It was a cold Saturday morning in October. Whilst the usual herds of workers slept in their beds, Kitty Page was heaving herself to Store Street. Friday morning, Kitty was galumphingly searching for her keys, sieving through her puddle of clothes, opening moaning cupboards and slamming timid drawers. She was already ten minutes late for work and spied the set of keys lying on the kitchen table. An hour after slipping behind her desk, her hands ran over the familiar fluffy feel of her keyring in the back of her bag. The borrowed set was quickly forgotten about and remained on her desk. That evening, Kitty was chugging down her vodka lemonade in GAY when her phone rang. She picked up on the third ring. She bellowed over the music that she’d get them first thing tomorrow morning, hung up, and made her way to the dance floor.
A light drizzle fell from the pregnant clouds parading the dark October sky. A breeze touched the trees and whisked autumn leaves around Kitty’s ankles. Store Street’s rusty coloured bricks reared against the darkened sky and Kitty made her way over to the oak door chiselled into the bright bricks.
As Kitty fumbled in her handbag for her work fob, a wad of last night’s receipts dropped into a puddle. She fetched a sigh, plugged her stained Oyster card in her mouth, bent over and picked up the receipts. She winced at her reflection in the murky water – black circles ringed her eyes and her straightened blonde hair was spiking at different angles.
Leaning on the oak door, she placed her fob on the sensor, smoothing back her hair, and waited for the familiar beep before throwing herself into the reticent building.
When you enter Store Street’s narrow square entrance, in the middle sits a heavy square lift that has sat there since the 1930s. To your left is the open mouth of the stairwell, spiralling up like a snake up to the top floor, choking the lift’s frame. From the stairs you can spy on the lift’s car and the mechanics through large dusty windows. The once white walls of Store Street are now blemished with dark scratches and paint stains. Like most days, a lonely plastic bag patiently sat by the door, waiting for a volunteer to take it out. Kitty plonked the soaked receipts on top of the bag, wiped her hands against her jeans and started up the stairs.
She climbed just shy of the last set of stairs when she stopped. Last night’s vodka slushed around in her belly, threatening to crawl back up her throat with every step. Her hands planted on her knees, she regained her breath, then carried on up the stairs when, suddenly, a screech like a tortured child rattled up the building. Terror leaped in her and she stood dead still. With a tortured whine, the lift lurched into life and crept up the rail. She gazed in fixed concentration at the approaching cart and the strained ropes and wires. Red lights winked through the dust as the lift rose above her.
Kitty gave a measuring glance as the lift stopped on her floor and crept up the last few stairs. The doors creaked opened. Kitty waited a few seconds, but when no one got out she lugged herself through the office door. The lift stood silently, just as it had when she walked in a few minutes earlier.
She stood with her back to the door, short sharp gasps of breath escaped her mouth. She paced her way to her desk and grabbed the abandoned keys. She stole one last glance over shoulder before making her way out of the room.
Daring to look from the corner of her eyes, Kitty’s gnawing intuition made her etch slowly towards the tenebrous mouth of the lift. She plucked her phone from her backpocket and ran the torch around the dilapidated lift. Deeps scrapes scarred its wall, splatters of white paint lingered on its floor and a dim bar of flickering light suffocated in its dust and fly-filled coffin.
Her eyes descended to a small wet patch on the dull thin carpet. She dropped to one knee then inched herself back, glanced at the ceiling, then clapped a hand over her mouth. A humming noise began to tickle her ears. There was a moment of silence before plumes of red spray spurted from the walls. Cacophonous snorting laughter and tortured and ululating screams boomed around her. Kitty pressing her hands against her ears and snapped her head following the sounds. Kitty caught a whiff of an iron scent seething from the lift.
A slow repetitive thump began to compete with the choir of screams which seemed to rattle Kitty’s ribcage from the inside out. A red fog drifted from the stairs and coalesced around her feet. The heavy and monotonous thump thump thump grew louder. A muddy pair of feet were spuming up hazes of fog as it marched around the corner. Kitty slowly got up from the floor and gazed up. A woman stared at her.
Her face dead white, the woman’s grey eyes were vacant and inhuman. Half her face was peeling off, exposing raw and pulsing flesh. The woman’s frail body was dressed in a low collar shift dress coated in dirt that hung just above her knees. Her legs and neck were dotted with purple bruises and mud. Her mouth drew back into a grimacing smile and blood leaked from her upper lip. Kitty noticed a hint of scar from her philtrum down to her chin.
The bashing of rushing blood and erupting screams roared and echoed off Store Street’s walls. The woman shifted her eyes and slowly held out her hand. Overwhelmed with dizziness and languor, Kitty only managed to shake her head. Her rubber soles whistled as she took a large step away, anchoring herself against the banister. Then, with a snap, the lift returned to its quiescent state and the woman, fog and blood all disappeared. The sudden crescendo made Kitty trip down the stairs and her head connected with the cold floor. She blinked back the pain and barrelled her way out of Store Street.
The next morning, the sun was cowering behind the clouds. A heavy shadow made Melissa Smith look up from her clutter of papers. Fear and panic was scrawled on her colleague’s face.
Hunched over, Kitty fiddled with her fingers and her eyes were shimmered with tears as she relayed the events of Saturday morning.
“I haven’t got time for this silly story, Kitty.” Melissa put her hand up and returned to her pile of invoices.
“I’m not making this up!” Kitty’s voice was thin with fury. Melissa sent Kitty a single peremptory dour look. Kitty locked eyes with her then straightened herself up, her face fervent with anger. She did not have the temerity to argue any further so made her way back to the desk and it was not spoken about again.
Kitty harboured the hope it was all some sort of mind blip or belated illusion from the night’s concussion of drinks but still took Store Street’s steps two at a time. Kitty was also assiduous on removing her shoes, so she could surreptitiously whisper across the floor to not wake the lift. Quickly, her thigh muscles began to tighten and bulge and her breathing began to gain a slow capable rhythm.
Three weeks after that cold Sunday morning in October, the lift cracked and hissed to life again. Kitty was hefting a folder full of reports on a lazy Friday afternoon when a scream ricocheted in her left ear, making her jump. Kitty cut her eyes in the lift’s direction just as its door opened. The same lulling humming rhythm began to brew and the cold prick of fear returned.
Kitty dropped the folder and turned for the exit when she stopped. Her eyes widened. An impregnable power engrossed her. She eased her way closer, her face dead white. The screams and snorting laughter began to crackle like an out of range radio before spurring into full pitch. She began to creep up and then peered in. It was a roaring bloody windstorm. Blood was seeping through the walls and ceiling, now in thicker sprays. A gale was howling, twisting the blood around in crimson sheets.
A shadow of fear fell on her face then an inimical force pushed her in. Her mouth peeled back in a scream but suffocated from dark red blood sliding down her throat. Blood snaked across her and the wind twisted her red matted hair in front of her face. The lift jolted. She looked around in dazed incomprehension. The door was closing. She ran for the door, the treacle texture below pulling her back. The woman from before appeared in front of the door. The peeled part of her face flapped with the wind. She gave a single shake of the head and her face split into a bleak grin cracking her face like a fault line. She shouted over the contending vociferous wind and choir of screams. When the lift’s lips finally sealed, a fire alarm rolled throughout Store Street, swallowing up Kitty’s screams.
Melissa was slumped over her laptop and rolled her eyes when the alarm rang. Knots of workers spilled out of the office and leisurely descend downstairs. Herding the remaining people out of the office, she heaved her bag onto her shoulder before checking the emptiness of the office. As she shut the door, she saw the folder sprawled to the side of the stairs.
A momentary coldness crawled up her spine as she remembered her conversation with Kitty. She darted her eyes at the lift. The sign above her crackled to life: In case of fire please use the stairs. Melissa backed away, balking the idea, and headed down the stairs.
Kitty’s wails began to weaken. Her panic and fear had shifted gear. With her shoulders slumped, she knelt in despair as the blood surged around her. She stared up at the single light and closed her eyes. A single tear cut through the blood on her face as the last person left Store Street.