"Dude, I thought you wanted to go with," said Shawn, speaking into his cell phone. He was standing outside the mall at the north entrance, buffeted by a slight wind. Pausing to listen to what his friend was saying, he responded, "yeah, but I thought that when you said that, it really meant that you did want to go. I even got you a ticket...yes, on me. What? You think I would make you pay?...Well, I did use your credit card, but that's hardly the point...Oh, come on, that's not fair."
Rolling his eyes, Shawn held the phone away from his ear while his friend went on a rant, screaming out something about fraud and whatnot. When the shrill yelling died down, he brought the phone back to his ear and said, "if you don't want to see the movie that's fine, I'll just go by myself. But you know how I hate to see movies alone. It makes me feel like some sort of loser...Okay, bye."
Hanging up, he slipped his phone back into his jacket pocket and sighed. It looked like he was going to have to see the movie by himself. Gus was too much of a wuss to go see another slasher flick with him. He would've offered a protective arm around his shoulder for comfort, but didn't think it would've gone over very well. His best friend was sensitive like that.
Taking a look around, seeing various mall-goers walking in and out of the building entrance, he shook his head in resignation and walked inside. Being a weekday afternoon, he wasn't expecting the place to be the liveliest center of activity, but he was shocked by how few people there seemed to be inside. It looked positively dead today. School had let out a few hours ago, but there were hardly any pimply little teenagers running around. Shrugging it off, he went straight upstairs to the cinema entrance.
Walking up to the box office, he pulled out his wallet. He'd lied to Gus when he'd said that he had already purchased tickets with his credit card. Sure, he wasn't exactly against doing that sort of thing, had in fact done it several times in the past, but didn't actually get the opportunity to gain access to Gus' wallet today. Still, it was just plain amusing to get his friend going like that.
"Hi," he said, "one adult for Buzz Kill 6 please."
The greasy-faced teen behind the counter looked as bored as could possibly be, as he rang up his purchase and printed out a ticket for him. Taking the offered slip of paper, Shawn muttered a quick thanks that was ignored and walked off to the concession stand. The teen behind the counter here was a bit perkier than box office boy, enthusiastically offering him deal after deal. Getting a bucket of popcorn and a soda from her, he entered the stadium theater and found a seat.
Looking around while the trailers were playing, he noticed less than a dozen other patrons inside the theater with him. It was a couple weeks after the film's premiere, so he hadn't been expecting much of a crowd. But this was a little ridiculous; the Buzz Kill series was awesome and the American public were missing out. Ignoring that travesty, Shawn settled in and watched the previews and then the movie when it started.
The credits rolled and Shawn stretched in his seat, the other patrons began getting up and stretching themselves as well, before shuffling off out of the room. Pushing himself out of his chair, Shawn stretched some more to get all the kinks out. Grabbing his empty bucket and soda cup, he started making the trek out as well. Offering one last look back, he saw one other person taking his time in collecting his things together.
Turning away as the man was standing up and making his way down, Shawn went around the corner into the narrow corridor that snaked around underneath the stadium seating. The lighting inside was dim like it was everywhere in here. He tossed the trash into the receptacle next to the exit and pushed the door open.
Shawn stepped out into the lobby, seeing that it was empty. That was odd, he was certain that the others hadn't been moving that fast. The concession stand was unmanned, but that wasn't necessarily unusual. If it was between start times, it was common for the employees to be occupied with other tasks. He walked over to the box office and looked in through the window; it was empty. That seemed odd.
Turning back around, he stared over at the theater door, waiting for the straggler to exit. But the door remained shut and Shawn suddenly got the worst sort of feeling. Ignoring the chill that raced along his nerves, Shawn walked back over and pulled it open. The corridor was empty. Taking a breath, he walked back down into the stadium, not entirely certain why he was even bothering.
The first thing he noticed was that the screen was blank and no music was playing; someone had turned off the projector before the credits had finished rolling. He knew from his experience at working in a cinema years ago that that was a big no-no. Shawn looked back up into the stadium seating and saw that the room was empty. Maybe he'd slipped out behind him without being seen? He suddenly wanted to leave this big empty space. It was time to stop worrying about the stupid little mystery of the empty Cineplex and get his happy little fake psychic ass home.
This time, he jogged back down the exit corridor, his nerves lighting up along the way and pushing him to the point of childish fear. It was the curious way of adrenaline, how just the tiniest bit of it made one produce even more in a snowballing effect. He practically slammed through the exit door, the sound a sharp bark of noise that rang out in the still-empty lobby.
Shawn managed to slow himself down a little in the more brightly lit theater lobby, his nerves still a bit on the shot side of things. He exited the Cineplex and stepped out into the mall proper. That was when he began to feel the first tendrils of panic wrap themselves around his spine. The mall itself was devoid of other people, completely empty other than him. All the shops were closed, steel gates rolled down and locked up. It was definitely strange, the mall didn't close until ten and his watch said it was just after seven.
"Hello!?" he called out desperately, hoping fervently to hear someone respond. No one answered back. "Is anybody here!" Still no answer.
It was time to leave. Shawn ran over to the stairwell that led down, stopping in his tracks at the sight before him. The upper landing was blocked off by a thick piece of ply board that stated: Out of Order. It appeared as if the staircase had been ripped off with just a jagged strip of wood and steel remaining at the top. Peering down, he saw no signs of it downstairs. It looked like there had never even been a staircase down there. Backing away step by faltering step, he turned around and ran the other direction toward the escalators.
Shawn skidded to a halt at seeing them missing and another piece of ply board blocking the landing off like with the stairwell. Okay, this was fucked up. He was beginning to get really freaked out here and he didn't like it. The thing about Shawn's world was that in spite of how crazy he sometimes acted, everything was so compartmentalized. He had an explanation for everything and everything had an explanation. This was just so far out of his experience that he didn't know what to do.
He simply stood there dumbfounded, rooted to his spot by fear and confusion. After a spell, Shawn snapped out of it and came back to the reality of his situation. He was alone in the mall and both ways downstairs that he'd found were just plain gone, like someone had torn them out while he'd been enjoying gory death after gory death. Nothing added up, nothing.
Refusing to succumb to a panicked run like when he left the theater, Shawn walked back past the stairwell and around the corner toward the food court. He was startled by a noise coming from below the mezzanine. It was the familiar and comforting sound of other people milling about downstairs. Running over to the railing, he leaned over it and looked down. Sure enough, he could see people walking back and forth down below, shopping bags in hand like nothing at all was wrong with the world.
Relief coursed through his system at the sight and sound of something so normal. He had no explanation for the abandoned second level or for the missing stairs and escalators, but he didn't need any now. People were here and he could get some help. "Hey!" he called out. "I'm stuck up here! Can anyone help me!?"
The relief he'd felt was very short-lived when nobody paid him any attention. "Hello!" he called out, louder this time. "Please, somebody stop ignoring me! I need help!" Still, he got no response from the mall patrons downstairs. It was as if they couldn't see or hear him from down there. They just went about their business, walking back and forth in the casual rush that was exclusive to shoppers.
"Don't ignore me! Please!" screamed out Shawn at the top of his lungs. Nobody seemed to hear him still. Waving his arms up and down had no effect either. Shawn went ignored by the others. Grunting in frustration, he slammed the palm of his hand onto the railing angrily and swore under his breath. He stayed there leaning against the railing, catching his breath.
Something seemed to slam loudly from up here on the second level, in the direction the escalators were supposed to be. Tearing his attention away from the scene of normalcy below, he saw that the lights on the far end of that part of the mall had been shut off. A few seconds went by and then, with another loud bang, the next set of lights went dark. His breath caught in his throat at the darkness there, almost as if it was alive. A third bang was followed by yet another group of lights going out, getting closer to him.
Terror filled his entire being at the approaching blackness and Shawn found himself backing away from it, his hand tracing along the rail. Another bang, another set of lights going dark. It was close to his position and he just knew then in some part of his mind that he simply could not allow that darkness to reach him, not even for a second.
Turning around, Shawn started running as fast as he could. The lights started going out more quickly in response, the darkness trailing right behind him. Now that it was closer, he could hear something in it, a clicking sound off the tiled floor and maybe what could have been breathing. The sound of it made him run even faster than before, panic taking hold well and true.
He dodged around abandoned kiosks and food court tables and saw a narrow corridor leading off to the right at the next corner. The main part of the mall turned left there, but the sign over the corridor stated: Employees Only. Shawn suspected that it would do him no good to stay out here in the open like this, he needed to find someplace more secure.
Shawn ducked into the corridor and ran down to the far end. There were a couple doors along the way that he tried. They were locked, so he passed them by. He flinched when the first light in this little hallway went out. It was close, way too close, whatever the hell it was. His lungs already feeling to the point of bursting -man, he needed to get back in shape -Shawn reached the end of the hall and tried the door there.
It opened up easily enough and he dove inside, slamming it shut behind him. Looking down at the handle he saw that it had a lock on it and turned it. The deadbolt slid into place, just in time for something to slam into the door on the other side. It shook the frame, but didn't bust through. Whatever was there slammed into it again, getting nothing for it's trouble. A few more slams and then it seemed to give up, silence rushing back in to fill the void.
He backed away from the door and practically collapsed into a nearby chair. His entire body was shaking from adrenaline and terror and he felt tears leaking out of his eyes. Rubbing his face with his hand, Shawn let out a shaky breath that seemed to rattle out of his lungs and throat. He definitely had no clue what was going on now. It was just minutes ago that he was walking out of the theater in a world that made sense. And now, he was alone in a waking nightmare with no clue how he'd gotten there.