Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Floor 21"

First Recording.
My name is Jackie and, it's not so bad here. Not really. I don't think so, anyway, but I guess it's hard to say. I've never really been anywhere else. I've never been below Floor Twelve. My parents won't let me. They say things get bad down there, so I have to stay up here, on the higher levels.
I wish I didn't have to. Things get kind of boring, walking the same halls every day. I'm always trying to find something new to do, but it gets hard. Sometimes I'll wander up to the Rooftop level, where we have the gardens. That's where all of our food comes from, so we all take turns planting and harvesting. I don't mind, actually, unless it's the carrots. Those are really hard to yank out of the dirt. It’s kind of a pain to get to the Rooftop, actually. The top of the tower is Floor 1. None of us are allowed on Floor 1, so every time we go up the stairs we’re forced to stare at that big, golden number. The number “1”. I really wish I knew what was in there. Nobody’s allowed though, so we just pass it by every few days when it’s our turn to work the gardens.

You can't just pick vegetables, though. That gets boring quick. Most of the time, I'm in school. Well, school's probably too much of a word for it. We meet most days of the week in the library room on Floor 6. Our teacher, Mrs. Bloom, teaches us the best she can. It's too bad our books aren't great. A lot of them are about to fall apart, and most of them were scavenged from the lower floors. I'm not talking about something like Floors 13 or 14. I'm not even talking about Floor 21. I mean the books were taken from way down below... like, Floor 30.

I know right? I can't believe it myself. That's what we have the Scavenger Teams for, though. Without them we'd never get new books, or supplies. They're really brave. They say that most of the people in those teams used to be soldiers or even just polices officers. I mean, that makes sense. They wear all that riot gear and it looks like they know how to fight. Every once in a while we lose one of them, though. That just goes with the territory of being a Scavenger.

Sometimes I sit around in the lobby with the other kids and watch movies on the Blu-Ray player, but that doesn't always work out. If it's a really cloudy day, the solar panels on the roof die out. That always sucks, and it's bad for all of us. If we want light we have to burn candles, and we don't have much of those. Then again, we don't have many light bulbs either. Want to take a guess where we get those from? Yeah. Scavengers.

I kinda’ always wanted to be one. Who wouldn’t want to be? They get to see stuff from a long time ago, before we had to live on the top of the tower. Nobody really talks about The Before, and I'm not even sure how much anyone knows about it. I guess it makes sense to think that once upon a time we lived on the lower floors. Maybe even the ground... if there is a ground. I've never met anyone that's seen it, not even the Scavengers.

When I stop and think about it, none of this makes sense. We couldn't have always lived up here, could we? I get pretty antsy when I think about it because, this is a tower, right? We had to have come up the tower at some point. That only makes sense. I don’t know, thinking about it gets me frustrated. When I'm in this kind of mood I go to the rooftop and look out. You can see other towers, rising up in the distance. Some aren't even that far from ours. Then I look down, trying to see how far beneath I can stare. Thing is, it's impossible to see too far. The tower vanishes into the Darkness. Nobody, and I mean nobody, even knows why. It’s just blackness down there.

Oh, about Floor 12. Yeah, that's where the Creep starts. The Creep? It's this... stuff. You shouldn't touch it, because it makes you feel weird, and the lower down the tower you go, the more you see it. It starts to cover the walls and it's kinda gross. It's really slick, like saliva, and it looks like it's muscley. Almost alive. Good thing you don't have to worry about that from Floor 11 and higher. Still, I wonder what it is. We all do. I know that when you touch it, you can start hallucinating. I did once. I touched it a few times when I'd head to Floor 12, which is why my parents made the rule that I couldn't head down there anymore. I get why. The Creep makes you see.... things. Shadowy things. Sometimes they're right in front of you, but most of the time they're in the corner of your eye. They say that by Floor 21 you don't even have to touch the Creep to hallucinate. Must suck to live down there.

Still, I wonder. I wonder about it all the time, actually. I just want to know what's beyond Floor 21.
Um, mom told me I should start recording my thoughts when I’m in these kind of moods so, this one might be short. It’s my first one. Guess I’ll try to keep this up. I’m supposed to meet with Allison tonight. Don’t know what we’ll do. Try to find a new movie in the Blu-Ray collection, I guess. I think one of the boys said the Scavengers had hauled up a game system. I haven’t seen one since I was a kid. The last one we had broke when I was like, ten. That’s what? Seven years. Dang. I’d really like to play a videogame again.


Recording Two.
Should I say Second Recording, or Recording Two? I don’t know. I guess nobody’s going to care how I document myself. I mean, who’s going to listen to this, right? I probably won’t. Why would I? I’m just recording this because if I don’t I feel like I’m going to go crazy.
I’m not crazy, right? I feel like ever since I turned 17, life is just… weird.
About turning 17. Wow, yeah. I’m getting old. That’s depressing. The oldest person I know is Mr. McCauley. He lives in Apartment 8 -12. Uh, should I explain that? Everyone knows that the apartments are labelled by floor and room, right? Eighth floor, room twelve. Yeah, anyway, that’s Mr. McCauley’s place. Guy’s 84 years old. Eight. Four. Think about that. He’s that old and even he doesn’t really know about what happened before The Before. He claims that a long time ago, there was no Darkness and no Creep. Duh, everyone says that, so it’s not like he’s some fountain of secret wisdom or anything.

But he does say interesting stuff, like, this tower was old even when the Darkness came. Like, super old. He says this place used to be for poor people who couldn’t live in nicer towers, but when I ask him where the nicer towers were or what they were like, he just kind of mumbles and trails off. Weird old guy, but I like him. Still, I don’t think he actually lived before The Before. Unless someone wiped his memory or something. The reason I say that is because if he’d lived before the Darkness came, he’d have, I dunno’, more details or something. He doesn’t know when the Scavenging started, and he doesn’t know what it was like to be outside the tower. He can’t even tell me what the ground was like. Honestly I get the feeling he’s just telling me stories he heard from other people. Maybe from people that came before him. That would mean we’ve been living at the top of this tower for more than 84 years, at least. I can’t imagine that.

How did I even start talking about that? I was going to talk about my birthday. That’s right, I was going to be talking about how depressing that was. Yeah, mom was trying her best to keep it all together. Dad was… working. I don’t exactly know what he does, but I know he gets to work on Floor 3. That’s where they do science stuff. Anyway, my birthday was going good enough, I guess. There’s a conference room on Floor 4, where I live, and every kids birthday gets celebrated there. Except Tommy’s, but his mom’s a nutter, so he had his on the rooftop. That was more depressing than mine, having to stare at dark clouds all day.

Actually, no, mine was more depressing. A lot more. Things were going fine enough until the alarms went off. You’ve got a dozen kids my age trying to enjoy cake, and can we please remember that cake isn’t exactly something we can cook easily here? Anyway, we’re just trying to eat our cake when the alarm sirens go off. Yeah, exactly, right in the middle of eating something you can literally only order for yourself once a year.

I never exactly found out what happened, but I got an idea. I had a chance to talk with the other kids about this. Turns out Allison’s dad is in Security. Man, what a bad end of the straw. I’d hate to be picked for Security. It’s like having the risks of being a Scavenger but never being allowed to go beneath a certain floor, so what’s the point?

Anyway, Allison says there was a Creep infestation. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, just… damn. The entire tower feels like a hornet’s nest. Everyone gets antsy, starts buzzing around, and then Lockdown kicks in and we’re all forced to our rooms.

Maybe I should explain that a bit more. See, the Creep doesn’t stay put. The people down on the lower floors are in charge of pushing it back whenever it starts to move but, they don’t always get the job done. Then the Creep gets into something and starts making its way up. Maybe it gets into an old elevator shaft, or maybe it finds its way up some old piping. That’s okay. When that happens, it’s easy enough to get rid off. I hear fire normally does the job.

Once in a while though… it just gets up into the halls. Fast. I never got the full story but if I hear right, it crawled straight up the stairwell. That’s bad. Real bad. The stairwell’s our only way of moving between floors. It’s blocked up after Floor 21 specifically to keep the Creep from pushing up into the higher levels. Like I’ve said, though, Creep’s kinda’ in a lot of places from Floor 12 downward. Nothing too intense, but, bad enough.

There are days when the Creep gets angry though. Sounds weird, right? How does something like that get angry? I don’t know, all I know is that it does. It starts to pulse and grow real fast. If it were ever to choke up the stairwell it’d be impossible for us to travel up or down the tower. When it gets angry, we all have to go to our rooms. That’ s Lockdown. They bring down these iron shutters in front of our doors and the only people allowed in the halls are Security. They track down the source of the Creep growth and do whatever they have to to get rid of it. Most of the time that means flamethrowers. I heard guns that day, though. Lots of them. I don’t know how firing bullets at the Creep helps, but I don’t know what else they could have been firing at. It kept going all night and Lockdown didn’t end until noon the next day. I was never able to fall asleep. I kept staring out of my window, looking out at the other towers in the distance. Dad wasn’t able to get home that night, and mom pretended as if she couldn’t hear anything. She just read a book all night. I don’t blame her. That night sucked though. You could hear screaming now and again, and the next day there were a few missing. I guess they must have been part of Security. They’re gone now.


Recording Three.
I don’t know. I’m not in a mood for recording today. Kind of defeats the point of recording in the first place, I guess. Now, it’s not like I’m in a bad mood. Actually, things aren’t that bad. Allison found a CD somewhere. It’s got some real wicked crazy dance music on it. Good stuff. You don’t hear a lot of music like that because the music on our computers is limited. We network and share it but, still, it’s not like we have a lot of musicians producing new music these days.

Especially dance music. I hate dancing, because I’m terrible at it, but it’s nice to pretend as if I can dance once in a while. So yeah, me and Allison had a dance off. The thing is, I’ve seen this happen in some of those terribly cheesy movies about ‘besties’ I’ve watched on Blu- Ray. I didn’ think it was real but… somehow it felt okay to let off some steam and just… dance. Like an idiot.
God. How typical. I’m too ashamed of my own silliness to even keep recording.


Recording Four.
Have I talked much about Floor 3? I don’t think so. Anyway, one of the solar panels on the roof cracked today. We really can’t afford that. This tower doesn’t have the materials to fix solar panels, or at least not enough to fix many of them, so that’s why there are a lot of rules about how to behave when you’re on the Rooftop. Danny was goofing around today and he accidentally launched his spade off through the air. It’d have been okay if the thing had gone flying over the edge, but instead it almost had a mind of its own and went straight for that solar panel.

The thing cracked, and you just knew, just knew, how bad the situation was the moment you heard the glass splintering on the ground. Might as well have thrown a kid over the edge by the way we all just… stared. It took Security exactly one minute to get to the roof and haul Danny off. I don’t know when we’ll see him again. I mean, he’ll be back. These things happen. But, one of Security’s jobs is to ‘reinforce’ the rules to you whenever you break them. They make sure you really know how important it is to follow the rules of the tower. Glad I’ve never had to go in for Reinforcement.
Anyway, dad showed up on the roof with them. Guy’s funny, you know? Still looks like he’s in his twenties when I know he’s like, closing in on fifty. Those glasses he wears are way too big for his head and his hair is kinda’, I don’t know, uncombed. It works for him though. Some girls think he’s handsome. Allison’s actually told me she has a crush on him. Yeah. That’s gross.

Well, him and his team scraped up all the pieces. Somehow they’ll figure a way to repair the panel. That’s what Floor 3 ‘s all about. Story goes that Floor 3 was one of the first floors created in the tower. Makes sense, really. People couldn’t live here if guys like my dad weren’t there. We’d have no solar panels for power, so, no movies, lights, stuff like that. Not to mention it’d be impossible to maintain the garden. The vegetables we grow up there are from seeds created on Floor 3. Dad says that once upon a time, vegetables needed a lot more light and rain to stay alive. These vegetables can survive on less, and last longer. That’s cool. We’d have no food without them.

Oh. Allison’s here. I think she brought the dance music again. God.


Recording Five.
Can I just state, for the record, that Mrs. Bloom has no frickin’ idea about what happened before The Before? I’d rather someone just tell me they don’t know something instead of pretending like they do.
That’s the thing, though. Everyone in the tower pretends like they know something about the world before The Darkness. Mr. McCauley at least sounds like he knows something, but Mrs. Bloom tried to convince me today that we had flying cars and cities above the cloud. I’ve seen movies, Mrs. Bloom. Whatever happened before The Before, we didn’t have any of those. Cars? Sure. Plenty of those. Trains? Okay, I’ve seen those. But cities that fly in the sky? Give me break.
Someone was filming a long time ago, that’s why we have these movies in the first place, and none of the movies have flying cities.

Anyway, I got really frustrated with that conversation, but I get really frustrated with everyone these days.

Did I mention that Tommy tried to ask me out? I nearly decked him across the face. He knows I think he’s a toolbag.


Recording Six.
About yesterday. I mean, what’s his idea of a date, anyway? He doesn’t like to read. All he does all day is work out in the gymnasium on Floor 9, and every other word out of his mouth is wrestling, basketball, blah blah blah.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to play those too. Not that I’m great but, I’m in shape, you know? Got a little muscle. Kinda’.

That’s not the point anyway. My point is that a date for Tommy means working out, playing video games or… I dunno’, kissing. Nothing wrong with any of those but it’s not everything I want to do. I need to be able to talk to someone. Because I feel like my head is cracking open the more I think about what’s below Floor 21.

Urrrrrgh. Why is this bothering me so much today. Maybe because Tommy just really rubs me the wrong way. Maybe because I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life. It’s not like there are a ton of other boys to date, at least not this high up the tower, and mom and dad would never let me date someone from beneath Floor 11.

I mean, how would that even work? People from the lower floors aren’t allowed up here. Safety reasons, they say. I get it. It’s not fair, but I get it. Someone from the lower floors could be really crazy from the Creep. They might even have some sort of Creep on them. Can that happen? I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard it can happen. Maybe. I dunno’, people say lots of things about the Creep.

When I think about it, it really must suck living on the lower floors. People from higher up can go down there, even if they rarely do. People from the lower floors can’t go above Floor 12, though. There’s a constant Security checkpoint on the exit to Floor 12 and they make sure everyone going in and out has the right identification.

Oh yeah, identification. I get pretty tired of having to wear this thing around my neck all day. I mean, it’s not a huge pain, but it’s just not my style. It’s this glowing electronic card. Security guys have these scanners they use on your card whenever you’re on your way up. You either get cleared to go up the stairwell, or you get turned around. If you make a scene, then you get taken in for Reinforcement.

Did I mention that Danny won’t be back for another week? Damn. That’s a lot of Reinforcement.


Recording Seven.
“And on the Seventh Day, the Tower Rests.”

God. I get so tired of hearing that. Every seventh day is Food Day, the day that everyone gets to have a day off from working. Well, everyone except Security. We kind of need those guys, but they get most Sevenths Day off. They have a rotation so that that only work one of them each month.
So even though I hate the public announcement, since it wakes me up when I’m trying to sleep in late on Sevenths Day, I do like the food. We get our weekly supply of food delivered to our door in crates, and the only thing we have to do is unpack it, store it, and set the crates back out. I’m lucky. Living on Floor 4, we get a little more food than everyone else. I think that has to do with the type of work my dad does. He’s really in demand as a scientist, so we get extra food rations. We also get other stuff, too. Sugar, for one thing, and salt. Man, you can’t have good soup without some salt. I feel bad for everyone that doesn’t get any.

Although I was thinking about this today, too. My family gets a decent amount of food. Allison’s told me she doesn’t get as much, and she definitely doesn’t get nearly as much salt. You can’t grow salt, after all. We get that from the Scavengers, who have to bring it back from… well, from wherever they go when they go on the Scavenging. The lower floors, I guess.

But so, think about this. I get this much food because I like on Floor 3. That should mean the people living on Floor 1 get more food. I know for sure Allison gets a little less food, since she’s told me. She lives on Floor 5. I’m guessing they do it this way since there’s only so much food from the gardens to go around. Well, I got to thinking. What happens when you get to Floor 11? I guess they get even less food. So, what happens on Floor 12? Floor 15? I know people live down there. How much food are those guys getting every week? It can’t be much, and they can’t come up here to get more.

So where are they getting their food from? The tower authorities? I don’t know how. Just about all the food’s already getting eaten up here. Look, I work those gardens on the roof like everyone else. I know we’re not getting enough to feed everyone past, like, maybe Level 15. If that.
If you’re wondering why I’m thinking about this, well, of course I am. Don’t forget that on Sevenths Day we have to go Reception. It’s not like I hate Reception. It’s actually kind of fun, afterward. You get to hang with the other kids. Reception’s really the only day when the top floors all get together at once. I’m not just talking about kids my age. I mean everyone. Parents, old people, just about everyone. So we have to go, and sit, and listen to Receiver Garry talk for an hour.

I’ve never liked the Reception Hall. There’s a lot of really creepy stuff they’ve got pinned on the walls, the sort of stuff you don’t see anywhere else in the tower. There’s this one in particular, it’s a wooden carving of a man hung on a cross. Well, maybe that’s not the right word to describe. I mean he’s literally bleeding out of his hands and feet. I mean, what the heck is that supposed to be? It’s pinned up there in Reception Hall, and nobody can even tell me why. Then you’ve got this other stuff hanging around. Some six pointed star, and a few rugs laid out on the floor. There’s a book on the back table written in some squiggly language I can’t read. Oh, there is one statue I do like, though. It’s this big, fat guy that’s laughing. He’s got like, his whole belly out there for the world to see. You rock it, fat man.

Anyway, when we get together we’re pretty much packed shoulder to shoulder. Nearly packed that close together, anyway. Receiver Garry will go on, and on, and on about how we need to remember that working together is what keeps us healthy and happy here in the tower. He’s also real fond of reminding us why we should keep our thoughts on the skies.

See, there’s this story. It’s not told every Sevenths Day, but every now and again we’re reminded of it. It’s really important, apparently. Story goes that the Darkness came to the tower. When the Darkness came, so did the Creep. Nobody’s sure why, but the way Receiver Garry tells it, the Darkness was a punishment. I don’t know why, neither does he, but apparently there used to be a lot more of us people and a lot less Darkness. He says we did… something, and whatever it was brought the Darkness.  And according to him, the shadows you see when you touch the creep are the souls of people the Darkness punished. They’re trapped with it, forever. So, it’s a sin to think about going to the lower levels. Never mind trying. That’s like saying you want to go back to the things that got us punished in the first place. Instead, Receiver Garry says it’s important to look to the skies. I mean, the skies are pretty cloudy and dark most of the time, but he says they’ll open one day. Some of us, people I mean, were taken out of the Darkness. I don’t mean they came to the tower. I mean they went elsewhere, above the clouds. Saved from all of this, I suppose. Meanwhile, the rest of us were left here. So who took them? How’d they get up there? Kinda’ reminds me of what Mrs. Bloom said about flying cities.

Some story. I still don’t know what it has to do with that creepy statue in Reception Hall. Anyway, I got to go. Tonight’s my last day to spend with dad. He’s going to be gone for a week, preparing weapons for a big operation. Yeah, I can’t believe it’s that time of the year again. Time seems to be really racing by me the older I get.

So yeah. I’ll probably be busy for a while. Next week is the Scavenging.

Recording Eight.
“Good luck out there,” I told him. He just smiled back at me before he walked off. For a second I felt weak, like my legs were two jelly sticks. It’s not ‘cause I have a crush on him or anything. Seriously, it’s not. He’s just… cool, you know? Not just him, I mean. All of them.

Scavengers.

Right, it’s been a while since I recorded. At least a week. A little more, actually, but who’s counting. I’m the only one. Anyway, the guy’s name is Mike. Just plain, ordinary Mike. Nothing fancy. Not a William or Maxwell. Just one word.

Mike.

Okay, so, I do like Mike a little more than the rest of them. Sue me, I’ve known the guy for about five years now. Since I was twelve, can you believe that? Damn it’s been a long time. So yeah, Mike. He actually saved my butt once, when I was down on Floor 14. Saved might be too strong of a word, but he did help. A lot. That was the first time I’d ever touched the Creep. One of the only times. I mean, it’s not something you want to keep doing. Anyway, Mike was down there too, apparently. He was always kinda’ like me that way, I guess. You know what I’m talking about. He’s curious. Not like Mike’s weird or anything. No. He just wants to know more. So I guess he saw me heading down the stairwell and decided to follow.

See even at twelve, I was a trouble maker. No wonder my mother started getting gray hair early.
Well, so, there I am. Floor 14. You start to really see signs of the Creep by that point. It doesn’t cover the walls but it does kinda’ come pushing out of cracks and seams between the floorboards. If it’s creeping out of a seam above you, sometimes it slides down the walls, or drips… I don’t know what to call it. Let’s call it moisture. It’s not water. Anyway, it drips this moist, clear liquid. Now, the liquid won’t make you hallucinate. It will make your skin tingle. But, so, I’m staring at this stuff dripping down the walls and, I dunno’, decide I should touch it. So I don’t just touch the moisture, I decide to grab a handful of the Creep pushing out of the seams.

Note to anyone that might ever listen to this: Never grab a handful of the Creep. That stuff will mess. You. Up. I was tripping balls. I don’t know what other way to put it, because I was literally falling over myself, seeing shadow things everywhere. I was about to scream but, Mike got to me first. Good thing too. See, Security’s not peachy with people when they start wandering down to the lower floors. They really don’t want you touching the Creep, but they know it’s going to happen. It’s a public secret. Actually, there’s a bunch of people that meet on the lower levels just to touch the stuff and freak out. Security doesn’t care as long as you keep it under control, and keep it secret. Well, screaming doesn’t help any one of those, so I’m pretty sure I would have landed in Reinforcement. Thank God for Mike, poor guy practically had to tackle me to keep me from running off like a maniac. Then he had to put up with me trying to bite his fingers off so I could scream. I think I knew even back then that he was a tough one, old Mike. He’ll practically put his hands at risk just to keep you from landing in trouble.

That’s a real long story just to tell you why I like Mike more than the rest of the Scavengers, and the point is that one of the reasons he even became one is because he was a lot like me. He stuck around after that little adventure I went on. I wouldn’t say we were ever friends but… I dunno’ . He didn’t ignore me. He even started talking to me like a normal dude last year, when I turned 16. Creeper.
I’m kidding about that.

What was I talking about? Yeah, yeah I know what you’re saying, that I lose track of what I’m talking about when it comes to Mike. Maybe I do crush on him a bit. Who cares right? Whatever. Anyway, he’s a Scavenger now, so of course I went out to say goodbye to him. That stuff’s dangerous work.
The Scavenging happens every three months. Technically, we’re all supposed to say goodbye to the people from our floors chosen to be Scavengers, but nobody from Floor 1 or Floor 4 get picked for it. It’s everyone beneath that gets picked, and you can’t say no when you’re chosen to be a Scavenger. That’s like saying you want your family to die. We depend on the Scavengers to go into the lower parts of the tower and get new supplies. That could mean lightbulbs or scrap metal, or even things like salt and sugar. There are two things that people want from Scavengers more than anything else, though.

The first should be obvious: food. We live on a diet of pretty pathetic vegetables. Most of the time, we get more of the same back from a Scavenging. Vegetables. Which, I mean, you can’t complain. You need them to live. Other times they bring back meat. Now, I don’t know where this meat comes from or what gets killed to have it, but once in a while we get served straight up hamburgers. What the heck right? Where do they even get this stuff? Well, they do, and that’s all most people care about. Rarely, and I’m talking like, super rare, the Scavengers bring back candy.

I can’t even tell you how rare sugar is. You might as well give kids the kids drugs, especially the younger ones. They gobble sugar up. Why do you think everyone looks forward to birthdays? It’s one of the only times you get to eat something with sugar in it. Well, once in a while, one of the Scavengers will come back with a haul of candy. They might be chocolate bars or small treats, but they’re always delicious. Now remember we can’t just go grabbing this stuff. The candy still gets taken up to Floor 1 first, so they can be distributed later. Still makes your day when your food crate arrives at the beginning of the week and you’ve got a candy bar inside as a surprise. Me and mom share them sometimes, watching the clouds outside the window while we much on chocolate. Those are the best days I have with her.

Oh, so like I was saying. Obviously everyone wants food, but there’s actually one thing they want more than that. Want to take a guess? That’s right. Information. Nobody knows how far down the tower goes, where it ends or how we got up here in the first place. So, yeah, of course we want information. Once in a while the Scavengers bring up new movies but, those only tell us so much. A movie will kind of tell you what the world was like once, but it doesn’t say anything about how we got here.

It doesn’t really matter. We all know when the Scavengers find something important, and we all know that we’re never going to see it.

That probably deserves an explanation. A Scavenging wraps up based on a few things.  Obviously, if the team loses a lot of Scavengers, they have to come back up and bring the supplies they were able to get. If I understand right, the floors just below Floor 21 have been picked dry. No food, no movies, nothing. So, Scavengers have had to go further and further down over the years. The further down they go, the more dangerous it gets. Why? Well now that’s a good question, isn’t it? I ask myself all the time. Do the hallucinations get so bad that they, like, make the Scavengers turn on each other?
I dunno’, but not all the people that go down make it back up. Facts is facts, Jack. Anyway, the other reason why a team might come back early is because of supplies. Scavengers have to eat food and drink water like anybody else, so they can’t just stay gone forever. When their food supplies are up it’s time to come marching home.

There’s a time limit on each Scavenging though. About… two weeks, I think. A team has to be back within two weeks so they can drop off whatever they found. That stuff has to get sorted and sent out to people like me, after all. God knows I can’t live without my latest Blu-Ray movie. Lives are worth risking for movies, aren’t they?
Again, I’m kidding.

When the Scavengers leave and when they come back, we’re all expected to line up in the halls to celebrate the return of whoever went off to represent our floor. Since my floor doesn’t have to worry about that, I usually line up with Allison on Floor 5. She lives there, but so does Mike. Double your pleasure, right? I get a chance to hang with the bestie and say goodbye to Mike at the same time. Now, whenever the Scavengers get back, we always have this, like, triumphant music that plays from the speaker system. Yeah, the same speaker system that wakes me up on Sevenths Days. I’ve seen Mike come back from a Scavenging almost every three months since I was 14 and he was 18. 18, by the way, is when your career is chosen for you. I don’t want to think about next year.

Now here’s the thing. The reason I say ‘almost’ every three months is because, once in a while, the Scavengers find something. We don’t know what, all we know is that it’s important. The triumphant music is cancelled, the Scavengers skip on the march through the hallway, and Security makes them head straight up to Floor 1. Nobody sees them the rest of the day, normally not until it’s time for bed. Sometimes you don’t even see them until the next day. The only reason any of us know that the it’s because the Scavengers found something is because… well, we just know. Everybody knows, it’s not a secret. I don’t have any proof, really, but Allison’s mentioned that her dad… remember, he’s in Security… her had has mentioned that the Scavengers came up with something rare. Something the big wigs running things from Floor 1 had to know about. Not the rest of the tower, mind you. Just the big guys.

Psh. What is this, a dictatorship?

Well. Yeah. Kinda’.


Recording Nine.
Almost been two weeks. I guess the Scavenging’s going well. Couldn’t really tell you either way, since we don’t get updates. You know what we do get? Announcements. Every few months when this is going on, we wake up to the speaker saying “Day One of the Scavenging has begun” and then each night we hear “Day One of the Scavenging has ended”. Well, I mean, obviously the day count changes each day. You’re not dumb.

Who am I recording this for again?

So, uh, Danny’s back.

I say that in the loosest of terms.

I don’t know what goes on in Reinforcement exactly, and people that come out of it don’t talk about it. One of the rules of the tower is that you don’t talk about what happens in Reinforcement. So like, since the whole point of the process is to make sure you obey the rules, of course nobody knows what goes on during reinforcing! I swear to God everything in this tower is off limits or a secret. What’s on Floor 1? The tower authority. Has anybody ever seen them? Nope. What’s below Floor  21? Nobody knows but the Scavengers, and they’re not saying. All they’ll tell you is that it’s full of abandoned apartments and Creep. Not even Mike will say anything else down there.

About Danny. Yeah. Whoever I knew before… that guy’s gone. This new Danny’s lot quieter. Less goofy. I mean, old Danny could be a toolbox once in a while, but at least he was funny. He made it easier to pass time when we were working the gardens upon on the Rooftop. This new Danny
though? Well, let me just say he works reaaaaal hard. Like, that’s all he wants to do. Single minded, focused on the task. Yeah, a real toolshed. Old Danny might waste your time but you didn’t feel like he was. Now I feel like I’m pulling teeth just trying to get him to laugh at my jokes.

I decided to ask dad what it was they do in Reinforcement. I mean, where does Reinforcement even happen? Guess I’ll never find out, ‘cause dad wasn’t really saying much. All he’d say was that it was where they reinforced the rules. Yeah, like putting a guy through a class on lessons makes him turn out like Danny. Whatever. I’m willing to bet it happens on Floor 1, since that’s where all the super secret stuff happens, but what room? When? What do they do? I’ll never know.

Recording Ten.
It rained today. Thank God for the plastic they use for the sides of the greenhouse or we’d be screwed. The solar panels don’t take any damage, but fresh rainwater is toxic. I’m not talking Creep toxic, I mean it will make you sick and possibly kill you. You’re not supposed to be on the Rooftop when it rains and if it weren’t for the greenhouse, or garden would be dead.

I hate rain. It’s all black and thick. It’s more like oil half the time. You get to see it pooled up when the rain’s over and you head back up to the rooftop, but nobody’s supposed to deal with it. Not us, anyway. That’s for Cleanup. Those guys have the worst jobs. At least the life of a Scavenger is exciting. Cleanup guys just…  well they do what they’re called: clean up. Bunch of charred Creep that Security’s gotten done frying? Call Cleanup to wipe up the mess. Did someone lose their lunch while playing too hard in the gymnasium? Cleanup gets to mop it up. Well, that should tell you the story of what they do after it rains. It’s Cleanup’s job to get that stuff soaked up.

I wasn’t there for this, but there’s a story that one of the kids once stepped ankle deep into the stuff once. It wasn’t his fault, he’d just been trying to stare over the edge of the roof. We all do it. Well, there was a pool of rainwater just sitting there. He didn’t lose the foot but he wasn’t able to walk straight after that. What a mess. That’s why the rain’s more dangerous than the Creep. Creep won’t cripple you or poison you.

I mean, not normally. I still don’t know what happened that one night… on my birthday.

We need the rainwater, though. It might not seem like it, but we’d die without it. Now, you shouldn’t go around just drinking the stuff. If it’ll cripple you just by touching it then who knows what’d happen if you drank it. That’s what the filters are for. The whole roof’s lined with them. Cool thing is, when it rains, a lot of the Rooftop floor slides away. Underneath’s where the filters are, and they collect all the rainwater they can get. Afterward they just clean it up. Don’t ask me how they do it. Dad might know, but I’ve never bothered asking about it. All I know is that without it I wouldn’t be able to take a shower. God. That would suck. I’m not going to lie, I’m not the most ‘feminine’ smelling of girls without my daily shower. Doesn’t help that I like to workout. I might not be a jock but I like to keep in shape. You know?

Mom keeps telling me that the older I get, the easier it’ll be to gain weight. Thanks for giving me another reason to look to the future, mom.

Recording Eleven.
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
No. No. I’m not going to talk about this today.


Recording Twelve.
Okay, look, I have to say something about it. I’m going to go nuts if I don’t, and word is that Security’s cracking down on anyone talking about it, so I need to at least record it.
 
Phew. Okay.

Look.

I’m just saying. Alright, here’s how it happened.

No. You know what? Screw it. I’ll just say it.

Word is that someone on Floor 7 saw an Angel.

I can’t… I’m going to freak out man.

Everyone knows about the Creep and the Darkness. You can’t get away from that stuff. Go down a few floors and bam, there you go. Creep. Take a turn on Rooftop duty and look over the edge. What do you see? Darkness, everywhere you go. Nobody in tower authority is trying to hide that stuff. They can’t. It’s there. We all know that. They’re a little less tolerant when people talk about Demons. I mean, what else are you supposed to call those things you see when you’re hallucinating off the Creep? Shadow people? I don’t know, call them whatever you want. Point is, you know why you see them, and it’s ‘cause the Creep makes you see them. It’s toxic. It makes you trip. I can deal with that.

I can’t deal with Angels. I can’t. I can’t.

I’m freaking out man!

Okay. Context. Talk it out Jackie, you’re cool. You’re cool!

I am not cool.

I’ve never told anyone about this. You shouldn’t. You’re not supposed to. You’re just supposed to bury it deep down. If someone tries to talk to you about it, you ignore them. Security comes after anyone that says they saw an Angel. They come after anyone that talks about them! Even if you weren’t the one that saw one. You’re supposed to just ignore anyone that says they did.
I think I’m calming down a bit. Deep breath girl.

So, I’d just turned 16. I was on Floor 5. It was… late. Not after curfew, but a lot of people’d already gone to bed.

Jackie, why are you lying to your recorder?

Okay. It was after curfew. Sue me. See, lots of people like to think about the upper floors like they’re all super secure, but I know better. There are plenty of vents that go all through the tower. How far down they go, I don’t know. I’ve always been a little afraid to find out. They go up, though. Anyway, I just thought I’d do some every day stalking. You know, see what goes on after hours. So I get out of the vents on Floor 8.

Yeah. Floor 8. Not Floor 5. Fine. I admit it. I was creeping Mike. Sue me.

Anyway, I’m on Floor 8 and it’s dark. It’s always dark in the halls after hours. Now, I expect if I see anyone, it’ll be security. They’re hard to miss. I mean, we’re talking about guys walking around in bulky vests with helmets and stuff. After hours, I mean. They leave the helmets off during normal hours.

That’s not the point. The point is I’m walking, there’s nobody around, no security, no people. Nothing. I’m bored. I don’t really know where Mike’s apartment is. I’m just searching, you know. Then I start walking farther and farther down the halls.

Thing is, the tower’s big, you know? Real big. Some of these halls go on a long time, and it’s not too hard to get lost. Okay so yeah, I got lost. Real lost. At that point I was just turning corners trying to make my way back. I’m not sure how long this goes on, but I know I find my way into some real distant parts of the floor. I’m talking about, nobody lived in that part of Floor 8 type of distant. You can always tell when someone lives in an apartment, ‘cause they’ve got that green light on the outside keycard swipe. If nobody lives in the apartment, the light’s red.

Well, I turn one hall, and all the lights are red. Every single one of them. I try doubling back around, and at some point I make the wrong turn. Again, lost. So I do what everyone knows you’re supposed to do, and I start just taking every left I reach. Left, left, left left left. All red lights on the doors. No noise. The lights are dim since it’s after hours. Then I turn one corner and I’m at a dead end. The doors lead to a stop in the hall.

But I see someone there, dressed in all white. They’ve got their back to me, and it looks like they’re messing with something in the wall. I froze and just stared at them for what felt like an hour. Was really more of a second but, damn, I don’t know. It was like forever. Whatever she’s wearing is skin tight, but the worst part is when she suddenly looked up from whatever she was doing. She’d noticed me. Then she turned.

I ran, or at least I tried to. I flipped around and started to haul out of there just to see her standing at the opposite end of the hall. I hit the juncture and made a left and there she was again. I couldn’t do it, man. I couldn’t do it. I gave up.

I just looked at her for a second and blinked. Then she was gone.

I’m not going to talk about this again. Security’d come for me if they knew I’d recorded this.

Angels don’t exist.


Recording Thirteen.
It’s been more than two weeks and the Scavengers still aren’t back. This hasn’t happened before. They must be having to go deeper and deeper into the tower to find supplies. A few days ago, for the first time in my life, I heard the morning speaker announce “Day Fifteen of the Scavenging has begun”. That was so weird. New things don’t happen in the tower.

But this? A Scavenging going on more than two weeks?

This is new.


Recording Fourteen.
I was talking to Allison today. Something’s not right. I don’t just mean because the Scavenging’s been going on for almost three weeks now, which I mean, what? That’s like, totally not supposed to happen.  Seriously though, something’s up. I mean, think about it.

One, dad’s been gone. A lot. I mean, he’s usually gone a lot during the Scavenging, just because he’s responsible for making all the weapons and repairing stuff. So, during the Scavenging, he’s usually off making replacement weapons for Security to use. He’s been gone a lot more than usual, though, and he’s been really tight about saying anything. Me and him normally get along pretty well, but lately he’s being a real weirdo. He’ll barely say anything about work. Mom’s been antsy about it, too. She’s always antsy, but it’s bene worse than normal. It’s got to be because of something going on with dad.

That’s not the only thing, though. Allison mentioned that her father’s been gone a lot more than normal, too, and not for usual stuff like hallway patrol. According to her, they’ve been tightening up security on the lower levels. You know, below Floor 11. They’re making sure everyone’s in bed by curfew, and making it harder to use the stairwell. I can back up that point. I tried going down to Floor 12 the other day and they were being real tools about it, asking me why I was going there and what business I had. Uh, excuse me, I know we’re supposed to follow certain rules and as far as I knew, I wasn’t breaking any of them. So care to back off, Mr. Cop?

It was irritating at the time, but now it’s scary. Increased security. Dad’s been gone longer. Scavengers have been gone a lot more than usual. Allison also told me that Security was thinking about going real deep into the tower. Like, Scavenger level deep. Below Floor 21.

If they’re thinking about doing that then there has to be a reason. Maybe they’re trying to push back the Creep and reclaim a few floors, or maybe they’re considering going after the Scavengers. How should I know?

What I know is that this is all happening at the same time, and that creeps me the hell out.


Recording Fifteen.
I’m worried about Mike. Yeah, I said it. So what? The sorry part is that he’s three years into his term as a Scavenger. After three years they rotate you out and into the reserves, that way they only use you if, like we lose a bunch of Scavengers at once. Most people that hit three years ride out the last four years of scavenging as backups that never go back down to the lower floors. A few actually choose to stick with it, so they get bumped to commanders. There aren’t a lot of commanders, but they get mad respect.

Actually, come to think of it, people from the lower levels do try to stick it out on the active list for the entire seven years. Want to know why?

So, I’ve said before that people on the lower levels don’t get as much food and they don’t get free access up here, the higher floors. Now, if you’re born on the lower levels, sucks to be you. Right? Well, that’s where being a Scavenger can help. If you do an entire seven years as one, you and everyone living in your apartment is moved up to Floor 11. Talk about a perk, am I right?

Thing is, have you ever heard of anyone finishing seven years as an active Scavenger and moving to the higher levels? I haven’t.

That’s because most people die before their first three years are up.

Which, for those of you keeping track at home, is why I’m worried about Mike.  People have a bad habit of dying in their third year.


Recording Sixteen.
Dad didn’t come home today.

Mom’s going crazy.

I can’t cope, man. Nobody’s saying anything about what’s going on.

Mike’s gone. Dad’s gone. Security’s everywhere.

I need to get some answers.