Sunday, August 29, 2010

Moon Cleaner - free short stories

“I think I will take this house. I kinda like it,” Leo said to the realtor as he opened the master bedroom closet door and admired the large space. “Good, I will contact the estate holder and let her know that you may be interested in buying it,” the realtor stated as she smiled while thinking of her ffit commission. “You said the estate owner. What happened to the original owner?” “He died. He just got a bit too old I suppose. I think he was in his 80’s, although I am not exactly sure. Anyway, his daughter is the estate owner now. She did not have a use for the house since she already owned one, so she decided so sell it.” “Sounds reasonable... now about that asking price. . Leo haggled with the realtor and set an offer for the daughter. Several weeks later he signed the papers on the property and became the proud owner of the little house in the country. It was just what Leo was looking for. He had always lived alone and worked hard at his job. Loving his profession, Leo was a restaurant manager for a local downtown restaurant. The house he had just bought was located just outside of the city and was only a short 30- minute drive to his work. After a couple of weeks, Leo had finally gotten all of his things from his city apartment and unpacked them in his new place. It had a spare bedroom and was much larger than he had been used to. The perfect little house was wood framed and slightly raised off the ground, but not by more than six inches or so. When Leo was vacuuming one thy, he noticed something a little strange. It seemed that the carpet had been in the house for quite a while. The main walkways had matted down as old carpet often does and were somewhat flat in areas, as one might expect. The strange part about it was that there was a clear path straight to the spare bedroom closet. Leo wondered what the old man who had owned the house for all of those years could have kept in that closet that he would wear such a path into the carpet. He turned off the vacuum cleaner and followed the strange pathway into the closet. Once he had opened the closet door and looked down he saw that it ended abruptly in the middle of the floor. Leo got down on his hands and knees and examined it closer. A straight line of matted carpet was butted up against a straight line of puflr carpet. A closer inspection revealed a small hole in the carpet and the wooden floor below it off to the right side of the puflr carpet line. Leo was barely able to get his pinky through the tiny hole. He lifted up with great strength and a secret hinged door in the floor creaked open before his eyes. Concrete steps descended down into the darkness under the house. Leo was astonished to find such a wellhidden ‘basement’ of sorts. Not being able to see very far down, he went to search for a flashlight. He rummaged through a drawer in the kitchen and finally found one before returning to the steps. Leo clicked on the light and shined it down the stairs. It was quite deep and Leo was still unable to see the bottom. Then he shined it on the wall and fortunately found a light switch. Many fluorescent bulbs came to life all the way down after he switched them on. After the first flight, the stairs curved around and kept going deeper. “Wow! This is some kind of serious basement!” Leo exclaimed. He slowly stepped down the stairs while holding the metal pipe handrails. Not really knowing what to expect, he made his way down six flights of stairs before finally coming to a solid metal door. Unfortunately, it was quite securely locked. Cinder blocks lined the walls all the way down to the bottom and completely surrounded the metal door. It seemed to be a rather normal style of lock though. Perhaps he could somehow pry it open. He walked all the way back up to the house and found a crowbar in the garage. All the way back down again he went, this time with a curiosity that would not let up over what was behind the door. Unfortunately, the door proved to be more than Leo was able to overcome. But, his curiosity was killing him; he had to find out what was on the other side of the strangely placed entrance. Trying a different plan, Leo backed up and ran full force into the door in a futile attempt to break it down. A loud thud echoed through the stairwell followed by an equally loud scream. Leo slid down the still closed stubborn door with his shoulder aching quite badly. He sat at the bottom and tried to figure out how to penetrate the bizarre room. Perhaps a different approach would prove to be more successful. He pulled himself up and slowly dragged booty up the long flights of stairs into his house. After taking several aspirins to kill the pain, Leo grabbed his sledgehammer and quickly headed back down the stairs with a new sense of urgency. He spit on his hands and began to smash the door handle with the heavy steel-headed hammer. Slowly it began to deform and soon looked very little like it did before. After a good twenty minutes of hard whacking in the door handle area, it finally gave away and slowly creaked open revealing a dark room. Leo flipped the light switch and another set of fluorescent tubes lit the room. The walls of the room were lined with shelves. They were well stocked with hundreds of dollars worth of cleaning supplies. Trash bags, ammonia, cleaning solvents, air freshener, toilet paper and even a mop bucket were some of the items sitting around. There were no other doors coming into the room; this was the end of the line. “What the heck would somebody build such an elaborate custodian’s closet this deep into the ground and hide it so well for?” Leo asked himself while scratching his head lightly. Then he noticed a rather strange looking contraption on the far side of the room. It was a large metal rectangle- shaped object resembling a doorframe that had been pulled out of a wall. Connected to the frame was a square box made of the same type of metal. The box was mounted to the cement floor below with bolts and was about two feet by two feet in size. Coming from the back of the box was a thick electrical cord somewhat similar to a dryer cord. It ran along the floor and terminated at an outlet cut into the cinder block wall. It was certainly not a normal plug or outlet since it had the appearance of being much higher in voltage. The box had a dial on the side and a small red LED display as well. Curiously, Leo examined the dial closely. It was currently in the off position. He clicked on the knob and the strange box began to whir and click. The word ‘Moon’ lit up in the LED display. Leo backed up and waited a moment to see what would happen. The smell of electricity arching through the air filled the tiny room. To Leo’s surprise, an image began to sparlde into existence within the large metal frame. He backed up a little more and watched with great big saucer eyes. After thirty seconds or so, the image became clear. It appeared to be a room similar to the one he was in. It was in three dimensions and looked incredibly real. He walked around and looked through the backside of the frame. It too appeared to lead into the other room. Puzzled, Leo wondered what would happen if he stepped through the frame. Then he remembered the thick electrical cord and the smell of electricity and decided he had better test it before flying himself Leo grabbed a can of air freshener off one of the shelves. He tossed it through the frame and it landed in the other room. His mouth dropped open as he watched the can roll to a stop on the tiled floor on the other side. Quickly he looked on the other side of the frame but saw no can in his room. ‘Where the heck does this thing go?” he asked himself The LED display continued to flash ‘Moon’ brightly as if to answer his question. “There is no way that this thing goes to the moon. It has got to be some kind of optical illusion or something,” Leo thought to himself in great disbelief He stuck his arm through and nothing happened. Leo looked from the side of the frame as he stuck his arm through again. It appeared as though the frame had cut off his hand and forearm. In reality, it had passed into the other room. “Well, I suppose I better go check it out at least.” A surge of adrenaline coursed through his veins as he geared himself up to go. Then Leo stepped through the strange frame and into the other room. He turned around quickly and saw a similar frame and box setup plugged into the wall in the new room. On the LED screen was the word ‘Home’. The frame held an image of the room with the cleaning supplies he had just come from. This new room was bare with nothing on the walls. It was a bit smaller in overall size, but had been built with the same type of cinder blocks. There was a similar metal door to the one he had broken into on the far wall. Fortunately, the lock was on the inside and Leo was able to open it with no problem. He made sure to leave it unlocked as he peered out into the hall and noticed a sign on the outside of the door that said ‘Custodian’. The door was one of many down a long hallway lit with the same fluorescent tubes. As Leo was walking out into the hall, a man came out of a door across the hall from him. His door was marked ‘Lab 32-B’. He was dressed in a long white lab coat and had on thick glasses. He was somewhat startled to see Leo there, but then smiled a big warm smile. “You must be our new custodian. Hi, I am Charlie Lambert. I was wondering when they were going to send us a new custodian. Frankly, I was beginning to get tired of taking out my own trash around here. What is your name?” Leo did not know what to say to the man and was somewhat perplexed. “Uh, my name is Leo.” “Great, Leo. Look if you need anything at all just give me a holler, you hear?” With that, the man disappeared down the hall and around the corner. “What a strange man,” thought Leo, “Well, if I am going to pass as a custodian, I better get some supplies.” He went back through the portal, grabbed some trash bags, a mop bucket, and some other items, and loaded them on the custodian’s cart. On the shelf of the cart, Leo found a large set of keys attached by a small chain to the push bar. “These ought to get me around,” Leo thought as he pushed the loaded cart through the portal. Before he went into any of the labs, he walked the whole complex just to check it out. He eventually came to a sort of observation room. Amazingly, the walls were made of thick glass that had to be at least half a foot thick. There were several large telescopes set up around the dome shaped room all of them pointing out into the endless array of stars. The sight was mind blowing. Outside was a beautiful view of space. The ground was a dusty gray material unlike anything Leo had ever seen in his life. A large blue and green marble floated in the starry sky. It was Earth! He really was on the moon. Leo was flabbergasted as he realized where the portal had brought him. After admiring the view for more than twenty minutes, somebody else finally walked into the room. It was another scientist; this time it was a woman. Leo quickly pretended to be collecting the trash as she walked by. She did not speak, but assumed he was supposed to be there. She walked out the other doorway and continued about her business not questioning his presence. “This is pretty neat. They think I am the cleaning guy,” he thought. Leo explored the base and gave it a good cleaning playing the part well. His keys allowed him into all of the different rooms. Most of them were labs with strange experiments going on. Some were mechanical rooms with the inner workings of the base. One room in particular was marked “Artificial Gravity Generatoi”. It had a massive machine miming extremely noisily. Leo had not even thought about that before, but the gravity would be a lot less on the moon than on Earth. He could not tell a difference with the large machine mnning. Of course, he was not about to try to turn the thing off even though he was curious as to how it worked. After he finished cleaning all of the rooms, he went back to the ‘Custodian’ room and went through the metal frame instantly going back to his house. He pushed his cleaning cart into the corner and sat down to rest. He had not realized before how much hard work cleaning could be. Leo figured that the transport machine was probably eating a great deal of electricity so he turned the knob in attempts to turn the unit off The other room disappeared from the frame and a new image began to slowly sparkle into existence. This time the LED screen read ‘Mars’. Another surge of excitement came over Leo as he realized he could go to multiple bases with the strange contraption. He turned the dial again and the word ‘Venus” appeared on the display. Another turn and ‘iyo’ appeared. Leo spent the rest of the night exploring the other bases around the solar system with his cleaning cart. They too were mostly government labs. He called in sick the next day to his assistant manager position at the restaurant after the night had somehow slipped by. Leo figured he had better keep cleaning the bases regularly so that nobody would question him. He was essentially working two full time jobs for a while, one without pay. Unfortunately, it was beginning to get tiring and to wear him down. One night, he found the lab guy Charlie that he had met on his first night. “When do we get paid aound here?” Leo asked while chatting in casual conversation. “You didn’t get your check yet? Everyone else did. Here, call payroll and they will get it straight for you.” He gave Leo a little paper with a telephone number scribbled on it. The next thy he called the number and explained what had happened to the nice lady in the payroll department. He told her about finding the transporter in his new home and how he had started cleaning the bases. She immediately set up a meeting with him at her office lbr later that day. At first, Leo was scared and was not sure if he should go, but later figured that since he already knows about the bases and has been cleaning them for awhile, that they would not get rid of him or anything. Several men in black suits were waiting for him at the meeting. They had documents galore for him to sign. Several of them were security documents, some were top secret clearances, and others were simply for payroll taxes. They explained to Leo that he got the job because he was already doing it and the lab workers liked him. He sighed with a great relief as he signed all of their papers. Leo could never tell anyone about the existence of the bases. All in all, the meeting was not as bad as he thought it would be. The lady from payroll congratulated Leo for getting the job and handed him his check on the way out. Leo was glad they did not throw him into jail or worse. He walked out of the government building and opened his check finally being rewarded for all of his hard work and cleaning. “Woãh! That is impressive. I guess even the custodian of secret government black projects gets paid well.” Leo’s check was about seven times what he made as a restaurant manager. He decided to quit his earthly job and stick to the lucrative custodian business. Leo never told anybody what he did for a living after that. He quickly grew to love his new job becoming friends with all of the lab workers and he never complained about the pay for as long as he lived.


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