He was lost in hell. Or as hell, one of the two. He'd kicked and screamed to get here, and now he just wanted it to be over. Two days of computer and technology stuff, in a nice big hotel, with lots of food and drink. His girlfriend had been less than thrilled, to say the least, but he'd prevailed with a minimum of tears. It all seemed like such a good idea at the time. Now, he felt shell-shocked. Too many people, everything so expensive, rude and snide jerks everywhere, and the growing, acidic tension between him and his girlfriend was starting to come to a head.
He'd managed to drag her down to look at cell phones, but he'd run into an ex-girlfriend running a seminar registration table. She'd sort of cornered him, immediately pouring out her heart, how sorry she was, how much she missed him. By the time he'd gotten away, his girlfriend was well gone, only the aura of her rage hanging behind. He searched, demoralized, but she hadn't even returned to the room. He'd had to narrowly dodge the Ex a couple more times, reminding himself easily of why he left her to begin with. At least their car was still in the lot.
Slithering through the crush of people, he wormed out to the relative calm of the lobby. He just wanted to rest, to let the clock spin to the end of this nightmare, even if he knew it'd lose him position in the great argument to come. The elevators were packed tight, a hefty and unruly line pressed against them, and he sighed, looking around for stairs. He spotted a small, dingy set of elevator doors set against the far wall just as his Ex spotted him across the lobby. He dived for the call button like a drowning man.
The doors hummed, his foot tapping in a panic. If she caught him in a enclosed space, things could go badly quickly. The door bonged, and the tarnished steel door slid half-way open before stopping with a jerk. He slipped in, just as his Ex cleared the crush of people, the door shuddering shut on her disappointed face. He sighed, leaning against the back wall, then wrinkled his nose at the sudden smell. He looked, and quickly recoiled from the wall. The metal booth was filthy, sticky with urine and something melted, the floor stained and scuffed, some mass of soft, filthy material making a small pile in the corner.
The booth was small. Very small. Barely big enough for one, let alone two. He looked to the door, and had a sudden flutter of panic. There were no buttons. No up, no down, no numbers, no emergency stop. Nothing. He felt a click and a hum, the car starting to rattle its way up, the flutter of panic growing as he contemplated being trapped here, but lost it almost instantly as the car stopped again. This had to be some kind of service elevator or something, which went to every floor in sequence. He had no idea if such a thing existed, but for him, now, it did. He'd just get off, apologize, and hike to the room.
For several seconds the door stayed closed, eating at his slim ledge of calm. Finally, one door shuddered a quarter of the way open, revealing a dark hall. He pressed hard, pushing through the slim gap just as someone emerged from the dark. He seemed tired, haggard, and totally ignored his half-stated apologies. The pale man shoved in the the elevator he'd just left, quickly disappearing behind the shivering door. As he watched the man leave, he saw no call buttons of any kind on the door frame. He sighed, looking around, the gloom illuminated by just a few bare bulbs strung along the ceiling. The walls, floor, everything seemed to be made of a dark, crumbling brick, slightly moist and…
He'd gone up, not down. This sure as hell looked like a basement room, with the damp bricks, the uneven floor, the walls chipped and missing bricks in places, the…what the hell. The short hall ended in what looked like a “T” junction. The left side seemed to have a handrail, so that was probably stairs. There was a bulge in the brick on the left-hand wall, just before the junction, as if they'd bricked around a large pipe, and for some reason it scared the hell out of him. He started, nearly on tip-toe, sneaking silently down the dim hall. He reached the stairs without incident, no hisses or arms or anything leaping from the dark to tear him to bits, and grabbed the slightly pitted handrail. He was three steps up before he heard the chuff.
It was the sound a sick dog makes. Phlegmy and echoing through a snout. He turned slightly, not wanting to at all but feeling compelled to do so. Opposite the stairs, down the other junction, a thing shivered. It was low and squat, about the size of a person laying down. It had four short, oozing legs, massive back eyes, and sawblade teeth. It looked like a partially-skinned possum, frizzy hair around large patched of black, rotten-looking muscle. It started to lurch up to the stairs, seeming to be in a great deal of pain, but still very fast. He flew up the creaking stairs, not realizing he was screaming for almost a half hour.
He ran. Insanely, he ran, up and up and up, trying halls at random, finding locked doors, bare rooms full of teeth, pulpy floors with large patches of rot, all sending him back to the stairs with hoarse screams, always the thing just behind him, leaving a dripping trail of slime and blood. He beat at the walls of the stairwell, clawing, watching as the bricks bled just as much as his cracked fingernails. A hallway choked with lines that felt like tendon ended in a flat mass of hard jelly the color of a cataract. He ran, and ran, voice gone, only a drip of blood from shredded vocal cords, stumbling and crawling like a drunk.
Lurching up, he found the ceiling of the stairwell, the stairs smashed against the wall as if the ceiling had suddenly slammed in against them. He turned silently in to the nearest hall, too numb to rejoice or despair, feeling the floor sag and wobble under his feet, glancing in a open doorway to see a massive mound of flesh that seemed to be absorbing smaller ones, barely noticing as a brick fell loose from the ceiling, clouting him on the back and letting loose a slow waterfall of pus from the now open gap. He stumbled, feet sludgy in the floor, half-swimming along to the vague light at the end of the hall.
He looked up, focusing dim eyes on a window to life. Grass blew in a night breeze around a packed parking lot, a hotel lit up like a tower of salvation behind it, people walking to and from cars, laughing happily. He flailed, crawling, croaking bloody yelps as he reached, straining, fingers stretching as a flabby, oozing paw sank hard into his back, the flesh instantly turning black and flaking at the rotten touch. He screamed then, the ragged, broken howl of a deer with a wolf in its throat, the chuffing muzzle starting to search through the flabby bags and soggy tubes of its catch for sweetbreads.
The janitor sighed, edging up on the reeking mess. These goddamn kids, no respect at all, just wandering wherever they please. This says “staff only” on the fucking door, yet look there. He scowled, looking down at the pile of bloody vomit and shit. Honestly, what the fucking hell? Still, not his business to deal with the punks, just clean up after them. He did so, swearing all the while, hoping whoever did this was having a fucking hell of a bad time. The janitor scowled at the now mostly clean floor, pushing his bucket along to the stupid service stairs. They really needed to put a fucking elevator down here, but who cares about the wants of one old man? He shook his head, hearing the sounds of pounding and screams far off, some wild party or another to clean up tomorrow.