BLACK TOWER – Chapter One

John was sitting in the electrical room having his usual lunch break. It was an odd shaped room. Sort of an irregular triangle attached to the rest of the boiler room by a long narrow hallway near the single freight elevator which serviced the east side of the basement. Another elevator servicing the west side, emptied out on the far end of the boiler room only accessible after a long walk through several rooms and down another corridor.

He had been employed here now as a handyman for nearly two and a half months, only a few days after the opening of the skyscraper, and it sure beat his last job as superintendent of a fourteen story office building near city hall. No more problems or worries and the tips and overtime were better too. “By a long shot”. He thought.

The room became the local hangout for the workmen and had a long table, plenty of chairs, and a small refrigerator and closet to keep the hastily packed lunches that their wives prepared. There was even an automatic coffee machine on top of the small closet to help kill the hours or warm up your insides if you were put on the snow removal detail in winter.

John nonchalantly gazed through his newspaper while wolfing down his lunch. “Lunch” he thought. Lunchtime for him was three A.M. in the morning. He didn’t mind though. It was quieter, there were no bosses around, and he could do his work un-interrupted.

He would sure miss seeing all those pretty secretaries parading down the halls like he did during the day shift but, “what the hell” he thought. At least I can catch a few winks if I wanted to, and nobody will know. The only ones working with him on nights were the assistant super, ‘Old’ Surge, and that new black guy that was hired as a guard for the lobby. He tried to remember his name and thought it was either Rufus, or Luther, or something. Well he wasn’t going to strain himself trying to remember. “I’ll just ask his name again when I go black upstairs” he thought. “He probably will think that I’m either pretty dumb or pretty deft.”

He readjusted his legs on the chair that he had pulled up across the front of him after he felt his right leg starting to fall asleep. Crossing your legs, for a long time, he remembered his mother saying, was no good for your circulation.

Ah! The words of wisdom. He thought.

He turned the page and read the story about the state senator who got caught with his hand in the till for the second time. “Probably get off again.” He thought. Shaking his head. That was when he first became aware of the thumping sound.

It almost sounded like somebody punching the cement wall. It gave him a start at first. All buildings gave off odd sounds whether they were new and settling, or creaky and old. They were especially unnerving when you we4re alone in them.

Turning in his chair he looked back over his shoulder to locate the source of the sound. Glancing down the corridor toward the elevator doors his eyes caught a shiny substance on the left wall of the corridor itself. Getting up he ambled down the hall and stopped in front of the large went patch that seemed to shimmer on the grey painted wall. Reaching out to touch the wall he jumped instinctively for the second time and pulled his hand back from the icy impression, which up till now just looked like water.

“Odd” he thought. He didn’t touch it again, though, because something about ice on a wall in May seemed a little unnatural. And even though he was not superstitious it still spooked him a little.

He decided to take a tour around the boiler area to try to locate the spot where the thumping sound originated and walked over to where the new check value was put in earlier during the earlier part of the day, the replace the default one, by the steam pit. Even though all the pipes were supposed to be new, you always had to count on a few lemons or a few bugs in the system. The check value by the steam pit seemed the proof of the pudding. They had trouble with it from the beginning and after endless tinkering; they finally called the plumbers in yesterday afternoon to replace it. The workmen’s tools were still lying there for the three inch pipe which had led to the cantankerous check value. Word was that the job will be finished by noon today. John could see the old value lying on the floor and decided to take a closer look. When he heard that thumping sound again. This time it came from behind him in the direction of the corridor leading back to the electrical room.

Turning quickly toward the sound he was brought up short by the sight of a dark, shadowing figure standing in the mouth of the corridor. Only the entrance of the hall was visible from where John stood because the hallway ran off at a right angle from his position.

“Who’s there?” John said. The figure didn’t answer him and was only t gazing at him.

“Surage?” John called again. But there was no response. The black shadow figure just stood there.

“Hey!” John called. “Who is it?” Again nothing.

John became alarmed now and reached down and picked up a monkey wrench from among the plumber’s tools by his feet. Hefting it in his hands he began to move forward and called, “I asked who’s there and you better stop goofing around and answer me.”

To his surprise the figure turned and fled down the corridor toward the little lunch area. There it found a sort of box canyon and there would be no way out except past John.

Undaunted now he hurried after his shadowing guest with the knowledge that they would meet face to face. Rounding the corner he slowed his pace as he went down the hall toward the electrical room.

There was a blind spot on either side of the doorway that led to the room and John didn’t want any surprises.

Entering the room John got a bigger surprise then what he originally expected. There was nobody there. Wheeling around he made sure nobody was to either side or behind him. Nothing, nobody was there.

Suddenly John felt that same wet icy feeling in his hand. Where he had touched the wall and the lights in the room began to flicker. There were the thumping sounds again. This time they seemed to be coming from behind the walls all around him.

Panicking now, John ran back down the hallway toward the elevator. He could take a stairway not far from there, but he was scared and did not want to wait that long. Punching the elevator button, he watched agonizingly as the doors slid slowly open. Jumping inside he hit the button which would send it back up to the lobby and gazed back down the corridor toward the pulsing lights over the lunch table. The doors seemed to take forever to close and when they did, he tore himself loose and got on the intercom to the awaiting lobby.

“Surge!” He yelled. He called twice more before an unfamiliar voice crackled back over the speaker.

“Who’s that?” the voice asked.

“It’s me; he screamed back” Now who’s this?” John asked.

“This is Rufus, the night watchman!” the voice said.

Before John could say anything else the doors opened, and he could see Rufus playing with the mike button on the control board across the lobby.

“Where’s Surge?” John yelled.

“Right here” a voice from the lobby door said. “Why are you yelling?”

“Yeah!” you almost scared me half to death.” Rufus chimed in.

“Where were you a few minutes ago?’ John yelled accusingly.

The older white-haired man, a good head over John, “I was just at the beer and burger place down the block for lunch. What it’s to yaw.”

John just stared at him in disbelief, you weren’t just downstairs?” he asked.

“No, I got a bite and brought back some grub for Rufus as well. Why?” he said handing the watchman a brown bag.

John said nothing at first then said, “Well I saw someone in the basement.”

“Did you catch him?” Rufus said not liking the idea of an encounter to break up this evening.

“No, I lost him then the lights started flickering.” John said.

“Your sure you weren’t napping” Surge asked.

“Positive!” John said a little hurt and amazed.

“Okay, Okay, just making sure.” Surge said

“Now what?” Rufus asked. It was obvious that he was not relishing what was to come next.

“Well we‘re gonna have to check it out won’t we?” Surge said.

“What do you mean, we?”

Rufus said sickly.

“I mean all of us.” Surge said amazed.

Jamming a cigar into his mouth Surge, a burly man for his age, led the way into the elevator followed by John with his wrench and Rufus wielding a night stick. John caught Surge eyeing him from the side and glanced toward the big man who quickly turned away.

As the elevator doors opened at the basement level all three men walked forward as if in step but they did so carefully.

John glanced around and was surprised to see all the lights on and everything normal. He saw Serge looking at him again but this time the older man did not turn away.

“Where did you lose him?” Surge asked.

“In the electric room.” John said.

“How could you lose him in there?” It’s a dead end.” Surge asked.

“Don’t ask me, Surge. I just did that’s all/” John said in defense.

“Well let’s take a look see.” The older man said.

The three men walked into the electrical room and stared around. All were pensive and Rufus was even a little annoyed for the wild goose chase he was sent on.

“Where do you think your man went?” Surge asked.

“I saw him run in here if that’s what you mean. John said.

“I’m not accusing you of making it up. I just want to be sure.” Surge said.

“Well, I saw him the second time I heard the thumping sounds.” John said.

“What thumping sounds?” Surge asked with a gray look coming over his face.

“I thought it was the check value.” John said, and after looking at the very spot on the wall in the back. I went and checked the place where the workmen were today, and I heard the sound behind me and there he was.”

“What icy spot?” Rufus asked.

“The one right out in the hall/” John retorted.

“I saw no icy spot on the wall or the way in.” Surge said.

“I don’t understand?’ John stammered.

“I think I do.” Surges said from behind him.

“What do you mean?” Rufus asked.

“I’ve seen and heard our friend before.” Surge answered.

“You have?” John said.

“Yeah, and that’s why I eat lunch upstairs now.” He spoke.

The three men danced around slowly. “Spooky isn’t it.” Rufus said.

“I’ll think I’ll get my lunch and join you guys.” John said.

As they reentered the elevator, and the doors closed behind them, a thumping sound was heard from the direction of the corridor beyond.

More – Next Issue

For more new stories see the book at:

Tales for Late at Night - Darker Times

Please share the story on Facebook, or donate to support our efforts!