Mark is stuck working late while everyone else is off to the building’s mixer event. The office is inside Edmonton’s famous Mercer Warehouse that is known to be haunted due to an unsettling history…
Mercer Warehouse Haunt is March’s flash fiction that brings readers into Edmonton’s Mercer Warehouse, following Mark who
witnesses the supposedly true hauntings. Experience the story in written word, audio, artwork and soundscape.
Mercer Warehouse Haunt
Just one more email, I thought while hammering away at my keyboard. The night was getting on, most people had left the building. I was possibly one of the last ones at the office, well that and the Startup Edmonton space on the floor above. They often hosted events after hours for their entrepreneur community. It was pretty cool if you were going down the businessperson route. For me, even in a small studio, I didn’t have that go-getter attitude that everyone seems to have around me. All I want is to clock in, do my job, and get home. I also wasn’t a fan of the big corporate factory. So, unfortunately, I am part of a small team, which meant overtime.
Footsteps echoed from the hallway outside the office. “Mark!” came a man’s nasally voice, easily recognizable as my co-worker Gabe.
“Yeah?” I called out, still typing rapidly on my keyboard.
Gabe appeared from around the corner, his frizzy hair bouncing with each step he made.
“How’s the event upstairs?” I asked, clearly able to hear the muffled voices of the people upstairs mingling. The wooden floors weren’t that soundproof.
“Good! You should have joined. Some potential hires if we get big enough.”
“I’m sure Todd would love to hear that.” I used my trackpad and hit send on the email. Leaning back in my chair I pushed my glasses up and looked at my colleague who stared back.
“They’re wrapping up the event. Alice and I thought we could go down to Mercer Tavern for some drinks, you in?” Gabe asked.
I looked down at my computer screen to see one half of the screen had the email software open – with over two dozen unread emails from today. The other half had a word document I was working on before the blast of emails arrived at the end of the workday. As tempting as it was to go get piss-faced with my coworkers after a long shift, I knew I shouldn’t. The fact that our office was in the same building as a pub didn’t help the temptation. The Mercer Warehouse was a fantastic historical structure.
“I would love to, but I got a pile of work to do here,” I said, brushing my slicked-back hair aside. I really didn’t want to stay and work, but I knew better.
“Save it for tomorrow!” Gabe said with a toothy grin.
“You know Todd would have my head if this briefing isn’t written for the dev team. I got to get this done.”
Mercer Tavern Fun
Footsteps came from down the hall until a third person entered the room. Alice, the brunette intern we hired. Damn. That’s really the best way to describe her. I tried not to stare at her hips wrapped in a tight skirt as she walked in. I had work-place ethics.
“Mark,” Alice said. “What are you still doing here?” she asked in a playful tone.
I waved my hands at the laptop. “Just getting this work done. There’s a lot we haven’t even gotten through.”
“Told you,” Gabe said. “Mark just can’t look away from that screen.”
Alice smiled at me and shook her head. “Don’t work too late, okay?”
I smiled at her, “yeah.” As if the pub wasn’t tempting enough, I thought. I had been so wrapped up in work that I didn’t know Alice had stayed at the Start-Up Edmonton event. I’d love to get her out for a drink.
A loud thud came from upstairs, causing the three of us to jump.
“Christ,” Alice said while placing her hand on her chest.
Gabe scratched his mustache, saying, “someone has had one too many drinks up there.”
I shook my head. “That sounded like it was on this floor. Anyone else still here?”
“Not that I am aware of,” Alice said while waving her hand to create a slight breeze.
“Who knows, this place is full of sounds throughout the day. Just extra spooky at night.” Gabe said.
I unbuttoned the upper button of my shirt and exhaled, feeling whatever heatwave Alice was getting. For whatever reason, the building’s furnace decided it was a good idea to crank the floor with warmth. This place was getting close to being 100 years old, who knows what kind of quirks it has. Between the original brick walls, the wood floors, elevators, various floors, and many rooms, this place was as mysterious as when my clock-out time was going to be.
“Okay, someone blasted the heat,” Alice said waving her hand.
“Probably one of those ghosts in this building,” Gabe said.
“What?” Alice said. “There are no ghosts here.” She looked at me for confirmation.
I shrugged at her. “I have no idea about the history of this place.”
Gabe scratched his head. “I swear, it was something about a fire in this place when it was a stable. Tragic.”
“A stable?” I snorted. “This is a brick building with four floors. It doesn’t exactly look like one.”
Gabe shook his head. “Look, that is all I have been told. People talk about it all the time here.”
“I never heard of anything like that,” I said.
“Me either,” Alice said.
“Maybe it’s just small talk,” Gabe said. “Look, it’s getting way too hot here. I’m going for a cool drink.”
Alice nodded. “Maybe if you’re done early come find us downstairs,” she said before turning to leave.
“Thanks,” I said.
Gabe waved goodbye at me. “Remember to lock up when you’re done.”
“Of course. Have a drink for me!” I called out as he left the open-space office.
Gabe gave me a thumbs up as he walked out of our office and down the wooden hallway, leaving me with my work. At least I presumed I was alone on the floor – what was that thud noise? I wasn’t sure if it was worth investigating or not. Probably not. Being overworked and tired had a way of making you paranoid. Plus, I had so much work to do that I didn’t see taking a break was very optional. Maybe a piss break at some point. That is all.
I continued to hammer away at the keyboard, working on the creative-brief document for the development team. At this point in the day, I had probably been at work for a good twelve hours. Time seemed to pass by as an abstract concept while my eyes watched the digital alphabet glyphs pop up on the screen with each key I pressed. When did Alice and Gabe come by? An hour… or two hours ago? I honestly could not remember. I entered a trance. A mundane, work trance.
I could use that beer, I thought. The temptation of joining my co-workers at the Mercer Tavern below was rising again. Piss break.
I got up from my seat while hitting the save button. A stretch and bathroom break wouldn’t hurt anyone. I was making good progress and deserved a break. Time didn’t matter at this point. No matter how late or early I left, no one cared, as long as the work got done.
Some heavy-walker in high-heels began to stomp on the floor above.
“Jesus,” I muttered to myself while checking the time on my smartphone, it was just about midnight. The heat in the building hadn’t exactly cooled off either. Now that I wasn’t glued to my computer screen, I could focus on the temperature. I was unsure if it got hotter or if I was paying attention to it now. Regardless, I had pit-sweats now. That’d be attractive to Alice.
I walked out of our office and down the hall towards the restroom. All of the other office doors were now shut and locked – everyone else had gone home for the day. I really was the last one on this floor, possibly the building – minus the tavern below.
Another stomp came, reverbing off the empty hallway walls. The sound was more substantial than a high-heel, like a pole hitting the ground. It was close, more levelled than the ceiling.
That wasn’t the floor above, I thought, knowing well off that the Startup Edmonton event ended hours ago. It’s got to be the old pipes.
Sighing, I pushed the strange sound of my head and went for the bathroom. On this floor, it was a shared one-stall option. Sure, there were two stalls, but they were both in the hall, facing away from each other. This building tended to be forward thinking and introduced shared bathrooms. I didn’t lose my shit over it like some people. To me, when you had to go, you had to go.
Entering the bathroom, I flicked the light on, put my phone on the counter, and closed to door. Lifting the toilet lid with my foot, I undid my pant buckle and took care of business. Relief. The moment passed. Flushed. Lid dropped.
The sound outside the bathroom caused me to jump, and I snagged my pants to keep them up.
THUD! THUD! The bathroom door pounded. Its entire shape pushed inward with each pound it made.
“Cut it out!” I called out. It had to be Gabe pulling some stupid prank.
THUD! THUD! THUD! Came the sound from behind the door again. The temperature drastically increased, and I could feel sweat dripping down my face. A snort came from out in the hall, followed by the same thudding from earlier.
“Alright! Give me a moment,” I called out. Those drunks. I buckled up my pants and washed my hands then swung the door open. The hall was empty. I flicked my wet hands and glanced down both ways of the hall to see no one.
Oneness with Mercer Warehouse
“Hello?” I called out, wiping my forehead of sweat.
“Gabe? Alice?” I said while walking down the hall towards the staircase. This didn’t make sense. It had to be one of them pulling some joke on him. The floors needed a key to get in at this hour. It had to be someone who has access to the building.
I opened to door to the stairwell and looked up and down the steps – no one. This end of the hall was clear. I closed the door and picked up my pace and hurried down the other end of the hallway. The heat continued to rise, leaving me a soaking mess.
“This joke isn’t funny anymore!” I shouted while reaching the other end of the hall. No one. Every office was locked, as it should be. I was stumped.
“Clearly I’m working too late,” I mumbled to myself.
Despite the heat, I had to get the work done. Even though I had a laptop, I needed the files that were on the server. There was no option other than to work in this overheating environment.
Sighing, I returned to the office while airing out my shirt. I entered the office, noticing an intense grey haze that started to gloom over the space. I took a sniff to smell the subtle scent of smoke.
Smoke? Heat? It finally hit me – the building was on fire. Instantly I clued in that I had left my smartphone on the bathroom counter. Without hesitation, I rushed to leave the office to get my cellphone. Before I could make it to the office entrance, a large pile of wood collapsed in front of it, blocking me inside. Intense heat, piercing flames, and smoke shot through the cracks of the collapsed timber, forcing me to shield myself with my arm.
A whinnying sound pierced through the sounds of flames followed by an echoed thumping. The smoke thickened drastically, making it difficult to see anything other than a few feet in front of me. I coughed violently while bringing my shirt up to my face, trying to keep my head low.
Heavy trotting picked up inside the office followed by the crashing of desks and computers. I looked up to see through the haze was the silhouette of a massive steed stomping through the office.
What the…? I thought. It had to be the lack of oxygen. That was the only logical explanation.
The creature galloped towards me, knocking over my desk and sending my laptop to the ground. Flames burst from the animal’s nostrils and eye sockets like some sort of hell creature. The animal neighed while its long mane bounced with each step it made.
I jumped to the side, trying to dodge the stomping animal. The attempt was too late. The animal reached my being and moved through me like a spectral. It left a trail of flame with each step of the hoof as it trotted. My face collided into the ground, face first, causing me to skid on the wood.
This can’t be it, I thought to myself. It was the only words I could process. The rest were memories. Reminiscences that were not my own. It was as if another entity had pierced into my psyche and was filling my mind with visuals of farmers, horses, and fire. Emotions of fear, agony, and distress washed over my body. The impression of loss and confusion was all that was left. The fires around me continued to light up until there was nothing but brightness, not even the heat could be felt anymore. The whinnying sound of a horse echoed through my mind followed by a heavy thud.
The poor animal. Burned alive, I thought. The creature’s agonizing death played through my mind. The animal’s soul was communicating with me. It was trapped within these walls. The horse channelled through my being. I was this animal.
An instinctual sensation pulsated through my body, and I lifted my head up. Resting on my knees, I screeched an ear-piercing neigh as the fire began to consume my form.
Mark! A voice echoed my head.
“Christ, Mark!” the voice shouted once more. This time it was more distinguishable. The sound didn’t originate in my head. No. This was my co-worker. He was in the room with me. He was in the fire.
“Gabe!” I used all my strength to spring to my feet. “Get out of here!” I shouted, looking towards the hallway. The office door was wide open. There was no collapsed wood. Alice walked towards me from the doorway, wide-eyed.
A hand touched my shoulder, causing me to flinch. “Mark,” came Gabe’s voice. “What on earth are you screaming about?”
I looked over to see the man was beside me.
“What?” I asked, glancing around. The fires, the horse, the smoke – all of it was gone.
“Are you okay?” Alice asked.
“I… I don’t know,” I said while wiping my face.
“You were shouting on your knees,” Gabe said while laughing. “This briefing got you that rattled up?”
I didn’t answer, still looking around the office. Everything was left as is. The desks were upright, and the computers were on top, unharmed. How? I thought.
“You’re drenched in sweat,” Alice said. “Maybe you should take the day off tomorrow.”
“Or maybe the heat hit you,” Gabe said. “Lucky we went back up here to check on you.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It had to be the heat.” Did I just shout like a horse? I thought, now feeling sheepish that my co-workers had found me in such a bizarre state. I could barely process what had just happened to me.
Sure, I could tell my co-workers that the whole floor caught fire, wood began to collapse around me, a horse-ghost appeared on the third floor, and channelled its essence through me, but that was crazy. Ghosts weren’t real. At least that is what I try to tell myself. If that were true, then what was the vision I had? What was the sensation of oneness I had with a creature I had never met before?
Maybe I would never have any answers. I could only accept what I saw and felt: the impression of an animal in agony, sharing it story with me of burning in the fire at the Mercer Warehouse.