Exploring abandoned buildings with your friends is …sometimes a risk.

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Have You Ever Wondered What’s Inside Those Ugly Buildings Alongside The Highway?

In high school, we learned that stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Our teachers told us that at the end of a story, there’s a resolution: a lesson that can be learned, or a meaning that can be analyzed.

This isn’t one of those stories.

This is just a few hours from a single night in the life of my high school friends and I, a night when we bumped into something that I still don’t understand, and probably never will.

Driving through rural America, you’ll see a lot of buildings that don’t seem to have a purpose. Surrounded by dead fields or gravel parking lots, they just blend into the landscape. The structures themselves are nothing special: concrete silos, corrugated warehouses, low brick buildings painted white. They seem abandoned. No one goes in or out, but the structures remain, like a riddle without an answer.

September of my senior year, my friends and I decided to throw an impromptu party in one of those buildings. There were only three of us, but we had a stereo, some glow sticks, and a video camera–all we needed was booze and a way in.

Ryan, who was probably the oddest member of our little trio, showed up with some bolt cutters (why he had them, I still have no idea). My buddy Derrick snagged a couple six packs from his dad’s basement refrigerator. Derrick’s old man was so deep in the bottle he’d just figure he’d drank them himself. Of the three of us, I had the least broken-down car, so I drove.

The building we’d chosen resembled a warehouse. We passed by it every day on our way to school, and we’d never seen any lights, people, movement, or even cars parked around it. There was no name, mailbox, or any other indication of what the place might be used for. It was surrounded by an overgrown fence and barely visible from the road.

We parked around the back, where two bare metal doors sealed with a chain waited like a warning.

The crisp autumn air filled my lungs as soon as I stepped out of the car. It was hard to believe we were all seventeen already. It was even harder to imagine what we’d all be doing next September. The sky was orange with the last rays of sunset and fog was forming over the damp ground. I wondered how many more of these excursions the three of us had left before our lives took us in different directions.

“You okay man?” Ryan asked as he snapped open a beer. “You got this look on your face like you just miscounted your balls or something.”

“Yeah, fine,” I tried to laugh. “I’m just wondering what the hell is in there.”

“Only one way to find out!” Derrick grunted, cutting through the chain. It slid to the ground like a rusty snake. Armed with only flashlights and glowsticks, we walked into the darkness.

It was…disappointing, to say the least. The floor was a bare concrete slab. The walls were corrugated metal. It was one huge room, every bit as dull and featureless as the rest of the place. Ryan hopped boredly on his skateboard and rode from one side of the building to the other.

I wish I could say that was the end of it: that we had a few brews, messed around with the skateboard and glowsticks, and went home.

“Whoa!” Ryan grunted from the other end of the warehouse. “Guys, check this out!”

Ryan had rolled over a manhole cover, like the kind sewer workers use to access the world of tubes and tunnels that’s always beneath our feet, but that we rarely think about. But this was no ordinary manhole cover: it was made of some high-tech metal alloy and had a folded-down handle in the center that Derrick and Ryan hurried to pull up. When I saw what they were doing, I almost shouted at them to stop–at the time, I wasn’t sure why.

Something about that futuristic-looking, thick metal hatch waiting in the empty darkness filled me with a sense of unease. But curiosity soon got the better of me, and once my friends got the hatch open I too bent my head to look inside.

Rungs of rebar led down into the pitch-blackness below us, which seemed to swallow up the beams of our cheap flashlights.

“Whoa, dude.” Ryan gasped.

“So, who’s going first?” Derrick giggled. By that point we were all on edge, but no one wanted to admit it. A sound, like scratching, came from the roof above us. We all jumped. It took a few seconds to realize that it had started raining outside.

Everyone deals with fear in their own way. Ryan’s way was dropping an empty beer can into the darkness. A metallic clatter came from far below.

“I think we should close this back up.” I half-whispered.

“I, uh, actually think you’re right…” Derrick backed me up. Ryan rolled his eyes, but grabbed the handle to push the hatch down to its original position.

It didn’t budge. No matter how we heaved or strained, the hatch stayed open. It was more mechanically complex than we’d imagined at first, and apparently it would take industrial force to seal it up again. We all looked at each other, shrugged, and walked back toward the far wall of the unlit warehouse.

I found myself looking over my shoulder and shining my dim flashlight back toward the shining metal of the hatch, sure that something horrible was about to crawl up from below. Derrick and Ryan were as nervous as I was, but it had become a sort of challenge now: they didn’t want to let the wrongness of the place beat them. If Ryan hadn’t skated over that damn hatch, I’m sure we would have gotten bored and left long before midnight.

The crackle of static behind me made me jump. Derrick had set up the portable stereo, and after trying and failing to find a station, popped in a Black Sabbath CD. Ryan polished off his third beer, and even though I was the driver I shotgunned just to calm my nerves. It tasted like warm cat piss and didn’t make me feel any better. My eyes stayed fixed on the point in the darkness where I knew the open hatch was.

Ryan grabbed some glow sticks and Derrick recorded him with the video camera as he rode around in the dark doing tricks on his skateboard. My stomach lurched when he jumped the open hatch. Looking at the video, I was grudgingly impressed. The spinning glowsticks did make the whole thing look kind of cool.

The problem was that Derrick wanted to try next, and we all knew he wasn’t the skater that Ryan was. Like his dad, he drank a lot to impress people, and when he’d had a few there was no telling what he might try. Once again, I felt like I should stop all of it–and once again, I did nothing.

Derrick rolled tipsily off into the darkness. As soon as I saw his setup, I knew he wasn’t going to make the jump. The board hit the hatch with a sickening crack and fell down into the blackness of the pit. Derrick started to go with it. He barely caught himself, his arms slipping on the smooth concrete.

“Guys,” he wheezed. “Guys, please!”

I had never felt so helpless. There was no way we’d make it to him in time. Somehow, though, Derrick found the rungs of the ladder behind him and managed to heave himself up.

“Holy shit,” Derrick gasped, sweat dripping from his long black hair.

“Dude!” Ryan charged over angrily, “my board!”

“Yeah, I know, I know,” Derrick mumbled. “I’ll go down after it…”

“I’ll buy you a new one,” I interjected. “It’s probably broken anyway…”

Ryan stared daggers at me and I instantly regretted my words. Ryan’s mother had been killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan, and that skateboard was her last gift to him.

“I don’t care how busted it is,” Ryan hissed through his teeth. “We’re getting it back.”

“Let’s all go, then.” I sighed. “Not just Derrick.”

“Are you kidding!?” Ryan laughed. “What if some cop or whoever owns this place shows up and closes that hatch while we’re down there?”

I hated to admit it, but he had a point. Being locked in that dark hole–with no food and light sources running out–was the stuff of nightmares.

“Look,” Derrick added, “that hole creeps you out, right? So stay up here and keep watch. Ryan and I will go. I mean, it can’t be that deep, right?”

Nobody dared to answer him. Ryan was already lowering himself into the dark. Derrick gulped, and I realized that he was as scared as I was, if not more.

“I’ll go.” I rushed the words out before I could think twice.

“Come on, it was my fault…” Derrick

“Relax, man.” I faked a grin. “You’d probably break you damn fool neck trying to go down that ladder!”

I hadn’t really meant what I said to Derrick, but as I started down after Ryan, it became clear that the pit was more dangerous than it seemed. It curved ever so slightly inward, meaning that I was sort of hanging out over the emptiness below. Gravity tugged on the back of my neck. One false move…

The beam of my flashlight swung wildly, and I occasionally caught glimpses of Ryan far below. The metal rungs continued one after another, endlessly, but I preferred staring at the bare concrete wall in front of me than risking a vertigo-inducing glance downward.

After what felt like forever, the pit became more like a pipe, or a tunnel. I was practically hanging from the ceiling when the ladder ended and I lowered myself onto the concrete. In the glow of Derrick’s flashlight, the exit above me was dime-sized. In front of me, the seamless six-by-six tunnel stretched onward. There was no sign of my friend or his skateboard.

“Ryan?” I whispered. There was no answer. My flashlight flickered. I smacked it against my thigh a few times before continuing into the darkness. “…Ryan?”

I tried to rationalize my situation as I walked. The tunnel had a sharp downward slant and curved slightly to the left, so it wasn’t impossible that Ryan’s skateboard had kept on rolling. Come to think of it, though, I hadn’t heard the skateboard hit the floor of the tunnel…

It was almost as if something had caught it.

Up ahead, I finally saw Ryan. He stood motionless with his back to me, swaying. I frowned. What the hell was he doing? I wished I could see better. My flashlight seemed to be getting dimmer and dimmer…

“Ryan!” I shouted. The movement stopped. Ryan’s head flopped backwards, much further than should have been possible. I saw the red gash where it had been disconnected from the rest of his body. I saw the red tendrils of Ryan’s veins and arteries, and the gaping cartilage of his severed throat. And just as my flashlight’s batteries finally died, I glimpsed the glittering eyes of the thing that was eating my friend.

Everything went black. If something was chasing me as I fled, I couldn’t hear it over the echoes of my own pounding footsteps. The steep slope exhausted me by the time I reached the ladder. My sweaty hands kept slipping, and more than once I almost plunged backwards into the abyss below. I had no choice but to wrap my arm through the metal rung until I found my balance again and drag myself up, panting.

“Derrick!” I gasped as I neared the exit. “Derrick?!”

“What man, what?” came a stunned response.

“We gotta get out of here. There’s something–”

I was seeing spots. I didn’t have the air to continue. I heaved myself up on the concrete and rolled over onto my back, hyperventilating.

“What the hell?! Where’s Ryan?” While Derrick yelled, I wheezed and pointed toward the pit. Even if Derrick wasn’t getting my message, at least it was clear to him that something had gone south. He was running around like a headless chicken getting our stuff together for an unexpected departure.

“…Something…down there…” I gasped, as soon as I could finally breathe again. I groaned as I dragged myself to my feet and staggered toward the door. My blood ran cold when I patted my pockets and didn’t find my car keys. Then I remembered I’d left them beside the stereo. “Get…keys!”

Derrick laughed. Whatever reaction I was expecting, it wasn’t that. I stopped in my tracks.

“Nice one, man. You really had me going.” He strolled casually toward the pit. “Now really–where’s Ryan? Does that go down to a sewer or something?”

“Ryan…gone…” Clutching my side, I rummaged around beside the stereo until I found my keys. Derrick had reached the hatch opening and was shining his flashing down it.

“I call bullshit!” Derrick chuckled. “Ryan’s right here!”

“Derek…get away from there!”

Derrick hesitated, unsure of what to do. He backed slowly away from the pit as ‘Ryan’ climbed out of it. In the beam of Derrick’s flashlight, I could see my former friend’s jerky movements, badly-sealed wound, and swollen skin. He was bloated like a drowned corpse, and I realized with horror that it was because something was wearing his skin. Derrick finally noticed as well; the moment that the Ryan-thing’s head twisted to look at him, he started running for the door. But he was too close to the pit.

The last thing I saw before I burst out into the night was Derrick clawing at the concrete as he was dragged backwards toward that awful hole. I flung myself into the driver’s seat and silently begged my engine to start just one more time. As soon as it sparked to life, I peeled out and skidded back onto the main road.

I stomped on the accelerator, hardly paying attention to the road and not even noticing that–like a panicking animal–I was heading for home. Just outside of town, flashing red-and-blue lights appeared in the rearview.

The police paid little attention to my mad rambling story…and even less so when I failed a breathalyzer test. As far as they were concerned, I was just another spoiled teenage drunk driver trying to get out of trouble. My parents were furious and refused to bail me out, so I stayed in jail–terrified that things from underground were coming to kill and impersonate everyone I loved.

To make matters worse, no one would tell me anything about Derrick and Ryan. In my darkest moments, I feared that I might be charged with murdering my friends.

The situation resolved itself much more neatly than I’d imagined–maybe too neatly. I faced a heavy punishment for drunk driving, but the police assumed that Derrick and Ryan had just skipped town. They figured my bullshit story was meant to cover for them. Ryan had been in foster care and Derrick’s dad was in no condition to press the issue, which meant that was the end of it…unless I continued to investigate.

It took me a long time to build up the courage to drive by the place where my friends had been taken. Just driving on the road again made me grip the steering wheel until my knuckles went white and set my heart thundering in my chest.

When I reached the turnoff, however, I saw that the building was gone. I felt twenty years older as I stepped out into the frigid winter morning air and looked through bare branches at the empty lot.

The truth about whatever happened to my friends had been paved over with a thick layer of concrete. I just hope that the nightmarish thing we discovered is sealed down there with them.

Thanks for listening everyone!

Make sure to watch out for creatures lurking down below. If you enjoyed this story, I have more by the same author, make sure to check out the playlist.

Have a good night!

Story Credits

Written by: John Beardify - u/beardify

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Narrated by: Mrs. Nightmare

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