THE RESTROOM, by Joseph Simmons
A gushing sense of relief washed over him when the urinal flushed. Hope filled his heart as he heard Carl zip up. He planned his next moves. After Carl washed his hands he’d leave. When that door shuts, I’m getting the job done, Sam thought. Get it done fast before anyone gets in here. Then I’m out of here before anyone catches me in here with the smell.
Sam’s shoes squeaked on the floor as his body jumped when the power went out. The bathroom went from the overbright industrial cream color to total black.
“Whoa,” Carl said.
I am never going to take a shit, Sam thought.
“Jesus, it’s dark,” Carl said. “Where are the emergency lights? This place has a generator.”
Sam held his hand in front of his face and saw only a faint shadow of a shape. How is it so dark in here?
“You still over there, Sam?”
Where the fuck else would I be? “Yep,” Sam said. Even with the sudden change, he didn’t want to talk to the guy. “Can’t think of any other place I’d rather be when the power goes out.”
Carl’s laugh was loud. Sam cringed because he didn’t want to have anyone outside hearing them laughing in the bathroom. I just need to be invisible in bathrooms, he thought.
Sam realized that Carl’s loud, exaggerated laugh had no echo in the restroom at the same instant he noticed there were no more voices beyond the wall. During a power outage in an office, adults were like elementary school kids. When the lights blinked off, everyone popped up and began talking to each other. From the little bit of conversation he hard a moment before, he should be hearing dozens of people talking to each other.
All Sam heard was quiet, and all he could see was nothing.
“I can’t believe it’s getting so hot in here,” Carl said, “The AC must work hard to cool this place down if it turns into an oven the second it shuts off.”
“It’s something,” Sam said. He stood and pulled up his pants and tucked in his shirt. He tried to be quiet about it, but his belt jingled like an alarm.
“Man, I can barely see my own hand in front of my face,” Carl said.
“Yeah, I tried that myself,” Sam said. “I can’t see shit. Hey, Carl, you notice there’s no noise?”
“What kind of noise? This is a bathroom.”
“Not bathroom noises,” you asshole, “Outside. In the office. A minute ago, I heard people talking through the walls. Now all I can hear is nothing.”
Sam stood in the dark and listened to an awkward silence before Carl spoke again. He imagined the man trying to listen to something other than himself and couldn’t get a clear picture in his mind.
“Yeah, I guess,” he said. “At least they can see out there. They have the luxury of windows.”
“Out there is where I’m going,” Sam said.
The ceiling shifted and creaked and Carl gasped. Above them, he heard metal things snap loose and break under some kind of pressure. Sam tried to convince himself that the building was settling, or maybe the heat was buckling something up there, but none of it made any sense.
Something on the other side of the tiles, something inside the ceiling was moving. Sam heard what could have only been the metal supports groaning under an immense weight.
“I don’t hear any people,” Carl said, “But I hear that.”
Sam held his hand in front of his face again but only saw a shadow moving inside a shadow. He kept his mouth shut so he could listen. A ceiling tile fell to the floor and he heard more of the ceiling metal under distress. Carl yelped. The room was getting warmer and filling with the dusty smell from the other side of the ceiling.
Carl coughed from the dust that had filled the room. “You think it’s an earthquake? Sounds like the building is falling apart.” His voice was dry and choking from the dust.
Sounds like the ceiling is ripping apart, Sam thought. He didn’t reply to Carl, he wanted to listen not talk. Whatever was in the ceiling was getting closer.
More ceiling tiles fell. Sam heard Carl’s feet stepping across the floor toward the stalls. The man was finally quiet. Scared, but quiet.
READ PART: SIX….