House of Memories 9
DescriptionA man seeks to find clues about several disappearances in a remote area. He finds them.
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9: AloneRunning through concrete hallways. Lights flickering throughout endless turns and forks. The sounds of screaming and crying echoed throughout the halls, it's source: unknown. Alan stopped himself with effort and looked around, but it was all the same. He resumed his run, hoping to find her, he had to find her. The hall turned left, then forked, he went right. The screams grew louder and his desperation intensified to the point he felt himself crying, though there were no tears. He ran for what seemed like hours through impossibly long corridors, the screams never stopping, never weakening, until finally, he ran into a dead end that took him by surprise. A concrete wall in front of him with one old flickering light attached, now blocked his path. He put a hand on the cold, rough concrete wall and the screams suddenly silenced. Now all he could hear was the fluctuating hum of the light and his own ragged breathing. A small female moan came from somewhere behind him. He turned around to see the path he had come from no longer had light. He was looking into a void of darkness and something about it terrified him beyond measure. He stood shaking, unable to move, to think, to breathe. Only his heart had life in it now, and it beat in his chest with a fury he felt would tear through at any moment. The beat of his raging heart was the only thing he could hear now and its sound was great enough that it echoed into the void darkness before him and did not return. Then, he heard Melinda's voice softly speak from the darkness... for the last time. "It's okay." And the flickering light behind him finally went out. Alan awoke on the cold floor. He didn't move right away. He just opened his eyes and stared into the pitch black darkness of the powerless fallout shelter. He laid on the floor, not moving nor doing much thinking, he just breathed. After a few moments, a thought of what had just happened hit his mind for a brief second. That short thought was all it took to make him feel the suffocating sadness of it, and suddenly he was unbearably restless. He started forcing himself up and felt something soft and wet in his right hand. Then his memory came back all at once and he realized what he was holding. He dropped the heart to the floor and wiped his hand on his pants. He then sat up and felt his back ache and his head throb, likely from the impact against the wall behind him. He leaned himself against the wall for balance and listened to the darkness. All that he heard was his own breathing. Finally, after what felt like many minutes just listening to the silent darkness, he pushed himself to rise up to his feet using the wall behind him. He felt his left leg begin aching as he realized that he had likely damaged it when he forced himself to sprint on it earlier. He remembered the pop he felt and knew that he had likely retorn the tendon. He was unable to place any weight at all on the leg and was relying almost entirely on the wall for balance now. Alan painfully made his way along the wall in the direction of the generator room. The shelter seemed to be considerably colder than usual, making Alan wonder if the front door was now wide open. After more stumbling through the darkness, rounding familiar hallways, he reached the door to the generator room. The door was slightly ajar, meaning the kid who went to check the generator had at least made it inside before whatever had happened. The door made a loud echoing, creaking noise as Alan pulled it open. This told Alan that the front door was likely open as this very well known sound indicated that rust had built up on the door's hinges. Only metals that are exposed to the humid air outside the shelter developed this rust. He would have to try to make it back to the front door and close it as soon as possible to avoid bringing in more Takers. Inside the room, Alan turned to the right, feeling for a box of matches he knew should be on a large metal shelf against the wall. He found the shelf, and felt the rust covering it. It was very thick and Alan didn't want to risk cutting himself on its jagged surface, so he slowly and gently patted it down. A few moments later, he found what felt like the large rectangular match box. Alan felt relieved to finally get some light. He tried to pick up the box, however it was stuck to the rust and broke apart in his hands upon pulling. "No problem." Alan thought, he would just light a match from here. He put his hand into the broken box and pulled a match from it. Then he felt around for the striking strip and after finding it, he tried to the strike the match, but no spark was produced. He tried again and again until the match broke. Grabbing another, he did it again and again, but could not get either to light. "What the fuck?" Alan let out in a whisper to himself. He then grabbed the match by the ignition end and immediately noticed it felt strange. It took a moment to realize why, but unmistakably, he felt the tip covered in rust. Alan knew this wasn't possible, the match shouldn't be able to rust, but still, he knew intimately what rust felt like now and the end was covered in it. He threw the match down and grabbed the others, feeling all of them and thinking "No, no, no!" As all of them were now useless. He was going to be in the dark for much longer than he had wanted. The realization that many of the components of the generator were made of metal sapped any hope he had that he would be able to get some kind of light going down here. Alan pushed through his pain and forced himself forward to the two large generators that he knew were up against the far wall. He tried to keep weight off his bad leg, but the pain inevitability increased as he failed to do so. Finally, even though it was only maybe ten steps, he made it to the generators. He felt around and knew they had small battery backups that were able to give a tiny amount of light he could use to see the machines and maybe get them going. He just had to find the switch and turn it on. After some feeling around, and in the process feeling the rust that had built on several parts, he found what he believed to be the hard press buttons. The round one he knew, was the lights. He pushed it but it was stuck, likely due to the rust. It took nearly all of his strength, but finally the button gave, breaking the rust around it and sinking into its panel. Despite this, no light greeted him and saved him from this never-ending darkness. Alan began to feel a sort of dread come over him. He wanted light, he needed the light, any kind he could get. He smashed the button down again and again, desperate to see anything other than darkness. He shortly gave up on the small emergency lights and decided to see if he could find the crank starter. He had no way of knowing whether or not there was fuel, but he didn't know where the fuel even was, so he instead just hoped it was not completely empty. He found the crank with more ease than the panel. The handle was luckily fitted with a sort of rubber grip, but the rest of it was metal and undoubtedly caked with rust. Alan pushed the crank with everything he had but after several moments of futile strain, the rust proved to be stronger than him. Over the last two years, Alan learned that on top of the paranormal aspects from the Takers and their abilities, rust had become something of a much bigger problem. Rust now developed at incredible speeds so long as it was exposed to the humid air outside the shelter. This was also something the group had to contend with anytime they left to scavenge. Taking more than an hour outside usually made things like flashlights and metal canteens useless as the rust would corrode the flashlights and seal the canteen lids. One of the biggest reasons for hitting the department store was to find vinegar or other potential rust removal tools in hopes that it could combat this problem. Alan had no idea what time it was, and he hadn't heard a single sound anywhere in the shelter besides his own since he had awoken. In any normal situation, he would have called out in case others were there, but since arriving in this world, he had developed other first thoughts. If there were others here, he would need to find them without making loud noises. Alan started back to the door, feeling for the wall to use as his guide. After a few steps, he kicked something soft he immediately recognized to be clothing. He reached down and picked it up to feel it for a second, realizing it was a shirt and then quickly realizing it was the kid's shirt that had come here to fix the generator. For the first time since waking, Alan wondered why he was still alive. The Takers never traveled alone and they especially wouldn't have traveled alone with the gun shots that had lead that one here. They also have never left any survivors before. Certainly the noise must have brought dozens here, and yet, he was still alive. Alan decided that first he would get his jacket from the monitor room as he felt himself beginning to shiver. He made his way down the hall, hugging the wall for support. He was thankful that he knew the place so well that he could navigate it in this darkness with some ease, but as time passed, he only wanted more and more to be able to see. After a few moments of walking, he heard the sound of a small crack come from somewhere on down the hall behind him. He stopped and turned toward it, but it was futile as he was still blind. He stayed as silent and still as he could and just listened for anything else. After several minutes, he didn't hear anything else, so he continued toward the monitor room. Minutes later, he had reached the end of the main hall and stepped into the large living area. His footsteps now had a greater echo in the large room. Limping forward with his arms out scanning the air ahead of him, he found one of the bed frames. Based off his best guess at his position, he figured this bed belonged to a man who had been sick the last few weeks. He reached down and patted the bed, feeling only blankets... and clothes. There were a few dozen bunk beds in total in this room and Alan knew there was virtually no chance anyone had survived. Again the question raised its presence in his mind, "Why am I still here?" He proceeded forward, navigating between the beds and the large wooden table in the center between the beds. There was usually a lantern sitting on this table and matches were always nearby. He felt around the surface of the table, finding mostly old opened canned goods and other trash until he found both the lantern and the matches. Alan hoped these matches were not also somehow rusted at their tips. However, after feeling the match heads, his dread only grew. "How are match tips rusting? This makes no sense." He thought to himself. Dropping the matches on the table, he then proceeded forward to the monitor room. He decided he would sit down and take a small break once he got there as his leg was beginning to get to him beyond his limits of pain tolerance. A few moments later, he had made it to the camera room's door. The door had been left open during the chaos and Alan was glad as he didn't have the keys to reopen it. Having to search for them in this darkness would likely break him. Inside, he found the chair and his jacket he left on the chair's back. Finally he started warming up a bit and sat down. His leg was instantly reduced of a great deal of pain and he sighed in relief. "Alan." A voice coming from the doorway said, making Alan jump and raised his guard. The voice was clear and familiar. "Tom?" Alan replied but received no response. "You survived?" But still no response. Alan was beginning to become more afraid as the silence only continued. Alan rose to his feet. He couldn't hear anyone at the doorway. Usually, with how quiet it was, he should hear their slight shifting movements and breathing, but he heard nothing, as if there wasn't anyone there. But Alan was certain he had heard the voice and that it was Tom who spoke his name. With some hesitation, Alan slowly moved toward the open door with his arms stretched outwards. He quickly felt the door and grabbed it. Standing now, less than a couple feet from the open doorway, it was like no one was there, but he was certain this was where the voice came from. Alan reached an arm out into the doorway and met with nothing but empty cold air. He quickly closed the door, suddenly feeling very vulnerable to the large room in front of him. The knob however was rusted and wouldn't turn, so the door didn't close fully. He stood at the door for several more moments holding the knob and listening intently to the silence but ultimately heard nothing except his own shivered breathing and heartbeat. He then remembered there might be one more flashlight in the large drawer next to the desk. He turned and went to the drawer and with a bit of searching, found the flashlight. Alan knew it was likely rusted beyond working order by this point, but the flashlight was also long handled and made of strong metal, meaning he could likely use it as a weapon. He forcefully twisted the top, breaking apart a small layer of rust until it reached the clicking point where it should illuminate, but as expected, it was rusted beyond working order. He flipped the flashlight around, ready to use the handle as a bashing weapon and then turned back to the door. He limped back over and grabbed the knob and again, he hesitated. This time the hesitation was pulling open the door possibly exposing himself to whatever was on the other side. He was certain he had not imagined the voice. He gripped the flashlight in his free hand and steeled himself as he slowly pulled open the door, ready to stop if he heard anything more come from the other side. The door opened completely with loud creaking coming from its rusted hinges but no further sounds came from the large pitch black room. Alan stepped out of the monitor room and into what now felt like stepping into a chasm of darkness where anything could be waiting for him. In his paranoia, he imagined a possible enemy that did not share his blindness and could see him with ease, ready to pounce at any moment and there would be little to nothing he could do about it. Suddenly, he wanted to move forward as quickly as he could and get to the main front door. He limped forward as quickly as he could, listening with as much effort as he could produce for any sound that was not his own. Despite what he had heard earlier, he had walked through the large room and back into the hallways without something lurking in silence. His paranoia however, would not allow him to trust this feeling and still, he listened as intently as his overly alert mind could. No sounds came aside from the small echoes of his own steps and the heart that pounded hard and fast in his chest. The pain in his leg was starting to feel like fire, but the darkness kept him from even considering stopping to rest, or even slowing down. Alan had never in his life been afraid of the dark, but he also never had to spend much time in it either, this was a new fear he was not accustomed to and his thoughts reflected that fact. He found his breath becoming more ragged and difficult as he fought through the pain to continue moving as fast as his limp would allow. Finally, without any more incidents, he made it to where the front door should be according to his memory. The door should be less than twenty feet away. He had hoped that the candles that were usually lit in the vestibule connecting the stairwell to the main door would still be there, but based on the belief that the door was open, he should have seen some small light by now if they were. A light breeze brushed over Alan, solidifying his belief that the door was open and confirming that the candles were extinguished. He didn't wait long and proceed forward, he was thinking about getting to the surface, and then waiting in hiding for the Sun to reach the blood sphere and he would be able to see something, maybe even find a way to illuminate the shelter. He'd made it a few brisk steps forward when his foot struck something solid and sent him falling forward. The sudden trip caught him utterly off guard and the instinct to put his arms out in front of him was the only reason he didn't immediately fall flat on his face. His right arm however hit something solid before his left hit the floor and the sudden shift in weight and direction of his fall caused him to smack his face on something that was above where the floor should be. Alan now laid on a pile of solid objects that he now realized were chunks of concrete. The fall had broken his nose and chipped one of his front teeth. He groaned in pain and brought his now achy hands up to his face to feel blood beginning to pour from his nose. "God damnit." He said without thinking. His voice echoed down the halls behind him but after a few moments, no sounds of a response returned. Alan worked his way up and felt around on the floor in front of him as he slowly moved forward. A very large cave-in must have happened as it seemed the concrete ceiling above the main door had fallen. Alan felt many chunks that piled into a large mound right where the front door should be. Slowly, he climbed the mound and his hand finally touched the steel frame of the door but the hole that let the breeze in was barely large enough to allow his hand in. Alan attempted to move the concrete chunks in hopes he could widen the gap enough to squeeze through and out, but the majority of the concrete was in large pieces he couldn't budge at all. Alan tried for some time, but the few things he could move gave no where near enough progress to allow him to crawl through the gap. The breeze that came through the door had grown colder in the time he had been struggling to move the barrier. Alan wondered if the change in temperature would be his only clue as to what time it was. If he was correct, then it was likely becoming night. Even with his jacket, the open gap would make it impossible for him to stay there as it became more and more cold. He slowly climbed back down from the concrete mound and meticulously worked his way back through the darkness and to the beds. In the time it took him to make it back, the cold had intensified. Alan was surprised at how much colder the place had become from just a small gap to the outside. He wondered if the cooler temperatures was an effect of the sun being blocked out for most of each day. Perhaps long term survival in this world was simply not a possibility after all. Alan finally made it back. He was not as on guard as before, but still, his trek back was a silent and uneventful one. Alan shivered uncontrollably as he grabbed one of the mattresses and several of the blankets and pulled them to the monitor room. He grabbed a few MREs and water bottles from under the beds of those who would now no longer need them. He then moved the office chair outside of the monitor room and put the mattress on the floor by the desk along with many blankets. After shutting the door as far as it could be shut with the knob latch being rusted, he used one of the blankets to stuff under the door and along it's side in order to plug up the gap as much as possible in hopes of preserving any heat he could muster in this small room. He then got under the blankets on the matress along with an MRE and was happy to start warming back up with the chemical heater under the blankets as he warmed his food. Soon, he stopped shivering and a few hours later, laying in the silent darkness, he fell asleep. ... Alan heaved as he was out of breath. He put the sledge hammer down to take a small break. Licking his index finger, he held it up, feeling the draft come down the hall. He estimated he had about one more hour before he had to retreat back to his room. It had now been three weeks since he woke up in this darkness. Two days ago, he found a sledge hammer and several tools in a supply closet he never really knew about and was incredibly lucky to find it open enough that he could get in. Most of the tools were rendered useless due to the ever growing rust, but the sledge hammer still had utility. Many doors in this facility were locked, and even the ones that were not, were impassable due to the rust. He had managed to get into several doors by breaking the door knobs off, and then using a crowbar, he forced the doors open. This of course caused immense noise to echo throughout the entire shelter and Alan suspected it likely even was heard outside the shelter. Alan had grown to a point where he simply didn't care however, as the darkness and solidarity sapped his will and sanity. He also was in an almost constant state of sorrow over the loss of people he'd come to call friends, and especially Melinda. Now, he was hungry. He had run out of MREs a week ago and his water was not far behind. The first few doors he managed to get into had more beds, spare clothes, and other miscellaneous supplies he wasn't able to make much use of due to the rust. He knew however, that more food and water must have been somewhere in this place and he had many doors to try. After catching his breath, Alan picked the hammer back up and continued to bash the lock. His leg still somewhat ached, but it had strangely swelled up the day after he awoke and the tightness actually kept his leg stiff and hard to move. This had the benefit of reducing the pain considerably as it no longer moved freely with each step, almost like a natural splint. As an unexpected benefit of bashing through door handles, Alan was seeing the occasional spark. It was the first thing he had seen in weeks and in this case, the literal representation had even sparked his own sense of hope. With one last swing, Alan felt the handle give and break off as it crashed to the floor. He felt a sense of elation as he put the hammer down and grabbed the crowbar. He knew there wasn't any guarantee that what he sought was in this room, but nevertheless, he was hopeful. The door scratched along the floor and made an awful grinding sound as it opened against the rust. Alan had to put everything he had into it just to get it barely open enough that he could enter. Once he was inside, he immediately noticed the floor was different. He reached down to feel it and realized he was standing on carpet. It was the flat, thin kind of carpet that didn't feel especially good to the touch, but it was carpet. Alan noticed the sound didn't echo in this room nearly as much as the rest of the place indicating the room likely had many objects. He hadn't come across anyone in the few weeks he had been in the dark, and he was pretty sure by this point that the various sounds he had heard were creations of his own imagination. Still, he kept the crowbar close at hand and ready for any threat, real or imagined. He walked further into the room with his free hand outstretched, feeling the air for anything solid in his path. Since his fall on that first day, he no longer trusted the floor either and each of his steps were very in length short with him ready to catch his balance should his foot strike something. After a few steps, he kicked something that was hard and low to the floor. It's sound was hollow and instantly reminded him of wood. Placing his hand on the object, he found it was smooth with its max height reaching only up to his waist line. More feeling around revealed to him that the object was large and rectangular. He supposed either it was a bare desk, or a bar. Alan went around to the object's right and found a small bar door as there was a large empty space under a large flat piece of wood connected by hinges. He pulled up on the door but it didn't budge. He thought it was latched but then remembered that it was on hinges, hinges that were likely caked in rust. Since the object wasn't very tall, he sat on it and swung his legs over. Upon getting to the other side, the wood collapsed under him before he could replant his feet. He fell to the floor with the broken wood and fortunately, didn't hurt himself. He realized then, not to trust anying wooden in this place as rot had likely set in by now. Alan put his hand down on the floor to push himself up when his hand touched something that crinkled under his weight in a familiar fashion. He grabbed the object and confirmed it to be an MRE. Alan felt a surge of joy for the first time in weeks as he wasted no time. He tore into the package and started eating, not bothering with the chemical heater. He then realized that he may have found a store room for consumable supplies and that likely, there was water here as well. He got to his feet and began searching further. He spent a little more time than he should have in that room, but he did find sealed gallons of water, many more MREs, and even several toiletries he hadn't been able to use in months. In more parts of the room, he found tables and chairs and even a few sofas. In the two years he had been there, no one had the keys for this room and it was assumed that this room, like many others when broken into, would turn out to be nothing but supply closets with extra bedding and other non consumable supplies they didn't need. Finding this room was like hitting the lottery all over again. Alan sort of regretted never searching all of these rooms when everyone was still alive, but at the same time, he wondered where he would be now if these weren't still here. Night had fallen and the temperature began rapidly falling. Taking what he could, he made his way back to his room and enjoyed another meal, this time with the chemical heater. Finding this new cache of supplies, he felt very much relieved that he wouldn't be starving just yet, however, he knew staying down here forever wasn't an option. After he finished his meal, he went to sleep, intent on finding a way through the rubble that barricaded the entrance and escaping to the surface. He also decided he would start caring more about the noise he made. Something about not having food had really made him apathetic, but now that his stomach was full, that apathy was dispelled. The next day, Alan stood at the base of the mound of concrete chunks that barred his escape. Now that he had food again, his normal strength began returning. After feeling around the rubble for weak spots, he took the sledge hammer and began breaking away at the concrete and removing the pieces as they became smaller. The first day he didn't make a ton of progress, but he knew it was just a matter of time before he would get through. A couple of days later, Alan had broken through enough that he could squeeze through the small opening at the door. He was ready to see what was on the other side when he heard a short female sob come directly from over his left shoulder. He flinched slightly, but by this point he had become accustomed to the haunting sounds and only became sad instead of frightened. "I'm sorry." He said into the darkness with his head down. Alan felt a pang of sadness and guilt as his eyes watered up slightly and he found himself thinking about Melinda again. It didn't last long however, as he returned to his mission, bent on getting out of this place. Alan knew he was close to breaking through that morning and had brought a bag full of supplies, as well as any useable tools he had. He started by shoving the bag and tools through the hole and then crawled through himself. Immediately on the other side, he noticed the sound as well as the air was different. Based on his guess of the temperature, he believed it to be early in the day. The sounds of his movements caused an echo that went straight up and then back down. Alan used his blind skills to move about the shaft into he found the first set of stairs. He grabbed his supplies and tools and moved up the metal steps. Immediately he noticed the steps were absolutely covered in rust and each step seemed to loudly complain against his weight with cracking and screeching sounds. The steps felt weak under his feet and he found himself hesitating to move forward. He wasn't very high up yet and could still return and think of a way to get to the surface more safely, but by this point he was so desperate to leave this concrete prison, that he elected to push on anyway, though he did so with as much caution as possible. A few minutes into his climb, he guessed he was nearing the halfway point when a step suddenly gave out from under him. It wasn't a step he had placed all his weight on yet and he was able to catch himself. He listened as the metal step fell deeper into the shaft, causing very loud metalic echoes to ring out. He knew at this point, that he had for certain made too much noise and that Takers had to be on their way. Before he could think about the possibility of more Takers coming to investigate the sound however, the platform he stood on suddenly shifted under his weight as it had detached from the wall behind him. Alan grabbed a hold of anything he could but it was too late. The entire section of stairs he stood on suddenly collapsed and he fell with it. Tons of metal came crashing down through the shaft and all he could manage to do was hold on to one of the railings as he fell with it. A split second later, the stairs, along with Alan, crashed into the bottom in a heap of heavily corroded scrap metal. Alan had the wind knocked out of him, but he was still conscious. After a moment to recover, Alan tried to move, but extreme pain suddenly shot out in his left side causing him to involuntarily cry out. He stopped trying to get up and put a hand where the pain was sourced. In Alan's horror, he found a large metal bar protruding from his left side. It's entry point was at his lower left back with the full length reaching beyond his own reach. Blood poured from the wound profusely and he felt his chest beginning to tighten.