What Is This

Submitted into Contest #43 in response to: Write a story about transformation.... view prompt



It was a crisp fall day down at the inner harbor. A tinge of warm air brushed by as well as a wrapper from one of the street vendors. People propped themselves upon the steps leading to the water. The autumn sun filtered through the clouds. The water remained mostly calm with a few ripples from the breeze and far off boats. Other took advantage of such a spectacular fall day to exercise their boats before winter came aboard.

Around the block, kids played street hockey and jumped rope. Their guardians stooped themselves on the front steps and conversed amongst themselves. A hockey puck suddenly bounced off the side of a nearby car, and a curmudgeonly character who happened to be peering from the window came out to investigate. The kids fought back as hard as they possibly could, while the curmudgeonly character waved a hand and mumbled.

The inner harbor is its own special place where people flock to get away from the hustle of the business district. Also it’s far enough from the beltway so noise pollution is not too great.

There is an abandoned warehouse across from the business district and before the water starts. All but one of the levels have broken windows. Level number four appears to be in good shape for some reason. The warehouse used to house a computer repair facility. The main entrance is chained up to deter vagrants from breaking in and possibly starting a fire to keep warm. The old coal chute around the side of the warehouse had also been welded shut for the same reason.

The computer repair facility stayed in business for a year or two. High turnover rates and a dwindling economy forced the facility to close down. Two weeks later, spectators saw smoke billow out of the ground level. The fire marshall prompted an investigation which lead to the discovery of used canvases and old oil rags. This former art studio had not been occupied in a while, but some of the old oil rags spontaneously combusted. There was quite a bit of smoke damage so a condemned sign was posted on the main entrance along with the chains for added security.

But what went on inside level four?

A progressive real estate company from Manhattan acquired this building to fix and flip. Four representatives from the real estate company travelled down to the inner harbor to examine the condemned building. The brick shell was in fair condition but most of the windows would need replacing. Level four caught their attention because for its apparent pristine condition compared to the rest. The crew of four business men used a saw and blow torch to cut through the chains and padlock. The chains fell down on the ground and then the crew of four took turns kicking the door in. The door bangs against the wall. The ground level showed definite signs of smoke and water damage. Structural integrity of the warehouse created concern since it was the ground level. The crew continued investigating the warehouse. They came across a narrow interior stairwell. This stairwell led only to the fourth level. 

The remaining five levels must have been added on at a later date. But why was level four well-preserved?

Once the crew flipped the latch to level four’s entrance, they came across a discovery. An interior layer of concrete block built up the brick shell. A second layer of seeded glass was mounted into the block wall. Could level four been a top secret hideout? The crew continues to browse the space. Restrooms, a cargo elevator, and a small room huddled in the center of level four.

The upper levels could have only been accessed by way of the elevator since there was no longer an exterior fire escape, only the remaining brackets mounted on the shell. The elevator still worked so two crew members went up in the elevator while the other two stayed put.

Two of the four realtors climbed aboard the elevator and shut the gate. The elevator began to ascend to the fifth level. The pulleys strained and the two realtors prayed that the elevator would at least make it to the fifth level. The elevator stopped at the fifth level, and the two realtors raised the gate and walked out onto the floor. Sunlight filtered through the seeded glass windows, illuminating the dust particles floating in the air. Objects covered in drop cloths adorned the interior. Wooden crates and pallets created a maze that made the realtors meander through the space. Curiosity got to one of the realtors regarding the drop cloths. He went over toward the series of windows so he could have some light on the subject as he removed a drop cloth. He uncovered a framed mirror that had the slightest bit of tarnish around the edges but remained in good condition.  Both realtors roamed the space and began to remove the drop cloths. They uncovered mirror after mirror. The fifth level soon looked like a funhouse. Both realtors walked carefully around the space so no mirror would get broken, fearing the multiple years of bad luck to follow. One of the realtors stumbled upon a crate and the lid slid off. Amber bottles of some sort of liquid sat in the crate. One of the realtors unscrewed a bottle and sniffed. This liquid clearly was an ammonia-based liquid. The realtor screwed the cap back on and set the bottle down. The two realtors climbed aboard the elevator and descended to the fourth level where the other two realtors stayed.  When the elevator stopped at the fourth floor, the remaining two realtors who had stayed behind were eager to learn of any discoveries. All four realtors discussed why there would be a multitude of mirrors in one location, along with a crate of an ammonia-based liquid. The crate must have contained glass cleaner, which would have explained the ammonia odor. As far as the quantity of mirrors, could they have been a part of a major project which may have been in the works at some point? Further investigation prompted the realtors to continue scoping out the building. The centralized room on level four was next on the agenda to explore. Three of the realtors circled around the room, looking for a spare key or an equivalent tool to open the door. The fourth realtor walked over to the door and turned the doorknob. It clicked and the door slowly swung open. He yelled for the others’ attention and then entered the dark room. He then flipped on his flashlight to scan the space. Rolled up papers were organized in shelving cubes. The realtor took a few rolls and left to go find daylight. It was slightly brighter outside the room but the thick glass kept some light from filtering through. The other realtors gathered around as the first roll was opened to reveal a spatial layout. The plan’s legend referred to the spatial layout as level five, Baltimore, MD, circa 1969. Before studying this roll, the next roll revealed an exploded view of a primitive telescope. The third and last roll, for now, revealed another exploded view of the telescope. Could the mirrors be linked to the telescope? While studying the first plan, discussions about the year 1969 evolved. This year is best known for when select individuals from the United States landed on the moon. The spatial layout indicated the restructured walls. Could this modification be for security purposes? Research and reasoning led the realtors to think that the archives were a part of a secret project that fell through because of the lack of funding or differences of opinion. Daylight was winding down so the realtors gathered up the rolls and returned them to the room, then gently latched the door. They exited the building via the stairwell. How were they going to secure the building since they cut through the chains to get into the building? They certainly didn’t want vagrants to ransack the interior or have anything detrimental happen to those plans and drawings. A secured lockbox wouldn’t help in this case. Just then a squad car pulled up to investigate. The realtors explained to the officers what was going on. The officers mentioned that the building was due for demolition soon and that there wasn’t a need to relock the door. The realtors adamantly suggested to obtain a lock of some sort because of the archives located inside. The officers reinstated to the realtors that the demolition was scheduled due to the owners’ decision to reuse the land for an updated facility. The realtors silently grew hot because of the archives inside and busted in the door. As they were piling in, the officers called for backup assistance and followed the realtors. An army of footsteps trampled up the stairwell to the fourth level. The realtors hastily walked over to the centralized room, swung the door open, and grabbed a plan. They revealed the legend to the officers. The officers turned around and pointed out the words “Duplicate” and “Property of US Govt.”. Backup assistance showed up and the officers handcuffed the realtors for trespassing. Everybody filed out of the building, got in the squad cars, and headed down to the station for interrogation. Each realtor was allowed a phone call and their moment in the spotlight. It was no easy task for the officers on duty because the four realtors all wanted to speak up at the same time. An hour later, an arbitrator came to the realtors’ defense and the officers pardoned the realtors. The officers told the realtors to keep away from that building for their overall safety. The realtors obliged to the suggestion, and left the station. Next day, the realtors left to go back to Manhattan.  

May 28, 2020 01:36

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