It was seventeen ten on the coldest All Hallows’ Eve and the book presentation event Jordan had come to see and write about was set to begin at seventeen thirty. Jordan had never been inside the administrative hall, but knew it to be a historical building that had housed a bank, a hospital, a museum, numerous city meetings and now a library on its second floor. The building was impressive even more at night, she noted, looking up at the neoclassical colossus lighted by two heavy projectors. During the day it threw large shadows over the small cathedral across the town square. The clock tower looming over was mute since the early 90’s.
In the entrance corridor the small booth which the security personnel occupied was empty. Jordan put her hands up to the window and looked inside. An improvised cup ashtray held a still lingering cigarette and a bottle of Coke was nearly drowned.
Jordan went through another set of doors and stood in a larger hall echoing from her footsteps. There was no one in there too.
No one’s calling reverberated back to her. Jordan expected to see the director of the library along with all the guests she had been told would be attending. The event hour on the invitation and in her online program said 17:30 PM, Administrative Hall, second floor, library. Jordan traced the stairs leading to the second floor. It was dark and quiet.
‘Can I help you with something?’
Jordan spun around startled by the orotund voice. A bald man wearing a grey sweater with a tag on it was shining a flashlight at her. She hadn’t heard him creep up on her.
Stuttering Jordan pulled out the invitation and showed it to him. ‘I’m here for the book presentation, the one held in the library.’ ’
He looked puzzled.
‘Oh, well, everyone left.’
Jordan’s heart nearly stopped.
‘What do you mean, I missed it?’
The man shook his head.
‘Work day is over. Everyone went home about thirty minutes ago. It’s just me here. I’m the guard.’ He tapped his badge. His name was hand written in the neatest manner; Steven it read.
‘What about the event?” Jordan asked again, gesturing at the invitation in her hand. Steven didn’t look at it.
‘I don’t know anything about it and I’m usually told everything.’
‘But you must have had a memo or something if it was moved, or canceled, right?’
‘Sure, but it isn’t either. You best check with whoever’s arranging it, to clear up any confusion.’
Jordan rung the given phone and waited through two attempts walking in circles. No one picked up and it was seventeen thirty-five. She was alone with the guard.
She turned back to him. ‘No one is picking up right now. Do you mind if I go check if there isn’t a note or something on the door?’
The guard shrugged and stretched a smile on his broad bald face.
‘Like I said, I don’t know about any event, but if you want to see for yourself feel free to check. Just be careful and don’t wander. It’s dark upstairs. The library is to the right, just at the end of the corridor.’
Jordan thanked the guard and went to go up the stairs when the guard interrupted her.
‘What’s the book about?’
Jordan halted on the steps. ‘The cultural rituals of this town throughout the years since its establishment. It’s an anthropological study.’
The guard shrugged again. ‘I don’t know much about that. What’s it called?’
Jordan took a step up. ‘The third mask.’
He grinned, his voice meek. ‘It sounds interesting.’
Interesting how I’m still wasting my time, Jordan thought whilst smiling.
She skipped up the next flight of steps and turned on the flashlight on her phone. The second floor was shrouded in darkness and much colder than the foyer. Jordan took the right corridor and began searching the doors for the one which had the library’s name on it. She tiptoed in the small, bright embrace of her flashlight, navigating it light left and right, reading tags nailed on big green doors. The library however was not among them and Jordan found herself reaching the end of the corridor. It opened into another hallway perpendicular to the one she had just walked through. Jordan casually walked the entirety of its length. At the end there was no library and this one also opened into another set of opposite sleeves. Stubborn, Jordan chose the left one and continued searching. She couldn’t go home without the story. Soon though, she found herself exiting one dim hallway and entering another. The building was like a labyrinth.
Jordan decided to call it a night, but as she turned to walk back the true path back to the lobby was impossible to follow; the same color patterns covered the floor and the corridor she had entered had nameless doors and no windows just like the previous two. Jordan tried walking what she thought was the opposite from where she had been going. Soon she realized she was lost. It all looked the same, even the stale air and the moldy scent, the dripping pipes somewhere behind the walls. But she couldn’t hear the wind outside. It was a deaf and blind wandering and her breath was coming out in a white, shaking stream.
She hurried and called out the guard, but her own voice boomeranged back. Stomping and waiting in the cold dark didn’t seem reasonable, so Jordan started walking again. She entered yet another hallway, but this one was new; it was brighter, light streaming down from a large window high up. A staircase blocked by a metal door led up to another level of the Hall. The door was slightly ajar.
Jordan stood in her circle of light, back pressed to the cold wall. The guard was going to start looking for her at some point no doubt. Maybe he was on his way. She told herself she shouldn’t be panicking over this, it was her fault after all. The building remained empty and dark as she waited.
Something leaped upon the window ledge and Jordan saw it steading itself with the corner of her eye. Her mind was playing tricks on her already, finding shapes in the dark that weren’t there. Then the shape stood up and spread a pair of wings. It let out a marvelous screeching noise which transformed into a growl vibrating from the depth of its throat. Jordan froze, numb at the sight. The shadow flapped its wings once, twice and dived down for her. Jordan became nimble again and ran back through corridors she didn’t knew were new or old, the growl following her. The flap of giant wings made the narrow hallways hiss and whisper. Somewhere in the identical hallways Jordan lost the beating monster. Her pounding heart subsided and she lowered herself into a corner, fumbling for her phone, dialing police with one trembling finger.
‘Help’, she said, ‘I’m in the administrative hall and someone is trying to kill me. Please hurry, I’m somewhere on the second floor, and he’s close. Please.’
The monotone voice of the man on the other side of the line made Jordan press herself tighter against the wall.
‘Ma’am there’s no need to panic. All will be over soon. Just drink some more and have a good spooky evening.’
The line was dead.