If you grew up in Parma in the mid 60’s to late 2000’s, you likely knew of Parmatown Mall. With it’s bright blue entrances, old brick facade, and overall creepiness. And of course, you knew of Robert Parma III. You probably saw him around the mall at some point. Don’t lie to yourself, you saw him. Parading around the mall all day with his stupid “It’s My Town” top hat and cane, round figure and proud gait. If you couldn’t guess, he was the owner of the mall.
While the public generally thought of him as a good natured, outgoing fellow, he had a darker side. A side only I and a few others knew about. A side which the public wasn’t supposed to see.
I started working at Parmatown in 2005. I was hired at the Santa display as an elf, but was kept after the holiday season ended. I worked in the food court for a while, then finally ended up at Hot Topic.
The job was fine, but there was one condition, all employees had to be out by 11:30, even if the work wasn't done. I was confused at first, but quickly got used to it. I lived in a small apartment right across the street anyway, so it's not like I had a long commute home anyway.
Now, by 2017, Parmatown had become what one could consider a “Dead Mall”. We had fewer and fewer stores every month or so, and there was even talk of demolishing the mall. I had asked my manager John what he thought of the plans, and he just glanced at a security camera, and shook his head.
I got the impression something was up, and on my lunch I couldn’t help but notice that Robert, or as we called him, “Robbie the Fatty” was walking around the food court more than usual. Usually he just did one lap and left, stupid wand twirling. Today he walked around three times and then left. The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure he was watching me the whole time.
That was odd and all, but I didn’t think too much of it and did my work, then went home as usual at 11:30. The next morning, as I walked into the mall, I noticed that there was now a Store Closing banner above the Border’s Books. The sign read “Final 2 Days”
Final 2 days? Were they moving out that quickly? I walked inside and instantly encountered their manager, Mitch. He was staring at the Closing Banner with the expression of someone watching a loved one die.
“No….no...no please no”, he muttered. I asked him why they were moving out so quickly, and he just dropped his gaze, muttered “Rent”, and sprinted to the back.
That day, since we didn’t have a single customer, which was typical, I just watched the Borders store, wondering why on earth they only had 2 days to leave. They were one of the only stores that still drew customers. It wasn’t hard, considering it was right across the hall from us.
Mitch just stood behind the desk, and I could tell, he was terrified. He didn’t move the entire shift, not even to use the bathroom, or during lunch break.
Robert was doing his march, but today he wouldn’t leave Borders. For 8 hours, just back and forth. Cane twirling, hat with the button gleaming.
I wondered, “Could Robert be up to something?” The idea certainly sounded possible, with the way he had followed me through the food court yesterday, and the fact that his entire march now focused on one store.
Then again, he might be trying to attract people to the store in its final days. That’s the problem with working in a dead mall, every thought has tons of time to manifest, and by the end it can be hard to figure out what’s plausible or not.
The next day it was the exact same thing. Mitch starred out at the front of his store terrified, and Robert marched on. The constant thump-thump-thump of his footsteps took an almost sinister tone.
That night, I left work as normal at 11:30. When I got to my apartment, I reached for my key, and realized I had left my keychain in the backroom of Hot Topic. Idiot. I walked out to the parking lot, and stared at Parmatown, the darkness making it feel creepier than usual.
“Remember, all employees must be out by 11:30”, Robert’s voice boomed in my head. I shook it off, rationalizing that this was a perfectly valid reason to break the rule. After all, I had to get into my apartment, didn’t I?
I hurried across the street, and walked up to the main entrance. It was locked, no surprise there. Thinking quickly, I hurried around the back of the mall to the rear entrance. This one was also locked.
Now slightly worried I wouldn’t be able to get in, and thus not be able to get into my apartment, I raced around to the third entrance to the mall. Approaching the glass entry, I thought, “If this one’s locked, break a window. It’s an emergency”
Thankfully, I didn’t have to break any windows. This door opened with ease. Relief setting in, I made my way to Hot Topic. If you’ve never been in a dead mall, they’re creepy enough on their own. Throw in the fact the building was pitch black, save for the glowing exit signs, and this was by far the creepiest place I’d ever been in.
I was able to recover my key without issue, and was turning to leave, when I heard a low hum coming from the central court. A moment later, footsteps echoed through the mall.
I figured I’d see what was going on, but told myself I’d run if it was a burglar. Slowly, ducking behind fake trees, I made my way over. I could see soft lights coming from the area, which I just assumed were the emergency lights.
Before I could make it to the court, I stopped dead in my tracks. Standing around the large tile compass on the floor, were 8 hooded figures, 2 on each point. The low hum, I realized, came from them. Candles lined each point, circling around the central point.
I had no idea what this was, but I knew I had to avoid being spotted, so I ducked under the neatest slightly open store grate.
The humming stopped and a large hooded figure stepped forth from the shadows. I had a feeling I knew who it was, and it was confirmed when he began to speak.
"For 52 years. It has been our Town. For infinity, it will be our Town. Tonight we cleanse our Town" It was Robert!
He, along with all the others in the group slipped their hoods off. It took everything in me not to gasp. I recognized each of them. Christy, the manager of FYE, Ted the manager of Bath and Body, one person for each store in the mall! And most importantly, John, my manager.
The others began to chant in unison, "Cleanse our Town. Cleanse our Town"
"Tonight one of us failed to do our part to cleanse our Town. The Law of Parma states plainly", Robert paused to pull a scroll out from under his robe, "For those who fail to do their services to our Town, those who drain the life from our Town, those who transgress against our Town, must be punished with their lives. Let us cut away the dead roots so the tree of Parmatown may flourish"
"Cut away dead roots. Let us flourish", the group chanted.
"We must not loose sight of our future! This Town must thrive". Robert put the scroll away and turned to face the moon glowing through the skylight.
"Bring him forth!" Robert bellowed. "Let him face his actions!"
Face his actions? Cut away dead roots? What the hell was this? Why was nobody doing anything about this? I was about to sneak out from under the grate, when two people pushed a third forth. It was Mitch, the Borders Manager.
I was scared to even breathe as I watched what happened next. The two figures pushed Mitch onto the ground, and kneeled on his arms to keep him down. A third stood on his legs, immobilizing him. Mitch struggled and began to speak, when one of the figures placed a rag in his mouth. Robert stepped forth, his My Town cane raised over Mitch's chest.
"Mitchell Chaplin, you have failed in your mission to prove yourself useful to Our Town. For this you must allow your life to seep into the walls of Parmatown so she may prosper!"
It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what was about to happen, but I couldn't look away. Not as the cane came down, as the end impaled itself in Mitch's chest. Nor could I look away as several more blows occurred.
When Mitch's muffled cries of pain had ended, Robert reached into his robe and pulled out a small jar. He scooped some of Mitch's blood into it and carried it over to the fountain that stood in the center of the court.
"Oh Parmatown, accept this offering so that You may live long. Accept this offering so that you may remain most blessed forever. Hear us oh Parma. Hear us! Hear us!"
He poured some of the blood in, and that was when I had seen enough. Without caring about being seen, I sprinted out of the area. The empty hallways seemed like a labyrinth, every mannequin seemed like it would start running at me.
I don't remember anything after that, save for smashing through the main entrance and slamming my head. All I know is that was years ago. Parmatown is long gone. Demolished to make way for a hotel.
The reason I wrote this down is, I think they're back. In this hospital. The Parmatown Cult. At night I hear a faint voice whispering "Its my heart of Town. The one and only Parmatown"