‘Express’ In Midnight In The Pentagram from Silver Shamrock Publishing

Silver Shamrock Publishing has put out a star-studded occult horror anthology, Midnight In The Pentagram, featuring –

Wesley Southard & Somer Canon
Catherine Cavendish
Glen Krisch & Mark Steensland
Rob E. Boley
Ronald Kelly
Brian Keene
Graham Masterton
Tim Curran
James Newman
Todd Keisling
Jason Parent
Stephanie Ellis
Chad Lutzke
Tim Meyer
Tony Tremblay
Laurel Hightower
Kenneth W. Cain
J.G. Faherty
William Meikle
Shannon Felton
Owl Goingback
Wesley Southard
Charlotte Platt
Cameron Ulam
Brian Moreland
Armand Rosamilia
Kenneth McKinley
Azzurra Nox
John Quick
Allan Leverone
Mark Steensland
P.D. Cacek
Mark Towse
Amanda Hard
Stephanie Ellis
Robert E. Dunn
Allan Leverone
Gord Rollo

And yeah, me.

My contribution, ‘Express,’ was directly inspired by my watching the Dutch horror movie ‘The Lift’ last year during my annual October horror movie marathon.

Junta Juleil's Culture Shock: Only now does it occur to me... THE LIFT

Basically it concerns an office building security guard whose suspicions are aroused by an irate bookstore owner’s eccentric behavior.

Here’s an excerpt. Link to buy is below.

————————–

Manning the day security desk in the lobby of The Sturgill Building mainly consisted of pointing out the directory sign to visitors and keeping the panhandlers from harassing the suits on their smoke breaks. It was a cushy gig. Most people knew where they were going when they came through the revolving door, and the stinginess of the corporate types was known far and wide among the downtown tramps, so all but the most addlebrained beggars knew it was useless to hit them up, and stuck to the park and the tenderhearted out of towners.

Dion Wilkes had been here six years now. He’d started on nights. At first the change had been jarring. You could doze through most of the night shift if you set an alarm to remind you when to get up and do your checks, and you could let the bums sleep in the doorways as long as they were packed up and gone by the time the cleaning crew left in the morning.

His promotion to days had been a hassle at first; not as many opportunities to screw around. But he soon learned the perks. No rounds to check, so you could actually plunk your butt in the chair and never move till quitting time. Sure some Fridays he got called upstairs to escort somebody out the front door for the last time. That kind of sucked. They always let them go on a Friday or before a holiday break. He didn’t know the psychology behind that. He had heard it softened the blow, but the people he walked out always seemed on the verge of crying, like they were bewildered refugees staggering away from the site of a bombing, clutching their boxes of personal items, family photos and the kind of goofy toys and knickknacks office workers decorated their cubes with to fly some desperate personal flag of individuality, something to fool themselves into thinking they were anything but what they were.

Dion didn’t keep anything on his desk. He brought his coffee in a thermos and took it home at the end of his shift. He didn’t leave anything of himself in this joint, aside from a fart in his chair and the occasional booger rubbed off surreptitiously under the desk.

But those final Friday dead man walks were as rare as the panhandlers during office hours.

End of the month was Dion’s least favorite time, and today of course, his relief had called in sick. He was pulling a double.

The top floors of the building were occupied by C.D. Holdings, one of those big name companies you heard about on the news whose names popped up all over the place, on car dealerships, baseball stadiums, construction sites, and protest signs.

What they actually did, Dion couldn’t say. They made a lot of people miserable, for sure, because every end of the month a recurring cast of sad looking people wandered up to his desk and asked to speak to somebody about their rent or their mortgage or their business loan. These he’d send to the directory. They would drift over there, blink at the placard, and invariably take the express elevator that bypassed the intervening floors and went directly to C.D. Holdings’ corporate offices up on fourteen, usually after meandering back to his desk to confirm which elevator they were supposed to take.

Some of them clutched thick manila envelopes stuffed with cash or yellow folders bursting with reams of receipts and wrinkled checks. When he called up to C.D., the snooty, attractive receptionist with a head full of race car red hair that didn’t fool anybody, the one who click clacked past his desk every morning and evening and never said hello, and seemed to take personal offense at the sound of Dion’s voice, would tell him to keep whatever offering the sad sacks brought at the security desk and she’d send somebody down to get it at lunch time.

He got to know their faces if not their names; the jittery old Korean lady trying to hold onto her late husband’s corner grocery, the skinny hipster in the ratty scarf who’d had a bad experience once and now didn’t trust his rent check to the mail, the overweight mother in the tube top with a tattoo of a the name ‘Bruce’ in cursive over the arch of her left breast, dragging her frenzied toddler by the wrist, there to tearfully ask somebody in charge for more time.

Only one of these did Dion memorize the name of, and that was Dr. Verman Kind, the owner of The Mystic Scion Bookstore downtown.

Dion didn’t know what Kind was a doctor of. It surely wasn’t medicine, or if it was, he’d go see a vet before he’d step foot in any office of his. Kind was a compact little German man of indeterminate age, Dion guessed somewhere between forty five and sixty, pale, without a scrap of visible body hair. He squinted up at you with beady, bloodshot eyes from behind a pair of square Ben Franklin-type glasses, and spluttered demands in his thick war criminal accent. He dressed like one of those steampunk nerds, always in a black bowler and three piece suit with striped pants and a voluminous black velvet cape (so big, maybe it counted as a cloak) over a silky, brocaded vest and a shirt Dion expected a pirate would run you through to the hilt for. He carried a black case, and always walked swinging a shiny black cane with a fancy silver star-shaped handle.

Always, except for today.

Today, Dr. Kind came through the door (never the revolving door), with a little black terrier scurrying ahead of him on a silver leash.

Dr. Kind’s relationship with C.D. Holdings was tempestuous, and Dion knew the details of his drama by heart because Kind repeated it to him every month, angrily punctuating his narrative with repeated, sharp raps of his cane on Dion’s desk.

Somehow, several months ago, C.D. Holdings had acquired ownership of the building his weirdo occult bookshop had occupied for a number of decades, and they had raised his rent beyond ‘agreeable rates,’ no doubt with the intention of pushing him out so they could level the place and install some garish, soulless monolith like The Sturgill Building itself.

Every month since, Dr. Kind had come to renegotiate the terms of his lease with the powers that be, and every month he emerged from the express elevator loudly and flamboyantly declaring his hatred of C.D. Holdings and its moronic administrators in expressive curses both German and English.

For once though, Kind did not accost Dion at his post, but made straight for the express elevator.

“Hey Dr. Kind!” called Dion, in his authoritarian voice, which was basically an imitation of his father. He stood up as Kind walked by. “What’s with the dog?”

Published in: on August 28, 2020 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

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