“God, I hate it down here,” Jake complained. “They sound like a stampede up there.”
“They do, but this place is ancient so I’m not that surprised,” Mae agreed.
Both returned to their paperwork. They had been working in the lower ballroom all week while half the town paraded around on the floor above them: their stomping footsteps echoing through the giant, empty room. Sometimes, they were surprised they didn’t see dust being shaken from the ceiling. It made work nearly impossible.
Later that night, after Mae had gone home, Jake stayed to continue working. They had a lot to get through by the end of the week. He preferred working after hours. Almost everyone else was gone so the booming from the upper floor was no longer a distraction.
As he was reading over the last document for the night, he heard someone walking upstairs. Jake didn’t think much of it at first. Odds were pretty good that someone else would still be here. When a loud bang rang through the floor, everything changed.
Without thinking twice, Jake took off for the stairs. He was convinced he would find someone smashed by a bookcase up there. Throwing open the doors, he scanned the room.
“Hello?” he called. No one answered. He didn’t see anyone or anything turned over. “Who’s in here?” He waited. “Well, okay then,” he said to himself as he closed the doors and headed back downstairs. Maybe he had just imagined it. It was late, after all.
Jake didn’t make it halfway down the stairs before he heard another loud bang. He sprinted back up the stairs and into the room.
“Who’s there?” he yelled, voice echoing through the large room. Still, no answer. He stalked around the room as quietly as he could manage. His footsteps still echoed around him.
A shadow moved on the other side of the room. He zeroed in on it. He couldn’t see the source, though. He snuck as close as he could get, following the odd shadow out of the room and down the hall. It was headed towards the stairs, but somehow, he couldn’t see them. It was like the hallway had been stretched infinitely. Jake couldn’t see the end.
The shadow kept creeping forward. Jake knew he should be where the stairs had been only minutes ago.
As soon as the thought went through his head, Jake started to tumble down. The shadow had lured him here, hiding the stairs. How was that at all possible? He rolled down the flight of stairs, hitting his head on several of them. His body sprawled out on the floor when he hit the bottom.
His eyes blankly stared up at the ceiling. Blood was pooling around his head as his vision started to darken. A laugh came from the top of the stairs, deep and menacing.
It was the last thing Jake ever heard.