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  • Writer's pictureGeraldine Solabi

The Night Job: A Scary Cleaning Tale

Twas the night before Hallows Eve, and just like any other night, Lorraine turned up to the old warehouse turned offices in East London to commence her night cleaning shift. Every mundane night, Monday to Friday, she would commence her regular cleaning tasks, headphones in without a care in the world, ‘cept what she would grab for breakfast on her way home. But this Halloween night would be different.

As Lorraine signed into her shift in the guest book on the reception desk, she looked up to see an unfamiliar face. ‘James not working tonight?’ she asked the stranger staffing the desk. ‘No, he doesn’t work Halloween shift. I’ve been covering them since 1891’ the night guard replied. Lorraine laughed it off as an awkward joke she did not understand and handed him her mobile phone and belongings as she always does before a shift. ‘Sorry I didn’t catch your name, ‘said Lorraine. ‘Just call me Guv’nor,’ he replied. Lorraine smiled and headed to the cleaner’s closet.

For the first time in the 10 months Lorraine had been working in these offices, the lift was not working. How was she to clean four floors of offices without the use of a lift? She went back to reception to see if Guv'nor could help move her equipment floor to floor. When she got back there, the reception was empty. 'Guv? Guv'nor? Whe- where are you' she cried. No one answered.

Annoyed she made her way back to the cleaner’s closet. 'I just need to hoover and wipe down the desks, I can do this' she thought to herself. When she arrived back at the closet, the vacuum cleaner and all her cleaning products had disappeared. Baffled, she frantically traced her steps back to reception. 'I know I didn’t move anything; I literally just saw everything in the closet. What is happening' she thought to herself. She was already half an hour behind her cleaning schedule and had not so much as wiped a surface.

Running back down the hall to reception, 'GUV'NOR?! GUV'NOR?!!!!' she shouted in distress. 'GUV’NOR, I THINK THERE'S BEEN A BREAK IN'. No response. She ran behind the desk to see if she could find her belongings and inform her agency of what had happened, but she could not find her phone or any of her possessions. 'Had he run off with them?', she thought. ‘Why would he risk his temporary job for a phone with a busted screen, half working headphones and a change of clothes’. It was not adding up.

She tried to use the desk phone to call her agency, but it kept diverting to an operator asking her to whom she would like to be connected. He sounded as if he was using the old tin and string method to communicate.

Confused, Lorraine decided to check the other floors for any cleaning supplies. It would be a shame to have come to work and not be paid through no fault of her own she thought. 'Let me do what I can with whatever I can find, and hopefully they will understand what has happened here.

So, she climbed the stairs to the first floor. It was eerily quiet. She went into the first office room and found some antibacterial wipes and cleaned down the surfaces. She emptied the bin as well then left to move onto the next room. Before she could touch the door handle, she heard something. 'It sounds like children' she thought to herself. 'Hello?' she called out. 'Did you kids break in?! Do you think it's funny playing silly little pranks at midnight?' she exclaimed as she followed the sound of laughter down the hall. 'Hello?!' she shouted frantically as she drew closer. The closer she got, the angrier she grew. 'GIVE ME BACK MY STUFF YOU DEMONS' she shouted. But, as she reached the end of the hall, she realised no one was there. Frazzled, she went back to complete the floor.

She managed to clean the surfaces of all the floors and at least change the bin liners without another incident. She headed back downstairs to leave a note in the closet for the property manager regarding the missing equipment. To her surprise, there it all was. The vacuum cleaner, the cleaning agents, everything. 'I'm going crazy. I need sleep. I must be exhausted' she thought to herself.

Lorraine headed back to reception to find Guv'nor there, peeling an apple without a care in the world. 'Oi, 'ow come I've gone to the loo and come back and found the phone disengaged' he growled at her. 'I'm sorry I came back here to tell you I thought someone broke in and stole my cleaning equipment, but you were gone, and I couldn't find my phone', she exclaimed. 'Well yes, 'coz I took it wiv me dint I! Why would I leave 'em 'ere to be stolen or summink’? Lorraine had not noticed his accent earlier. Like something out of a chimney sweep movie. 'My apologies,’ said Lorraine. 'I panicked. But my cleaning stuff did really go missing. It took me twice as long to clean. I thought I heard children mocking me, and then when I had finished, the cleaning equipment magically reappeared' she said suspiciously. 'Nothing to do wiv me Miss' he said unbothered. He handed her belongings back to her and she left.

The next evening when she arrived for her shift, she met her regular friendly face, James. 'Oh James, you don't know how happy I am to see you. We had an awful man covering you yesterday,’ said Lorraine. 'I'm so happy to be missed! But, Lorraine, what man? We do not work the night before Halloween, we never have, company rules. Do not tell me you came in? ‘said James. Confused and equally annoyed Lorraine said, 'Well nobody told me that! What do you mean? I met Guv'nor last night who told me he's been covering every Halloween since 189...' she paused. 'Since when?' asked a genuinely concerned James. They stared at each other for a moment, unsure of what was really going on but certain they were both thinking the same thing.

James went into a draw and rustled around for a moment until he pulled out a picture frame. 'Have a look at this. Was this the man you saw' he asked? The picture was incredibly old, and the colour had faded greatly. The frame was on its last legs. Looking as hard as she could Lorraine said 'I-, I think that's him. Yes, that’s Guv'nor. But... why... what is this?'. James said, 'I don't believe in stuff like this, never have. Some of the cleaners that had been here thirty plus years had mentioned seeing this man before, at night, especially around this time you know, when the 'veil' is lifted. He was the first owner of this place back when it was a candlestick making warehouse. Had lots of child workers. But there was a tragic accident when a group of kids lit some candles and burnt half the building down.'

'Oh, my goodness, which must have been the kids I heard last night' exclaimed Lorraine. 'So, this building is... haunted?' she asked. 'That's what the cleaners say. I have never experienced it but then again, I never work Halloween. NEVER do that again,’ said James. 'I mean obviously, it was the scariest night of my life, but the worst part is that I did it for free, because I didn't know it was a compulsory night off,’ laughed Lorraine. They laughed it off and she commenced her shift.

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