Fluorescent light. Large white squares. It feels as though I have awoken from a deep slumber. My eyes feel heavy and full. Open. Close. The artificial lights seep in, making their place behind my eyelashes. I am sweating, I think. Just down the back of my shirt. There is a peculiar feeling within me, as if I can feel every tissue of muscle in my body, pulling together and apart with every breath. I try to lift my hands but they catch. My whole body feels drugged, in a state of inescapable comatose. I lift my hands again, they catch again. I try my feet. They rise warily but are forced back down. Panic takes me slowly like a wave of nausea. I feel sick.
As my sense slowly comes back, I am aware of the restraints holding my body in place. I hear low pitched rumbling. My eyes are too heavy. The sweat pools around my collarbones like a noose inching closer to flesh. I want to open my eyes. I want to open my eyes. My eyelids rip open and I am paralyzed with light, my body jammed into a strained position.
“He’s awake,” I hear faintly.
Everything I see is blurred. All I can make out is the fluorescent light and the large white squares below me, “Miller, say the lines.” I look around for who is talking. Three black orbs surround me. A white one stands beside me; I feel something cold on my shoulder. My mouth opens.
“Charlie Patton, you have been found guilty of the death of Parker Stevie. For that crime you have been sentenced to death by electric chair. Do you have any last words?”
It was hot that day in October, the leaves were playing kamikaze. I don’t know how I ran into him. I didn’t ask him to come. Yes, I did. I pulled around to the back of the building and parked far off in the shade. It was so hot. I closed the door and the lock clicks behind me. The building, with symmetrical sides, had a macabre past. It was once a functioning factory. A licorice factory.
The building was known for its tunnels and hallways: winding, dark, and twisted. It could have been anyone. It was after dark, the girls’ shifts had ended, they had gone into the basement. I don’t know why. Yes, you do. Their bodies were found at the end of the tunnel. People say that something controls the factory. Something that slithers into the minds of the workers. Like the girls. It tells them things. And they do what they’re told.
“We will count down from ten. 10.”
Parker’s door slams somewhere behind me. I smell something. Its just the smell of fall. No, its not. Parker walks up to me.
“So, you got me to drive out here just to see this?” He lifts his arms high and lets them fall hard against his sides.
“I just bought it. Great price too. I wanted you to see if it has any potential,” I shove my hands into my pocket and turn to smile at him, “Come on, lets go inside. I promise I’m make it worth your while.” I start into the building and turn to wave him along. I watch him breathe in and out, sigh, and nod. He follows me inside. The building had been abandoned for years, on account of employees going…missing. I’ve been here only a few times. That’s a lie.
We walk inside, I don’t lock the door. Yes, you do. He walks into the large atrium of the factory and admires the large dome above. The sun is setting now, he’s pointing out how he can see the sunset through the dome. I smell something.
“Parker, would you like a tour?” I say into the air suddenly. Parker looks down from the dome, smiling, and shrugs. I don’t smile. Yes, you do. I start walking and he follows me. I walk past the empty storerooms and warehouses, down, down into the heart of the factory. The basement. It grows darker and the smell grows stronger.
We walk down a passage. The hallway is darker than before, I walk faster and faster, then stop suddenly and put my back up against the wall. Parker walks past me. I watch him wander further and further. I start breathing funny and I bite my tongue. His shape dissolves into darkness and I sit where I was standing. I listen. He will find me soon.
I hear a scream in the silence. Then another, twisting together in the air. I stand up slowly and place my hand on the wall. I’m shaking. No, you’re not. I pull my hand against the wall. My fingers hit a notch, then another. They trail up the hallway on the right side. I haven’t been here much. Yes, you have. I count the notches as they hit my fingers. A scream interrupts my count.
I feel delirious, as if I am in the state of mind between life and death. The fever burns hot. Sweat drips from my shoulder blades all the way down. My shirt sticks to my skin. I count the notches. Another scream. I’m almost there. My skin is burning. I’m on fire. I lose my balance. The hallway feels circular, as if I am standing on top of a ball.
I stumble from side to side. The hallway feels as if it were closing up on me. My ribs close up on my lungs and I gasp for air. The wallpaper glows. I can’t feel the notches. I’ve lost count. Screams echo down the hallway. I cover my ears. I fall, so I rip at the floor. I’m trying to stand up.
I see the end of the hallway. I see light. No, you don’t. I push my hand against the checkered floors, my body rises up. I can’t feel my body moving but I am. There is a feeble scream. My body seems to drift along the hallway. The wallpaper closes in sluggishly. My eyes grow heavier. I want to sleep. You will.
I see fluorescent light ahead. No, you don’t. It is glowing. My body drips with sweat. My eyes are so heavy. Open. Close. I can feel every muscle in my body, breathing. I feel something coming over me. There is silence. It is quiet. Put me down. shh.
I fall to the ground. I force my eyes open. It is dark. There is no wallpaper. I see the dome above me. I feel the tiles beneath me. I’m hot. My muscles seize and I am paralyzed. I hear something close. I cannot move. I stare straight up. Something is being dragged. I close my eyes. My muscles tighten even more. The dragging stops. I do not open my eyes. Yes, you do. Cord is shoved into my hand. I cannot move. I do not open my eyes. Yes, you do.
I open my eyes. Parker lays beside me. He stares at me though he does not see me. I hold the cord in my hand. There is a purple ring around his neck. I cannot breathe. My muscles scream. Thank you, Charlie. Let me go.
It smells so strongly of licorice.