Excaveat Emptor

Submitted into Contest #148 in response to: Write about an apartment building being demolished.... view prompt


Drama Fiction Horror

It began with letters mailed to each resident, and papers posted on the bulletin board of the foyer, then signs on the front door. A coming day that would mark the end. Not exactly a doomsday, but an inconvenience, to be sure. The challenge of finding a new place to live. For this building and the ground it stood upon was now owned by a development company with grand dreams of a new shopping mall. 

The location was perfect, they had gushed. Citing the statistics of growth in the area, and supporting infrastructure already in place. The only thing standing in their way was this occupied structure. So that was the next step in their plan. Tear down the old, to make way for the new. 

There was yelling, and there were tears, from people who had lived there for years, and those who had literally just arrived. Confusion and irritation at how money changing hands among people they'd never met was now pushing them away from what they believed was theirs. 

The machinations of this "progress" would grind on, however. Its ears deaf to any words but a begrudging acceptance and a negotiated departure. 

A river of boxes and furniture, cascading down the stairs on an array of dollies and the strong backs of young men. Toasters, chairs, picture frames and knick-knacks. Each piece of someone's life, carrying with it a memory of a time now past. 

The demolition crew waited patiently until the last person had left with the last box, for the building to be empty. But it was actually quite full, of a still and quiet sadness, a strange lack of the motion that had seemed to perpetually define the building as alive. 

As the walls crumbled from the wrecking ball's swing, and the debris was further crushed and scooped by excavators into dump trucks to be hauled away, nobody saw the trickling stream of the fire sprinkler system loosing its last water, once held for an emergency, now released into the ground. 

As each laden truck left, the space became more flat, eventually being smoothed by more equipment in preparation of the construction that would soon begin. 

But underneath the crisply leveled ground, something unexpected was lurking. The trickle of water that had previously escaped notice was not dissipating, rather it was gathering more water unto itself. 

Dissolving through stone and metal it came upon as it snaked around. When the construction crew arrived in the morning, there were ominous and unexplainable trenches they had not dug, that uncannily resembled the foundation of the old building. 

This was no longer water. It was the sadness and frustration of every displaced person, the emotional weight of what they had left behind, their connection to the building and to each other. Even when not behaving particularly neighborly, they were still a community. 

And now, some element of that had evaded demolition, and was bent on doing some of its own. As the workers tried to fill in the trenches, to level the ground once more, equipment began to fail. And slowly sink into the ground. 

Amidst the growing panic, as workers jumped away from their machines and ran to safety, a low rumble carried a gust of wind in an otherwise dead calm. A raspy voice from deep underground, "I'M STILL HERE" followed by a snickering that trailed off into the sound of all the equipment being swallowed by the dirt as they were crushed, twisted and ultimately dissolved by this clearly malevolent force. 

While the general contractors watch in horror from their trailer, the metal carcasses from all their equipment are thrust up through the ground, twisted into the shape of what they had torn apart, but dripping with diesel fuel and hydraulic fluid. 

The building has come back... but with jagged teeth and claws. Nobody dared approach it, but several people snapped nervous pictures or rolled video, in disbelief of what their eyes showed them, and knowing that nobody else would believe them either. 

Was it still moving? Sinking back into the ground? Or raising higher? It was breathing, and soon a hearty villainous laugh echoed across the ground, shaking the contractor's trailer. It was at the edge of the property, but evidently not quite far enough, as it began to sink as well. 

The project manager screamed, and threw his clipboard into the air as he fled. Extension cords whipped through the air like demonic vines, snapping it into pieces and pulling back to within the necrotic structure. 

"I WIN" the sinister voice laughed, as the trailer was swallowed up by the ground, and the haphazardly recycled monument to the apartment of old burst into flames. 

It was at least a week before even the police set foot on the site, as the pyre in the center still smouldered. Nobody walked any closer than the lines in the dirt left by the extension cords that had retreated after snatching the clipboard. 

The mall project was abandoned, with its manager citing "environmental dangers" and "irrecoverable losses to equipment" but what was never mentioned was the sheer terror at how many people narrowly escaped death that day. 

The property now seemed to be without an owner, making the city responsible for its appearance. But their concensus was to leave it be. Officially declaring it a Hazardous Disposal Site, while deftly avoiding mention of what specifically that meant. 

Honestly, they had no idea. How does a dying building come to life? Or was it alive the whole time, content to house and care for its residents, only gathering strength and will to exact revenge after not being able to save jtself? Pure speculation, and laughable to even discuss in the city hall. Nobody could understand unless they were there that day. 

Perhaps it was tired, and had accepted its fate to some extent. But wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. To choose for itself how its final chapter would be written. 

The disjointed shape of the remaining walls, a hodgepodge of excavator arms and bulldozer blades, melted and charred by the fuel and oil as they burned away, resembles a crooked grin. A peaceful acceptance, though I wouldn't test that peace by disturbing a single rock or mound of dirt within that orange plastic fence. 

May 30, 2022 05:47

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.