Feral yowls whirled down the foggy alley as Laina’s boots scuffed up the wide concrete steps to Harbor Towers. Horror Towers, as the media tagged them. Mist fingered through the bars on the lower story windows. She yanked open the entry door and its hinges responded with a whining cackle. After she crossed the threshold, the steel exit whomped shut and the clack of the latch resounded behind her. Silence haunted the vacant halls, save for the echo of her steps across the linoleum.
Laina tightened her grip on the mace canister as she clopped to the elevator. She pressed the button and glanced at the number lit above its doors. A draft lilted fine hairs from the edge of her face and swept a chill around her ears. She rubbed her arms and pressed the gleaming button again. The same number beamed above the elevator. The car seemed to be stuck on her floor.
She sighed and trudged to the staircase. The ordeal at Arden’s apartment would seem a delusion, a surreal nightmare, if it weren’t for the lasting symptoms. Autumn air had usurped the burning on her skin, but tinges of sulfured breath lingered in her nostrils. She massaged the throbbing spot on the back of her skull and forced her aching legs to climb the steps. A twinge seized her bicep as she gripped the banister to heave herself upward. Her muscles ached from the strain–pain to testify of unseen beasts which had pinned her to the floor.
Instead of pumping warmth into her blood, the air grew more frigid as she ascended. A deepening chill penetrated her coat and burrowed through her flesh to the marrow of her cramping bones. As she crested the landing to the third floor, her breath rose in puffs of mist.
Whistling floated down from the upper levels of the stairwell. A slowed version of a nursery tune she heard before.
Ring around the rosie …
Heavy footsteps percussed the melody as they descended. Her heart pounded as if beating its way out of her chest. She raced higher, hoping to beat the eerie stranger and make it safely inside her apartment. The tune’s volume peaked a flight above her.
Ashes, ashes. We all fall down.
The whistling drifted away as the clomping turned off the staircase. Onto her floor.