“Do not go in there,” he told me.
“I must, now shush,” I told the voice within.
I entered the building with an old shotgun in hand and company I wish I didn’t have. Sure enough, there was nothing to see but darkness. I could not smell fire or rot. Whatever life I expected to find in this building wasn’t showing itself right away, but I had to clear it for the group. Twenty score of us were holed up someplace we could not defend and this place looked like home.
“There are many things here,” he hissed.
“There are only as many ‘things’ as you want me to believe,” I told him.
“Dangerous, you should have brought help.”
“In a group like mine I am considered ‘help’.”
His voice fell silent was I turned a corner. I could imagine he was holding his breath to see what I bumped into. Nothing, luckily, but I had to keep my guard up. I began moving from room-to-room giving each a quick scan before moving onto the next. I had to be ready run or dodge at a moment’s notice. Each room that I checked only made me more nervous.
“Please, leave this place,” he begged me.
“Why?” I muttered. “Don’t tell me you know this place.”
“I know it…” his voice whispered softly in my mind. “That was before it all began.”
“Swallow your bad memories and help me then. Tell me where to check.”
“I can’t see farther than what you do, but this is a large building and you are only one. Leave this place.”
“I think…of all the people you could have chosen to haunt on that night it was a dumb idea to choose me.”
His voice fell silent and I continue the search. Sure enough I could make something out in the upper floors. I ignored them as best I could; focusing on the floor I was on. Once it was cleared I ascended to the next floor and did the same. The voices were closer now, in the floor above, but the floors were too thick to make out what they were saying.
Once I had checked the second floor I took a deep breath and climbed, staring down my gun’s makeshift sights. There was nobody waiting for me at the top of the stairs, but the difficult part had only just begun. In a populated floor you could be jumped from any side and every corner. I needed to watched all of them and react quickly. Unfortunately this meant moving a dead slow pace, but at least I had the element of surprise.
I neared the room where I had been hearing the voices and leaned forward. The door was closed, but I could see the glow of fire beneath the door. No wonder I could smell it, they were trapping themselves in there in the hopes of poisoning themselves. I had seen this done so many times; people killing themselves in the most painful ways just to avoid living in this world. My hand lingered on the doorknob for a moment, but I decided to let it pass.
I continued my walk, far quieter now, to check any of the other rooms. Once more it was bitterly slow, but fortune favored me. There were no other people.
“This place doesn’t belong to you,” I heard a voice say. I almost jumped for a moment before realizing it was the same voice in my head. “You can’t have it, you know that. There are people here.”
“Not for long,” I told him grimly as I walked out of the last room.
As I did I found myself stepping into the past. I saw people, so many, in dresses and suits, walking around and talking with each other. The building was no longer decrepit, but instead clean, well-decorated and with a warm inviting light which only added to the beauty of the workplace.
“There used to be good people here,” he told me. “I was just a simple co-worker, now look at me; the spirit of a survivor, watching you desecrate fond memories.”
“I am not desecrating anything,” I muttered. “That world you remember is gone, I’ve known it for so long and so have you.”
My words cut sharply to him and the world faded to grey. I watched the people turn away, like ghosts fading into nothing. One was marching in my direction with determination in his eyes, raising a book to strike me. It wasn’t until he was only a few metres away did this illusion fade away completely did I realize it was another scavenger with an axe raised to embed itself in my skull.
I lifted the shotgun and fired. He didn’t have a chance to regret his mad decision to attack me, but then again, he was one of the voices in the room of poisonous smoke. The crazed man bled slowly, his body clotting with dust and the many layers of clothing he wore. I heard the death-rattle in his voice as he breathed his last breath.
“Another innocent…” the voice murmured inside me.
“He was not an innocent,” I grunted.
“I do not speak of him.”
Remembering now that the man was speaking to someone else in that room I decided to see for myself who was left. I didn’t hear anything, so I peaked in and saw that there was an innocent, a child no older than two lay huddled in old cloth and blankets, weakened by bad living and smoke. I dashed in the room immediately, collected the child in my arms and carried it out. The child was sickly and beyond my help. He breathed the fresh air of the corridor and coughed. His lungs took the new air in deeply, thriving on its sweetness. It would be a while before he would breathe right again.
I believed this for the longest moment until the child breathed its last as well. I knelt down in the darkness. I tried resuscitating it, but to no avail. I fell back, leaning against the wall, staring at the dead before me and crying bitterly. If only I had been sooner, just for a moment, I would have stopped the crazed man and saved a child. I remembered how my hand lingered on the doorknob and cursed myself for not opening the door.
I then remembered the voice inside me referring to the child and my blood ran cold.
“You knew…you knew there was a baby in that room,” I murmured. “You lied to me, you could see beyond, you could see the…”
My voice broke in that moment and he did not reply. He never would after this. I was beyond help now.
Be sure to follow!