I remember writing this story.
I remember reading from Stephen King and others about how no (published) horror stories (at least up to the time of when Mr. King had said this) had been or really could be written about “going to the bathroom,” and thought, huh—why not? About the same time I’d heard this, I’d also read some weird goings-on in a town called Dudleytown, Connecticut, in the 1600s and 1700s. Some of the stories I’d heard and read involved similar…”props”…like I’ve included in my story here, though I seem to no longer be able to find those stories. It’s like the ghost stories had become ghosts themselves!
And, to add to all this…at one of my places of work, years and years and years ago, I was working a grave shift. I had to use the restroom. I was the only person in the entire building at some weirdassed early-early hour…and as I sat there in the stall…
All the lights went out.
This story has never been published.
Please Have A Seat, Mr. Jordan
© F. P. Dorchak, 1993
Frederick Jordan, Real Estate agent Extraordinaire (as he liked to think of himself), pulled off Route 1 and into the deserted parking lot. It was sometime after midnight, and a glistening wetness coated the world, streetlights, and headlights. Maybe it had been something he’d had at dinner, or maybe it was just an unknown tummy ailment, but all he knew right now was that for the past ten miles he’d needed to take the most wicked shit.
Jordan parked his Mercedes in the slot directly before a dirtied picture window with faded and worn paint, which read, Stratford Realty, and turned off the ignition. He hurriedly got out of his car and made for the locked glass doors. Events from the past few hours squirted through his mind like his impending bowel movement. The man was an old, rather eccentric character from The City, and he’d called on him more than once in the past. The gentleman was making yet another buy in Connecticut, and the fact that it was late and he wouldn’t be in Stratford until sometime after nine that night was only a minor point of fact. Jordan knew the man by the color of his money and therefore ignored the lateness of the hour.
But now he was exhausted and had to take the mother of all dumps. Noisily, and somewhat shakily, like real hunger when it strikes, Jordan brought out the large ring of keys he carried and hurriedly jiggled open the lock. He burst in through the doors, even sprinted several feet towards his destination, when he cursed and spun back around
Bombers on time, searching for target
to hastily lock the doors. As it was he bent the key, nearly snapping it off in the process; it was late, he was the only one in the building, and he wanted to keep it that way. Only then did he make his direct, almost-pants-shitting beeline for the rest rooms, deep in the darkened interior.
Jordan burst through the rest-room door, missed the first time, but flicked on the lights in the next scramble, and plunged into the nearest stall. He’d be damned if he was going to be
sitting in the dark. Frederick Jordan prided himself on being levelheaded, but when it came to being alone in the dark, things changed. Reason changed. It was like darkness changed the very structure of the air, the way life was supposed to work. Your worst fears came to life. And no matter that this was New England—Stephen King, Rick Hautala, and all those goddamned ghost stories—
And speaking of stories, what was that one about that town near Cornwall—Dudleytown was it? A real doozy of a tale if he’d ever heard one. He’d grown up with it, and continued to have nightmares about it. He’d first heard the damned thing around a Boy Scout campfire one summer night, up towards Hartford. The Scout Master was from Cornwall, the son of a bitch. Even after all these years Jordan still hadn’t managed to forgive him for it. The story went that back in the 1600s, and again later in the 1800s, an entire town had grown mad to nearly the last soul…and disappeared. A real-life ghost town buried deep in the woods of New England. Then there was something about Stratford. Demon dummies in a preacher’s house—
Knock it off. Didn’t need to be thinking about that shit. Got other shit to fry. Shit that was having a hard time coming out what with his mind working overtime on ghosts, and goblins, and—
Well, fuck me over and leave me to die! Frederick Jordan grunted and strained, but nothing passed.
On target! Bomb-bay doors open; bombers on time; release failure! Release failure!
“Well, ain’t that a pisser.”
Jordan strained again, found a little relief, but didn’t get nearly what he knew was there. He gave it another heave-ho and found this attempt much more satisfying—until the lights went out.
Dudleytown bolted back into his consciousness with a mind-deafening boom, and Mr. Jordan’s bomb-bay doors slammed shut.
Calling off bombers! Mission aborted! Mission aborted!
Hastily, Jordan reached about blindly for the roll of toilet paper he knew was cubbyholed neatly in the steel wall beside him, and commanded reason to take over. There’s nothing but
space between him and the sinks and paper towels. Nothing but further
space between the sinks and the about-face out the door. And he knew this because the rational side of his mind had told him it was so. There was nothing to be afraid of—he was the only one in the building; had gone to great pains to ensure that.
There was always the possibility that all those friggin fairy tales were true and there were ghosts. After all, how brave were people—really—when it came right down to it, and they were trapped in a bathroom stall, alone, at night, nobody around, all lights suddenly flickered off by an unseen agent? Wasn’t there always just a little fear, a little doubt, no matter what people might try to tell themselves during the comfort of daylight? The fact remained that the fear was there and it had been his first reaction to the situation. No matter how remote or fictional there was always The Most Remotest of Possibilities that somewhere…sometime…out in the darkest parts of the woods or in the most recessed corners of a building…there was something lurking.
For all the lights to go off.
For the dark to work on folks’ minds and strangle that little Imp called Reason. Imagined or not, right or wrong, fear was fear, and it was alive and well in Stratford, Connecticut tonight.
And why would people make up tales like these anyway, if there wasn’t even the remotest of truths to them….
As Frederick Jordan’s now-shaking fingers touched the roll of invisible toilet paper, the lights flickered back on.
“Shit!” Frederick relaxed.
See, his Rational Side jubilated, there’s nothing to be afraid of, little Freddy! The dark has nothing the light doesn’t have! It’s all in your mind, Freddy, boy, all in yer mind.
Yeah, just like you.
“Okay, come on, baby, hold out. Don’t flicker off again. Gimme just five minutes! Five minutes—that’s all I ask—then I’m outta here! Gone! You can keep your darkness, your ghosts, and I’ll promise never to invade you again, no matter how strong the urge.”
All right, bring em round again, boys. We’re going in for another run.
Still clutching his little swatch of torn-off toilet paper, Jordan wondered if inanimate objects ever experienced fear and about how nice it would be to be like that: distanced and untouchable. Like the toilet paper roll…or the walls of the bathroom stall. Sometimes he wished he could be inanimate, impervious and able to observe…unafraid. But humanity was not about untouchability or mere observation, it was about fear and experience. It was about those things and more, and Frederick Jordan finally felt himself beginning to loosen up….
Bombardier to pilot…steady now, steadyyy…
Bomb-bay doors open. Keep er steady—
Roger, we have target acquisition! Bombs away! Released!
And boy was there a load.
Chuckling to himself, he pictured the old black and white newsreels he’d seen on TV, the one where the Dubbaya-Dubbaya-Two pilots released a seemingly endless dump of munitions upon the godless German bastards below, and oh, such sweet relief…
The bathroom door swung open.
Jordan bolted upright, and slammed shut the bomb-bay doors like nobody’s business.
A million things slammed through his mind in that instant, the foremost being who the hell was in the building, let alone in the john. He’d locked the frigging door, all right—and there were no other cars in the parking lot. It was
(he looked to his watch)
Dudleytown, my friend, Dudleytown’s back.
And we’re going to squash that Rational Side foreverrr—
Then it occurred to him: it was somebody from the office. Herb or Mark had been driving by, seen his car, and stopped. Yeah, that was it—Herb or Mark—after a date, a drink at the tavern. Sure. Playing a little trick on Freddy-boy. Or maybe it was Ellen.
Frederick tenuously convinced himself that his Rational Side was still alive and kicking, even if its voice had grown somewhat dull and dead. Holding his breath, Jordan strained in his seat and listened. It almost sounded like there was a swishing sound, like a broom across the floor.
The cleaning crew?
“Mark? Is that you? Herb—”
The lights flickered again.
Fuck the toilet paper!
Jordan reached for his pants and yanked them up. He peered through the slits between the stall’s walls and door. Nothing; couldn’t see a damned thing.
“Okay, come on, now, who’s there, goddammit, a joke’s a joke—”
The room went black, was dark for a full second, then sprang back to illumination, and underneath his stall, before Jordan could breathe a sigh of anything, lay a cloth figure…limp and motionless on the floor.
Jordan screamed and jumped backward off his toilet seat.
He looked to his ankles (where his pants were now rolled down in a bunch, like ankle cuffs trying to pull him back down) and saw that anything that might have been left inside…well…he’d solved his constipation problem.
The cloth figure lay before him motionless. Jordan saw that it resembled a scarecrow, but was much more cruel in design. There was no loose or spilling straw, and he found himself staring at stitched eyes.
Something loud and screechy spilled out of Jordan’s voice box and he tried to will himself through the wall, through the brick, and out into the cool night air behind the building. The stitched and unearthly eyes looked up to him, and the lights went off again, but not before Jordan saw the mouth begin to form a cruel grin—
Jordan kicked away at the area where the demon doll had lain before the lights had gone out, and backed away from the stall door. He’d fumbled and tripped on his way to the top of the toilet, his pants still down around his ankles, yanked them up, then continued to the top of the toilet. He didn’t know how long he’d sat like that…scrunched up in as much of a fetal position atop the toilet…frozen in fear…but he flat didn’t know what else to do.
Rational thought had deserted him.
Had he indeed imagined it all?
Had he dozed off and been dreaming?
Maybe it had been dinner after all—all he knew was that he continued to hyperventilate until the lights came back on—and not at full strength either, no, that would have been too easy. The fluorescence flickered, and only dimly at that.
The figure on the floor was gone.
He waited several beats before putting his feet back down to the floor.
The stall floor was empty and Jordan felt childishly stupid. He had imagined it all, that was it. Hell, it was after midnight and he’d had a long day. A trying client. Raw steak. He was the only goddamned individual in the entire goddamned building, so how was he supposed to goddamned feel at
(looking to his watch)
All explainable, his Rational Side squeaked. A perfectly reasonable scenario for anyone…even one as much the pinnacle of Rationality as yourself, Mr. Jordan, to think they had seen, ha-ha, a ghost…a devil doll…or something….
“For cryin’ out loud…,” Jordan said, as he looked up balefully into the still-flickering lights. Best to split while you still got
It was all in your mind, Herr Jordan. Grow up. Rough day.
He peeked through the stall’s slits again.
(your worst fears)
Still felt prickly.
Yep, all in yer mind, buddy, now get your shit
(so to speak)
together and get home.
Jordan finished pulling up his pants and prayed for the lights to remain on. Logical explanation or not, there was still frost in his veins and he was sure he’d lost several years of his life from that little piece of work.
Zip up them pants.
Cinch that belt.
Now let’s get the fuck outta here—
Jordan reached for the stall latch, and his fingers trembled.
Get a grip.
Then he slammed the door back, and the sound of it echoed in the dim corners of his mind like the crisp bang of a firecracker. He quickly made for the opening and stepped out into the constantly shifting patterns of the shadowy room.
Lots of space…lots of open, dark, dark space…that’s all, friend, full of nothing, full of dark, full of—
Sluggish as a dream, he turned to his right
Don’t do it, man! Mr. Rational Side screamed.
to where the
more dark space and nothing
sinks were. Took a step and
Yeah, come to us…the Dark…the Open Dark Spaces of an empty soul—
Jordan saw the first figure leaning up against the wall, its head slumped dumbly forward and onto its chest. Jordan’s bowels kicked back into dry action. He saw the other one, sitting atop the sinks, cocked over in the same stupid manner.
Dudleytown. Dudleytown. What was it about Dudleytown? No, it wasn’t Dudleytown—it was Stratford. It was fucking old Stratford, this very town itself.
A Reverend and his family. Found demon-dummies propped everywhere… praying to a hideous dummy dwarf that swung from a chandelier. Dummies that would change or move when folks blinked or dozed off while guarding them. A ghost tale from the 1600s that was now his very own nightmare in present-day Stratford!
As the lights continued to flicker, Jordan saw that the cloth dummies had moved.
They were stiff, like a stop-action film. Subtly. Not so subtly. A hideously crooked finger there, a ghastly tilted head there. Stitched eyes that were open one moment, closed the next.
Standing. Seated. Kneeling.
Jordan turned to run, but found more behind him. Saw the dwarf dummy dangling from atop the stalls. Jordan felt his mind bend. Tear at the seams.
I thought it was all over, one dark corner of his mind whined, but there was no response from Mr. Rational Side.
The figures advanced.
It’s just supposed to be in my mind.
They had backed Jordan up and into the stall he had just come from.
The cruelly stitched eyes came for him.
Jordan fell backwards, clipped the door on re-entry, and fell back onto the toilet seat. As the door clanked back open, Jordan could see the figures on the other side. They all shuffled about before the stall and Jordan heard that maddening swish-swishing sound their little cloth feet made across the tile. Saw the dwarf dummy above him, insanely dangling. Jordan shrank back to the toilet into the all-too-familiar cradled position, hugging the porcelain bowl. His mind’s clutch had disengaged and spun maddeningly. He stared blankly into the porcelain, expecting to wake up any moment now—any moment now, please, would be just fine thank you—please!
Cloth fingers clutched at the door’s edge. Jerkily opened the last defense in his crazy battle of madness. Jordan felt life drain out from him; crawled as far behind the toilet as possible and prayed. A part of his mind welcomed the coolness of the bowl and tiled floor…another part simply exploded.
The dark figures congregated.
Then he realized he’d had an opening and bolted underneath the stall’s walls, slamming his head and scraping the top of his back. He scrambled to his feet. Made for the door like an adrenaline-junkie.
He was gone.
Jordan collapsed in the carpeted office area. The lights here also flickered.
But I hadn’t turned them on.
He cast a sudden glance around him and was surprised to find nothing had followed him out.
Where were they? What did they want?
Shakily, he got back to his feet and supported himself against a wall. He turned to leave. Saw a dark, familiarly slouched form ahead of him.
Spoke too soon, sonny,
Jordan’s legs wavered and his stomach knotted. The figure approached him in that same staccato-like, stop-fucking-motion movement. Every time Jordan blinked, or even thought about blinking, the damned hellion was closer; zigzagging. Jerky. Always forward.
“NO!” Something snapped inside Jordan’s throat and his voice gave way to silence.
Good. It’ll match what’s left upstairs—
Each time Jordan’s eyes fluttered, the creature was closer. Out of the corner of his eyes, Jordan saw
others coming for him out of the darkness. Dark figures, everywhere. All like those from the rest room. They all came to greet him.
Hello, Jordy, enjoying the night….
Jordan felt the frigid north Atlantic wash up and over him, and screamed voicelessly. He bolted past the figure before him, his hands touching the cloth and insanely sinking in. He never bothered to use the key on the way out; didn’t even bother with his car. There were two cloth figures waiting for him there—one slumped over the wheel, and the other leaned crazily against the passenger-side door, cloth face pressed up against the window. Beyond his car, Jordan saw an entire army of dark, silently rustling, figures.
Jerky. Like scarecrows.
Many rumors went around town about Mr. Jordan’s sudden and frightful appearance—hair white as driven snow…eyes that screamed of nameless horror…his constantly mumbling, yet voiceless pleas….
Yes, there were many rumors.
But none as convincing as that which Mr. Frederick Jordan himself had lived.
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