The Sub-Basement

In the 1930’s a group that practiced the dark arts operated out of the office space that Hunt Adkins now inhabits. Known as the Malefecium, these self-proclaimed sorcerers left something hidden in the walls that we just recently uncovered—a discovery that has left us shaken and unmoored.

Little is known about them, other than they were twisted sociopaths, given to experimenting on unbelievers in horrific ways before mailing body parts to their families. For a decade such activities took place in the innocuously named 15 Building, where tenants now practice law, provide insurance and create ads extoling the virtues of early retirement planning.

By 1940 the Malefecium had disappeared without a trace, taking their secrets with them. Or so we’d thought.

Eighty years later the building’s occupants are used to encountering cold spots and flickering lights. At night the elevators move up and down with no one in them. There are parts of floors that have been sealed off for years, and worse, a sub-basement that’s only reachable by those with an excess of curiosity and an absence of good judgment.

In our defense, we were looking for a disquieting locale for a photo shoot, and began to wonder if the perfect solution wasn’t right under our noses. Earl, our building’s longtime handyman, initially refused our entreaties, but through persistence and Jack Daniels we eventually found ourselves in the basement of the 15 Building, using a crowbar to pry open a small wooden door that may have once been painted red. Beyond it was stale, decades-old air and rough-hewn stone stairs that led steeply down into darkness.

It will surprise no one to learn that handymen are more intelligent than advertising professionals, and so we continued on without Earl.

We can’t give you a detailed description of all we found down there; we were busy thinking about death and cave-ins and rats and death. Our flashlight beams gave us glimpses of a large open space filled with a century’s worth of office detritus, which seemed to amount mainly to modular cubicle parts. At some point as we tried not to notice the requisite creatures moving at the corners of our peripheral vision, it began to dawn on us that the only thing keeping the building from coming down on our heads seemed to be rotting wooden beams. So we decided to test the structural integrity of one by pushing it, which caused it to abruptly topple over, knocking a hole in a wall, which is where we found the safe.

The false wall was built to conceal a 2000-pound MasterVault made by the Meilink Steel Safe Company of Toledo, Ohio. It was a four-feet-high by three-feet-wide fortress of steel and metal alloy and was considered unbreachable by 1930’s-era tools.

When you find a safe hidden behind a false wall in the sub-basement of a building once inhabited by practitioners of the dark arts, you tend to wonder what might be in it.

Three different locksmiths, one thermal lance, five diamond-tipped industrial drill bits and 23 days later, it was open.

Inside was a single piece of paper on which a story was neatly typed.

Upon reading it, three of us fainted. The rest nearly did. And none of us will ever be the same.

Perhaps you’re thinking, I’m glad I’ll never read what was written on that page.

But you just did, every word, ending with this one.