True Story

I found this in my “Trash” folder. I didn’t  write it or throw it away, but maybe someone else has some idea what it is.

There is a building on campus. It’s one of those things where people see it all the time, but they look right past it and ignore it completely. If you’ve ever walked around that block, you’ve probably seen it yourself.

The thing about this place is that it is completely unused. It’s surrounded by busy university buildings, but it’s always empty. Despite that, the power is on, the elevator works, and the building is kept unlocked.

When looking for this building, you always seem to take a wrong turn. But if you plan out where to go ahead of time, and try to follow the directions instead of trying to find the building, then you can end up at the front door. When the front door closes behind you, everything is suddenly quiet. You can hear normal building sounds—doors opening and closing, air conditioners running, the occasional elevator ding—but not a single thing coming from outside.

Most of the doors on the ground floor are unlocked. There are some exceptions. If you walk around for a short time, you will find a door that is not only locked but sealed. Duct tape covers every edge in an airtight seal. Do not break that seal. If you do, something bad happens. I don’t know what, but there was definitely a reason.

Inside the building, there are signs that people have been there recently. A receipt dropped on the ground dated earlier that month. A flyer posted on a wall advertising an event that is always two weeks ago. Janitorial supplies in a few places. Different places every time, but always somewhere. Every time I went there, it had been clear that this was a building people used. I don’t know how many times I have been in that building. The first time I entered, I left thinking two things. One was that it was surprising how all the lights were on, and the other was that I should have brought a flashlight.

I’ve heard that there’s something strange about this building, but I have no idea what’s strange, or who I heard it from. I’m pretty sure nobody I know has been in here. Today, I’m wandering around inside to see if there’s anything unusual. I do have a flashlight, because why not. I don’t know anything about whatever’s up with this place, but that’s a fact about my knowledge and not a fact about what’s in here. I’ll get some information, and then I’ll know.

Most of the floors are nothing special, not that I can tell. Just ordinary short hallways and locked doors. I keep hearing shoes, footsteps echoing from the staircase. When I call out, the only response I get is my own echo. I time the echoes, and they’re late. Well, I’d be pretty likely to get that wrong anyway. I keep walking around, not making eye contact with anyone. Nothing between the ground floor and the top stands out, especially not on the fifth floor.

When I explore the top floor, I’m surprised to find that it’s wider. I walk out of the elevator and keep walking past the distance from the elevator to the outer wall on lower floors. I go back down to the ground floor, measure the shorter distance, then go back up and measure the longer distance. Same number. I guess the ground floor is bigger than I remembered it. The extra space on the top floor is occupied by nothing especially interesting, mainly a bunch of machinery that looks ordinary and boring. But past the distance from the elevator to where the wall should be, I do find something. I never expected to see snow indoors.

I keep walking around this surprisingly large top floor, and take one door that leads horizontally to the roof. Lots of buildings have floors at the same height as their roofs, right? I can’t think of any right now, but I’m sure they exist. And the air is still breathable and the sky is still blue, so that’s a plus. Why was I here? Right. Information. I pick up some of the snow, form it into a small snowball, and toss it off the roof. It falls at a normal speed and lands on the ground at normal Earth. I can see university students walking around down there, so whatever is going on was just inside this one empty building.

I hear more footsteps, behind me this time. Next thing I know, I’m pressing the elevator button. My heart is pounding and my eyes are wide, but there’s nothing here to be afraid of. I must have decided I wasn’t going to see anything else inexplicable and gone back in to the elevator. Yes, that must be it.

Back on the ground floor, there’s a sign saying “Exit.” It leads to what looks a lot like a large dark room. With the door open, I jiggle the opposite side’s handle. It doesn’t move. Had I gone through, it would have locked behind me. I don’t recall seeing this door before. Could it be why I had wanted to come back with a flashlight? I wish I had remembered to bring one; then I’d be able to at least look at what’s in there. I consider asking the person in the room down the hall, but then I remember I’m alone in the building.

Instead, I go down to the basement. It’s even bigger than the top floor. I walk through part of it, ducking under air ducts (or whatever those are) and seeing whether there’s anything out of place. There isn’t. Except one thing, a sign taped to a piece of machinery: Employees Do Not Eat the Chocolate. I don’t see any chocolate to not eat, and I definitely haven’t seen any employees. The lack of punctuation is weird; this isn’t a command, it’s a statement. Maybe whoever posted the sign wanted to say that they had so much control over their employees that they could stop them from eating chocolate? Were they trying to tell me that? I can’t imagine who would come down here and see that sign; there isn’t even a clear path from here to the door.

Now my heart is pounding again, and I can feel that there’s someone behind me. I turn around, but I’m safely alone. Feeling all kinds of silly and hoping my voice doesn’t quiver, I ask aloud what’s the quickest way out. Nobody answers my question, so I follow their directions. I leave through a door that wasn’t there before, and exit (horizontally) into the normal world.

Most of what I saw already doesn’t make sense to me, and somehow I know it’ll only make less over time. I’ll probably forget the whole thing soon. In a very short time, I’ll still be here but the person who walked out of that building will never have existed. But I remember how to get back. Before I forget that, I’ll make sure my future self will find out. He won’t remember where he heard it or what it’s about, but he’ll go back and get some information and maybe then I’ll get my past self back. He’ll just have to remember to

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