Updated: Oct 10, 2020
It wasn’t the ugliest building I’d ever delivered to, but it was definitely the creepiest.
It was a large block of flats in the middle of the city, borderline brutalist and a headache against the grey sky. But someone in there wanted a pizza and I was the lucky guy who got to take it to them.
The building had twelve floors and my destination was on the seventh. It was so old and grubby that I expected that I’d have to take the stairs, but to my astonishment there was a working elevator.
It smelled like a toilet but, hey, pros and cons.
The lift shuddered and clanked as it climbed up and I spent the time reading the graffiti that had been scrawled on the walls. Tags, penises, phone numbers. All the classics.
Near the door someone had scribbled: “13 don’t let him know you know”. Was it a song lyric perhaps? Not one that I knew anyway.
With a “ping!” and a shudder the lift came to a halt, opening onto a grimy hallway. I walked quickly down to the door I was looking for. I knocked and was almost immediately faced with a wild-eyed man who looked almost relieved to see me. Munchies, I guessed. He virtually threw the money at me then disappeared back inside, already pulling at the lid of the box.
I shrugged it off and was about to return the way I had come, when suddenly the man yanked the door back open and stared at me.
“Watch out, mate,” he said, his eyes boring into mine. “We’re overdue one.”
Then he was gone for the second time.
I wish I could say that he was the weirdest person I’d ever met on this job, but that wouldn’t even be close to true. I chuckled to myself and moved back down the hall towards the elevator.
I pressed call and waited, looking forward to getting out of there. I wasn’t sure which was worse, the look of the place or the smell.
At that moment, the lift doors opened and I saw the light inside was flickering eerily. Great.
I stepped in, pushed ‘ground’ and leant back against the handrail.
After a moment I realised the elevator was going up instead of down. I was annoyed but not initially concerned. Someone on a higher floor must have called it too. It went up past 8, then 9 and 10.
It kept going up.
I blinked and looked down at the button pad.
I swallowed and tried to calm myself. The display was probably malfunctioning. After all, what else could it be?
Then, with a little judder, the car came to a halt and the doors slowly opened.
It was dark on the other side, but I could just make out a hallway stretching away from me. The flickering elevator light spilled out, achieving little more than highlighting the shadows. As my eyes adjusted I realised that there were no doors lining the walls and no windows either.
But the hallway was not empty.
I stepped forward a little and at the very limits of the light that stretched out from my position, I realised that I could see feet. And above them was the barely discernible outline of a man, facing away from me.
Blood roared in my ears and I found that I was shaking as I stared at the silhouette.
It was all wrong. The legs and arms too long, the torso too short, the head…misshapen.
Then he started to turn.
Shock hit me hard, cold and hot at the same time. Terror like I’d never felt before ran through me. I knew with absolute certainty that I was going to die.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw that writing on the wall: “13 don’t let him know you know”.
I jerked back against the handrail, squeezing my eyes shut. My nails were cutting into my palms and I was shaking.
I heard quiet footsteps moving towards me, as if softened by carpet.
Then louder as if on metal, immediately in front of me.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. But I kept silent, tried to control my breathing even as I realised I could hear someone else’s…
And then, after what seemed like an eternity, I heard the lift doors shut. It started to move downwards.
I stayed where I was, my eyes clamped closed, still not daring to look at what might be in front of me.
Another little “ping!” indicated that I had stopped on another floor, and the doors parted.
For a moment there was silence and then a voice said, “You alright, mate?”
My eyes snapped open and in front of me, standing just outside the elevator in the hallway, was my customer from the seventh floor.
“I came back out to give you your tip,” he explained, “and I saw you was going up…” He hesitated. “You ok?”
I shook my head.
He gave me a comforting pat on the shoulder. “Well, could have been worse mate. You obviously did it right.”
“How can you live here?” I gasped.
He shrugged. “Not got much choice, really. It’s not so bad once you know the rules.” He rummaged around in his pocket and handed me a couple of coins. “For your trouble. I’d take the stairs down, if I was you.”
I was me, so I did.
And since I did have a choice, I never went back to that building again.