Boiler Room

Copyright 2014
Illustrations designed by Jay Horne
Margaret gets her first job assignment in high school. The only problem is that everyone knows to stay away from the dilapidated warehouse on 9th and Melon. Is she too old to let childish stories scare her off from cleaning the old windows?
Classic Bedtime Horror.

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Boiler Room

“Everyone knows to stay away from the warehouse on 9th and Melon in the city.”

Margaret stood staring up at the yellowish panes of glass that littered the front of the rusted metal structure.

In her early childhood, she had heard the same story time and again — recalling it now, as she gazed upon her new job assignment, was only natural:

“Everyone knows to stay away from the warehouse on 9th and Melon. The windows there are never cloudy in winter because the boiler room is haunted and still runs itself.”

 This was her first job at sixteen, and if it weren’t for Carl and Velissa pressuring her, she would never had agreed to Coach Roberts’ offer.

The substitute teacher had just purchased the abandoned warehouse and was planning to set up a gymnasium there. Her job would be to clean every last pane of glass inside. Not an easy task from the looks of the yellowing window molds.

She was too old for nonsense and she would not let the old stories scare her off.

“Who cares. It could be any reason that the windows aren’t fogged up,”

 Margaret said aloud through clouds of breath. But the cold made her doubt.

It was no use worrying, she must go in there.

Hoisting the bag full of clean towels onto her shoulder, she pushed her fear aside and walked up to the rusty door. It was already slightly ajar.

Past the corroded broken latch, she could see orange streams of sunlight pouring down from the uppermost windows in the west of the building. The sun must be setting beyond them.

She eased the door fully open.


The air inside was stuffy and thick with the metallic smell of old machinery mixed with a pungent odor that she wasn’t quite familiar with. The door behind her sighed as the wind grabbed it.

She inhaled sharply and tucked her head into her shoulders as the door clunked in its metal frame.

When she opened her eyes and realized that a cat was the only occupant of the building, she relaxed a little. It was doing rings around the leg of a scaffold.

The only other things moving in the light were dust motes.

Having a little better feeling about her work ahead, she took a few timid steps inside. The soles of her Keds making amplified sliding noises along the concrete, but before she could even decide to lift her feet proper, something stopped her still in her tracks.

Back against the west wall, under the windows, where the light couldn’t touch, something was in the dark. She could make out figures in the shadows, standing ominously, unmoving, unflinching. Her mind was surely playing tricks on her!

The black cat bolted from under the nearby scaffold. It shot off in the direction of a long metal staircase across the room. Steps that led up to a catwalk, which stretched the entire circumference of the building’s upper windows.

Thinking the majority of her effort could be accomplished from there she started toward the steps, only briefly glancing back at the unsettling alcove.

‘You can do this.’

The fifty foot expanse to the steps was a long way, but she made every effort to avert her eyes. Regardless, she couldn’t help but imagine someone was watching her every move from the dark.

As she approached the industrial flight of steps she was surprised to notice that the stairs stretched downward into a void below the warehouse as well. Some sort of basement.

She peered down into the abyss, but hardly was there enough light to make anything of it. It was then that she heard the eerie sound for the very first time, and the stories that she grew up with finally came to life within her mind.


The sound from the dark hole made the hair on her neck stand up like electricity had run through her. She paused, unsure if she should believe her ears.

As much as she wished it away, the moisture on the back of her legs told all of her senses that it was real.

She took a single defiant step up toward the catwalk before a wisp of warm white steam rose slowly from down below. It twisted and curled like a wraith’s hand, beckoning her to investigate.

“Okay Margaret,” she told herself, “there isn’t a boiler. That is just an old scary story. A boiler? Who uses a boiler to heat anything these days?! There is probably a vent downstairs blowing in warm air from the sewer.”

But try as she might, she could not convince herself to climb the steps and forget about it.

Just then, a flicker of yellow light from the basement.

The brief rocking shadows made her think that a light bulb must be loose down in the dark. The fixture must be swaying on its cord from a ceiling below.

Against her fear, she turned and stepped two steps carefully down into the darkness, leaving the cleaning solution and bag of towels resting on the top metal stair.

She reached out and grabbed the chilly railing, and in this way she crept slowly into the mysterious basement of the old warehouse.

Halfway down the stairs, the light from the swinging bulb flicked on.

Margaret had been watching her footing and noticed she could see stony floors through the grating of the steps beneath her.

In the split second that she saw the walls, she could make out water streaming in fine rivers down the rocky surfaces toward the floor. Warm moisture was clinging to her clothing now, and when the first sound came, as she stepped down onto the basement floor in the dark, she jumped.


Jerking back in fright, she stumped her heel on the bottom step, causing the whole staircase to tremble. Something bumped loudly at the top of the steps.

“Stupid cat.”

A splash and then behind the staircase came a steady sizzling sound.


The light flicked on again, swaying methodically back and forth, and a huge billow of steam emerged from the center of the room — resounding loudly.


She could make out the outline of a huge machine, and walking forward, it was apparent that the warm clouds of pressure were coming from it.

“The boiler room!” she thought. “And it is still running, but how?!”

Margaret looked up at the yellow light bulb swinging above her and saw that a thick drop of sweat hung from the bottom of it, ready to fall and splash directly on her.

“The moisture must be causing the short,” she thought to herself. Then, just as she feared that the water may break the hot bulb, there came a deafening


The metal had warped on the boiler and popped as it realigned.

Just then, the light went dark again.

Margaret had backed away from the sudden sound in fright, and was now disoriented under the stairwell, doing circles with her arms outstretched while trying to get her bearings.

It was pitch black down here, and as she tried to grasp for anything, her hands found their way into something warm and soft. She tried to release the fistful of mush but it stuck to her like warm putty. Using the back of her wrists she felt around the shape of the object trying to identify it. As she did, her heart sank and her blood ran cold — her senses told her that the shape was human!

The light flickered.

In her hands were chunks of melted meat that had come from the man’s head before her. The face of the man was horribly disfigured, as if it had been melted away like a candle, and his raised hand was but a gesturing waxy nub. She could see where her fingers had dug into his eye sockets.

Inside her mind she heard the pain that his silent mouth displayed.

Backing away, she screamed in horror. A hot plume of steam engulfed her — but the sound of her screams could not be heard over the noise of the boiler’s robotic spitting, clanking and sputtering.


The Next Day

Carl and Velissa met one another’s uneasy gaze across the basketball court. This Sub really was a weirdo.

After class let out, they came together and asked what was on both their minds.

“Have you seen Margaret?”

Carl’s brow wrinkled in worry, “I haven’t. Last I heard she was thinking of taking the Sub’s offer of cleaning up at that old factory, you know the one, on 9th and Melon.”

“I know the one!” Margaret averted her eyes in guilt.

“What did you do Velissa?” Carl asked.

Velissa looked up at Carl and said, “I may have told her that she would chicken out. I didn’t mean it though! Margaret would never chicken out. She is too careless, if anything.”

Carl pocketed his fists and kicked some gravel.

“Yeah,” he said, “I said I would do it for the money.”

Both of them were feeling more than a little guilty.

“I don’t know about that guy. He creeps me out.”

Carl looked at Velissa, his eyes were accusations.


“I think we should at least go and check it out.”

“Everyone knows to stay away from the warehouse on 9th and Melon in the city,” 

both of them had thought to themselves while venturing toward the city street.

The warehouse’s door clapped as the breeze found its way through the small crack of the entryway and Carl and Velissa stared up at the creepy building trying to push the old ghost story from their minds.

“Do you think she’s in there?” Carl finally asked.

Tucking her hands into the pockets of her fur rimmed coat, she shrugged and stepped over the lump of grass that had grown up through the crack of the cement there in the lot. Motioning with her head toward the door, she said, “Only one way to find out.”

Carl followed behind her with his tiny shuffling steps, his head buried deep into the collar of his thick jacket.

He was noticeably unnerved by the door’s creaking while Velissa absently pushed it open.

“Calm down, Carl! It’s just the door.” 

Carl admired Velissa. She was always so sure of herself, no way she believed in ghosts. But another part of him thought that her confidence may one day get her into trouble.


Velissa shouted, the high ceiling echoing her voice.

“Jeeze Velissa. You wanna wake the dead?”

“Shh. I heard something from over there,” she said, pointing toward the stair well.

The sound came again.


The black cat that lived there.

They started toward the stairwell where it was pacing back and forth.

“It’s bad luck if a black cat crosses your path,”

said Carl.

As they crossed the expanse, they could see figures in the fading light against the far wall, humanoid in shape, but still just out of the reach of the setting sun.

“What do you suppose those are?” asked Carl behind her.

“Mannequins… must be mannequins. Coulda been storing department store merch,”

again, that voice of hers, so sure of itself.

Velissa knelt down by the kitty, and it let her run her fingers through its dark fur. Carl watched as it rounded a bag of clean rags and rubbed its sides along an overturned bottle near the top of the staircase. This flight of steps stretched down into what seemed to be a cellar area.

“Look! Velissa, these are brand new,” Carl said clutching some of the wash cloths, “didn’t she say the job was doing the windows here?”

She pushed the bag open a little and turned the bottle with her hand to see the label, “You’re right, and look! This must be the cleaning solution that she was supposed to be using! She was here, after all!”

Velissa looked up at Carl, “do you suppose she gave up and left?”

Carl was staring down the stairwell, “I’m not sure. But that acid must be pretty strong, it has eaten away the plastic on that bag where it overturned, and looks as if it has poured down into the cellar.”

He helped her up to her feet, “I would say we should at least go down and check it out. What if she tripped over the bottle and tumbled down the steps?”

Just then the boiler clanked and whistled from the depths.


The moist, warm air bellowed up from below like the belch of a giant dragon, and the two kids momentarily trembled when the story again came to life for them.

“The windows there are never cloudy in winter because the boiler room is haunted and still runs itself.”

Velissa shook the chill from her mind and stepped over the bag of rags and down to the first step. As she felt her way past the point where the stone wall fell into shadow, the swinging light bulb in the basement stairwell came alive with yellow light before her face.

She reached a trembling hand up and steadied it.

“Here Carl, you see, it is only loose?” she said while tightening it down to be sure it would stay lit.

“Look down there,” Carl said, pointing at the writhing steam that came from the boiler, which they could both then see clearly in the room, “the stories are true!”

Velissa stepped down onto the cellar floor and walked to where the boiler clanked and huffed. Carl was right on her heels. They made their way around the machine, noting that the pressure gauge was falling every second. It seemed to be shutting itself down.

Carl was peering at the gauge, considering what may be responsible for turning this thing on and off, when he heard the most piercing and heart-stopping sound.


It was rare sound of Velissa screaming.

She was standing before a disfigured body, which stared at her through melted eyes and mushy flesh. Its hand was a shiny dripping nub, and it stood as still as death.

“Relax Velissa. It’s just a wax figure,” Carl said poking at it beneath the steps, “the bottle of acid must have dripped down onto it and melted it that way.”

Velissa straightened her jacket and stood up tall again saying, “I knew that!”

Carl chuckled to himself.

“This wasn’t a department store. It was a a wax museum. You see, they must have used the boiler to craft the figures. Look over there.”

Velissa followed his eyes to the far corner of the basement.

There stood a pile of wax body parts and faces. Wigs and hats hung on pegs, which were wilted and covered with dust. Behind them the boiler groaned as it finally depressurized, and above them the cat meowed.

“Margaret must have chickened out after all! I couldn’t blame her though, this place is pretty creepy,” said Velissa as she went to make her way back up the metal steps.

“You don’t think this place is haunted then?” asked Carl as he hurried up the steps behind her, still not sure of the old boiler room.

“Come on Carl, give me a break, we’ve seen it for ourselves, she’s not here. The only things here are those wax people.” She was pointing to the ominous shapes that were now visible along the recess of the warehouse, where the sun had cast light into the alcove.

Velissa pirouetted as she crossed the cement floor to the door, checking the above catwalk for any sign of Margaret, “I’ll check her house on the way home!”

Numerous human wax sculptures were standing, grouped together there. Most of them were old and dilapidated. All of them were covered in dust from age, all of them except for one.

In the back, hidden from their view, there stood a waxy statue that was an uncanny resemblance of Margaret.

“It’s not haunted,” said Velissa as the metal door of the warehouse creaked when they passed through.

“But, I think you’re right, Carl. I would do it for the money.”

Velissa thought of the new seat covers she wanted for her Honda.

In the basement, the boiler’s pressure rose and steam crept up through the hollow of the cellar. Droplets of water gathered on the wax figures, and the statues stirred while the boiler room bellowed.


The Next Day

It was easy for Velissa to pick up the job in Margaret’s absence.

The fact that Margaret had yet returned to school made Carl uneasy, but he made it a point to avoid Velissa — less he get persuaded to return to the creepy wax warehouse.

Besides, Velissa was right, the substitute Coach was creepy. He wasn’t certain that the coach entirely cared about Margaret’s recent disappearance.

Merrily and confidently, Velissa had gone home that evening after overlooking the one thing on Coach Robert’s desk that was most revealing. 

The scattered ungraded homework assignments and game schedules didn’t quite hide The Wax Museum Quarterly Post.

Protruding from beneath the substitute Coach’s mouse pad was a most ancient article:

Owner of Melon’s Mad Museum promises the public,
“The warehouse on 9th and Melon will never be short of new and exciting wax figures.”
-Mad Roberts

‘Everyone knows to stay away from the warehouse on 9th and Melon.’

Coach Roberts thought to himself that night, laughing.

And the boiler’s pressure rose as the machine bellowed.


The End
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