The Fifth Floor

📅 Published on December 20, 2021

“The Fifth Floor”

Written by Ryan Peacock
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.40/10. From 5 votes.
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My job usually isn’t all that interesting, and that’s the way I like it.  I’ve done my time in the workforce.  A lot of people my age are retired by now, but I never really had money to step out of the working world.  My body isn’t what it used to be, but at sixty, I’d say I’m in better shape than most, and that keeps me employed.

My name is Peter Sommers, and I work for a security company.  It’s nothing fancy.  They give me nighttime gigs guarding places that people don’t want other people getting into.  Usually, it’s abandoned buildings.  Empty lots.  Places that kids might break into so they can smoke pot or draw on the walls, or that squatters might try and call home.  You might think that sounds at least a little exciting, but believe me when I say that it’s not.  There are some people I’ve worked with who had to deal with break-ins or looters looking to see if anything of value was left behind.  Some of them even dealt with people trying to strip the copper from abandoned buildings.  Most of those kinds of people ran as soon as they were caught, but I’ve heard a few horror stories where some of the more determined ones got aggressive.

As for me, the most action I’ve ever had was when I had to chase off a couple of teenagers trying to fuck in an old warehouse, and you know what?  I like it that way.  I’ve got no delusions of grandeur.  I’m not looking to be a cop.  I just want an easy way to keep some money coming in, and my job provides me exactly that.  I’ll usually just find a place to set up shop, bring my laptop and watch movies in between patrols.  The sound from the movies alone probably scares off anybody who thinks they can sneak in, and I go around the perimeter every hour or so to make sure nobody’s around.  As jobs go, I’d say I’ve got it pretty good.  Well, for the most part.

Now, if you’re going to be alone in abandoned buildings all night, you’d best not be someone who scares easily.  Me?  I’m made of iron.  The army saw to that.  I don’t think there’s much on God’s green earth that can spook me aside from the voice of old Sergeant Henry, and I’m quite sure the old bastard is dead now, and I’m sure as hell not the sort to jump at shadows!  But when something is truly off, that’s another matter entirely, and I’d suspected there was something off with the place I’ve been watching for the past few weeks since day one.  Now, though?  Well, now I’m good and fucking sure of it.

My agency didn’t give me many details on just what this place was.  There were no special requirements or anything, no weird list of rules, just an address and a six-month term.  That was all I needed.  It was well off the beaten path, a good ways north of Winnipeg.  Judging by the look of it, it was some sort of office building.  Though it was in decent enough shape, I’d have figured the place was abandoned at a glance if it hadn’t been for the lights that were always on, on the fifth floor.  Back when I started, I just figured that somebody must’ve still been working there, and I was half right.

I remember getting my first good look at that place on my first night.  It was five stories tall and mostly dark, save for the aforementioned lights on the top floor.  That was a little bit odd to me, but not all that surprising.  Every now and then, I’d be assigned to non-abandoned buildings.  Honestly, so long as the money was good, I wasn’t going to raise any complaints.  But right from the get-go, something about this building seemed wrong.  Hell, the building itself seemed a little out of place.

It had been barely visible off the highway, and it was nowhere near any other offices that I knew of.  It struck me as odd that someone would build a whole office so far out into the sticks.  I wondered if maybe that was why whoever had owned it had ditched the place?

I also recall thinking it was a little weird how there were no other cars in the parking lot.  That might’ve made me dismiss the lights on the top floor as just some sort of fluke if I hadn’t later been corrected.  I’d been given a keycard by my supervisor to let myself inside with, so I got in without any hassle and immediately pegged the empty reception desk as the ideal point to get myself set up.

For a building like this, I would’ve expected some sort of corporate logo in the lobby, but instead, it was blank.  There was evidence that some sort of logo had been mounted on the wall above the reception area, but it had clearly been taken down.  Come to think of it, I don’t think a single piece of evidence indicating just what this place had been was still there.  The place felt dead, for all intents and purposes.

The first thing that struck me as soon as I walked inside was the smell.  It was a really strange odor that hung in the air.  Kinda like that smell you get right before it rains, although it was accompanied by a sort of burnt smell that came and went.  It wasn’t bad enough to be unbearable, but it was difficult not to notice.

My first order of business after setting my things down was to head up to the fifth floor to check out those lights.  The elevator came down just fine when I called it from the lobby, although when I stepped inside, nothing happened.  I hit the button for the fifth floor, and the doors closed.  But I didn’t feel the elevator move.

The lights didn’t flicker.  There was no sign that anything was wrong.  But after a moment of stillness, I felt just a little bit uneasy.  It would’ve been one hell of a bad first night if I got myself trapped in the elevator, wouldn’t it?  That uneasy stillness passed quickly, though.  Through what I thought had been the emergency phone on the elevator, I could hear a distinct crackle of static as if someone was waiting on the other line.  Then I heard a voice.

“Who’s down there?”

“Name’s Peter.  I’m with security,” I replied.  “Who’s this?”

“This is D-Diane,” the voice replied.  I’m with Accounting.  Sorry.  We’re a little backlogged.  Is there something I can help you with?”

“Accounting…you’re the ones up on the fifth floor, then?”

“That’s right.  I apologize.  I’m quite busy, and my new office won’t be ready for some time.  I promise I won’t be a bother.”

The voice over the intercom was distorted and had a strange echo to it.  The fraying almost hurt my ears to listen to.  I chalked it up to the intercom system being shit, although I wondered how the hell Diane from Accounting had even known I was in the elevator.

“That’s fine, I suppose.  I think you’ve got a problem with your elevator, though.  Doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Oh…access to the fifth floor is for executives only,” she said.  My receptionist pinged you when you stepped inside.  We have yet to move all of our documents out.  That’s usually done by the day crew.  Until then, for security reasons, I can’t allow anyone else up here.”

Maybe I could’ve challenged that.  Looking back, that sounds like the kind of detail my supervisor would have mentioned.  But Diane sounded legitimate enough.  So long as she didn’t cause me any trouble, I figured there was no need to cause her any trouble.

“I see, then.  Well.  I apologize for taking up your time then, ma’am.  You have a nice evening.”

“Of course.  You as well, sir.”

With that, ‘Diane’ was gone.  The intercom went dead, and I could still smell that burning ozone smell.  It actually seemed just a little bit worse in the elevator.  The doors swung open, revealing the lobby, and I stepped back out.  The air was a little cleaner out there, and I went to finish setting up shop at the old receptionist’s desk.

I never saw Diane from Accounting actually leave at any point during the first night I worked there, nor did I see anyone else coming out of the elevator.  Truth be told, I didn’t think too much about it until the next morning.  The building was isolated enough that nobody was even around to bother me, and I passed my evening playing solitaire between rounds.

The lights on the fifth floor were still on when I came in for my second night at the abandoned office.  I remember looking up at them and remembering the voice I’d heard over the intercom the night before.  Diane from Accounting…I figured she was probably burning the midnight oil again and thought I’d be neighborly and say hello.  Just as I had the night before, I set up my things and then went for the elevator.  I hit the button for floor number 5 and waited, wondering if I’d get the same response I’d gotten before.

Diane didn’t keep me waiting for long.  Her voice crackled out of that busted speaker, accompanied by that burnt smell as well.  I was sure I’d gotten into a different elevator than before, but maybe they all had that problem.

“Good evening, Peter.  Is there a problem?”

Straight to business.  I got the impression that my attempt to be friendly had irritated my new co-worker.

“Just checking in.  Working late again, huh?”

“I’m afraid so.  I’m a bit of a night owl.  It’s the only time I can get anything done.”

A night owl…maybe that was why I’d never seen her leave?  Was this lady seriously working from dusk ‘til dawn?

“That swamped, huh?” I asked.

“I’m afraid so…but I suspect I’ll be done soon enough.  Another week, perhaps.  If that.  I’m sorry, but if there’s nothing else, I must get back to my work.”

“Of course, of course.  Don’t let me keep you!”

The intercom went dead for a moment, and the elevator doors opened, although before I could take a step out, I heard the crackle of static again.

“Actually…could I trouble you about one thing?”

I paused and stepped back into the elevator.

“What do you need?”

“I have a delivery coming tomorrow night.  They don’t come often, but I’m afraid they’re necessary to complete my work.  My courier usually comes at night.  I’m unable to go down and meet him myself, so he has a keycard.  Since you’re watching the building, I thought it best you be informed.”

“That’s considerate of you.  Mind if I ask what kind of delivery you’re expecting?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.  Just trust that it is necessary to complete my work.”

There was something funny about the way she said ‘necessary.’ The static around her voice grew deeper.

“Alright, then…suppose I’ll send them up when I see them tomorrow,” I said.  “You take care now.”

I left our conversation slightly more perplexed by this woman than I had been before.  She didn’t strike me as unfriendly…just distant and a little intense.  Not the sort for conversation or small talk.  I think there are worse things for a person to be.

Sure enough, the next night, a truck rolled up, and two folks in white rolled something on a cart off of it.  One of them had his own keycard, just as Diane had indicated he would, and I exchanged a nod with him as he came in, silently letting him know that he was expected.

The man with the keycard wheeled whatever was on the cart towards the elevator, and I couldn’t help but stare down at whatever it was.  It was long, maybe about six feet and covered by some sort of hard plastic cover.  The men moved it towards the elevator with a certain reverence, although only one of them actually went inside.  The other waited by the elevator door and leaned against the wall before looking over at me, studying me.

“You new here or something?” he asked.

“Something like that.  I’m just here to keep trouble out.”

“Huh.  It’s been a few months since I’ve seen anyone here.  I thought they’d ditched this place.”

He moved to light up a cigarette.  I almost stopped him, but the building was empty, aside from us anyway.  Who the hell was he going to offend?

“You been making these kinds of deliveries for long?” I asked.

“Yes and no.  We had a pretty regular drop-off schedule out here a couple of years back, although we were always headed into the basement.  I actually thought they’d shut this place down around the time we stopped.  My buddy said there’d been some sort of accident.  Guess it wasn’t that bad if they’re still working here, though.  We got a call a few months back.  Same setup, only now we take them up to the fifth floor,” he said with a shrug.

“There’s a basement?” I asked, frowning.  I hadn’t seen any way to access it when I’d been in the elevator.

“Yeah.  We used to get in through there.” He gestured to a set of elevators on the other side of the lobby.  “Receptionist had to let us in, though.  I dunno if you’d have access.” Considering how the desk I’d commandeered was empty, I doubted I did.  Still, my eyes were drawn over towards the elevators the guy had gestured towards.  He took a long drag of his cigarette and shook his head.

“You wouldn’t happen to know what was in this building before it got shut down, would you?” I asked, mostly to sate my own curiosity.

“Some sort of medical lab, I think.  It’s my best guess, anyway.  Not sure if they closed down for good or just moved someplace else.  Not really my business, I suppose.”

The elevator doors beside the man opened, and his partner stepped out.  The cart he’d had and whatever had been on it were gone.  He nodded at the smoking man before they headed back towards the door.

“See you when I see you,” the smoking man said, and just like that, he was gone.

After they’d left, I poked around the elevators that he’d gestured to.  I couldn’t even find a way to open them, though.  There was a pad that one might’ve been able to scan a card on.  But the keycard I had didn’t work.  Not sure there was any way I could’ve gotten down into the basement, even if I wanted to.  Maybe that was for the best.  I might’ve gotten into trouble snooping around down there.  Still, my curiosity was sparked.

I tried the other elevators that I’d used before and tried heading up to the second floor.  The elevator worked just fine.  My mysterious friend upstairs didn’t try to stop me, nor did she bother to ask what I was doing.

The second floor wasn’t anything special.  The hallways were mostly bare, and the rooms I passed were all empty.  Some had clearly once been offices or office spaces.  Others, I wasn’t so sure.  There was one that looked as if it might’ve once been a boardroom or lunchroom, but I didn’t see any furniture or cabinets.  The hallways seemed to wind on forever, dead silent and empty.  I’ve said before that I ain’t the sort of man who scares easily.  I stand by that.  But no matter how tough a man is, wandering around completely alone in a place like that is going to make some of the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up.  That burnt ozone smell wasn’t so bad up there, at least.  Whatever was causing it seemed to mostly be in the elevator shaft.

Once I was done with the second floor, I checked out the third and fourth floors as well.  But I didn’t spend nearly as much time on them.  Just from the view I got from the elevators, I was relatively sure that there was nothing of interest to be seen there.  They were just as empty as the rest of the building was.

While I was up on the fourth floor, though, I caught a glimpse of a doorway to a stairwell nearby.  Just a hop and a skip away from the elevator doors, actually.  A wire-reinforced glass window looked out into an empty concrete stairwell, and studying it, I got an idea that would probably get me into some shit.  But the rambunctious bastard in me couldn’t help but want to try it.

Sure, my friend upstairs could keep the elevator from reaching the fifth floor, but she couldn’t stop me from climbing the stairs, could she?  Hell, maybe the stairs would even lead me down into whatever basement there was if I followed them down.  I had nothing to lose by checking it out.  Besides, it was my job to do my rounds through the building itself, wasn’t it?  Why not explore in the process?  I opened the stairwell door and stepped inside.  It was cold as hell in there, and that ozone smell was back.  But it didn’t bother me too much.

I ascended the concrete steps, the sound of my own footprints echoing off the walls as I made my way up to the fifth floor.  I’ll admit, part of me wanted to meet my friend up there face to face.  While I had no real reason to doubt that she was who she said she was, I was still curious.  I could see the door to the fifth floor just above me.  The air felt colder and colder as I got higher and higher, and through the small window in the door, I could see a hallway that looked identical to the others I’d seen on the other floors.  Only this one wasn’t entirely empty.

I could see the cart the courier had brought upstairs sitting by the elevator.  I looked through the glass, watching for some sign of life other than the cart, but I didn’t see anything.  The lights were on in the hallway, but nobody was really there.  That burning ozone smell seemed so much stronger than it had been downstairs.  Maybe the source was up here?  I tried the door.  The knob wouldn’t even turn.  The door didn’t budge.  Somebody had locked it from the other side.  I gave it a push but had no further luck.  And then, from the corner of my eye, I saw her…or at least, I thought I saw her.

I hadn’t seen her enter the hallway, so maybe she’d always been there.  Either that or she moved like a fucking cat.  I only saw her from the back—a woman in a black coat with shoulder-length, pitch-black hair.

She stood over the cart as if she was about to open and examine it.  But her body seemed tense.  Her hands looked starkly white against her coat, and I wondered for a moment if she was wearing gloves.  Her fingers looked black near the tips, and I was sure I could see something dripping off her fingers and…well, maybe this was just my imagination, but her hands almost looked…broken?  Like cracked porcelain.  It was hard to be sure.  At the sound of my attempts to open the door, I saw her head turn slightly.  I didn’t get a good look at her face.  But I could see that her skin was pale and white.  I blinked but as soon as I did, she was gone.

The cart sat in front of the elevator as if it hadn’t even been touched, and yet I was sure I could see pools of something dark on the surface.  I stared through the window for a moment longer, trying to make sense of what I’d seen before turning to head back down the stairs.

Usually, the simplest answer is the right one.  That was probably Diane I’d seen.  She’d stepped out of her office to look at the package and gone back in.  Simple, right?  But something didn’t sit right with me…so much had seemed wrong with just those few seconds that I’d seen her, and that left me with an uneasy feeling that I didn’t like.

The next day, before I went in, I put in a call to my supervisor.  I only got his receptionist, but I left her a message to ask him about anyone still working in that building I was in.  I felt a little paranoid for even asking.  No doubt, he was gonna get back to me in a few days and tell me that there were some people on the fifth floor, and not to worry about it.  Then I could get on with my work.  But it still made me feel a little better to at least ask.

The next few days went by without anything of note happening.  I’d get in, set myself up and sit in the lobby, passing the time as I waited out my shift.  If Diane had any problem with me trying to get up to the fifth floor, she never said anything to me about it.  Then again, I hadn’t tried using the elevator to get up to the fifth floor again, and she’d never tried to contact me in any other way.  The only way I ever knew she was up there was because I saw the lights on the fifth floor.

I had tried to access the basement, but the stairwell didn’t lead down there, and I could find no way to open those elevators.  I wasn’t that bothered by it.  Disappointed, but not bothered.  As I said before, it was probably for the best.  Curiosity can often get one into trouble, and whatever was down there (probably more empty rooms) probably wasn’t worth the trouble.

About a week after I’d first started, the second delivery came.  It was the same two guys in the same truck, dropping off a cart almost exactly the same as the first one they’d brought, although this time, there were two carts, not just one.  Just like before, the man with the keycard rolled his cart into the elevator and got in.  His friend leaned against the wall with the second cart and lit up a cigarette before giving me a nod.

“Still here, huh?” He asked.

“Were you expecting somebody else?”

“Nah.  Happy to see a familiar face for a change.  This place has been creeping me out lately.  Too quiet, y’know?  I dunno how you stick around here.  I can’t imagine that the Doc is all that social.”

“The Doc?” I asked.  “The lady upstairs?”

“Yeah, Doctor Cooper, or something.  No…not Cooper…Carter?  No…it’ll come back to me.  Anyway.  The lady ordering the cadavers.”


I felt a strange sensation in my stomach as I looked over at the cart beside the smoking man.

“Cadavers?” I repeated, “As in…”

“Dead people.  Yeah.  We mostly drop them off at universities or hospitals for medical training.”

I kept staring at the covered cart, feeling a growing sense of unease as I realized that there was a dead human body in there.  The smoking man exhaled a plume of smoke and chuckled.

“Y’know, my girlfriend says if I keep smoking like this, I’m gonna end up a cadaver…so long as they don’t drop me off at a place like this, I don’t care.”

I couldn’t focus my mind long enough to reply to him.  I just kept staring at that cart and thinking about the corpse inside, and then I couldn’t help but start wondering what the hell an accountant needed cadavers for.

“What’s with that look?” the smoking man asked.  “What, you didn’t know these were…?”

“No…” I replied quietly.  “No, I didn’t.”

“Ah.  Yeah.  Guess that is a little creepy, then.”

“I don’t suppose you’ve got any idea what that woman is using those cadavers for, do you?”

He shrugged.

“Not my business.” He said, and as he spoke, the elevator doors opened beside him.  His associate wheeled the second cart into the elevator and was gone again.  I watched it go before looking back towards the smoking man.

“Do you or your partner ever actually see the Doctor?” I asked.  Maybe it was a dumb question.  But it was the one that came to mind.

“Hmm?  Not recently, no.  My partner just leaves the carts by the elevator.  I think I met her once or twice a few years back?  At least, I think I did.” He shrugged again before taking a thoughtful drag on his cigarette.

“I don’t suppose you talk to her much, do you?” He asked.

“Only a few times.  I don’t think we’ve ever formally been introduced.” I said.

“Sounds about right.  I got the impression she wasn’t much of a people person.”

Another drag on his cigarette.  The elevator opened again, and his partner stepped out.  He nodded at the smoking man before they both left.

“See you later, alligator.” The smoking man said as they left me alone again.

I considered trying to get into the elevator myself and trying to take it up to the fifth floor.  Maybe ‘Doctor’ Diane would think her couriers were still there and let me up.  Something told me that she’d know better, though.  I didn’t try it.  It was too late to call my supervisor, and I wasn’t sure what I’d even bitch to him about.  “Hey, boss!  The accountant upstairs keeps buying cadavers!  Do something about it.” I’m not sure there’s a way to phrase that that doesn’t sound completely batshit insane.

He still hadn’t gotten back to me about Diane being there in the first place, and up until then, I’d just sort of figured that no news was good news.  Now I wasn’t so sure anymore.  Despite my suspicions about the place, I kept going in.  I never bothered to try and ask Diane herself about just what she was doing upstairs.  I doubted I’d get a straight answer out of her anyway.  It had been over a week since I’d last actually spoken to her, and something told me that she wasn’t interested in regular social calls.

I did consider camping out in the lobby until the early hours of the morning and watching to see when she came down to leave.  My shifts were long enough as it was, though, and the commute to the building was already a bitch.  Sticking around for twelve to fourteen hours to try and catch another glimpse of this woman didn’t seem worth it.

So, despite my reservations, I kept to my schedule.  The nights were quiet enough, despite the strange aura that the place gave off and aside from the occasional whiff of that burning ozone smell, there wasn’t really anything to disturb me…not until the night that van showed up, anyway.

It must’ve been around one in the morning when I noticed the black van pulling into the parking lot.  Now, I’d only been there for about a week and a half at that point, but I hadn’t seen a single vehicle in that parking lot aside from the truck that dropped off the cadavers and this sure as hell wasn’t them.

I paused the show I had playing on my laptop and got up to stand by the door and investigate.  The van had no logos on it, and the people who got out didn’t look like they were working for anybody.  Most of them looked young and scrawny.  The guy who got out of the driver’s seat, in particular, looked malnourished and bony.  My first instinct told me that it was a bunch of teenagers looking for a place to party.  But these folks seemed a little too old and too scruffy to be teenagers.

I watched as one of them threw open the back of the van and took out some sort of toolkit, and as they did, I pushed open the door and stepped out.

“Hey!” I called.  “Excuse me, you’re on private property!  I’m gonna have to ask you to leave!”

That bony bastard who’d gotten out of the driver’s seat looked over at me with an expression that made it clear he couldn’t have given less of a fuck about what I had to say.  Getting closer to him, I saw his arms were marked with scabs and scars.  He looked like he’d been shooting up for the better half of his life.

“Sorry, man!  Just stopping for a moment!  Don’t worry about it!”

“Can you please move your car out of the parking lot?  Again, this is private property.”

That scrawny fuck was getting closer to me, smiling as if nothing was wrong.  I should’ve seen the haymaker coming from a mile away.  Maybe ten years ago, I might have.  As soon as I was in range, he let loose on me and boxed me so hard my ears were ringing.  I could’ve sworn I heard the ghost of Sergeant Henry calling me a pussy as I hit the ground.  That junkie bastard kicked me square in the teeth before I could get up, and I tasted blood.  My vision blacked out for a moment, but I could hear him yelling to his buddies.

“C’mon!  Move your asses!  Let’s go!” I heard him say.

“Jesus, this place is a fucking goldmine…we’re not gonna get it in one night!”

“Then get what you can!  Just move.”

“Christ, Randy!  You laid that fucker out!”

The voices of those people sounded distant.  I tried to pick myself up and looked up to see the driver standing over me.  He grabbed me by the shirt and lifted me up to prop me up against his van.  I felt him reaching into my pocket to take out my phone.  He slipped it into his pocket with a grin.

“You just sit tight, old-timer.  We ain’t gonna be long,” he said cheerfully.  I spotted the glint of a knife in his hand.  The threat was obvious, although he didn’t look like he had any real interest in using it on me.  No need to turn whatever this was into a murder, right?  Most likely, they were after copper or whatever they could steal from that old place.  Considering that one of them had just laid my ass out, I wasn’t in the mood to play hero and try to stop them.

The punk who’d hit me looked back over towards the building.  I could see the light on the fifth floor flicker.  For a moment, I thought I saw the shape of a person at the window, although it might’ve just been my imagination.  I spit out some blood and let myself rest.  I’d never full-on gotten my ass kicked at this job before.  I wasn’t happy about it.  Not one bit.  But there wasn’t much I could do about it either.

Then I heard the screaming.

Both me and the punk looked up at the same time.  I spotted a bunch of his friends tripping over themselves as they ran through the front door, blindly running back to the van.

“What the fuck?!” the punk snapped, but nobody gave him an answer.  They didn’t need to.

It was hard to see her clearly from where I sat, but I could see the pale shape of a woman in a long black coat standing in the doorway.

Her face seemed entirely white, although her eyes seemed pitch black.  That smell of burning ozone seemed to follow her.  I’d never smelled it outside before.  But right there, in that moment, I could smell it.  The punk seemed to tense up.  His teeth gritted, and he took a defiant step forward.  Maybe he thought he could intimidate her with his little switchblade.  Maybe he was going to try and rough her up.

“Who the fuck are you!” he snarled as he drew ever closer.  The woman didn’t respond.  She just stood there, waiting for him.  Watching him.

I could see the punk’s footsteps faltering as he got closer to her, as if he saw something that unnerved him.

“What the fuck…” he said quietly.  “Lady, what the fuck is wrong with your face?”

She took a step forward.  The punk leaped back a step, holding up the knife as if it might defend him.

“H-hey!  You get the fuck back!”

Another step forward.  This time, the punk stood his ground.

“I’m fuckin’ warning you, lady!  Get the fuck back!”

Another step forward, this one bigger.  She was almost close enough to touch him, and I heard the punk scream.  I saw him bring up the knife.  It was probably a panic response, trying to hurt her before she could hurt him.  I’m not sure I knew what to expect would happen next.  Even if I had, I probably would’ve still been caught off guard.

There was a sudden pop and a blinding flash, like a mosquito running into a bug zapper.  I thought I heard the punk scream.  But if I did, it was cut off before the sound could fully exit his mouth.  One minute he was there, the next, he wasn’t, and all I could smell was burning.  I could hear his friends screaming.  I could see them running for the van.  I shifted myself away from it before they sped out of the parking lot at top speed.

Part of me almost wished they’d taken me with them.  Instead…it was just me and whoever had been up on the fifth floor.  Diane, the Doctor.  Whatever she was really called.  She stood a few feet away from me, watching as the van drove away.  Then she was gone.  All I needed to do was blink, and the spot where she’d been standing was empty again as if she’d never even been there in the first place.  The only sign that she had was that lingering smell of burning…and even that was quick to fade.

I had no phone to call the cops.  Even if I had, by the time I’d picked myself up and returned to my desk, I wasn’t sure it would’ve been worthwhile to try.  What would I tell them?  Trying to explain what I’d just seen felt…impossible.  They would’ve probably dismissed me as some rambling old man.  I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t finally completely lost my marbles.

I didn’t stay for the whole shift that evening.  Nobody was going to stop me from leaving.  So that’s exactly what I fucking did, and I had half a mind the next day to call my supervisor and tell him to get someone else to watch over that place!  I didn’t, though.

No, I woke up the next morning with a shiner, a headache and no idea just what the fuck I’d really seen.  But I did know one thing.  I’m sure my friend upstairs probably wouldn’t have given much of a shit if some thugs had stripped the downstairs for copper.  Maybe if they fucked with the wires, she might’ve had a problem.  But I got the feeling that wasn’t why she’d come down.  She must’ve seen me on the ground and shown up to help in her own way.  Whatever her deal was, I felt I at least owed her a Thank You.  That was one of the reasons I came back the next night, if not the main one.

Just like I had before, I entered the elevator when I got in.  I hit the button for the fifth floor and waited.  As expected, the intercom crackled to life.

“It’s good to see you back, Peter.” ‘Diane’s’ voice was calm as usual.  The static seemed a little better too,

“Wouldn’t have felt right to not thank you for stepping in last night,” I said.  “Mind if I ask just what the hell you did to that junkie fuck, though?”

“I do, actually,” she said.  I apologize for that mess last night.  It’s something I prefer to avoid.”

“No shit,” I murmured.  “Never met an accountant who could do that kinda shit before.  But then again, I don’t suppose you really are an accountant, are you?”

There was silence on the other end of the intercom, but the static told me that she was still there.

“No,” she finally said, but I’d rather not disclose the nature of my work.  It’s…complicated.  Difficult to talk about with strangers.  I assure you, though, that I’m almost done here.  I suppose you’re fortunate that I hadn’t finished early…I don’t expect to be here tomorrow night.”

“So then I shouldn’t bank on you being here if anyone else shows up then, huh?”

“I’m afraid not.  I’m sorry for that…but perhaps your employer will see fit to provide you company in the future.  I do hope so…this place is rather lonely.  Even just the knowledge that someone else is present is…nice.  It makes the work easier.”

Was that the slightest hint of sentimentality I heard in her voice?  I almost laughed.

“Good to know you’ve liked my company, I suppose…well, if it’s your last night, maybe I owe you a drink then.  If you wanna come down and claim it.”

“That’s a tempting offer…but I’m afraid I can’t.  If that offer stays open, though, one day, I may take you up.  One day…”

I wasn’t sure what she meant by that.  But I told her it would be.

That was the last time we ever spoke.

The next night, when I went into the elevator and tried to go up to the fifth floor, nobody stopped me.  The intercom didn’t come alive with the crackle of static.  The elevator simply did its job and took me up.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when the doors opened.  Probably nothing.  Half of me expected the place to be just as cleaned out as the rest of the building had been.  That ozone smell was still there but fainter than I’d expected it to be.  Most of the offices seemed empty, save for the empty carts that had once housed the cadavers that Diane had ordered.  That said…I didn’t see a single trace of any dead bodies.

There was that…burnt odor that lingered in the air.  Sort of like the one I’d smelled when that punk had disappeared.  I tried not to think too hard on what it meant.  In one room, I found what looked like a makeshift office.  There were computers set up, although I couldn’t get any of them to work.  They looked like they’d been disabled somehow.

I also found some sort of broken casing.  I could just barely make out the words ‘BCI MK VI’ on the side of it but just what that meant was beyond me.  Whatever it was, it had been disassembled and judging by the disconnected wires and nodes, some sort of vital component was missing.  Maybe it was wrong to snoop like that, but I had to satisfy my curiosity somehow.

My supervisor eventually got back to me regarding my inquiry about Diane.  According to him, that whole building was meant to be abandoned.  There was no accountant named Diane up on the fifth floor, but I’d long since figured that part out on my own already.  I just put in a request for some company and filed a report on the incident the other day, although one that excluded some minor details.

I still don’t know what that woman was doing up there.  I don’t think I’ll ever know, and personally, I don’t think it’s my business.  I can’t help but wish her the best, though.  Whatever she was looking to accomplish, I hope she gets it sorted, and if she does, I hope to run into her again.  I’m sure she’s got stories more interesting than mine to tell.

Rating: 9.40/10. From 5 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Ryan Peacock
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ryan Peacock

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Author's Notes: N/A

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