Horror Mystery Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

TW: Murder, suicide, and mental health are topics in this story

“Denise? Denise!” Mark screams into the empty hallway when he gets home from work.  The sun is setting and his stomach is turning. “Denise!”  He paces through the house until he reaches the bedroom.  Denise is in bed with the covers up to her chest and she's blankly staring into her phone.

“Denise? What are you doing?” He asks, and she shakes herself out of the trance.

“What time is it?” she says drowsily. 

“It’s 6:30… Is this what you did all day?”

“Um… yeah… I’m playing Tetris,” she says as she props herself up to stretch. 

“Denise, I know you’re depressed but you have to start having a routine.”

“I know but I don’t know what that looks like.”

“Just… start going to the gym.  It’ll get you moving and out of the house. Just commit to going once a day doesn’t even matter how long. ” Denise nods along to Mark’s suggestion. 

He convinces her to get out of bed and at least eats a microwave dinner at the table but after she crawls right into bed.  She’s hollow and frozen with fear and anxiety. Her once Lucious black hair is starting to get matted and covering her face.  Her skin once bright is now covered with zits from lack of care. 

Denise was a Talent Coordinator for a tech company for 4 years.  She was training to start recruiting until she was laid off.  After working hard, getting into debt in college, working while going to school, taking unpaid internships, volunteering her time at church, and staying up late to study all her hard work seemed to amount to nothing.  Her dream job came and went leaving Denise wondering why she put herself through all that for promises of a happy life. But really, how happy can you be in a cubicle staring at a screen all day? 

Mark was supporting her and letting her take time to find a career but all she found was depression.  She was a shell of the woman he loved.  He kept clinging to hope God would breathe life into her once again.   Being around Denise was like living in a black hole.  

In the morning, Denise woke up with Mark. 

“I’m going to go to the gym,” She said.  Mark smiled.  They got ready together. Denise knew she needed to try to make Mark happy.  If she didn’t try, he was going to leave, and then she’d be alone in her depression, wilting away, lost, and eventually taking a greyhound bus back home.  She’d have to publicly admit the adult world defeated her.  She needed to try and keep up the facade. 

Mark dropped her off at the gym while he went to work.  The gym was in a weird building/ mall. It wasn’t the most welcoming building with old 80’s square architecture and few windows..  She walked through wide white doors that lead down a dark hallway.  The building looked like it should be condemned. The hallways seemed to each have different proportions making everything very disorienting.  The lights all flickered and the floors were filthy.  But there was a sign that said, “LA Fitness,” with an arrow pointing to some stairs.   Denise followed the signs through another set of doors to a floor with unmarked doors and no natural light. She saw the gym entrance.  It was a beacon of light illuminating the dimly lit hall and the sound of pop music gently floated into the space.  

Denise thought for a moment. What is this building?  I’ll just do a loop around the floor and come back. She walks down the hall.  She notices a door with adhesive residue from what was once an office graphic.   She opens the door.  The room is empty. It looked like a fancy lobby of a cruise ship with black and white tile across the floor, modular white leather seating, led light strips illuminating the steps down into the lobby, and a 7-foot-tall white stone statue of a cubist version of an Easter Island head.  There was a front desk with wood paneling and pendent lights coming down, very modern and chic.  She looks over and there’s no computer, a blank notepad, and an unplugged phone sitting on the desk caked in dust. 

“Hello,” she calls out into the hallowed space. No reply.  She walks deeper into the room.  Looking at abstract black and white art.  She walks into a lounge with a bar cart and a television.  She has a choice: get comfortable or get out. 

She got comfortable. Plugged her phone into the wall, poured herself a vodka soda from the bar, and watched an episode of New Girl.  The quiet was eerie but she was so happy to not be home.  Mark can believe she’s getting healthier and she can just sink into her solace without judgment.  After an hour she packs up and walked through the lobby back out to the dingy hall.  She walks into the parking structure. It was sunset. Disoriented she walks back home with feeling a lingering feeling that the room had more to offer her. 

“What did you do all day?” Mark asked when she arrived.

“I just wandered around.” Mark’s face lit up. He was seeing a glimmer of hope in the black hole. The next morning, the same routine: she woke up, Mark dropped her off at the gym, she went to the abandoned office space, and then walked home.  

Each day she snooped a little more. The business was called Arcadia Marketing.  Seems like all documentation stopped 2 months ago.  It looked like the company paid the rent in 3-month increments so she had this place for one more month. The office reminded her HR job: the white walls, modern art, identical cubicles, and the randomly placed coffee cups. She could taste the watered-down office coffee in her mouth just by standing in the breakroom. 

She discovered a balcony where she could read.  Sometimes she had a book and sometimes she’d read the random papers of ad campaigns that were never made. In the meantime, she treated herself to the breakroom snacks though the fridge had green mold growing in it.  It was just a little world where time seemed to pass by quickly. Mark was just happy to see her get out of the house. Denise was happy to explore something new. 

On the eighth day of hiding out in an abandoned office building, Denise was on the balcony reading a book. Looking out unto the city with the hustle and bustle, Denise is in her serenity. Suddenly the calm fractures as she feels a presence next to her. She slowly turns her head and looks. It’s a tall, brunette woman in a navy blue pantsuit standing in the doorway. She sits next to Denise looking out to the city.  Denise is still. The woman is still. They sit in stillness.  

“Hello?” Denise finally says and the woman doesn’t respond. A chill goes over Denise’s body. The woman’s face is off.  Her face isn’t quite human and this interaction isn’t quite human. 

Suddenly the woman gets up walks to the rail and let’s out a scream. A short shreik.  Then she turns around and goes inside. After a few moments, Denise follows her.  Then she hears clicking like someone is typing. She looks around. Who else is here? Where is it coming from? What is happening? Then on the other side of the room, she hears the rumbling of a printer.  She darts out the front door and runs past confused patrons to the parking lot.  Out of breath she looks around and realizes.  There’s no grass in front of where the balcony would be.  She walks around the building in a daze searching for the balcony she was just on.  She can’t find one. She can’t find the grass she saw. Where was she going every day? 

The next day, she came back and recharged with a mission to figure out what this office was. She walked into the lobby and stood at the door listening. She could hear typing. Walking carefully around what was once an office she peered into the dark rooms. She finds a room where the keyboard sounds are echoing but there are no people just empty seats. Just echoes. She made her way to the breakroom where she could smell coffee but there was no machine. There were coffee cups but no coffee. Walking into the back room where there were cubicles she heard a whimper.

“Hello!” No response. As she turned around she sees a man pacing with papers in his hand across the lobby and disappear into an office. Denise runs to the door. She’s shaking and can’t seem to get it open.  She looks back and he is pacing back toward the cubicles. He doesn’t notice her. Denise is overwhelmed and clumsily runs to the front door and fumbles with the handle eventually falling into the dirty dim hallway floor.  She drags herself to the other side of the hall.  

“Hey!” Someone yells.  “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Denise says trying to catch her breath. She looks up and there’s a young girl approaching in pink gym clothes.  The girl reaches her hand to help Denise to her feet.

“Thank you for that,” Denise says as she tries to compose herself.  

“Why were you in there?” The girl asks as she helps Denise up.

“Um… I was exploring I guess. Do you know what that place is?”

“Yeah…” She has a concerned look on her face. “The CEO poisoned the coffee one day and killed like 6 people after she had to file for bankruptcy.”


“Yeah, it’s been abandoned. No one wanted to clean it out and management  can’t get anyone to rent it.” She pauses, “I work for the building management. I’ll have the janitor lock it.  You shouldn’t be in there.  No one should be.” 

“Oh…I had been wondering how a whole office could just be there. And thanks for helping me.” The girl is looking for her phone.

“Can’t you just feel the energy is off in there?” She asks.

“I guess, I guess my energy has been off so it kind of just felt comfortable.”

“Well, give me your phone,” She says and Denise hands it over, “If you ever wanna work out sometime instead of hanging out in abandoned offices shoot me a text, my name is Brandy.”

“Wow, thanks. I could really use a friend.”

“Of course, it takes a village to get us through this chaotic life.”

December 07, 2022 04:05

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