Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ash World

There are stairs which climb and bend endlessly. Formed of concrete and carbon steel rebar, they produce a hallow twang with every footfall. The sound lonesomely echoes within the cavernous structure. The concrete of the stairs is flecked with miniscule tan and gray pebbles. This adornment is absent in the flat corridors which branch off from them. Tree house style walkways and halls run along empty walls and plain faced doors. These doors bear no numbers nor any other sign to betray what secret places hide behind their blank gaze. A sickening shade of pasty gray, they do little to stand out against the similarly white hued walls. It gives the impression that everything is bathed in ash.
Even the occasional humanoid figure clipping distractedly along a walkway seems to be this color. They tend to be dressed in the attire of medical professionals, in the sexless pajama like garb donned by dental technicians, nurses, and surgeons. Looking down as they exit a steel door elevator or disappearing down a dark hallway, they move without grace or life, marching purposefully and bitterly in predetermined directions. Their authoritatively passive aggressive auras hang over them as tangibly as a bad smell.
The halls veer off of the exposed walkways feeding into enclosed networks given to a multitude of labyrinthine turns. These halls are long and their ends are never clear, the view ahead is consistently bathed in darkness. Shadow reaches out from every crevice and corner. Without windows or noticeable light fixtures, what sterile illumination there is, emanates meekly from an undetermined source. Around some turns, a dead end awaits in the shape of an empty gray culvert. There are no potted plants, no skylights or windows, no paintings, and no directories. It seems as if the charmless hallways and skeletal stairways may go on endlessly in every direction, an inescapable and well contained world.
Here and there an opening may be encountered, a pseudo door made of sheets of opaque colorless plastic hanging from overhead. They shimmy a little, disturbed by a draft from behind. With their unsettling appearance comes expectations of a quarantine center, or a room undergoing structural repair. This uninviting prospect gives them a sinister presence. The air blowing out from behind them is cold and stale. A faint synthetic odor prevails over the entire labyrinthine tableau. It smells something like rubber or paint, but is insidiously subtle. Like fluoride in drinking water, it links arms with what precious breathable oxygen is available, and by being discrete it slips in with every inhalation, undeterred.
Along with that inescapable scent an eerie quiet inhabits the stairways, and corridors. Elevator doors slide open with a hushed whisper. The rare echoing thump, twang of footsteps stabs at the soul. Beneath it all is a barely perceptible hum, tempered perhaps with an even less perceptible ring, like the noise generated by fluorescent lights. It vibrates from every tangible pore of concrete and steel, droning inexplicably and so subtly it can pass itself off as a trick of a tainted mind. Like a corkscrew, the stairs spiral nauseatingly upward. Into the deepening gray, they rise and descend to open upon further floors of claustrophobic halls, tree house walkways, and row upon row of impersonal gray doors. Many of these doors are locked, or may be opened to reveal a clean slab of impenetrable wall. These decoys are numerous. Like the empty chambers in a pistol engaged in a harrowing game of Russian roulette, every closed door is ominous, because the very air and every dark corner of this place says that something sinister must lie in wait, somewhere within the quiet halls, the endless walls and the silent elevators.

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