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The Storm Within

By Patrick Howard

The Storm Within

The Storm Without

The Storm Begins

The Storm Itself

The Storm Within

My car came to an unintended halt as I passed an old warehouse. It was near midnight and the power had just gone out. A storm was approaching from behind me. One I could not escape. Removing a flashlight from the glove compartment I opened the door and stepped out. My cell phone vibrated in my pocket. I checked the phone as I closed the door. It was an unknown caller. The screen flickered as I answered.

“I'm sorry...” A female voice said with sorrow before the call ended. The wind strengthened behind me. An ominous dread filled the air. The warehouse was now my only shelter. I had heard stories of something lurking within it's abandoned walls.

I turned on the flashlight as I approached the warehouse gate. A gust of wind pushed it open as I approached. The air grew cold. For a moment I stood in the midst of dense fog. Whispers echoed all around me.

“She's watching you...” They whispered. The scene faded and I stood just beyond the gate. The main entrance to the warehouse awaited just beyond the parking lot. The storm was closer now. Droplets of water fell against my back. Quickly I walked to the door. The rusted door opened with a reluctant groan as I drew near.

The doorway led to a reception area. Upon entering I scanned the room. Two chairs sat beside the door. To my left was a desk covered in old papers. Behind it was a door to an office. To the right a couch and more chairs lined the wall. Across from me were two double doors that led into the warehouse.

I glanced over the papers on the desk first. It was inventories and shipments. Opening the door to the office I scanned the room. There was a desk with two chairs. The desk itself was empty. One of the double doors creaked open as I left the office. From the corner of my eye I saw a shadow leaning from behind the door. It vanished when I diverted my full attention to it. The door was closed. Was it my imagination? The storm intensified outside. Distant thunder roared from the distance. It was getting closer.

Slowly I opened the double doors and entered the warehouse area. Tall shelves filled with old boxes of all sizes lined the warehouse. My cell phone vibrated once more as I walked down the first aisle. It was an unknown caller.

“Don't leave me...” A female voice pleaded. I now stood in a familiar hallway. I could hear voices in the room beyond. Pictures lined the walls. They were of a couple and their happiest moments. I could not make out the faces.

“I love you.” A male voice proclaimed with joy. A woman laughed. They sounded happy together.

I was now halfway down the aisle. These hallucinations...are they memories? At the end of the aisle stood the same shadow. It was watching me. It vanished as I approached leaving faint laughter. The storm grew stronger and the thunder neared.

I turned left at the end of the aisle and continued to the center of the warehouse. A shadow darted down the aisle to my right. It led to a door. As I walked down the aisle I stood in another hallway. It was the same as before. The pictures depicted the couple growing apart. The voices at the end of the hall grew louder.

“You only care about yourself!” The female voice yelled. “Why don't you spend time with me?!”

“You know I've been working extra to pay off our debt!” The male voice yelled back. Sobbing quickly ensued. I was standing in the center of the aisle once more. The door carried a feeling of dread. I could feel something breathing down my neck. Glancing over my shoulder I saw that same shadow right behind me. My cell phone vibrated once more. It was an unknown caller.

“NO!” A female voice screamed as I answered. There were sounds of a struggle before the call ended.

Lightening struck near as the storm reached it's peak. The wind howled and the thunder shook the warehouse. Slowly I walked to the door. My mind was filled with endless thoughts as I tried to process everything. Could it just be my imagination? A hallucination? Or was something really here?

Laughter emerged from behind me as I opened the door. Blood dripped from the doorknob. No, my hands were covered. Across the room laid the body of a woman. As I grew closer the walls became covered in blood. Her was my wife.... Did I do this...? Is this the storm I was evading...?

I knelt down beside her, brushing my hand along her cheeks. Those moments were ours...but I... The phone vibrated once more. A male voice spoke as I answered.

“Your wife was just found murdered. We haven't found the suspe—oh god!” Gunshots rang out followed by a terrifying shriek. The male voice screamed in agony and the call ended. As I dropped the phone my wife's body vanished. The blood was gone. As I turned to the door the shadow stepped through the doorway and shut the door. My flashlight flickered as it approached. With the shadow's shriek the flashlight died and I was left in total darkness.

The Storm Without

A storm echoed all around as I parked outside an office complex. A friend had called before and said she felt threatened by something. My cell phone vibrated in my pocket. It was an unknown caller.

“It's getting closer.” A female voice said as I answered. Before I could inquire the call was over.

I opened the car door and stepped out. The power was out in the complex. Lightening danced across the sky and thunder roared. There was no rain.

A double glass door was at the front of the office. One door was open as I approached.

“Hurry!” A voice whispered in my ear. Turning quickly I saw nothing. A drop of rain fell in the distance. My vision blurred as I turned back towards the door. A shadow was cast from behind me and the glass door slammed shut and shattered. Laughter echoed all around me.

My vision returned to normal and the laughter faded. I drew my flashlight as I approached the open door the glass shattered . Was it more than just a hallucination? The glass crunched under my boots as I entered the lobby. The air was cold. Chairs lined the left and right walls and there was a desk in the center of the room. There was one door labeled security and another that led into the main complex.

I took a quick glance over the desk as I moved to the security office. There was a single note on the desk.

“He's watching.” I read to myself. Who is he? I opened the door and entered the security officer. It was a small room with a set of monitors a desk on the left. There was an equipment locker on the far wall and another desk to the right. There was a written security report on the desk to the left.

“Shortly after beginning my shift there was a power outage. A storm moved in shortly after. We've been making regular patrols and are trying to keep the staff calm. We've heard whispers from the shadows. Some have had visions of something moving. When it ends everything seems to be in place. Then the object moves like in the vision.” I thought to myself as I read the report. I flipped the page and continued reading. “Employees have been turning up missing. There are sightings of a shadow stalking people before they disappear. We've tried to get everyone to one location but before we find them they're gone.”

Footsteps came from behind me. I turned to see one of the security guards approach with his gun raised.

“Oh thank god.” He said with relief as he lowered his weapon. “I didn't think anyone had called the police.”

“It was a woman that called. A friend of mine.” I explained to him.

“She's the only other one left. Did she say she felt threatened?” He asked as we left the security office.

“Yes.” I answered as we paused in the lobby. “I've read the report.”

“It all started when an employee picked up paperwork from a nearby warehouse that closed. That place was always rumored to be haunted...” He said. I remembered the stories I had heard. My cell phone vibrated once more.

“He's here....” The same female voice said. I returned the phone to my pocket and drew my pistol. We moved to the office door and the guard took up position to the right of the door. With a nod he opened it slowly and I entered the room with him behind me. Cubicles made up the center of the room with offices along the perimeter. Outside the storm began to shift.

To our right was a janitor's closet. As we approached laughter echoed around us. My vision began to blur. The security guard showed the same. The closet door opened quickly and a woman ran towards me. My vision returned to normal and there was no one. The door was still shut.

“You felt that too?” I asked the guard. He gave a nod. I moved to the door and opened it. Inside was the body of a woman.

“Save her...” She whispered as I examined her. She had no pulse. The guard and I exchanged glances before moving to the center of the cubicles. All but one door slammed shut. As we approached the laughter intensified. We entered the office and at the desk was my friend. Her body was bloodied. I pulled out my cell phone and called her husband.

“Your wife was found murdered. We haven't found the susp—oh god!” I yelled as a terrifying shriek echoed from behind us. I dropped the phone and the guard and I turned to open fire. The shadow screamed in my voice as the bullets tore through it. The shadow vanished and over the phone I heard the same shriek.

The Storm Begins

I stood by the entrance of the store and watched as a few customers left. We would be closing soon. The night had been quiet.

“Attention customers,” a voice announced over the intercom, “The store will be closing soon. Please finish your shopping and proceed to the check out. Thank you.”

Faith whispers emerged from the parking lot. The warm night air grew cold as a gust of wind blew past me. Everything went black for a moment. Voices swirled around me in the void. A figure approached as a faint light illuminated the area. It stopped a few feet from me and raised its hand. With a laugh it vanished and I was by the door.

It was raining and there were no lights in any direction. I could see no one in the parking lot. As I turned to the door it opened slowly. My cell phone vibrated in my pocket. It was an unknown caller.

“I have awakened.” A deep voice said before hanging up. Activating my flashlight I entered the store. It was empty. The customers seem to have vanished. It was a large store. Immediately before me was the grocery department. Towards the center of the store was clothing and house supplies. The store was faintly lit by emergency lights.

As I moved to the first freezer aisle foot steps echoed behind me followed by laughter. I turned to see nothing. There were no customers here but I was not alone. Looking to the left down the aisle I briefly saw a figure standing at the other end. I continued walking and looked down each aisle. Each one the brief figure came closer.

Finally I passed the freezer section. Looking down the next aisle there was no figure. Was it my imagination? After my next step the figure appeared just in front of me. The laughter intensified. I turned right and entered the men's clothing. My flashlight began to flicker and scrapping footsteps echoed. A hand grabbed my shoulder.

“Turn your light off and get down.” A man whispered. I turned the light off and knelt down. We pulled back behind the clothes rack. A tall, thin figure moved past us. Its right foot slid with each step.

I turned to the man. It was the janitor

“What's going on?” I whispered.

“I have no idea.” He replied with a whisper. “But there are things wandering around. I haven't seen anyone else.” My cell phone vibrated. It was a text message from an unknown sender. “RUN.” It read. Screeching emerged from the other end of the clothing section. It was coming towards us. Quietly we moved to the back side of the store. We stopped in the electronics section and peered past a shelf. The screeching grew louder and we could hear claws scrapping on the floor. A four legged creature emerged from the clothing section. It was slender in frame. It almost looked like a panther. It screeched once more and turned back.

“I wish you were armed security.” The janitor said softly. Aside from a flashlight and radio I had nothing.

“I'm not sure a gun would save us anyway.” I replied. We moved through the electronics section slowly. We paused and hid when we heard footsteps closing in. There wasn't even a trace of anyone in the store. What happened here?

As we neared the gun rack the scrapping footsteps grew louder. We ducked behind the counter. The footsteps approached and the thin figure leaned over the counter. It had a human silhouette. It paused for a moment as it looked right at us. It did not seem to see us though. After a moment it turned and walked away. We moved from behind the counter and continued down the sporting section. We were heading to the outdoor section. It might be easier to escape. But escape what? What were these creatures? Is there anyone left on the outside?

We turned right and went down the hardware section. We were close. There was a screech nearby, followed by scrapping claws. A woman screamed a few aisles down from us. The scrapping quickened and there was another scream...then silence. The scrapping moved to the center of the store and we continued. We entered the aisle the woman screamed from and saw a bloodied body with a gash across her chest. We had thought the store was empty...

As we approached the woman looked at me. She had her cell phone in hand. She had recently sent the text message to run.

“He's always watching.” She whispered. “There is no escape.” She closed her eyes and her body vanished. We moved to the outdoor entrance. My cell phone vibrated with a text message.

“Find the center of the storm.” The message read. As we exited the store we saw the storm had moved to a nearby warehouse. Whatever was at the center, we were going to face it.

The Storm Itself

The night grew long. Silence swept the area. There were no signs of life except for my breathing. There was a storm in the distance. Before me was a long abandoned manor. It had been years since it was occupied yet it has stayed in repair. There are rumors of a sinister presence. There were even occasional sightings of figures in the windows.

It wasn't until the storm began that it became active. Something had awakened and I was going to find out what. I activated my headlamp and opened the wooden door slowly. I was greeted by a rush of cold air. My cell phone vibrated in my pocket. It was an unknown caller.

“Who are you to venture here?” A male voice asked before the call ended. Shadows shifted along the perimeter of my light. The first room was a living room. Sheets covered a pair of chairs and a couch. To the left was a fireplace with a painting of an open field above it. As I looked to the right I heard the rustling of grass to my left. It was faint and distant. As I approached the painting I noticed a figure standing in the distance in the painting.

Each time I blinked the rustling grew louder and the figure moved closer. It was a woman. The air grew colder and thunder roared outside. In the next moment everything went dark. I was now standing in another room. A woman stood across from me.

“He has awakened.” She said in a distant voice. “The storm is coming...” With those last words she faded and I was once against standing before the painting. A figure began to step out of the painting. I took a few steps back and my breathing quickened. As her feet touched the floor she vanished and a voice whispered into my ear.

“He's watching you.” She said. Turning quickly I saw no one. A cold breeze carrying faint whispers emanated from a doorway to my left. Hanging in the darkness were two glowing red eyes. A pale woman clothed in shadow stepped from the doorway and raised her hand to me. Instantly I was enveloped by an invisible force and thrown into the ceiling and then to the floor. She paused for but a second before drawing me close to her. Her hand grasped my throat as he slowly lifted me.

I responded with a forceful strike. She released me as she relented and vanished into the shadows. The doorway led to a staircase. As I descended the scene began to fade. Soon I was standing in a dense fog. A tall figure approached. He was clad in white crystalline armor. He wore a large crown. I could not see his eyes.

“You have answered my summon.” He said as he stood before me. “You sense the shadows stirring.” Whispers echoed all around us. The fog began to fade. He offered his hand to me. Without hesitation I took it. In the next moment I was standing in a dark catacomb. The staircase was behind me. With my claymore in hand I ventured forth. White crystalline armor illuminated the room I was in.

“Be not afraid.” The same voice said to me. There were four sarcophagus in the room. As each opened a tall, thin shadow emerged from each and released a piercing shriek. The first charged and I swung my sword to cut it in half. The others followed and in a single motion I struck them down.

The room was silent once more. Pressing on I entered a large room with an altar in the center. There were two ten foot statues behind the altar. One was a man with a goats head and the other was a woman with the legs of a beast. A powerful presence emanated from the altar. To the left and the right were circular staircases. I could not see where the led.

Black vines rushed from the walls and the floor to envelope my arms and legs. They joined over my chest and held me tight. Even through the armor I felt their cold. A woman approached wearing a black dress. Her skin was pale and her hair long and black. With a smile she ran her hand along my cheek. Thunder roared in her presence.

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