“God, my hand still smells like s**t!” I scrubbed violently at it with lavender-scented soap for what felt like the hundredth time.
“I said I was sorry,” Veronica sniffled. “I don’t understand! The website said it was fun!”
“Don’t cry,” I sighed, drying my hands on a dishtowel. “It’s not your fault.”
She started crying anyway, and I tugged her into a hug, making sure to keep my soiled hand well down-wind of both of us.
“I’m horrible at planning dates,” she moaned, burying her face in my shirt.
Four Hours Earlier
“Is this it?” I asked skeptically, gazing up at what seemed to be an abandoned factory. The brick walls were crumbling, the windows had been boarded up, and a giant condemned poster was plastered across the gate. “This doesn’t look right.”
“It’s supposed to be spoooooky,” she crowed, holding her flashlight to her chin to throw grotesque shadows across her face, and I smiled reluctantly.
She confidently led me through the squeaky gate to one of the vacant doors. Her flashlight beam illuminated dark and silent hallways, moisture stains creeping across the cement floors.
“Hello?” Her voice echoed through the empty rooms.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” I asked, edging closer to her. “Shouldn’t there be… staff or something?”
“There’s like a billion doors. We probably just came in a side entrance.”
She took my hand, and we started down one of the halls, peering through dark doorways into darker rooms as we went. That hallway soon branched into others lined with more doorways or shattered windows. Our footsteps shuddered against the cement walls as we walked.
“Whoa, they really went for realism,” Veronica laughed.
A giant X of faded police tape hung across a doorway, and inside a dark stain had soaked into the floor.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” I asked, glancing around nervously. “Why haven’t we seen anyone else?”
Veronica shrugged. “It’s a big building. What’s wrong?” Her face twisted into an infuriating grin. “Scared?”
“No,” I snapped.
“Ooooooooh,” she moaned, tickling the back of my neck.
“Stop!” I writhed away from her, swatting her hand away.
She burst out laughing, but I quickly shushed her.
“What was that?”
A faint rustle floated down the hall.
“Finally,” she sighed, dragging me toward the sound.
We stopped at the end of the hall, but there was only darkness in every direction. The rustling had stopped.
“Huh,” she sighed, turning around. “We must have taken a wrong turn, but I swore it came from in he—”
A black figure lurched out of the doorway, and she let out a bloodcurdling scream. I grabbed her hand and sprinted down the hall, dragging her behind me. Empty doorways flew by as I ran blindly through the maze of hallways. We burst through one of the side doors into a bathroom, rows of stalls lining one wall, and I slammed the door shut behind us. Veronica started laughing hysterically.
“What’s so funny?” I demanded, sagging back against the door.
“Oh my god! I nearly peed my pants,” she gasped between peals of laughter.
“How is that funny?! I thought you were about to be murdered!”
She fell against the stalls, a crazed look on her face. I was starting to wonder if adrenaline and fear had caused her wild laughter, not amusement, but the hair on the back of my neck stood up as a muffled sound floated through the door.
“Do you hear footsteps?” I hissed.
Someone was making their way down the hall. She sighed in relief.
“Finally! We should—“
I frantically held my finger to my lips. Scraping joined the heavy footsteps, pausing and restarting, pausing and restarting, like metal dragging against the cement walls, silenced by each open doorway. I dragged Veronica into the farthest stall, locking the door behind us, and we huddled into the far corner. I valiantly placed myself in front of her, though it might be more merciful to let her die first. The footsteps paused for a moment then continued down the hall. Scrape. Pause. Scrape. Pause. It slowly faded to silence, and I let out the breath I’d been holding. A violent crash reverberated through the building, echoed by a soft splish behind me. I turned to see Veronica staring in horror at the toilet.
“I… I jumped and I… I dropped the keys.”
We both stared into the murky depths of the porcelain vat filled with what looked like vomit from the depths of hell. With a resigned sigh, I handed her my flashlight and rolled up my sleeve.
She’d finally cried herself out against my chest and was sitting miserably, her shoulders shaking with tiny hiccups.
“I’m leaving them a horrible review,” I sighed. “They should be shut down.”
She pulled up the website and slid her phone to me. I stared down at the screen.
“This is the place?”
She nodded miserably, blowing her nose.
“This place? Right here?”
“Yes!” she snapped.
“52 W. 16th Street?”
“No, it’s W. 60th Street.”
“That’s… not what the website says.”
“What?” she snatched her phone and stared down at it, horror growing on her face. “Oh my god! OH MY GOD! Where did we go?! Wait, where are you going?!”
“To disinfect my arm.”
The prompt I used said to write a story based on the last text I sent. Any guesses what it was?? I use it verbatim in the story.
~R. E. Rule