by Bob'n Around
Invisible matters of the mind turned real into the written word.
|Daily and Week's SCREAMS!!! win
The job was insane. Jose’s new uniform was too tight, doing the midnight shift was creepy and the gilt edged cage like elevator he was in charge of jerked to a stop on every floor.
“Yes, sir. No sir. Of course, ma’am. Not at all, ma’am.” Jose bowed and scraped the air. The elevator gate had no automatic opener. That was the main reason he was here. No amount of oil made the gate stop squeaking. It shrieked if he was too fast, groaned if he was too slow.
Another thing troubled this newest employee of the old Majesty hotel on what had been 13th street. The night visitors. Jose didn’t mind being treated as if he were an invisible part of the machinery of the contraption. Fresh off the streets, he was lucky to get paid to stay in any permanent shelter at all. It was the night people.
“Sure. Sleep all you want, as long as you wake up to get the night people up and down,” his boss man, Harold Rickenour had said. The dude was scary in himself, a wasted walking cadaver with deep sunken eyes. “Don’t ask our customers questions. Don’t talk to them at all.” Jose repeated the few phrases he was allowed to utter, muttering them like a chant. “Yes sir, no sir…”
It was crazy the way they popped up from nowhere. Jose had to stand there with a rigid smile held in place. No stool allowed in the small confined space, just he and the night people. The single light bulb swinging overhead, made the rattling old bones of the elevator turn his visitors into macabre half human shaped shadows hovering, breathing their stink next to him.
Yes, the night people. Solemn silent creatures handing him their passes with the floors they went to, printed blood red. Still wet, smeared with what must be their sweat. There was a special pocket with a flap in Jose’s immaculate white jacket he was required to wear, he must keep them in.
Harold Rickenour, resurrected and freshly groomed and gloomed, met Jose at the check in counter each morning where they were traded for cash. “You’re filling out nicely. Getting quite plump,” wheezed his boss behind a skeletal fist placed against the slash of his mouth.
“Better start watching your weight,” the open sore with its thin red tongue advised.
“Thin is what we like, as does the elevator. Too much weight?” bony shoulders shrugged up and down, mostly down. “You’ll be taking night people on a one way trip to bloody hell in the basement when a cable slips off its mooring. Bad taste.”
Bad taste? There was more than enough of that going around. That and the bad sweaty smell he breathed in while trapped inside the elevator cage with his guests. Jose spent hours getting it off him in his new digs. Deodorants, shampoos and all manner of cleansing agents and hot water were required to turn his skin bright red weeping from the pores.
Jose found his restless hands scrubbing each other at work when someone entered his cage. The hand brake he used to control the speed and stop at each floor groaned and shrieked more often.
“Yes, sir. No sir. Of course, Ma’am,” Jose said, gritting his teeth when one of the night people groaned or gave a small shriek at the bouncing, jarring ride. The light bulb swayed in wider circles, turning his guests into unlikely shadows dancing with themselves.
The cable slipped. His stomach flipped. They floated for too many heartbeats until the cage shuddered and stopped, hanging, dangling in the shaft how many floors below?
The night people said they’d prefer the stairs. The lessened weight made the cage stop its grumbling. Jose cleaned their vomit off the floor. He reported it to his boss who promised to have the cables checked out, but shook his skull and tsked with the edge of his tongue hissing in and out. “Not much can be done. Machinery’s too old. No parts. Want to keep your job? Lose weight.”
Jose joined a gym, started working out, toned up. Got on a diet, massages, one manicurist after another, they never lasted long. Something about digging the sweaty grime from the night people tickets staining his fingernails.
“Customers have noticed. You stand out. Best try to blend in. It is making them nervous. I’ve heard talk.” Harold Rickenour pushed a small bottle towards Jose. “Try this. One swallow before the beginning of each shift.”
The stuff tasted vile, clogged Jose’s nose up. A blessing in disguise. It did the trick. It glazed his eyes, fogged his brain, turned him into a shadow of himself. The effect seemed to last only the length of his midnight shift, under the bobbing light of his elevator cage. In the light of day he looked like himself, a young and viral looking man attracting female glances.
The stink of sweat was too much a part of him when he was alone to bother with at work. It was becoming increasingly difficult to get rid of when he was on his own time. The fluttery female advances at the sight of him gave way to disgust up close.
When night people entered his domain, it was another matter. Things had become much more personal and worse.
His skin had developed a reaction to the touch of the tickets placed in his hands. A red rash wouldn’t stop itching. It grew from his fingertips up the palm of his hands. No manner of healing ungents helped. It hurt to wash them.
Jose stopped taking sips. He brought it up with Harold Rickenour. “Might need to take gulps.” That comment with the usual dismissive shrug. The two had little to discuss otherwise. His boss was subservient to night people. To Jose, he was distant and gloomy, not attracting conversation unless it was a must.
Jose knew he had no talent worth getting another job. The interviews he got for what he was capable of resulted in noses being tuned up, coughs of disgust, and hands waving him away along with his distinctive odor. Their eyes made him invisible, never wanting to see him again. “Mister Rickenour?” Jose risked asking, “I’ve done everything you’ve asked. I’m a good employee. Haven’t asked for any time off.
“Do you want some? I’m not sure that could be arranged,” his boss coughed behind a raised skeletal fist.
“What I would like you to consider, sir, is finding me another position working under you. If there is one. Surely there must be more staff servicing the hotel.” Working at night, and stuck to his post in his cage, Jose hadn’t seen any. There were maids, valet’s, custodians and more at the rental where he spent his off work hours. There must be here, as well.
His boss’s fist opened up into bony fingers rat-a-tatting on the check in counter. “There is one opening I find hard to get someone to apply for. Want to give it a try?” Rickenour’s mouth sliced open, lips curving into a wet red smile.
“I’ll do anything,” Jose winced, fingernails scraping at his skin, raising welts.
“You really should have that looked at.” His boss pointed to Jose’s post.
“"Gotta' keep the old girl alive or we all lose our jobs. Take the elevator down to bloody hell and gone. That’s what we call the basement level. You’ll know what to do when you get there.”
“Sorry,” Jose spoke to the night people waiting inside. “Last stop. You can get off and wait or you’ll have to work this contraption on your own. I’m going down below.”
None of the shadowy figures exited, although several wavered. They seemed unusually murky, pushing against each other as Jose pushed in. He was too busy to do but notice, intent on finding out about his new position, his heart thumping blood like a piston in his chest.
There was the usual shriek and grown that grew louder as he descended. “Nervous,” he apologized to his fellow riders. Talking to them seemed no longer a problem. Jose was no longer an operator, was he? Just a fellow rider to his floor.
The cage door opened. “What, the bloody hell?”
Shadowy feet, hands and arms ejected him, stumbling into a fine red mist. The shrieks and grown’s seemed to devour him.
It was then he learned his new position. The hotel was alive. His own shrieks and groans of agony bore witness to those echoing in the room around him. His blood was being sucked through his skin where it wept along with his unholy cries. Jose writhed as he became the hotel’s most recent meal as he assumed his new position and began sweating blood from every pore.