Page 81

floodgatemartyr on May 24, 2009

Sorry this took so ridiculously long to update and didn't even reveal the mystery of what Black wants to show Tily. My two jobs have been keeping me very busy, and as if that wasn't tough enough, I have a very tight deadline on my next short story.

Here's an excerpt to show what I've been working on. Let me know your thoughts if you actually take the time to read it:

All was quiet, but silence had not yet settled in. The wind whispered through windows long left open. It drifted across pink-flowered vines growing over rotting windowsills and down cracked walls. It floated over white tile floors layered with dust and around counters stacked with scientific equipment. It spoke to the soft electric hum of seven metal cylinders in the back room. It once had an eighth cylinder to whisper with, but that one had ceased its humming.
Each cylinder had a thick, glass window comprising most of its top, front quarter. All but the one that had fallen silent chilled the wind as it whistled past and had a glaze of condensation covering it. Behind five of the windows were the faces of men and women who looked serene and peaceful, as though they had drifted off into a tranquil sleep. Behind two of the windows were children, each smiling in their frozen slumber. Behind the eighth window was the drawn face of a man starved for food and oxygen. He had fallen into his final sleep with his head pressed against the glass and even in death he looked panic-stricken. He would have begun to rot, but the cylinder was airtight.
Shadows pressed in around everything, lurking in the corners and watching the wind rustle the petals of the flowers on the vines. Only the moonlight challenged their grasp on the nearly forgotten facility as it shone in through windows and the skylights that patterned the ceiling.
For decades it had been this way, and the smaller creatures of the world had carefully begun to move in and call the place their home. They could usually be heard chatting with one another through squeaks, chirps, and whistles, but tonight they were silent. Perhaps they felt what was coming.
Squig stepped gingerly through the front door of the building humming nervously. He paused to squint into the shadows, not liking the way the old lab felt at night—but of course, he didn’t much like how anything felt at night. Darkness was far too dangerous for a timid cripple like himself. Especially a timid cripple who thought and moved as slowly as he did.
But there was nothing for it. He had been given a job, and God knew his family needed the money.
Careful to avoid the pretty pink flowers, he tiptoed into the reception room and made his way towards the archway that led into the back. A mouse streaked across the floor and away into the shadows. Squig jolted.
“Y’scared me lil’ guy,” he laughed nervously. “Scared me lots.”
He reached the arch and paused again. A near pitch-black hallway with only one skylight stood between him and the back room. It was a fun hallway during the day, chock full of thick vines and beautiful flowers. Sometimes even butterflies. Right now though, it gave him the down-to-his-toes willies. The wind whistled through it, and Squig got the distinct feeling that someone was watching from the depths of those shadows with eyes that weren’t eyes.
“I just gots a job t’do,” he told whoever it was as he walked forwards with his heavy wire-cutters raised defensively in front of him, “nuthin’ personal, just a job.”
No one replied, and with considerable relief he reached the door to the back room in one piece. Back here was the good place. There were big, silver things with people in them, but Squig had always thought they had nice faces. When he was younger he had given them all names, and he had come to talk to them from time to time when he was lonely. Not that they talked back, but they were perfect listeners and they didn’t think he was stupid like everyone else. And the ceiling had a big, broken skylight to keep things nice and bright. He began to hum again as he strolled inside.
Then something humanoid and dark ducked behind the last cylinder.
Squig froze and his humming gurgled to nothing. He raised his wire-cutters in front of him again, gripping them tightly through the rubber gloves that covered his hands.
“Who’s there?” he called, but there was no answer, only the wind carrying the aroma of the flowers. He squinted hard into the room, both hoping and fearing to see something. Everything was norm- wait, no. Something was different. The little lights on the tops of the two furthest cylinders were blue and blinking instead of their usual steady green.
“Don’t like this,” Squig whispered to himself, “don’t like it, don’t like it.”
He took a deep breath then hurried towards the second to closest cylinder. The nearest to him held Carl, the dead man Squig had named after his father. Squig’s job didn’t concern Carl. And the job was what was important here. His sister said he couldn’t keep being a burden on her, and that he needed to earn some money or die. He didn’t much feel like dying.
“Just cut the big wire,” he said to himself. He knelt down behind the cylinder and dug through the heavy vines covering its wires with his hands. Finding what he was looking for, he pulled a thick cable away from the others. A note or two of the song he had been humming drifted from him sporadically. Squig had a one track mind.
As he was putting the cable carefully between the jaws of his wire cutters, he heard a distinctive clicking noise from the cylinder behind him. In an instant, Squig was on his feet, letting the wire cutters clatter to the floor. He spun around just in time to see the something disappear into the shadows.
“I’m just doing a job!” Squig called, suddenly finding it difficult to breath as his chest clenched. He took a few steps out in front of the cylinder and looked frantically around, but there was no one there. Lots of places to hide though. As he turned shakily back to finish his work behind the cylinder, he noticed that the light near its top was now blinking blue.
“Don’t like this…” he mumbled again, then he knelt down, collected his wire cutters, and cut the cable. The cylinder’s electric humming ceased.
With a satisfied nod, Squig stood up and was just turning to walk to the next cylinder when there was a series of loud clicks, one for each cylinder. He leapt out from behind the one he had just shut down and could have sworn he saw several of the shadows roiling like swarms of ants racing to food. Then they were still.
“STOP IT!” he yelled, then cowered from the echo of his own voice.
All of the functioning cylinders had blinking blue lights now, causing the room to flash blue then go darkly moonlit in turn.
The lights flashed blue. The lights went off. There was a man in the center of the room, staring at him. Only he wasn’t a man so much as a living shadow.
“Tell them your job is done,” the man said as Squig wet his pants, “Go now, do as I say, and you’ll never see me again.” The cylinders began to hiss.
Squig didn’t need to be told twice.

Thanks for your support! The next page solves the black/Tily mystery, I promise!