Wednesday, June 10, 2009

AMERICAN CRUDE - Chapter 9-e

The following is a draft of Chapter 9-e of my post-oil novel AMERICAN CRUDE. Comments have been disabled. If you wish to comment, please go to TheKunstlerCast at and join the discussion.


--Innocent Byproduct

No motion sensors kicked on any lights for me, so I groped along the wall and found a light switch. When the lights came on they revealed a very small empty room with the same low concrete ceiling and the same two elevator doors off to the side. A portable eight-foot banquet table stood alone against a blank wall with nothing at all on the table, not even dust. Across from the elevators stood a large pair of metal fireproof double doors. I glanced at the Blackberry -- still no signal. I went to the double-doors and they also were locked. But I applied the red key and they likewise opened -- inward toward me. As they opened, they triggered another motion sensor light.

The first light that kicked on revealed a long narrow closet before me with the same low ceiling. But this closet was lined on both sides from floor to ceiling with racks full of dry bulk food. Beyond the pale white gleam of the long thin overhead florescent light bulb, the closet continued forward into total blackness, the shelves of food disappearing in the dark.

How deep is this closet?

As I lingered in the doorframe of the closet, another light further into the closet suddenly kicked itself on, revealing more shelves. So now it seemed this “closet” was in fact a hallway, completely lined with food stores on both sides. And then another light kicked on, then another, and the length of the closet/hallway full of food continued to grow before my eyes. As the length progressed, I realized the floor of the hallway was actually sloping downward with a gentle curve to it. The curve of the floor reached its bottom-most point at about 40 feet from me, then started dipping upward again, but as it dipped upward, the rest of the hallway disappeared from my view. So this curving of the floor mimicked the same gentle downward-then-upward dip as the Lincoln Tunnel.

I lingered in the doorframe, listening to the sounds of more lights clicking on in the ever-increasing distance that lay beyond the upward dip. When it seemed the last of the lights had come to life, I waited and listened. I heard nothing but the hum of the lights.

I was about to start walking down this hallway until I checked the doors behind me to make sure they wouldn’t close. And I noticed they had no doorknobs. On further examination I realized they disguised themselves -- when closed -- as a blank wall to anyone inside the food hallway, with a thin seam down the middle of the “wall.”

I grabbed one lonely can of food from off a shelf and wedged it between the doors to keep them open. After I was certain those camouflaged doors wouldn’t shut behind me, I started walking. I traveled the length of the downward-curving hallway, passing by shelf after shelf of dry food, reached the very bottom of the downward dip -- which to my eye seemed to be the hallway’s mid-point -- then continued up the rising second half of the hallway where even more food shelves sat. I kept checking the Blackberry as I went. When I arrived at the far end, I again came to another double set of fire doors. They were unlocked. They opened into yet more darkness.

I groped the wall and found a light switch. This room was a small windowless and civilian-minded studio apartment. It had sparse furniture including a pair of double-sized beds with no bed clothes on the bare mattresses, a sofa, a kitchenette, and a small bathroom off to the side. It was obvious to me that no one actually lived here: no bed sheets, empty kitchen counter, mild dust build-up.

Dead ahead, across the living room area, another door sat. I went for it.

I emerged in the large, high-ceilinged, and very ordinary looking and unfinished utility room of a domestic household basement. For once I was beholding a room in this woman’s house that actually looked “normal.” A 550 gallon oil tank sat against one wall, right beside a string of six large-capacity hot water heaters, all top-of-the-line. I looked up at the wooden floor joists and judged the ceiling to be 15 feet high. There were plenty of pipes and vents zig-zagging above me, so if anyone ever wanted to one day finish off this basement room in such a way as to hide those ugly pipes with a drop ceiling, the final ceiling height could easily have been left at 10 feet with room to spare.

As I stood in this latest doorframe, I glanced back at the open door I held in my hand, and it also had no doorknob, and also was disguised -- when closed -- as a wall. I grabbed a chair from inside the hidden studio apartment and wedged it into the door before leaving it behind.

My latest Blackberry check once again proved fruitless. I glanced up from the Blackberry to scan the upper perimeter of all the walls and saw no windows anywhere. While I was still obviously underground, I was confident I had to be nearing the surface since I was now in the “house-proper.” So my hopes began to rise of emerging above ground any minute now and finally being able to employ the damned Blackberry.

The size of the oil tank told me the house was far more than the typical middle-class dimensions of just 2,000 square feet. And the “need” of six king sized hot water heaters told me the house was likely full of luxurious amenities: multiple full baths, multiple powder rooms, maybe a Jacuzzi, maybe a sauna, an ultra-modern dream kitchen, more than one washer/dryer, and a plethora of wet bars scattered here and there. And the master bathroom most likely had a heated marble floor.

I walked past the oil tanks, rounded the corner of a concrete wall, and spotted another metal fireproof door, and beside it hung a floor-to-ceiling curtain which seemed perhaps to be covering another door. I went to the fire door, tried the knob, and it was locked. This time the red key did not work. My heart skipped.

I turned to the curtain and yanked it aside. The curtain concealed a large glass picture window that came down to just counter-height. Through that widow I saw another room: a normal-looking domestic TV room with very high-end casual furniture and wall decorations. Unlike the studio apartment from a moment ago, this room looked “lived in.” I pressed my hands and face against the glass, peering through to see if I could spot another living person. Only one light illuminated the room: a tall and tasteful lamp on a handsome end table beside one of the easy chairs. I noticed something moving on the seat cushions of the easy chair, so I darted my eyes sideways from the end table to the chair where a calico house cat suddenly stood up from a nap and arched its back high to execute an extreme feline stretching ritual. And when I scanned my eyes further sideways from the cat, I noticed that the other end table on the other side of the easy chair sported a landline telephone.

“Oh shit!” I gasped when I spotted the phone.

I banged against the glass, shouting for help, hoping maybe a maid or a butler might have their sleeping quarters somewhere nearby. I saw the cat react sharply to my banging by coming to full attention and turning its head toward my window. I also saw the cat open its mouth and (I presume) give off a “meow.” But I couldn’t hear the meow. I contemplated breaking the window, but as I banged the glass with my hand, I sensed it was very dense. I turned my gaze sideways to the window encasement that the glass sat mounted within and I could see that the massive pane itself was over two inches in thickness, making it bullet-proof.

-------------------End of Chapter 9-e--------------------