Mystery Warehouse had sat abandoned as long as anyone could remember. No one was even sure who owned it, or who took care of it. The logo had fallen from the front door long ago, leaving only a giant ‘P’ behind. Even that was broken in a way that made it look more like a question mark than a letter.
No one bothered with Mystery Warehouse. No one visited. It had a large fence, and plenty of keep out signs, but not much more for security. Mystery Warehouse didn’t need security; everyone avoided it, even though no one talked about why. There was a collective of ghost stories and sense of strange that emanated from Mystery Warehouse. It served to keep the place mostly ignored, and mostly unvisited.
Cole and Jimmie snuck in the dead of night to the fence surrounding the warehouse. They crouched like ninjas, and looked over their shoulders like convicts. Both of them had worn their best dark sneaking clothes. Jimmie was in dark jeans, and a tight black tee that declared him to be part of the band. He wasn’t. Cole wore a short black skirt over thick black tights. Her shirt stated that she’d visited Marine Land, which was true. She hid it under a black hoodie though. The two looked about once, and nodded at their clearance.
Jimmie hopped up the fence in only a step or two. He crouched at the top, and smiled back down at Cole. With his black clothes, his slim build and his dark cropped hair, he looked like a crow perched on the fence. He wasn’t skinny, but he wasn’t the biggest kid at school in any way. Instead, Jimmie had a gymnast’s musculature, and seemed to think that meant he needed a gymnast’s skills. He took a moment to pose on top of the fence before offering Cole help. He held the top bar with one hand, and reached with the other for Cole to grab hold of.
“C’mon,” he offered in a whisper.
Cole scowled at Jimmie’s hand. She was small in both height and weight, and had the big eyes and crescent features that people found cute. Cole had cut off most of her hair recently, but that had somehow just made people underestimate her more. Cole saw cute as a synonym for helpless, at least the way people used it around her. She didn’t consider herself to be cute, and she certainly didn’t consider herself helpless. Cole scrambled up the fence without Jimmie’s assistance.
The two dropped down from the fence in unison. They rolled a bit on the grassy hill, and stayed low when they’d stopped. Convinced they were still alone, the two took a moment to check their supplies. They both had flashlights, but beyond that, they’d packed quite differently.
Jimmie’s backpack was jammed with books, bits of paper, and odd ends of clothes. Jimmie had also stuffed it with a blanket, and a few Keystones. Jimmie wasn’t expecting Cole to use the blanket with him; not like that at least. He just always packed one in case they wanted to sit down for a bit. He did expect Cole to share the Keystones, because beer was for sharing; especially when sitting about an abandoned warehouse on a convenient blanket.
Cole’s backpack was much smaller than Jimmie’s. It had a similar array of junk, but not as much, and not as sloppily packed. Cole had her camera. She intended to get a few shots of the inside of the warehouse, or so she said when she’d agreed to break in with Jimmie. Really she just wanted to see the place. Cole also had a bottle of wine, because she knew that Jimmie had crap taste in beer.
“I’ve never understood why this place is always empty,” Cole commented as they got close. “I mean, it’s just here. No one watching. This should be druggie party central.” She shrugged. “If nothing else, it should be the first stop on the young parenthood train.”
Jimmie chuckled. “No one likes to be here,” he said. “Too weird for tripping out, and too scary for anything else.”
Cole rolled her eyes. “Yeah, real scary.” She laughed at Jimmie. “You don’t believe all the stories do you? I mean, people going missing? Monsters? Weird lights?” She waved at Mystery Warehouse. “I mean, really, it’s just an old building.”
“Maybe,” Jimmie agreed. “People do go missing.”
“People go missing all over the world. They don’t all come here first.”
Jimmie shrugged. He made a show of licking his finger, and holding it up to check the wind. “It’s something in the air,” he concluded. “You can’t tell me you don’t feel it. It feels like we’re going into a church on a Monday.”
Cole thought on it. She did have a weird feeling about the evening, but she wasn’t about to put anything more to it than it was. “It’s called nerves Jimmie,” she replied. “We’re about to pull some serious B and E, no matter how you want to look at it.”
“Hey, you asked,” Jimmie replied. “Maybe the crack-heads can feel it too. Do you think anyone wants to trip out feeling like this?” He raised an eyebrow. “Or, maybe they know something we don’t.” He scrunched up, and did some spirit fingers in front of his face to show that the last comment was supposed to be spooky.
“Sure,” Cole said. She punched Jimmie in the arm for his troubles. “Lets do this then, find out what they know that we don’t.”
Jimmie and Cole had to circle the warehouse a few times before they found an entrance. In the back, there was a small basement window that was uncovered. Jimmie poked his head in first. When he felt it was clear, he climbed down to the basement.
Cole gave him a moment before she tried to follow. She felt Jimmie’s hands on her legs as soon as she stuck them in the window. He tried to pull her in, but with a frantic sort of blind yanking and patting.
“Watch it,” Cole growled as he gripped along the inside of her thigh.
“Shhh,” Jimmie responded immediately. There was a panic in his voice.
Cole slid the rest of the way into the window. She hung from her fingertips for a second, then dropped to the floor below. “Not going back that way,” she muttered with a glance back up at the window. “Even with a boost, there’s nothing out there to grab. We didn’t really think this through.”
“Shhh,” Jimmie hissed again. He tugged Cole down into a crouch beside him. “We’re not alone,” he whispered. “there were two guys.” Jimmie hung on the word guys, as if unsure.
Cole stayed low with Jimmie, and took in the room slowly from her position. It was small, with a desk, an old chair, and a filing cabinet. There was a poster of a kitten hanging from a branch, but nothing else. Cole found herself idly wondering what position in the mystery company stuck you with a small basement office. Someone had spray painted the word OMIRA over the door, with an arrow pointing out. No one had touched the office otherwise; possibly in decades.
“There’s no one here now,” Cole stated after a few moments. She stared annoyance at Jimmie when he grabbed her arm.
Jimmie looked at Cole wide eyed. “Hold on,” he insisted. “We have to be sure.” He poked his head up over the desk, and looked about frantically.
“You ok?” Cole shook free of Jimmie’s grasp. “Because I gotta be honest, you’re freaking me out right now.”
“Sorry,” Jimmie muttered. “I’m freaked out a bit myself.” He looked at Cole, and laughed a bit at himself. “You had to see them Cole,” Jimmie explained. “There was something seriously wrong about them.”
Jimmie nodded quickly. He thought on it for a moment. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “It was different. They just seemed wrong; like they were walking at a weird angle, or…” Jimmie opened his hands showing his lack of descriptive. “They were just wrong to look at.”
“I don’t know,” Jimmie continued. “I couldn’t see them well, but they were all slouched, and funny shaped.” He shook his head as he tried to explain. “I don’t know if they didn’t see me drop in, or if they saw and just didn’t care.”
“Probably didn’t understand,” Cole suggested. “Maybe they figured you were some figment of their imagination. Sounds like they were pretty messed.”
“Is that even how meth works?” Jimmie watched Cole shrug, and continued. “Look, we should get out of here.”
“Agreed.” Cole put her hands flat over her mouth and forehead. “Ninja mode.”
Jimmie looked up at the window they’d come in from. He sighed, and followed Cole into the halls. Unlike the office, the halls of the Mystery Warehouse had seen visitors before. Papers were strewn through the halls along with broken furniture, and shattered florescent bulbs. The walls were covered with graffiti; mostly of mushrooms, question marks, and dollar signs. The graffiti had the bubbly design common of the seventies instead of the sharp scribbles of modern work. The wall art looked like it would be colourful under the light of day, but right now was steeped in the same grey dullness of the rest of the hallway.
Jimmie grabbed up a solid looking desk leg from the floor, and kept an eye out for the guys he’d seen earlier. So far though, he and Cole seemed alone. “Maybe they took off,” he muttered, more to himself.
“Mmm,” Cole replied. She’d taken her camera out at some point, and was taking shots of the graffiti, and the mess. She poked her head in a door as they passed it, and shook her head. “Just a bunch of offices.” Cole lowered her camera. “No bathroom. No stairs. Just offices. This must be what hell is like for accountants.”
“This is a long hall,” Jimmie agreed. He looked both directions, and shook his head. It seemed to go forever. “Are we even under the warehouse anymore?”
“I don’t know,” Cole admitted. She looked around frantically. “It’s an old warehouse right? Maybe this hall leads to a forgotten bomb shelter?”
Cole nodded at her own suggestion, and began snapping photos again. “Or maybe…” She stopped dead as she ducked in the door of one of the offices.
“Maybe what?” Jimmie followed her into the office.
Cole was standing in the center of the room, blinking at the walls. Jimmie looked about. The room had a desk, a filing cabinet and a beat up chair, but nothing much more. There was a poster on the wall of a kitten hanging onto a branch, and someone had spray painted the word OMIRA over the door.
“No,” Cole muttered.
“It’s not possible,” Jimmie agreed. “We couldn’t have been turned around. We’ve been walking in a straight line!”
Cole circled the desk. The window looked even higher up than it had before, but beyond that, there was no question; it was the same room. She could hear scraping behind her as Jimmie pushed the desk under the window. Even with the desk though, they couldn’t reach the window.
There was a flicker in the light outside as someone walked by the window. Cole almost laughed; she was willing to deal with meth-heads right now if it meant getting out of this basement. She could at least punch her way away from them. Jimmie grabbed Cole from behind, and covered her mouth before she could call out. He shook his head quickly at her, and motioned at the window.
Outside, there was a steady moaning noise; like wind through an old house. It took Cole only a second to recognize it was coming from whoever was out there. She didn’t struggle as Jimmie slowly backed both of them out of the room.
“Ok,” Cole said when Jimmie let go. “This is pretty messed up right here.”
Jimmie didn’t respond. He was too busy looking around. They had left the room, but they weren’t in the hall. Instead, they were in a cavernous room, decorated with random stacks of wooden crates. “This isn’t just messed up,” he finally declared. “It’s impossible.”
Cole nodded her agreement. She wandered through the room in a trance. Part of her considered opening some of the crates and finding out what Mystery Warehouse stored. A stronger part of her was terrified of what might be in the boxes. She walked the length of the room with Jimmie close behind. The far wall was free of boxes, but covered by a strange shadow.
Cole tilted her head. The shadow looked like a hill, with a castle on top. There was a full forest in the shadow, and what looked like floating islands. Cole could even count the windows along the castle’s towers. There was a lot of detail in fact. It was more like a greyscale image than a shadow. As Cole stepped closer, she could see that the trees were moving in a slight wind. She swore she could feel the breeze right through the wall. Cole jumped when Jimmie put his hand on her shoulder.
“This is messed up,” he commented in a whisper. “there’s nowhere for the shadow to be coming from.”
“Gotta be from something,” Cole replied. She looked about for a moment, finding nothing directly castle shaped that could be making the shadow. “Maybe there’s a diorama on one of the top boxes or something.”
Jimmie blinked at Cole. “Diorama?”
“I’m grasping,” she admitted. “But it’s got to be something, right?”
Jimmie shook his head. “Cole, there’s no light in here!” He waved frantically at the wide room. “There can’t be a shadow. There is no light.”
Jimmie stopped a moment. “There’s no light,” he repeated. “We’re in a room with no lights and no windows in the middle of the night. How can we see at all?” Panic snuck into the edge of his voice. He dug frantically through his backpack, and pulled out a flashlight. He flicked it on and off, but it did nothing to change the dull grey glow in the room.
“We need to get out of here,” he stated.
“Yeah,” Cole agreed. She took one more look at the grey castle, and froze.
Something was loping down the shadow hill. It was small and distant, but Cole could see it. It had long arms, and big hands, but a tiny thin body. Its head was pumpkin shaped, and far too big for its tiny neck. Even from a distance, Cole could make out tiny beady eyes, and a giant toad like mouth. The thing looked it was going to run into the foreground, and Cole found herself giddily thinking of television comedy bits where the actor bangs into the screen at the last moment.
This wasn’t an eighties sitcom, and the thing didn’t run into the foreground. It bolted out of the shadow image and into the room. It stopped, and looked around; suddenly confused about where it was. The creature focused on Cole, and smiled; exposing a mouthful of oversized square teeth.
“JAWBS!” it bellowed, spraying Cole with spittle.
Cole jumped back with a scream. She stopped a moment, but quickly decided that screaming and running was actually the right thing to do. She grabbed Jimmie by the hand as she bolted past him.
“That’s what I saw!” Jimmie exclaimed as they ran through the large room. “That’s one of the men from the office!”
“Not men!” Cole managed. She was too focused on escaping for sarcasm. “Run!”
Jimmie and Cole ran full tilt away from the shadow, not daring to look back. As they reached the door though, two more of the things stepped through. These two were dragging a girl with bright pink hair. They hissed and bellowed as Jimmie and Cole ran towards them.
Between trajectory and surprise, there was no way Cole was stopping. She turned a shoulder towards the closest of the little men, and dashed full speed into him. Hitting the thing was similar to body checking a meringue. It was solid for a moment, and then nothing but squishy shadow. Confused, Cole looked over to Jimmie. He was staring at the whisps of black shadow smoke drifting from his desk leg. Behind them, the third thing yelled fury, but bolted away from the two. It dived into the shadow castle wall, and took off up the hill.
Jimmie and Cole stood very still for a very long time. “This.” Jimmie muttered.
“This is all very.” Cole agreed. There wasn’t a word for what it was.
Cole let out a noise that lived somewhere between squeak and nervous giggle, and Jimmie nodded his agreement, giggling a bit himself. It passed back and forth between them until they were both laughing hysterically. They both jumped when the girl with pink hair joined in on their giggles.
The girl had pink hair. Not an out of the bottle pink either, but a glowing vibrant sort that forced color into the grey room. She smelt like cotton candy and radiated like the sun. She held Jimmie’s hand as he helped her up, and didn’t let go when she was standing beside him.
“You have saved me,” the girl exclaimed. “You have dismissed the joblins, and you have rescued me.” The girl smiled with perfect teeth. “You are the true heroes!”
“Well, no. No need for thanks. Really.” Jimmie knew he was rambling, but he couldn’t stop. “I mean, we saw you were in trouble and…” Jimmie didn’t get any further. The pink girl yanked Jimmie’s hand, and pulled him suddenly into a passionate kiss.
Jimmie felt the girl’s tongue slip past his lips, and reciprocated out of instinct. The girl with the pink hair tasted like flowers and bubblegum. The heat of her body near his felt like a summer day. The girl’s kiss literally took Jimmie’s breath away, and sent his head swimming. He smiled stupidly against her lips, and stood there gasping like a fish out of water when she was finished kissing him.
The girl pulled away from Jimmie, and smiled at him sadly. “I am sorry,” she stated. “I wish there was another way.”
“No,” Jimmie muttered. “No, that was…” he stopped, and shook his head. He felt like he was moving through molasses. The world left trails of light as he looked about. He smiled dumbly, unable to focus. It was taking everything to just stay standing.
Cole rolled her eyes. “You have got to be kidding,” she muttered as she watched Jimmie stumble a step away from the girl. She wasn’t sure what was bothering her more; the fact that the girl kissed Jimmie as a thank you, or the fact that he was going all drama about it. “Dude,” she commented, unsure which of the two she was saying it to. “Really?”
Jimmie gibbered a response, unable to form words. Darkness was seeping along the edges of his vision, and despite the smile plastered to his face, Jimmie was panicking. He tried to tell Cole that something was wrong, but he couldn’t articulate that the girl had done something to him.
“Whoa,” Jimmie managed in a long slur, before staggering forward.
Cole’s annoyance was replaced with concern as Jimmie fell to his knees. She rushed forward, hoping to catch Jimmie before he face-planted. She was intercepted by the pink haired girl.
“Thank you to you as well hero,” Pink stated as she grabbed the front of Cole’s hoodie. “And also to you I am sorry.” She pulled Cole forward, and kissed her the same as she’d kissed Jimmie.
Cole’s eyes widened in shock. The girl was surprisingly strong, and Cole couldn’t escape her grasp. She tensed, and balled her hands into fists. Cole was overtaken by a sudden wave of euphoria before she could punch the other girl away. It felt like the pink girl was tonguing candied sedatives down Cole’s throat.
Cole’s eyes rolled in her head, and she fell backwards wearing the same stupid grin as Jimmie. The pink girl caught Cole on the drop, and laid her carefully on the ground beside Jimmie.
“I am feeling the sorry,” she stated again to the two. “But this is the only way.”