way over to her, aiming his beam over her shoulder. “What is it?” he repeated, then went silent when his eyes focused on the lead headline.
Two Local Teens Die in Abandoned Gazette Offices, No Cause of Death Known.
“Look at the pictures,” she whispered, and pointed to the two photos used to identify the victims. They were grainy, but it was most certainly them.
“What the hell?” Brian demanded. “Is this some sort of joke?”
“It’s dated tomorrow.” Shelly had just choked the words out when both flashlight beams extinguished at once and the whole world went black.
Fiction © Copyright Selah Janel
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Author Selah Janel:
Like many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?