A Spoon called David

   “The Has-Been Hotel. That’s what the city called it. Not officially of course – if the papers referred to an old homeless shelter like that, there’d be an outcry from the same citizens who referred to it as that themselves. Wasn’t always referred to it like that though – was once the shining example to the entire South West of England. A shelter that not only fed and roofed the people who had fallen through the cracks of society but got them off the streets and kept it that way. That was twenty years ago though, back before the incident and the disappearance of the man running it. The body was never found, no one ever caught and, to this day, the building has remained untouched since its closure. Or that’s how the local legend goes anyway. We’ll be investigating that here on Urban X-Plorers.”

   “How was that?” Keith asked, looking up from the script and at his co-host Katie who ended the recording on her phone.

   “Phenomenal!” she grinned. “Loved how you lowered your voice. Adding real creep vibes to it.”

   “Reckon it’ll be a hit?” Keith asked hopefully, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

   “As long as we get it out there, I don’t see how it can’t be. People love that exploration of abandoned stuff. Chuck in a little ghost story and we have gold,” she replied, uploading the recording to her cloud account to edit later. “We just need to put your recording over a few establishing shots of the building and we can upload it to YouTube as a teaser for what’s to come.”

   “Which is footage from inside the shelter, right?” Keith asked nervously.

Katie laughed, “Worried about ghosts?”

   “More worried about having a record for breaking and entering,” he sniffed.

   “A viral YouTube channel is worth it,” Katie dismissed, waving away his concerns. “Besides, a bit of infamy might help us get more views.”

****

 

   “We’re currently inside Has-Been Hotel,” Katie whispered to the camera on her phone. The whispering was entirely for effect. The walls were thick that there was no chance anyone would hear them. They’d even lost all phone signal the moment they stepped inside. That was normal for the older buildings in the city. Besides, if the whispering didn’t work out when they listened back, they could just add a voiceover later. “What are your thoughts, Keith?”

   Keith rolled his eyes – he didn’t like the direct line of questioning for the sake of the audience. He felt silence and footage would be enough for it to feel creepy, but that wasn’t Katie's style. Besides, some things worked on camera – the whispering was one thing, the other was the battery-powered lanterns they carried. Not particularly powerful, but added a good ethereal glow to anything they filmed. Besides, the actual building still had power after all the years – if they really needed to see, they could flip the lights on and explore. Just as long as that bit wasn’t on camera.

   “Completely frozen in time. Untouched since the police search all those years ago,” Keith whispered, answering her question after a moments thought. Even if he didn’t like the whispering, they needed to be consistent. Their audience was expecting it ever since their teaser had gone viral.

 

   When Keith said frozen in time, he truly meant it. Decades-old dust swirled in the air around them as if by some centrifugal force, only being disturbed by their presence. The embroidered and sophisticated design of brocade wallpaper hung from the walls in sheets, the decayed flesh of a dead building. Keith almost reached out to feel the raised pattern but stopped himself, convinced it would just crumble to nothing with his touch.

 

   Once they made an introduction of the entryway, they moved through the old building – taking a few minutes of footage from each room, being sure to zoom in on the abandoned plates or open cupboards. Anything that could be points of interest when discussing the narrative of the house. While Katie focussed on the abandoned elements of someone's life, Keith couldn’t help but notice that every room had the same pattern. The designers had been faithful to the cause – every lampshade or curtain had the same matching pattern. It somehow added to the overall creepiness of the old building – as if the silence that assaulted his ears matched the violation of his eyes from the ugly pattern.

 

   Keith continued wandering the building, following Katie closely as she babbled into the camera about the odd observation she saw. Photos on the walls. Ornaments on the side. At one point, he was sure he heard a creak elsewhere in the building but realised that they’d disturbed a very old structure – of course there was going to be strange noises. In fact, he was so intent on listening out for more noises – just in case – that he almost walked into Katie.

   “What’s up?” he asked her, following her gaze to the heavy metal latch on the floor.

   “There’s a basement,” she grinned. Keith sighed and, knowing what was next, put his lantern on the side before sliding the bolt open and lifting the latch.

   “Ladies first,” he offered to Katie, who eagerly made her descent into the darkness below.

 

****

 

   The basement was dark, in its truest form of the word. There were no windows to let even the night glow in and the one lantern did a very poor job of illuminating the room. Keith considered going back up to fetch the remaining lantern, but seeing the glow at the top of the stairs brought comfort to him. It reminded him that something existed beyond the cold underground room they were exploring.

   It was a smallish room – a dining table in the middle with a couple of chairs either side of it. A shovel in the corner. There was a couple of cabinets fitted to the walls. As well as a television-VHS player combo. It was a fairly boring room – or that’s what Keith thought until he saw a wooden board with hundreds of dinner spoons nailed to it at one of the room – ten spoons across and seven down, the last row only had eight on it.

   “Because that isn’t weird,” Keith said aloud, drawing Katie’s attention. They both moved in closer to get a better look.

   “They have names on them,” Katie said, her eyebrows knitted together in puzzlement. On each spoon, engraved in tiny letters was a name and a date.

   “Make sure you get a close up of that,” Keith said before moving onto the cabinets.

 

   Inside one of the tall black cabinets were bottles of rat poison and tins of soup, side by side.

   “Hope no one ever got the two mixed up,” Keith chuckled to himself, the darkness making him nervous, before moving onto the next cabinet. He swung the door open, the hinge creaking with age, revealing shelves of VHS cases – each one with a name and a date on the spine. Keith picked one at random and opened it, finding a tape inside with a matching name and date written neatly on the label.

   “David – January 20th 1982,” Keith read quietly. He almost put it back before he was hit with a sudden moment of inspiration. “Katie?”

   “Hmm?” she replied, still inspecting the spoons.

   “See if you can find a spoon called David. Date, 20th January 1982,” Keith asked as he inspected other cases. It didn’t take her long to find it, all the spoons were in date order – which was a thought Keith never expected to have. Keith then read her another name and date from the tapes and continued doing that a couple of times, Katie finding a corresponding spoon for each tape.

   “So weird, what do you reckon they are?” Katie asked.

   “No idea, but what are the odds that television still works?” Keith asked slotting the David tape in.

 

****

 

   The television powered on with no problem, despite the layer of dust and dirt coating the entire unit. Even more remarkable was the fact the tape worked after all that time. After a few minutes of crackling, the tape started up with an interview.

   A softly spoken man asking a man in ragged clothes what his name was and what he wanted.

   “David,” the homeless man responded. “And I want to get off the street.”

   The tape cut to another scene, this time of David with a smile looking a little more groomed and wearing new clothes. There was some conversation around what David used to do for a living and what he wanted to do.

   “I want to go back to school. Finish my education,” David informed the same interviewer from before.

   Keith clicked fast-forward on the tape, skipping through most of the footage while they watched for anything of interest. It mostly seemed like similar scenes of David being interviewed, clearing making progress from cut to cut.

   “Must be like a highlight reel for each story maybe?” Keith suggested. “Like, success stories.”

   “Seems like it. Just such a strange place to … press play!” Katie shouted, interrupting her own speech. Keith did as instructed and pressed play, the scene showing the same basement they were in – except well illuminated and cleaner.

 

   “I’m so proud of how far you’ve come David,” the interviewer said, showing his face on camera for the first time – it was the man who owned the shelter all that time ago.

“Thanks. I couldn’t have done it without you,” David replied, hugging the man who had helped him. “I take it this is my exit interview?”

“It is, David,” the man said sadly. “You’ve come as far as I can take you. It’s time for you to go your own way – but not after one last meal.”

 

   The man then brought in two bowls of soup, putting one in front of both of them. He also handed David a spoon.

   “On that spoon is your name and today's date. The date of your graduation and the date of your final meal with me,” the man informed David. David inspected the spoon and beamed with pride.

   “This all means so much,” David replied, tears of joy rolling down his face.

   “Don’t cry, this is a happy time,” the man said with a smile. “Now dig in.”

 

   The next few minutes of footage just showed the two of them eating and chatting. Nothing abnormal. Not until the end of their meal together anyway when David started coughing and clutching at his throat. He drank some water, but that did little to stop his unease as he started vomiting. The man didn’t help. He didn’t even move – simply watching as David fell to the ground and struggled. The only time he moved was once David had stopped, and that was to reclaim the spoon.

****

   “This is a murder den,” Keith shouted, telling Katie information that they both already knew. “We need to get out of here.”

   For once, Katie agreed. They were in over their heads. What frightened her more was the fact that there were more than sixty tapes – what if they all contained similar content? There was no ‘what if’ to it though, she knew that was the case.

   “We need to leave,” Keith said, bending over and hyperventilating.

   “Keith, you need to calm down,” Katie told him calmly, worried he was going to have a panic attack. “These are old tapes – this happened a long time ago. All of this did. We’re fine.”

   Keith wasn’t listening – his fear had gotten to him and the pounding in his ears stopped him hearing any reason. He bolted for the stairs.

 

   Keith pounded up the stairs, desperately trying to get out. He knew he needed to get fresh air. He couldn’t breathe any more of the old, death-filled air. Except, in his panic and the dark, he misjudged his footing. He missed a stair, throwing himself off balance. Katie watched as he wobbled on the edge of the stair for almost an eternity before gravity took hold and he fell backwards. He had no time to shout or to call for help before the back of his head hit the old stone steps and he rolled limply back down to the basement.

   “Keith!” Katie called in terror as she rushed to his side. His head was bleeding and his eyelids fluttered. Katie tried to apply pressure to the wound, unsure of what to do. That’s what they did in movies right? Apply pressure? Was it the same for a head wound? She couldn’t call for help, there was no signal. Her chest tightened and her breathing became laboured as panic gripped her. Except, it didn’t take hold as it was interrupted by a wave of goosebumps spreading over her when she realised she was being watched.

 

   Silhouetted at the top of the stairs by the lantern light was a lone figure. Katie's heart momentarily stopped as fear gripped her, only to release it a moment later when she realised how silly she was being. She didn’t have anything to fear – she’d told Keith the same before he fell. She just had to be logical.

   “My friend fell over. He’s hurt. Can you get help?” Katie asked, squinting at the individual – their face obscured by shadow. The person didn’t reply, only flipping on a flashlight and shining it down on them obscuring her vision – Katie assumed to get a better look of the injured Keith.

   “You shouldn’t be here,” the individual, a man, said.

   “I know. Look, we were just filming a stupid video for the internet. We wanted to find the body of the owner and get famous,” Katie said, realising how stupid her idea sounded in that moment.

   “Oh, I know. I saw that video you posted online after it went viral. Made the local news, didn’t it? Very interesting idea. That doesn’t matter though. You won’t find his body down there,” the man informed her carefully. “Not the owner's body anyway – I never died. But if you dig deep enough though, you might find those of the unfortunate souls that I rescued over the years.”

   All the hair on Katie's arms and neck stood on end as a chill ran down her spine. Katie tried to innocently ask what he meant, trying to feign confusion, but she’d seen the tape and the glow and crackle of the television told him that she had as well. It didn’t matter. He never heard her question. He couldn’t have. Not after he shut the latch and slid the bolt into place.