Something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen, one random day in Bob’s apartment. Behind his dusty old suit jackets, packed away and forgotten in the attic, there it was: a crack in space itself; not quite on the wall, but close enough you’d think it was. What was in there, visible from that small window, Bob will tell you, but not yet. Not until he discovers this little accident in the universe himself.
One day later, following that “one random day”, Bob was at his stove, stirring around a pot of boiling ramen. “What ingredients should I include this time?” he thought to himself, ever excited to spice up his cheap ramen; so many possibilities to bring it closer to the real thing! But, before he could decide, a sound interrupted his thoughts: loud knocking in short successions, evenly spaced apart. How can that be though, when the two apartments on either side of him have been vacant for nearly a year?
Bob paused his stirring, and tilted his head to pinpoint the direction of the sound. And then, quiet once again. “Has the landlord got one of his handymen doing something in one of these places?” he pondered. After a moment, a sudden, significantly louder sound broke the silence; much faster in its repetition. Bob threw his hands to his ears, covering them, eyes bulging outwards. “What the hell is that?! Can they … have some … consideration for a longtime paying customer?!”, he shouted, but before he could even finish his rhetorical question, the noise halted.
He stood there frozen, glanced around at the walls and ceiling expecting round 3 before slowly moving his hands away from his ears, finally noticing the water boiling over the rim of his pot of ramen. He shrieked, and swatted the pot off the stovetop like a defensive cat. An impulsive decision, but that was Bob for you. Nothing else out of the ordinary occurred that day.
A week following the noisy incident, Bob awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of beeping, reminiscent to a large truck backing up. It was faint, and would have been nothing more than a minor annoyance to Bob, considering he lived in a city. It would’ve been, if the sound wasn’t coming from above him. Raising a hand to rub his eye, still half asleep, he questioned whether he was actually awake or not. “Do paralysis demons drive now…? Whatever, I’m going back to sleep.” And so he did.
When morning came, while preparing his breakfast, Bob recalled a vivid dream he’d had of working on a construction site. It wouldn’t have been as memorable if not for everyone working alongside him speaking in tongues. Complete gibberish, and, just as he was thinking of it, he heard it. “Maintenance again? But what is that strange language they’re speaking.”, and then a suspicion hit him; it was the sound of a voice in reverse. He ran to his phone to record it, then flipped the audio and played it back. “There were more deletions needed than originally estimated, sir, but we’re expecting the damages to be repaired shortly.” Odd, Bob thought to himself, did someone take the time to master this way of speaking, perhaps to hide something? But it was so clear, too audible to be coming from another apartment.
Just like the previous sounds, the voices, too, were coming from above him, and this time Bob was intent on finding the source. He arrived at the attic, certain someone or something was up there, and, slowly, he creaked open the door to confirm that. “Hello…?”, he asked, poking his head up to survey the area before walking up the ladder leading into it. More sounds filled his ears now: large machinery, jackhammering, drilling, various chatter; all familiar to him yet warped in a way too. The voices weren’t the only thing reversed. Everything was.
Bob convinced himself that some pest must’ve knocked something over, maybe an old MP3 player or phone, which caused it to play something contained on the device. A curious Stuart Little, looking for some entertainment up here, he joked to himself.
After hours of searching, he sat in the center of the attic, surrounded by towers of now empty boxes and crates; every one of them, inspected thoroughly, but for naught. It nearly drove him into a frenzy, being taunted by reversed noise all day, until, finally, his eyes rested on the coat rack hidden away in the darkest part of the room, just outside the lone light he had up there. “Aha!”, he deduced, “the device must be in one of those suit pockets!”
Bob proceeded to rip them from their hangers and noticed the ambient noise didn’t follow them, so, slowly, his eyes moved upwards from the jackets bunched in his hand to the wall, and then he saw it: a small crack, thin in width and no longer than his hand. Warm light shined through; despite him having searched the day away, it was as bright as daylight. He curiously leaned in, eyes practically touching the wall now, and peered through.
“What is this? Is it…a room?” His eyes darted left and right, the logical side of his brain working overtime in an attempt to figure out what it was he was looking at. “It’s huge, but where are the walls and ceiling? And why is everyone…everything moving backwards?” What Bob was looking at was a seemingly endless white space, construction work going on as far as the eye could see. Forklifts, cranes, people spread throughout using various tools on what looked like nothing. Nothing, an infinite amount of it, from top to bottom, left to right; it mystified him, yanked at his curiosity like a fish on a hook.
The feeling overwhelmed Bob so much he dug his nails in and peeled away at space itself, widening the opening to this other place. Desperate to see more, he poked his head through without thinking, and, in an instant, everything began to move forward. An entire world changing its direction all at once shocked his senses, causing him to stumble forward and nearly fall through the window he had opened. Any wider and he certainly would have.
His senses were slowly returning to him, sight being the first as he rapidly blinked everything back into existence. The view was no longer obscured by walls, open now and normalized in its progression; he felt he could grasp his surroundings more easily. The scent of it hit him next, reminding him of a hospital; clean, but not from natural means. He winced. “Bad memories”, he mumbled to himself. The noisiness of it all, now clearer than ever, could, of course, induce a headache if subjected to for long enough, though he intended to remain in this world only as long as it took to satisfy his curiosity. New to him, however, was a constant buzzing, akin to the sound a fluorescent light bulb might give off. It was subtle, and, if not for the occasional pause in the work below, probably would’ve gone unnoticed by Bob.
With the sights and sounds around him now apparent, realizations started flooding in, the first having to do with the workers: they weren’t dressed as you might expect, such as a hardhat or protective goggles, but instead vibrantly colored hazmat suits with faces hidden behind darkly tinted masks. There were others, though, separate from these beings, wearing more casual attire and being dragged around forcefully. Bob squinted at the sight of them, noticing their panicked expressions, and looked around for their inevitable destination. It was a fearful shriek that guided him to it, where he’d find two “workers” swinging a man by his arms and legs, before throwing him into paper-thin circle standing vertically in front of them. Bob, needing to get a closer look, leaned over, grasped tightly at the walls beside him to keep from falling to the white floor below, and stared wide-eyed into the opening. Darkness is what he saw. Darkness, and a distant screaming coming from within it, and, in a snap, the circle vanished.
It would be appear again only seconds later, this time silent, and the process would be repeated. Bob witnessed several people, unwillingly tossed into that dark place before questioning where it was they were coming from. He looked around again, this time feeling anxious himself, and noticed ladders leaned against nothing, workers atop them pulling people from other portals. A terrible feeling overtook him in that moment and he knew he had to get out of there, but it was too late. He was spotted. “Up there, another one has been sighted. Get a ladder over here and bring it down for deletion.”
Knowing now what was coming next, Bob pushed off the walls with all of his strength to fully bring himself back into his attic. Instinct was kicking in, and, without thinking, he ran to a nearby briefcase and shoved it in front of the entrance to that other world. He sat in front of it, pushing back with all of his strength, and waited, hoping this effort would be enough. It wouldn’t be long though until something was pounding against that briefcase from the side opposite him. He underestimated them; their strength, it was inhuman. Dread and a racing heart is all Bob could feel now before his only defense was split in half. A pair of gloved hands reached through, grabbed hold of him, and yanked him through with ease. Shortly after that, another would board up Bob’s only escape, concealing it forever. Finally, Bob’s apartment was quiet again.
Author Notes: If it's not obvious, the "Backrooms" weren't definitely an inspiration for this. It was originally going to go a completely different route though, involving lizard people, but I scrapped that half. Feel free to let me know what I should work on. Always looking to improve.