01 Feb B is for Ballora – Five Nights at Freddy’s Creepypasta Stories
I’d heard rumors of steam tunnels under campus since my first day at orientation. Older students claimed one could travel between buildings unseen, and that it was the only way to smuggle large quantities of alcohol across the grounds. I was willing to believe that, but I scoffed at the ghost stories that followed. Supposedly, those that had dared the tunnels at night had heard strange noises beyond the cacophony of steam, venting air, and stressed pipes. It was mechanical, they’d said, or maybe animal. No two stories matched.
And of course there were the usual claims that a few students had disappeared down there over the years; claims which I found ridiculous. Real disappearances involve the police and the news, not college campus rumors. Still, when my friend Emma dared me to go down there with her in late October of last year, I was hesitant.
On the one hand, what red-blooded college guy could refuse such a dare? On the other—no, I couldn’t voice those fears without sounding lame. Instead, I said, “What if maintenance catches us?”
She silently and carefully lifted the grate from the surrounding concrete. “Then we run.” She peered down into the tunnel below. From where I was standing, it looked like it ran right under University Hall. She added, “Come on. This is almost always locked. It looks like the latch rusted through and they haven’t noticed yet. We won’t get another chance like this.”
I scanned the dark and quiet campus grounds, but the light dusting of snow was undisturbed in every direction. Our night class had run late, so we were the only ones out. What other choice did I have? She was beautiful, and she wanted to go into the creepy steam tunnels. I shrugged, took a deep breath, and clambered down into a river of flowing warm air.
The shock of actually entering a disallowed space had me looking in either direction warily; dim orange light made various small jets of steam look like little flames. Condensation dripped in the distance, and my breath entered my lungs humid and fetid.
“Ahem,” she called from above politely.
“Oh!” I moved and turned around to help her down.
It had been surprisingly easy to transgress the forbidden, all things considered. We laughed and whispered and stared for a few moments before daring each other to venture further. After two steps, we remembered to return and close the grate behind us; then, we crept past curtains of billowing white moisture, following the warm and pulsing pipes.
The first intersection ran dim orange in three directions; the fourth was lit by a soft green that faded into darkness and back nearly imperceptibly every few seconds. I couldn’t see any fixtures for the light—the orange in the other directions came from intermittent bulbs—but I assumed the sickly green was coming from something around the abrupt corner about twenty feet away.
Emma made a face. “Not that way. It smells bad.”
“Right.” I was more than happy to avoid the foulness coming from that direction. So, instead, we turned left—and immediately came upon a small office.
A grey-haired old man in a maintenance uniform reacted with surprise by jumping up from his chair and hitting a button on the wall, closing a door immediately in front of us. We thought we were caught, but he just stood in front of a small glass window set in the thick metal and peered at us.
Emma and I stared at each other for a minute until we realized he wasn’t grabbing a phone. She approached the door and asked loudly, “Are you going to report us?”
The old man gulped, sending a visible lump down his fragile throat. “I’m obligated to tell you that the grant that funded these tunnels and many of the buildings above specifies that nothing down here gets reported.”
I stepped closer to the door. “What the hell does that mean?”
He trembled with restrained fear, pointed at his ear, and then pointed upwards. “It’s perfectly safe. Feel free to explore.” He shook his head and warned us with his eyes.
Emma and I looked at one another with worried concern.
The old man returned to his chair and focused intently on reading his magazine. He ignored our taps on the glass as if he desperately wanted us to go away, so we had no other option but to leave.
I asked the obvious. “That was weird. Do you think we should get outta here?”
“No way,” Emma replied, already moving down the tunnel while gliding her hand on one of the warm and pulsing pipes. “He’s just messing with us. It’s probably more effective at keeping students out of here if he tries to scare us off instead of reporting us. We’ll go tell our friends oh how scary it is just like the sophomores told us at orientation.”
That made a strange sort of sense, and I did follow her, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the old maintenance man hadn’t been acting. He hadn’t even had time to assess our identities before he’d leapt up terrified to close his door. Unfortunately, the only thing I could do about that suspicion was look behind us often and stay alert.
A few minutes further on in that endless orange mist, the cadence of the place began getting to me. The vibrations were deep and rhythmic, and air and concrete both seemed to expand and contract with it ever so slightly around me. Something about the motion made me feel nauseous or disgusted, but I wasn’t sure why.
It was then that we came to three-way junction. One path led to more of the same, but the other diverged into dark crimson. The red light made the sudden patches of moss growing within look black, and a variety of thinner and more numerous pipes gave off a subtle rushing noise. Emma followed them with wonder, asking aloud, “Do you think these ones run liquids instead of steam?”
I did. By then, I felt like I was breathing in time with the maze’s rhythm, and I very much did not like it. “We should probably go back.”
“Aww, just when we’ve found some place interesting?” She didn’t wait for my response.
I couldn’t very well let her go down that rotting crimson tunnel alone, so I followed, warier than ever.
We turned a few corners, and I tried to remember the way, but I was beginning to lose track. Worse, I realized that I couldn’t tell where the red light was coming from. There were no bulbs. Hell, there weren’t even wires. After a few more turns, I stopped and touched one of the thinner rushing pipes. It was hot, and gave slightly at the pressure of my fingers. I couldn’t be sure, but I had the strangest notion that the pipes were actually the source of the omnipresent dim crimson colorization all around us.
Emma stopped. “Did you hear that?”
I shook my head and looked in either direction, but saw only hanging black mosses and dim moisture haze.
“It was like a servo grinding or something.” She frowned. “Or maybe a growl.”
There was only one thing to say to that: “Are you fucking serious?”
“Oh come on. It’s not like the stories are true. I’m sure the pipes make that noise and people just made up the tales around it.”
Up ahead, I saw a dim aperture much like the entrance to the maintenance man’s little office. “I dunno, I—”
Just around the corner ahead of us, a definite grinding sound echoed forth.
I didn’t wait. I didn’t let her rationalize it. I grabbed her hand and dragged her forward toward the office door as a dark-on-red shadow began to move around the corner. We barely avoided seeing the source of the shadow by dodging inside, and I turned around and hit the button on the wall in the same place the maintenance man’s had been.
One shared terrified glance at each other and then upward gave us a strategy, and we leapt to grab the base of the door and pull it down. Our combined weight grated off rust and slowly drew the barrier closer to the floor. Once only a foot gap was left, we stopped to avoid locking ourselves in, and instead dragged a heavy-set metal desk over and blocked the bottom.
That horrifying grinding growling sound moved past slowly, as if something enormous was taking one belabored step at a time and waiting to listen between each movement. Neither of us dared make a sound, and Emma gripped my hand so hard I thought she might fracture my knuckles. Despite the pain, I kept my mouth shut. Nothing had ever been more terrifying to me than the thought of letting that unknown thing in the tunnel know of our presence.
We bounced forward as the desk shifted and the door clanged from a massive thump.
Emma grabbed her own mouth to keep from making noise, and I grabbed one of the hot crimson pipes lining the back wall to keep from falling. The heat seared my fingers, but I just had to take it until the lumbering entity outside decided it was satisfied and moved on.
Once it was around the corner, she finally let out a breath, and I finally let go of the pipe.
“What the hell was that?” I asked through gritted teeth, holding my hand and looking for anything that I might wrap around it. Everything in the cramped office was mossy, rotten, or dusty, and I nearly gave up—before spotting something.
Emma stared at me as I leaned forward. “We have to get out of here!”
I wasn’t exactly polite. “No shit? That’s what I’ve been saying!” Keeping my burnt hand pressed against my torso, I used my other to open the old filing cabinet. “But we have to wait until whatever that was is out of our path. It’s blocking the way we came right now. Until then, take a look at this.”
She took some of the files from me. “Huh, they’re mostly intact. I guess the steam didn’t get inside the filing cabinet.” Then, she saw what I’d seen. “Holy crap, this is like, official college stuff.”
“Look there,” I told her. “It’s a map of the tunnels.”
“And records from the grant that old guy was talking about.” She leafed through the next folder. “What’s this… ‘Animus Society’? What the hell, this isn’t Assassin’s Creed!” She looked further, thumbing through the papers. “Wait… why are there patient records in here?” She gulped. “No, more than that. Medical records from an orphanage. A bunch of babies, little kids. Looks like these records are from 1965.”
A sense began creeping over me that something was seriously wrong here—even more than the fear that some horrible creature was roaming the steam tunnels. If I had to get rational with myself, it had probably just been another maintenance worker out there, perhaps one with tools and a breathing problem. That would have explained the mechanical noises and the breathing. But this? These decayed records were real and physical proof that the founding of our college had something to do with twenty-six orphans whose files all prominently featured the word DECEASED.
I was the first to notice a pattern on the map, but Emma figured out the overall shape.
The steam tunnels contained a maze of random turns to heat and power the campus buildings, yes, but they also held something else: hidden within the design was a massive pentagram miles in diameter. At that point, I was nearing panic attack. “Was this shit founded by Satanists or something?”
“Well, looks like we’re going to see for ourselves,” Emma whispered unhappily. “The only way out of here without going back toward that growling thing is through the center of the pentagram.”
Of course that was the only way out.
But there was nothing to be done except pushing down our fear and making a run for it. As silently as possible, we moved the desk, peered under the door, and confirmed our crimson-lit hallway was clear. We slipped under—and then half-ran, half-crept as quickly and as quietly as we could in the direction we’d been heading before the unknown creature had made us hide.
I was dead certain we were going to see a shitload of bones. I knew it. What else could have happened to twenty-six orphans at the center of a pentagram? As we moved, the walls rapidly became heavier with moss, and the pulsing rhythm of the place became a deep throbbing and racing that set my every nerve on edge. The heart of darkness was ahead, and we couldn’t turn away.
We almost laughed as we emerged into the massive circular chamber at the center of it all and found it filled with large furnaces.
Emma shook her head and sighed. “Right. Steam tunnels. That means furnaces, not baby sacrifice or whatever.”
I was feeling pretty silly myself. The large underground dome held two rows of furnaces whose pipes ran off in every direction. It was the heart of campus, really, from whence all the heating and cooling and plumbing originated. There were no creatures and no bodies, because this was the real world, not a nightmare.
The twenty-five furnace segments were arranged in two rows of thirteen, but one was missing. I gazed down at the broken pipes and filthy square in the floor where it should have been. Then, I scanned the rows of machines. Each one was different; a unique style of furnace. None had brand names anywhere on them.
No. What a strange notion.
That didn’t make any sense.
But the count matched.
Except for one.
One that was possibly lumbering around these tunnels, dragging itself with its misshapen and maimed body, never dying, always hungry, always in pain.
Emma began to suspect around the same time I did. We refused to believe. We shook our heads, told each other it was insane, but then—we looked. We had to. How could any person simply leave that place without looking?
I balled up my jacket around my hand and opened one of the furnace hatches.
What I saw within will haunt me for the rest of my life. I can tell you in words, but you can’t understand. You can picture it, maybe, but you can’t internalize the visceral understanding of what it meant for the abomination inside to exist before you not as nightmare, but in the real and physical world.
There was fire inside. That much was like a normal furnace. The difference here was a near total lack of working mechanical parts. Someone had tried and failed to fuse two things impossible to combine; so, the slack had been taken up by what did still work. A set of oversized tumor-ridden lungs expanded and contracted as we watched, pushing air through the system; a human heart maybe two feet in diameter throbbed with the pulse of the place, dimly glimmering red as it pushed blood through thin outgoing pipes. I’m pretty sure I saw a mutated intestine, too, glowing green, but I can’t be sure. Because above all that, within the inner space of the furnace, a drooping face looked back at us with sad eyes.
They were still alive.
The orphans hadn’t been killed at all.
Somebody had—God, who even knows? What had they been trying to do? Combine machine and man in some horrific manner? The orphaned baby had continued to grow inside the furnace, but whatever it had become had not stopped growing. Its face was several feet wide, and its exposed brain was a half-mossy exposed lump hanging over the side, near the flame.
I did have a pocket knife. I didn’t care about the burns. I stabbed and stabbed and stabbed within until those pleading eyes went dim.
Emma tore me away as a grating sound and heavy breathing approached from one of the tunnels, and we ran. Every grate above was locked; we turned, ran, turned again, tried another grate, and kept going. I was furious and terrified and despairing all at the same time. What monsters had done this? And why? We had to go all the way back to our original entrance.
And this time, we crept up silently on the old man and surprised him before he could close his door. Emma held the knife as I demanded an answer.
He sobbed, and tears began to run down his cheeks. “She always wore sunglasses, even inside. She was sensitive to the light. I didn’t want to, but we took her money,” he admitted, as if finding catharsis for some long held pain. “It took twenty-seven tries, but it worked. We took her money and we used what little she knew of the process to replicate it. We did it. We took her money. The others didn’t trust me after she was gone, so they stuck me down here, where the guilt has kept me quiet for over three decades.”
But what was he admitting to? I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the true extent of the horror. “Twenty-seven tries?”
“Twenty-six kids,” he gasped, trying his best not to slice his fragile throat against Emma’s knife. “And her.”
“But why?” I demanded. “Why would she want this?”
The old man grew quiet then, and his sobbing stopped. Even as tears glinted on his cheeks, he looked me right in the eyes. Softly, he told me, “She just wanted her husband to love her again, but he didn’t care about those made of flesh anymore. This was the only way.”
Emma withdrew the knife and stepped back to stand next to me. “We’re gonna call the cops on this.”
He sighed happily. “Please do.”
And so we left him there, doing his eternal duty as guardian of the children. We did call the cops, but the school board convinced them to keep the whole thing out of the media. That’s why I had to write this myself. The world must know the true nature of Mrs. Afton, the original patron of Afton Community College. She was not a saint. In her desperation to become something her husband could love, she became a monster.
And as far as I can tell, she’s still out there somewhere.