The Storage Unit

Written in response to: Write a story involving a portal into a parallel universe.... view prompt


Horror Fantasy

You could easily drive past the Cloverleaf Storage parking lot. You had to do a sharp turn immediately after crossing the railroad tracks. Not exactly convenient, either. The morning he had to open the unit, the train kept going for what seemed like a good couple hours before he could at last get in.

Pitiful property. Dirt and gravel for the most part, sunken muddy ditches, junker cars rusting along the fences, including a camper with four flat tires. He had to check his tires every day to make sure he didn't roll over some random piece of metal debris.

The units hardly resembled the things you'd see on TV. The condemnable wood and plaster structures weren't worth the hundred dollars a month they charged for them.

Only a quarter of the termite eaten units had labels. He had to use a map and compare the building letters to figure out where each locker was. The boss said it helped to reduce theft, but he personally wasn't sure it helped anything.

They had a widow there one time. Seven units. He accidentally gave her the wrong unit numbers in a text. The woman panicked, thinking her dead husband's family conspired to change the locks so they could sell all her material possessions, none of which, it should be said, had more than a couple dollars' resale value. It didn't help that she'd misplaced a makeup bag in one of her multitudinous boxes, somewhere deep within those unlabeled units.

After the train passed, he had to get through an automated gate. 919, pound, 268 star. He'd worked there so long he could type it in his sleep, and honestly may have a couple times, considering how disorganized the place now seemed to be.

He had an owner that hadn't paid in awhile. Five months awhile. As one of the lower priced renters in the area, and due to the dilapidated nature of the units, Cloverleaf tended to be forgiving, but not that forgiving. They'd given the guy all the second chances they could give.

So...time to open the locker.

The owner had been an old guy. Veteran from Vietnam or Korea or something. Nobody knew what he did for a living. Rumor had it he ran a timeshare racket, or some book publishing scam. Not something huge enough to allow for the fancier storage facilities, but some kind of income nonetheless.

At least he'd left a key at the front office, no bolt cutting required.

Building L. A pickup had been parked opposite, some guys busily welding inside the unit.

He had to fight with the lock to get the key to turn all the way, and once he got it off, he still couldn't move the overhead door, on account of the unit's stubborn slide piece. He had to pull it sideways with a pair of pliers. Only then could he lift the door enough to look inside. He received a shower of dust and dirt for his trouble.

Coughing, he waved away the dust cloud.

At first blush, Unit 139 seemed like an ordinary junk pile - a box of decoy ducks, a duck blind, a worthless old Christmas tree, a grandfather clock, and a shrink wrapped table propped up on its side. A blue plastic tarp hung over whatever lay in the back.

He used a dolly to move the clock, probably depreciating it somewhat, since the lot was unpaved gravel.

Once he had the Christmas tree moved and the table rolled aside, he pulled back the tarp, and...

Not what he expected. At all.

One of the eccentric weirdoes that try to live in their locker. The place fairly resembled the set of some drawing room mystery: Fine leather armchairs, bearskin rug, tiffany lamps, a chaise lounge, bookshelves, mounted animal heads, statuary and a Victorola.

The only thing missing seemed to be a fireplace. Instead of that, this person had set up a mirror.

He threw the dust cover off the thing, then unthinkingly turned a knob on a lamp.

His eyes bulged when the lamp lit up. These units didn't come with electricity.

He lifted the cord, only to find it not plugged into anything but a small gray box, possibly some sort of battery.

As he turned the device over in his hands, a brilliant blue glow filled the locker.

He glanced over his shoulder.

A shiver traveled down his spine. The light came from inside the mirror.

Instead of showing a reflection, a swirling vortex filled the entire glass portion...and the glass, it seemed, had vanished, for the mirror now sucked air from the room like an open airlock in a science fiction movie. It pulled a pipe and pens off the mahogany end tables.

Not believing what he saw, he stepped closer to the mirror.

The vacuum proved stronger than expected. Before he could properly brace himself, he went flying with a scream into the mirror.

Seconds later, he crashed into the armchairs.

Shakily rising to his feet, he looked around.

Still in the storage unit.

At first he thought he'd somehow hallucinated and hadn't gone anywhere at all, but then he noticed...differences.

The armchairs had changed sides.

The chaise lounge, once facing left, now faced right.

The spine of the Sherlock Holmes collection, previously readable on the end table, now had all its letters jumbled.

There was something else...

All the bookshelves around the mirror had vanished. In their place...a black void.

Not the square darkened area at the end of the unit, a void. Nothingness itself.

The void didn't just stop there. Like the set to some strange theatrical production, everything outside the mirror's frame of view terminated in nothingness.

The backs of chairs. 

Objects obscured by chairs.

Although he could see the sky, treeline, and parts of the junk cars rusting away in the lot, when he attempted to walk out there, his foot plunged into the darkened void.

Only a last minute grab for the chaise lounge prevented him from dropping all the way into the depths.

Gasping and panting for breath, he climbed back up on the floor.

He had to get out of there!

In a mad panic, he rushed to the mirror.

When he reached it, his hands encountered only glass, his mimicking reflection seeming to block his every attempt to move further.

He shoved on the glass, pounded on the mirror, screamed for help.

Instead of doing all that, his reflection calmly looked him in the eyes and grinned.

May 04, 2023 03:16

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


RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.