by Al Clover
With dirt grinding into his face Jeffery groaned, “No more drinking Fireball.”
Grunting like he does when getting out of bed in the mornings, he rolled over onto his back, bringing his hand to the lancing pain at the back of his head and touching a lump. What happened? The dirt floor he was resting on gave no indication as to where the hell he was. Or how he got there. Still groaning, he struggled to his feet. He was in the dark both figuratively and literally. He tried to remember what gave him the knock on the head realizing the pain he felt wasn’t from imbibing too much Fireball but from having hit his head on something hard. Not being one who was afraid in the dark but wanting to know what the hell was going on, he stood there for a moment trying to get his bearings. The pounding of his head wasn’t helping. The silence combined with uncertainty and darkness was getting on his nerves though. Wait, his memory was coming back.
“What did those bitches do to me?” Now he was just angry.
“No, the floor moved, and I fell. Did I hit my head on the desk? Geez where am I though?” His anger helped settle him, they weren’t going to get away with this. Determined to figure out where he was, he shuffled his feet forward hoping to run into a wall as that would give him some semblance of location. Well it’s a dirt floor so am I outside? Crap I wish there were some light. He held his arms straight out in front of him so he wouldn’t slam face first into something in the dark. A spot ahead appeared darker. He kept moving now waving his hands in front to make contact first. His hand hit something shoulder high and he felt for the smooth surface of a wall.
“What the hell!” He jerked his hands back with a sharp intake of breath, feeling a jagged corner rather than a flat surface. And with that breath he tasted the stale air and something else he couldn’t identify. Pausing, he reached out and touched the dark shape again. Feeling protrusions, he could tell it wasn’t something small but a rather large piece of wood? No, a substantial piece of wood that went from the floor to as high as he could reach. Continuing to touch the surface, Jeffery realized it was a human-like face but not human.
“What is this? I have got to get some light. I can’t keep stumbling all over the place like a drunk in the dark.” So, turning around and placing his back to the wooden object, he started walking forward at a slow gait, back in the direction he’d just come from. He again raised his arms out in front of his blind eyes. After about ten steps his hand brushed something hanging down.
“Christ!” The jolt caused him to stumble into the wall he’d been searching for. “Dammit!” He could feel the blood start to ooze from his nose. After wiping his nose on the back of his shirt sleeve, he reached ahead and his fingertips brushed the wall. Okay now let’s see if there’s a light switch. Feeling about to his right something brushed his wrist. This time he held his water and brought his hand around to find a string that was hanging from the ceiling. Tentatively he grasped the string and pulled. Success! His reward for bravery was light! And an elevator door. Finally, but where was the button? How do I get out of here? How did I get down here is the question also? The wall was smooth except for the elevator door which was closed. After a minute of unfruitful probing he gave up the search.
Twisting around to view his prison he came face to face with a massive totem pole. But it wasn’t a totem pole like any he’d seen before. Jeffery knew what totem poles looked like and this wasn’t a normal pole. The four sides had faces on each, painted red and black and a mouth that grinned with menace and seemed to be mocking the visitor. A torso and head finished this unusual totem with a white painted face and black hair and topped with an odd hat. At least Jeffery thought it was a hat. The pole was immense, brushing the fifteen-foot ceiling, becoming the elephant in the room. Hmm weird but not helping me get out of here. Going to have a talk with someone about this—that’s for sure. Walking back to the elevator door, Jeffery looked at the wall hoping to have missed the UP button but still didn’t see anything. Well shit. Okay maybe there’s another way out. Stairs? He started walking around the room searching for another door or something that would help him escape this chamber of weirdness. He tried to ignore the pole but it gave him the creeps. He kept it in the corner of his eye but the hairs on the back of his neck rose.
Moving clockwise around the room, Jeffery walked with his left hand brushing the wall trying to find any semblance of an opening or panel that moved. Maybe there was a secret door that opened to a stairwell or another elevator that opened to freedom. Jeffery’s head was still pounding as he moved behind the totem pole. Wishing he had some aspirin or a drink, that would be good too, his hand touched a spot on the wall directly behind the totem and it gave way, with a push, a click, and then, phissshhh, a sound much like a soda pop opening. There was an outline of an opening that was concealed by the perfection of the fit. Jeffery grabbed the edge of the portal and pulling it, another room was revealed. Peering in, the light from the totem room cast shadows and lit up only a small portion of the room. Jeffery could see the outlined shadow of a bar and the room seemed to be filled with tables and chairs. Hey, Jeffery thought, maybe I can get that drink after all. The rumors of a speakeasy looked to be true. He stepped into the room and the door shut behind him throwing him into darkness again.
“Oh, come on.” Turning around he felt along the wall for the door handle but there was nothing there. The wall was smooth to the touch. Okay Jeffery don’t panic…wait I’m an idiot. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out his phone, fumbled with it. The light app on his phone glared in the darkness but the wall in front of him was blank—no door handle or indication there was ever a door to begin with. Turning his light around exposed the room he was now trapped in. The corners were shrouded in shadow, but Jeffery could calculate—those math skills are good for more than counting money— the space was about the size of his living room and kitchen combined. There were four tables with chairs situated in the middle of the room with one wall opposite the bar sporting three cozy booths and then the bar ran the entire length of the other wall. Dust was everywhere. The tables were covered in inches of it. Likewise, the floor was dusty and as he moved further into the room kicking up a dusty cloud, he struggled to not sneeze.
Jeffery was pleased to see there were still bottles lining the mirror behind the bar. Bottles of liquor. He wondered if they were still good. Hope so, he thought. Walking behind the bar he set his phone down lighting the ceiling. He picked up a bottle and blew the dust off. Looking at a perfectly preserved bottle of Old Grand-Dad bourbon—still sealed. Not his usual, but in a pinch it’d do. Under the bar the glasses were beckoned as if waiting for the bartender to get back from a break. Grabbing a bar towel and wiping the dust from the glass that had gathered there over the decades, Jeffery cracked the bottle open and poured a healthy slug of booze. With a taste of the decades-old liquor, Jeffery sighed then gulped down the rest and refilled his glass. He grabbed his phone and liquor-filled glass then walked around the room examining his current location, pointing his phone in one direction and then another— no windows but the walls were covered in dark wood paneling and there were some paintings hanging on the walls. Then as if appearing out of nowhere he saw an opening in between the bar and the booths.
It was an entryway leading to stairs going up! Jeffery almost tripped in his haste to reach the top of the stairs. They ended at a door. This door, he was happy to see, had a doorknob. Reaching for the knob with the same hand as the phone he was holding, he was surprised when it turned and the door swung in. Another dark space. There was an odd smell as he swung the phone canvassing the room. It was a rather small room, almost a closet, with a set of shelves to the left and…Eureka a door! He focused on the door moving forward and he tripped over something on the floor. Falling onto his hands and knees he looked down.
“What the fuck!!!” he jerked away from the skeleton that was sprawled out beneath him. Well there’s the origin of the odd smell. He scrambled on hands and knees away from the body pushing up against the shelving and the impact knocked a bag from the top shelf landing on his already painful head. The pain exploded behind his eyes in a white spot that blinded him for a moment. The glass of alcohol had fallen and splashed all over the corpse. His phone was where he left it on the floor, illuminating the skeleton with clothes deteriorated from the ravage of age. Rents and holes from rodents and moths had reduced the clothes to rags but the age of the clothes was still identifiable. Turning away and not looking in the direction of the dead body he focused on the pain in his head and then the bag that had contributed to that pain.
Moaning at the pain he then reached for the bag. Pulling the heavy bag toward him, it clinked and something shifted inside. Unzipping the top, he was intrigued as the contents sparkled from within. Completely forgetting the dead body and reaching inside, his hand encountered a mass of what felt like coins. He pulled out a handful and found himself staring at a handful of shiny quarters.
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