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Twist Chapter 15

11/16/13

  11:38:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1092 words  
Categories: Twist

Twist Chapter 15

The place was empty- but I expected that.

I knew our purchasing officer had been floating out resumes to find another gig. We laid off some of our support staff, and then another of the CSRs got called back to the army- and I think more than one of them had discovered that they could forward the calls to a cell phone and handle most of them remotely.

We laid off a developer, and even the one we didn't was only working part time, now, and most of that out of the office. The office manager was taking more time with his family. Our one-woman accounting department got another job and only came in once in a while to handle payroll- and even then at weird hours. And Ben was always on vacation, or one of his sabbaticals.

Not that it made sense that all of those things were lining up so perfectly; it was kind of like having a lunar eclipse every time I went into the office. But it was a gift horse- I wasn't really worried about it having crap teeth, because worst case scenario, horses could be good eating.

I ordered the starter from a supply company a county over. It was supposed to have decently fast shipping, and because of the proximity, I knew I'd get it quicker than if I ordered from the cheaper distributor on the other coast.

Then I decided that since things were quiet, I could do a little more work; it might have had something to do with my reluctance to walk back home, or to be near that truck again. I built out some wire frames for the responsive versions of the websites, and worked on some social media promos.

Then I built a flier and printed out a few dozen copies. It had a picture of Hanah and Leroy on it, along with their names and my number. I borrowed our accountant's stapler- she probably wasn't coming in tonight, so she likely wouldn't notice it was gone.

On the way home I put a flier on every pole I saw, and I made a wide arc through the neighborhood, taking me past the closed-down auto parts store. It was darker than on my usual walk home. That made me even more aware of the fact that there were no dogs barking. In the dark, dogs got squirrelier, and more likely to bark at whatever came within even a block of their home and family.

I walked about a third of the way to the big box, up as far as the old Burgerville, the one without a drive-thru. To compensate for their lack of this kind of necessary modern feature, they offered to let people call their orders in ahead. That staved off collapse a few more months, maybe. But I could tell as I was walking that it hadn't been enough. They were closed down, the store looted of most of its distinctive design elements, leaving just the outline of its old sign. I stapled my poster to a tree in the parking lot, since there weren't any poles nearby.

And that was when I noticed movement through the fog. It wasn't just the phantom of a shape. It was walking.

But I needed to finish. G street curled around, from the Burgerville, all the way back to Gram's. It also didn't have any cross-streets that whole way. It was the fastest way home, but I also knew it was the worst place in the world to be trapped, because there was nowhere to run.

I weighed feeling safe but also like a coward against my fear, and the possibility, however remote, that someone along that route might know something about Hanah.

I bounced the stapler in my head. It was heavier than a modern stapler, but still small and light enough to make for a pretty crappy weapon. But like the Churchill quote, it implied I'd already made my decision- just that I was trying to figure out just how vulnerable I was going to end up being on my walk.

It was oddly slow-going. These 'blocks' took up the same distance as five blocks just a street up or down. Because of that, there was no easy way to divide up the sides of the street, so I ended up doing a few light posts on one side, then a few power line poles on the other- back and forth, back and forth.

With each poster I stapled up, I felt whatever was in the fog get closer. I could see silhouettes, dark shadows getting closer and coalescing into more human forms. But the more human they became, the more inhuman the result- always little things, in their jerky movements, slight overextension of jaws, distended limbs. They were wrong, I could tell that much.

I held off my terror until the last normal block's worth of houses. They were close enough I thought I could smell them- and I didn't think I'd ever hallucinated a smell before. So I ran.

I didn't wait at Fourth Plain for the walk signal, just ran across. If the world was still working beyond my perceptions, that was probably insane; even late at night that road was always busy, but I didn't see a single car in either direction- granted, I was looking from the middle of the intersection as I ran, so seeing wouldn't have helped me if there had been a car barreling towards me.

I tripped on the curb on the other side, and scraped my knees on the sidewalk before landing face-first in a neighbor's grass. Home was on the other side of the block. I got up, and glanced behind myself. I couldn't tell if there was an army of insane things marching towards me, or just more fog. I ran, and ran, sliding on the decaying spike balls falling from that horrible tree, then slipping in the mud on the side of the front lawn as I ran for the steps. I was fumbling with the keys in my pocket when I remembered I hadn't been able to bolt the front door for days.

I crashed through it loudly. My grandmother was standing there, with a cup of tea in her hand.

?You look like you've seen a ghost,? she said dryly.

?That's not funny,? I said, afraid to lean away from the door, lest something horrible try to claw its way in.

?I kind of thought it was,? she said, and sipped her tea.

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