Breathe

30-Day Flash Challenge, Day 14

 
Photo by Loïc Van der Heyden on UNSPLASH.
 

I wake. The floor beneath me is a hard block of ice; the cushions have again drifted a few feet away from me. Where am I?

Oh yeah, an abandoned building; barely made it in before the snow buried everything. I hope I can find my truck in the morning. I pick up my watch, tap the light button.

11:13 PM? What the heck? I feel like I’ve been sleeping for hours, but it’s been less than ten minutes.

I push the questions down again. What good can come of letting them into my awareness? Outside, in this medium-weight jacket and jeans, there is only death for me. It’s too dark to find my way back to the truck. And I have no weapons, no fighting skills to speak of, so what good can come from the questions?

A nursing home, I think again. That’s what this place was at one point. I was driving to Walden when the storm struck. Earlier than forecast, mother nature can be so impatient at times. The blizzard, the first I can remember in over 30 years, had genuine white-out conditions. I managed to get my vehicle off the road and onto a narrow lane that crossed the mountain pass I was on. The side road was on the leeward side of the mountain, so I at least had some visibility, and I followed it in hopes of finding some shelter.

The side road was my path here; a heavy rock was my key into the place.


I feel bad for the broken glass. I tell myself tomorrow before leaving I will leave a note with my info, asking.., what, to pay for a replacement window, in an abandoned building? Such crazy talk. No one has been here in years, I tell myself, hoping that that is true.

The building is larger. And creaky. I keep telling myself I should explore it, wander further into its darkness. But I don’t have a flashlight. That’s not true, I have one, but it’s in the truck, which is probably buried under six feet of snow.

There might be beds further into this place, I tell myself. The room I’m in, I’m guessing, was probably an administrator’s office. There was an easy chair; I pulled its saggy cushions onto the cold hard floor, a thin, threadbare carpet over cement. The cushions helped a bit. In the office bathroom, I found three bath towels. I try using them as a blanket, but they keep going their own way as I twist and shift atop the limp cushions. I’m uncomfortable. I love to camp, but I left all my gear in Boulder. I shut my eyes and tell myself when I open them again, it will be dawn, muted, soft light will be filling this place. I will leave this creaky building, dig out my truck, and get away from here without ever asking myself the question that has been nagging me since entering this place – what is making all the noises at the other end of this hallway?


The instant the glass shattered, I knew there was something wrong with this place. But I wrote it off as nerves. I’d been driving for hours before the snowstorm hit. The Rockies are a notoriously bad place to be during a snowstorm.

My senses slowed way down, and the clatter of the broken window pieces seemed to loop and echo in my brain for several seconds.

My hackles went up and stayed up.

I eased myself into the place and found the office just a few steps away. That’s another reason to go further into the building; I’m so close to the broken window, I might be a bit warmer if I moved further into this structure.

I hear a whole litany of sounds; none of them are comforting or soothing in the least, especially after concluding that this was likely a nursing home at one point. People, probably a lot of them, died in this place.

And the noises?

I remind myself for the eightieth time that I don’t believe in ghosts.

There are the typical creaks and settling sounds any building makes. But there are also bumps, pings, scraping sounds, and, the most inexplicable, what sounds like faint moans.

Am I alone here? I ask myself repeatedly.

It was 7:30 when I broke into this place, and for about 47 minutes, I paced back and forth. I couldn’t settle down, nor could I find the energy to walk away from what is likely the only shelter for miles. It’s in the teens outside when I arrived. It’s probably single digits now. And the wind is howling; I’m sure, with the wind chill, the temps are below zero.

In here, it’s so cold I can’t stop shivering. Some of that is due to the temperature. Some of it is from the sounds and my thoughts about the noises.

I shut my eyes again and try to block it all out. I tell myself, the scrapes aren’t getting closer to the doorless entry to this office, that I am not hearing faint moans or unexplained noises from the glass-covered floor just a few yards away from where I lie, motionless, too scared to breathe deeply.

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