Short Story: Dead Building -

Short Story: Dead Building

Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves.

— Julia Morgan

“Oh . . . It’s beautiful!” Anna breathed.

She was already halfway out of the car before it wheezed to a stop, and by the time James turned off the engine, she was standing in front the building, her camera up to her eyes.

Snap! Snap!

“I can’t believe this building hasn’t been, y’know, torn down to make a mini mall or something,” Anna said.

James stuffed his hands uncomfortably in his jacket pockets, as he got out of the car to join her. “We’re really not s’posed to be out here . . .” he muttered.

“Party pooper,” Anna condemned, snapping away. “What did this place used to be anyway?”

“Look, I dunno. I just saw it every time I passed on the road on the way to work, and when you said you wanted to see an abandoned building, it’s the first thing I thought of,” he snapped, irritated for a reason he couldn’t explain. “So now that you’ve seen it, we can go.”

His girlfriend stared at him, her cheeks flushed from the cold and with anger. “I’m sorry,” she said icily. “You’re welcome to head back without me, as clearly I’m just wasting your precious time.” She stalked off toward the ruins.

Feeling his own face burn with shame, James slammed the car door Anna had left ajar, and jogged after her. “Wait, Anna!”

The building looked like an abandoned 1930s Hollywood set. It was entirely grey and with the overcast sky, gave one the impression of looking at the scene through black-and-white lenses. The roof was missing, along with nearly the entire back wall. There were no glass in the long, rectangular windows, save for one, on the ground floor. There was remarkably little graffiti, just odd splotches of white paint on the lower walls. The entire building was rounded, with three sections, though the most intriguing part of the structure was what looked to be a tower, with a round, naked roof. With burnt out bulbs and bits of wire dangling about, it gave the impression of a fairground ride, and James nearly expected it to light up and start spinning in time with cheery organ music.

Anna had paused at the black, narrow gate that surrounded the place.

“Look, Anna,” he began when he reached her, his breath streaming out of his mouth in thin vapors. “I’m sorry, I’m just -”

“Shh!” She held up a gloved hand. “D’you hear that?”

James’s eyes widened. “Oh no. No, no. See, this is why I didn’t want to come. I knew this would happen!” He put his hands up in surrender, and started backing away. “Just two of us, alone. No one knows where we are, and we’re looking at an abandoned building. Now you’re hearing noises, and we’ll have to investigate, and then we’re all gonna end up dead or vampires.”

“Will you shut up?” Anna said, but she was laughing. “Honestly, you’re ridiculous. That’s why you didn’t want to come? There’s no such thing as vampires.”

James stopped, albeit a safe distance from the building. “Fine, you’re right about them, but like, dangerous people use abandoned places as their hideouts or whatever. I don’t want to be knifed by some drugged-up hobo.”

“This place would be the absolute worst shelter in the world,” Anna said, gesturing. “There’s no roof, half the walls are missing, and we’re miles from any viable source of food or water.”

“Viable, huh.”

“It’s not exactly private, either. I mean, you can see it from the road, and at night, a fire would light this place up like a beacon. Not even the most pathetic of cops would ignore that.”

James stamped his feet in both annoyance and cold. “Yeah? Well . . . You said you heard a noise.”

Anna rolled her eyes. “It was probably just a stone falling or an animal running around.”

“Ah!” James cried, pointinga finger accusingly. “You said this was the worst shelter in the world! No one could live here!”

“Not a human. Animals can live in the weirdest places, y’know. Actually…” Anna looked reminiscent. “I remember when I was a kid, there was an entire hive of bees living in our roof. Not the attic or anything, we didn’t have one, but the space between the ceiling and the actual roof tiles. Thousands of bees. We never knew they were there until honey started dripping from the light fixtures.”

James nodded. “We had a whole rabbit family living in our old doghouse. We never had a dog, it was left over from the previous tenant, but it was all overgrown with vines and such, and we didn’t feel like moving it. Then one day, I was playing hide-and-seek with my brother, and I decided to hide in the house – and whoosh! A fleet of rabbits burst out when I looked in, clawing on me and making these weird, high-pitched noises. I was screaming, my brother was laughing, and I had shit all over me…” He paused. “It was really quite traumatic.”

Anna had moved over to him while he was talking, and she threw her arms over his shivering form at this last part. “Aw, poor baby,” she said soothingly. “Do you still like rabbits?”

“No, I don’t, actually,” he said, returning the hug. “They rather frighten me now.”

She laughed softly in his ear, and James suddenly felt very warm.

They stood there in each other’s arms, staring at the building in silence for a time. James stroked Anna’s long, messy black hair as he tried not to hear any ominous noises.

“I just want to take some pictures inside,” she said after awhile, her voice slightly muffled since her face was buried in the front of his jacket. “If there’s any ‘hobos’ around, I’ll let you go all Jackie Chan on them.”

James gave a wry grin. “Just cos I’m Chinese, doesn’t mean -”

She punched him lightly on the arm. “You know what I meant.”

“Hey, I got beat up in school,” he said defensively. “You’re the one who allegedly socked Miranda Jones in the jaw and broke it.”

“Sprained it.”

“How can you sprain a jaw?”

Anna looked up at him with big green eyes. “Please, baby? Just for atmosphere’s sake. It’ll look so good in my portfolio…”

James sighed, which she took to mean acquiescence, for she kissed him on his scruffy cheek and flounced off toward the gate, camera held high in the air.

He seriously contemplated just waiting by the car, but old Boy Scout instincts took over, and he knew when exploring, it was always safer to buddy up, in case one had an accident. Though he was the klutz in the relationship.

Paranoia still demanded him to let a third party know. He posted on his Facebook wall:
“Anna and me out in old building off Road 89. Will be on the lookout for vampire hobos. Come avenge our deaths if not back by tmrw, lol.”

As he trudged after Anna, James wondered how much of that was in actual jest.



According to my files, I wrote this in 2012, based on a picture prompt of a building, though I don’t know what it was now, XD

Header image: “SDIM0038 DEAD WOOD” by alainalele is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

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