Chapter 9 - Jack in the Box / by Jim Lounsbury

There was air in narrow space, but it was stale and made him feel nauseous. His knees were bent and his long legs cramped up against his body making him cramped and stiff but worse than all of this was the fact that he couldn’t stop the bleeding.

Jack let go of his right thumb for a moment to try and rip the bottom of his t-shirt free. It was almost impossible with only one hand, but fortunately there was already a small tear in the front and between his hand and his teeth he manage to pull off a long enough piece to wrap  around his hand and pull it as tightly as he could. The pain went through the entirety of his body squeezing the vision out of his eyes for a moment. He panted as he waited for it to dull.

“That should have stopped bleeding by now,” A thin voice whispered from the darkness.

Jack knew that he was not alone but he jumped at the sound anyway, sending another warm trickle of blood dripping down his arm. “Yes, thank you, I know that. I think I’ve cut an artery. And it feels like I’ve touched an electric fence, I keep getting jolts of pain, so I think maybe I cut a nerve as well.”

“Did he do it?”

“Who? It was the sign. When it fell from the roof.” Talking made him dizzy and he paused for a moment. “I don’t really remember what happened. Did you push me?”

“Yes. I didn’t know I could do that.” It was a boy’s voice, younger than his own. The boy sounded about the same age as Finnian.

“Why did you push me? I saw it falling.”

“It would have hit you.”

“It DID hit me. It cut my hand as it went passed. I can see the bone in my thumb.” The reality of injury seemed more real when he described it. “I’m not going to be able to do the basketball trials.” He wanted to cry. Actually he wanted to scream, but he still didn’t know where he was or why he was here and a tight fear in his upper chest kept him quiet.

“But you aren’t dead,” the voice sounded sarcastic now.

Jack sighed, “yeah, I’m not dead. Thank you. Are you the boy my brother keeps seeing? The ghost? I can’t see you.”

The was a shuffling and in the tiny space a face became visible, pale behind tangled blonde hair and with eyes do dark they looked bruised. “No. That is my brother.”

“There are two of you? In the hotel? Why are you here?”

“We died here.”

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Jack’s hand throbbed with his heartbeat. “That’s super creepy, man. Are you trying to freak me out? I’m in too much pain for that.”

“It is the truth. It doesn’t have to be real to be the truth.”

“Right.” Jack tried to get comfortable. “Where are we? Why did you drag me in here?”

The boy moved closer again, his own legs, slightly shorter than James were close to his body and his thin arms wrapped tightly around them. “It is the service trolley. It was the only place I could think that he wouldn’t touch.”

“Service trolley? Is that like an elevator? For food. Is this the one that goes up from the basement. Finnian opened it when he was…”

“Yes.”

Jack sighed. He felt light-headed and talking made him tired, but there were just too many questions. “Right, but why? I need to get to my parents and go to the hospital. This needs stitches. Why can’t we just go and get help?”

The boy grabbed his arm and it felt like he had been touched by raw panic. Jack shuddered and tried to curb the instinct to pull away.

“He tried to kill you. He might try again.”

“Why? What did I do? I was playing basketball.”

“You are the older brother. He is… he is still caught in the tro.  In the sjalusi.”

There was a scratching sound from below them, following but a thumping and the elevator shifted slightly. It made Jack feel nauseous. The boy beside him instantly vanished.

“Wait! What? Wait…” Jack reached his good hand into the darkness and found the other wall of the small space. He was alone. He sighed. There were no buttons in this elevator, no way to move it. He tried to push the door open. It didn’t budge. He threw his shoulder against it with as much leverage as he could gather in his cramped position. The elevator swung from side to side and hit the side of the shaft with a creaking noise that sounded ominous. Jack stopped moving. They had climbed into the elevator on the ground floor, but it had moved upwards and he was not sure how high he was now. Maybe four floors up. Maybe one. Falling from either height in this tiny old box was going to be unpleasant. He sighed. Should he call for help? Was there really a murderous ghost boy trying to kill him? If there was, he should probably stay quiet. But for how long? He’d be sitting in a pool of his own blood soon and he already felt weak and sick.

The scratching and thumping from below began again. It sounded like a rat. Or a bird. Or a ghost.

He settled for the lowest volume that might attract attention and leaned towards the crack where the door should open.

“Finnian?”

 The thumping stopped.

 

 And then the elevator fell.