Paranoia grips the man as he is slowing stalking through the dark alleyways. The smell is awful, but he pays it no mind, it's merely a quicker, safer, route. There is something following him, what it is, he has no clue, and for his sake it would be best if the answer never came. It does come, the smell that he didn't notice before becomes strong enough restrict his breathing. He stops coughs into an old handkerchief, and continues to hold it to his face. He shouldn't have stopped.
The air in the alley way turns hot, and the smell of decay becomes stronger. The walls begin to warp, viscous black liquid covers the once red brick alley. Thick black tendrils emerge from the blackness, grabbing the man.
"How can it be so hot, and cold at the same time?" These are the mans last thoughts as he is pulled into the wall. Never to be heard from again. Not that it matters. There wasn't anyone else. Everyone he'd cared about disappeared. Right down to that nice dog groomer he'd always leave a sizable tip for. She was cute, and hey, it was good karma, right?
At least, as far he knew they'd all disappeared. For them, he'd been missing for weeks. One day he just vanished from his home. Before that, he has been acting very strangely. His boss had given him a week off due to work related stress. Not sure what kind of stress he'd been under to cause him to stop sleeping. He was often described as a man that had no cares in the world. Always friendly, always had a smile on his face. Then one night he just stopped sleeping.
"Sleep is for the weak." he'd often joke, or "no rest for the wicked" and then wink, depending on if he'd been talking to a cute co-worker.
No one knew his history though. He'd learned years ago that he had some kind of... problem. He'd talked to some doctors about it, and they gave him some pills, little, tiny round white ones, that made the problems go away for a time. They'd always come back though.
During one of his last episodes, he thought he'd actually lost his mind. As he walked to work one morning, he'd see the usual signs for the different stores. Except, they weren't quite right. The sign that usually said "50% of all mens apparel" said "200% mark up on all sweat shop made clothing". Then the one at the grocery store, usually "We accept EBT cards", "We'll make sure you're embarrassed to get welfare, ya goddamned slacker". He knew it would only get worse, but he still had to make it to work.
For the rest of the walk he ignored the signs. Kept his head down, and just went forward. Finally he made it to work but, things weren't right here either. Nothing was right, he must have slipped farther into the episode.
There was his boss, but... not quite his boss. He was over weight and bald... and shirtless, holding a bull whip. The partitions for the cubicles were all gone, so were the desks. All replaced with benches, next to the walls, and there were handles coming out of the walls?
No, this isn't right. It's kind of like one of them old fashioned slave ships, with the slave master holding a whip to make everyone go faster.
At this point he stopped in his tracks, shook his head, and decided it was best to go home for the day. Of course, he could no longer find the door, being that he was now in the hold of a wooden ship. His boss looked none to happy at the way he was dressed either.
Vertigo strikes the man, he feels like he's being pulled up and out. He snaps to and he's at work. His boss just caught him sleeping on the job. In his mind he can hear a whip crack as Mr. Bob Whitehead tells him he needs to “shape up or ship out”.
So he did, he asked for some “time to find himself”. His boss let him have it, the quality of his work had slipped, and if the pussy needed a week off, he was glad to have him gone, goddamned slacker, sleeping on the job.
During this week, he slipped again. Felt just like sliding down one of those tunnel slides you see attached to jungle gym at a park. Nothing too bad though. He was at home, safe and sound. TV sure was odd though. The president was on, giving a speech about how he was actually part of a secret cult, and he didn't give a “flying fuck” what really happened, as long as he got paid. Much more entertaining than the last speech he'd heard by that blow hard.
One thing happened during these small slips. I phone call from a co-worker. It didn't make any sense. He had had visitors while on vacation. A man in a long yellow coat, who she described as looking like a throw back from the 50s, “real Dick Tracy shit, if you can believe it”. Then the other guy, “get this, in a fucking robe, like somethin outta braveheart n' shit”. He found the 70 year old receptionists use of language quite amusing, especially being that one time he let a “naughty” word slip and she didn't talk to him for several days. Whatever though, he'd learn to deal with people's true nature, as he'd come to think of it as.
On the morning he was going back to work, he slipped into another deep episode. This one different than the other trips. While in the shower, he started watching the water go down the drain, he was fascinated by it. Suddenly he felt a familiar head rush, and he was sucked straight down into the drain. Upon regaining his composure he realized that he was still in his bathroom. Nothing had really changed. He must have just passed out in the shower. Good thing it didn't last long, he didn't fall and hurt himself, or anything. He figured the cold water must have snapped him out of it. It was awfully chilly.
Exiting the shower kind of difficult for him. The doors felt, heavy, and when they finally gave the door emitted a scraping noise like something out of a horror movie. SCREEEEEEE. Grabbing his towel, he dries himself. The towel doesn't feel quite clean, he looks down and noticed dried blood on it. “Today just turned into a really shitty day” he thinks to himself.
His clothes are where he left them. Thank goodness they're clean. He dresses and gets ready for work, ignoring all the little things that aren't quite right. Quite the shock when he looks into the mirror though. It's him but, not quite. The him that's staring back has a mad look in his eyes, like he'd finally snapped from all that's happened. Little flecks of blood on his face, and on his torn shirt. The man shakes his head and the mirror image shifts back into his normal face, or whatever passes for normalcy for him anymore.
Leaving the apartment was quite a chore. The door just wouldn't open. After some time concentrating on the word “OPEN” the door swung open and he was on his way. Too bad the elevator was out. The sign said “dragons be down thar” with an arrow pointing down. He wasn't one to argue with dragons, so the stairs it was.
The stairs felt uneven, and unstable. Which is quite odd for stairs built into the ceiling and floors. Once again, he'd came to accept things like this as normal. What wasn't normal was the lack of people in the lobby. Usually it was awash with people, children playing, adults... not playing, doing whatever adults do but, today it was silent. No door man, no kids, no old man playing craps and taking bets on the bottom step. Nothing. Empty, like his bottle of cheap scotch he'd drank the night before.
Even during his worst episodes, there were people. Sure, they may have looked different. The old man playing craps looked like a shark, the door man was built into the door, and was always way too damn cheerful when he used him, but they were there.
Now the lobby looked desolate. Like no one has been there for at least a century. The carpets that lead out to where the door barely hung on a hinge were threadbare. A think layer of dust covered the front counter, where the manager never sat. The man was busy, and always had better things to do than actually be a manager. Like fuck his pretty girlfriend that lived for free on the first floor.
Everything had an ancient smell to it, like old dust mixed with the faintest cinnamon.