Thrilling short story by Ine de Vries
9 th June, 13:12. Laura ran into Orion. She had just eaten in the Restaurant of the Future with a few friends. The food was tasty, but she had tried to eat too much too fast and the soup had nearly burnt the roof of her mouth.
She stopped at the reception desk. A woman in her forties looked up at her. 'I need to see Verbeek, from Marketing and Consumer Behaviour.' The woman peered at her monitor. 'He should be in one of the meeting rooms on the top floor.'
Laura walked on quickly. She had to hand in a report and, as usual, she was on the late side.
She summoned one of the six lifts by mashing the number 9 button. A moment later the display above the buttons declared: 9 Invalid Floor. Laura growled something under her breath and pressed the button again with the same result. 'It only goes up to eight,' the lady at reception called out.
'Wasn't I supposed to go to the top floor?'
'Then why are there nine buttons?'
'The architect's idea of a joke, I suppose.'
Laura got out at the eighth floor and nearly bumped into a young man. 'Sorry,' she apologized.
'Oh that's alright,' the man responded, seeming strangely enthusiastic.
It was Jasper, who had assisted her with one of her practicals last year. She thought he was a creep. He had a very pasty face and little piggy eyes, and he was always wearing a stupid, bright green cap. Thankfully he seemed to have ditched that now, which helped a little. She had noticed that Jasper did like her a lot, and she had spent the entire assignment worrying that he might ask her out.
'I need to see Verbeek. I'm in a hurry.'
'Well you shouldn't spend so much time hanging around in the restaurant,' Jasper said quietly.
Laura nodded and walked on.
'Wasn't the soup too hot?' he called after her.
She walked to the meeting rooms on the eighth floor but Verbeek wasn't there. In fact, all the rooms were deserted, though there was a briefcase lying on a table in one of them. That must be Verbeek's, thought Laura. The case was lying open, so Laura peeked in to check if it did indeed belong to Verbeek. In the case she saw a whole pile of newspaper clippings. She read the top article. It was about a student in Wageningen who had disappeared four weeks earlier. Laura looked at the second article, and then the third and fourth. They were also about the student. The disappearance did not seem to be an isolated incident. In total, eight people had gone missing in the Wageningen area in the last two years. Laura put down the articles and opened a pocket in the case's lid. She reached in and tore a page off a notepad. On the paper was a number 9. It had been circled and behind it someone had written: press 9 4 5 6 simultaneously. What could it mean? she wondered.
Suddenly Verbeek was behind her. Laura almost screamed with fright; she hadn't heard him coming at all.
The man's face was flushed and he was breathing heavily, as though he had been running. He snatched the paper out of her hand. 'What do you want?' he snapped.
'I came to hand in my report,' said Laura timidly. She pointed to the neatly stapled pile of A4s she'd put on the table and slipped out of the room.
She hurried through the corridor towards the lifts, silently cursing herself. Why did you look inside the case? How stupid can you be?
She was about to press the lift button... but her hand paused, hovering above the 0. She stared at the number 9 button. '9: press 9 4 5 6 simultaneously,' she said quietly. 'Surely it couldn't be?' She used her index and middle fingers to press the buttons at the same time... and the lift next to her slid open. Laura took a deep breath and stepped into the lift.
What's on the ninth floor of Orion? Check out d9d.nl.