The Fifth Floor
A Paranormal Short Story
Coming February 3, 2017
“Is this your first night?” The old man stood up from his seat. Where he’d been sitting, he could barely see—or be seen—over the counter in front of the desk. He walked around the counter toward Jeremy.
“Yes, it is.” Jeremy fidgeted with the buttons on his jacket. “I suppose it’s obvious. Isn’t it?” Pressing his lips into a grin, he tried to smile. “Actually, I’ve never done anything like this before.”
The old man paused, as though sizing Jeremy up, and then patted him on the shoulder. “You’ll be fine.” He went back behind the counter and retrieved his metal lunch pail.
“By the way, my name is Jeremy Brogan.” Jeremy reached over the counter, offering his hand.
The old man grasped Jeremy’s hand and gave it a firm shake. “Jake Edwards.”
“Say, do you mind me asking how long you’ve been working here?”
“It’ll be forty-two years, next month.”
Jeremy’s brows rose sharply. “Forty-two years?”
“Yep.” Jake nodded. “And not once did I miss a day of work.”
Jeremy rested his elbows on the counter. “That’s incredible.”
“Yeah, I guess it is.” Jake shrugged. “Never really thought about it.” He slid his hand over the smooth, worn surface of the counter, as he walked back around to the front. “I can honestly say, I’m going to miss it.”
“I’m retiring next week.” His brow furrowed, his gaze growing distant. “I’ll tell ya, I’ve been looking forward to this my whole life. Waiting and dreaming about what I’d do when the day came. But now that it’s here…It’s going to feel strange, not coming in here every night.” He shook his head and sighed.
“But, I guess it’s not the end of the world.” Jake grinned. “Tell ya what—” he patted Jeremy on the chest with the back of his hand “—I’ll come back and visit ya. How does that sound?” He stepped to the middle of the hall. “So, have they shown ya everything?”
“Yep. Keep an eye on the security monitors, and once an hour walk the upper floors. I have my walkie-talkie, in case I need to communicate with the main security room downstairs. If a situation does arise, I don’t think I can handle alone, call for additional security.” Jeremy laughed self-consciously. “God, that sounded like I memorized the security manual, didn’t it?”
Jake peered at him over his glasses. “I take it you think you look like a fool, right about now?”
Jeremy smiled. “Pretty much.”
“Hey, it’s the fool that doesn’t prepare. Especially in a job like this.”
“I guess I’m a little nervous.” Jeremy tugged at his collar. “This is the first real job I’ve had.”
“I haven’t met a night watchmen yet, who wasn’t nervous his first night.” Jake smirked. “Well, the good ones, that is.”
“Thanks, I needed to hear that.”
“Don’t thank me.” Jake held up his palm. “When it comes down to it, it will be you and the night.”