Sunday, April 3, 2011

Story 197: Sight Unseen

This story was originally published in Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 from Pill Hill Press. (April 3rd)

When everything is over and the police have released him, Greg will watch his copy of the security tapes. He'll rewind and play the part where they set foot in that lab over and over again, trying to pinpoint the moment where Sarah dies. He'll zoom in far past the point where it does any good, the low resolution of the cameras making the extreme close-up look more like random static, and advance frame by frame with the shapeless fuzzy inkblot of Sarah's face looming larger than life on the screen. One frame, she'll be there. The next...

The security tapes won't pick it up, but in person Sarah makes a sound as she is pulled out of view. It could have been a scream, but having just exhaled her lungs are empty and so all that Greg hears is a squeak, like a scared mouse. Later he'll have those tapes to fixate on, to obsess over, to watch again and again until his wife leaves him and his friends stop calling. But right now he just stares. A hundred empty cages, once used for storing lab animals, line the wall Sarah had been standing next to. Only a handful of the rusted cages are large enough for a person and none at all offer any place to hide.
"Sarah?" Greg calls, hoping against all evidence that she might reply from some unseen corner of the abandoned facility.

She was still new to the job, trying to earn some easy money to help with college. When the alarm tripped Greg said it would be a nice simple way to ease her into the job. The research facility, once a popular target for animal rights activists, was now only used for the occasional rave. He explained to Sarah that there were cameras but the tapes were stored locally and so they would still be going in blind, but that didn't worry him; chasing drunk college students off of vacant property was just good fun, and would give him a chance to show off for the new kid.

"Sarah!" Greg yells again, a hint of panic entering his voice. The remaining fluorescent bulbs flicker and buzz, casting a weak glow through the film of dead insects in the fixtures. For a moment the only other sound is his breathing, and then the chewing starts. There's a wet tearing, and the popping crunch of bones. There's no source, nothing in the room but Greg. Later, watching the videotape, he'll think it sounds like someone on the other end of a phone eating cereal. The maddening sound ceases for a moment and without fanfare a shoe lands, from nowhere, in the middle of the floor. Greg can tell instantly that Sarah's foot is still in it.

Seen only later is the fact that after Greg runs out, screaming and sobbing, the shoe vanishes again as suddenly as it appeared. And the chewing starts back up.