I know it’s been a long while. And while I’m sorry for that, I regret to say. I literally cannot account for the missing time. Since my last entry, I reckon it’s been months to you all, but to me, it’s been a night. I know that must seem confusing, but hopefully you’ll start understanding what I’ve been through.
I sat in my truck in the Whataburger’s parking lot. I finished my burger and I was chewing on ice with the lingering memory of Dr. Pepper still dripping off the cubes. The Whataburger next to the gas station on that stretch of highway was the last tiny vestige of civilization before the long road to the Concrete Box. I contemplated calling in and missing my shift. This early on a job and especially this kind of electrician job, I’d probably just get fired for calling in, but that didn’t sound so bad when I ran it through my head.
I spat out the withered shell of an ice cube and it shattered into a dozen reflective pieces when it hit the parking lot pavement. I knew I wasn’t going to call in. I convinced myself it was because of my work ethic. I’d once shoveled dirt all day with a high fever and refused to call in. More of my stubborn nature. But the truth of it was whispering in my subconscious. It wasn’t just my nature that made me want to go to work that night. It was something else…it was dark and unnatural. Something had been growing in the back of my mind where I hadn’t quite noticed yet. A true need to work at Electric Solutions of Texas. An obligation that burrowed into my subconscious so deep I was actually beginning to glimpse it — and it scared the shit out of me.
I was wrestling with my new elevated state of workaholism when I started my truck up and headed back on down the desert highway. I turned up The Doors’ “Crystal Ship” and allowed it to lull me into a nice, comfortable sense of security and zen. I lit up a spliff and “slow roasted” it, taking each hit like it was a sip from a vintage bourbon.
My spliff was ashes on the wind by the time I arrived at the Box and got out of my truck. The air was already chilly to the point of giving me goosebumps. I remembered the sticky humidity in the Whataburger parking lot and let out a long worried sigh. Here we go again, I thought to myself with a heavy amount of chagrin.
I walked into the Concrete Box and headed for the security room. I sat in the old office chair and sunk down in it at a quick but gradual pace. It took me a few minutes before I noticed the red blinking light on the dirty brick of a phone. I leaned forward, the chair complaining and moaning as I did. I clicked the button, and some ancient and sticky substance locked the button in place for a moment before it slowly rose back up. Walter’s voice crackled onto the machine, and I could hear “Muddy Waters” echoing in the background. My respect for Walt bumped up from 0 to 1.
“Well heya’ Billy, it’s me,” Walter mumbled out like he was reading something and not paying attention to the call. Walter cleared his throat then went on. “Hope you liked that pizza last night. I’m assuming you met Ricky?” Walter laughed his hiss-like, obnoxious wheeze of a laugh. “He’s something else, isn’t he? That boy always struck me as the type that don’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. Anyway, if you don’t mind putting up with that Nimrod again, there’s another 20 on the break room table for ya’,” Walter said as I leaned back in my seat to look out into the break room. Sure enough, there was a bill anchored by a can of Big Red. I had somehow passed by it a minute ago without noticing.
“Guess that about covers it. Be sure you’re nice and prompt with those walks, and don’t let the tall fella’s get ya’!” Walter chuckled as he faded out and the machine clicked off. I was left with his ugly, dead man’s laugh echoing in my head.
“Kiss my ass, Walt,” I mumbled to myself as I leaned back in the chair.
Time crawled by like molasses running down a birch tree. As the clock counted closer and closer to 10:00 PM, I grew more and more tense. My palms started to become clammy and I found myself pacing every 20 minutes or so. At about 9:30, I took a smoke break and rolled a spliff in the darkness of my Chevy, blasting Zep’s “Immigrant Song”. It calmed my nerves a little and I started contemplating how much tail Robert Plant must have gotten on a regular night in 1969.
I finished my smoke break and headed inside. I caught a glimpse of the clock and it blinked 9:54 PM at me. I let out a long and disappointed breath that felt like my soul itself was trying to skip out on me and head anywhere else. I grabbed my flashlight, clipboard and pen, and whatever bravery I could muster. The elevator shook for a moment then began its long descent to the Walk. About three minutes into the ride down, I realized I’d left my .357 in the glovebox of my Chevy. I wanted to slap myself, I felt stupid.
The elevator reached the bottom floor, and the door slowly openned. A thick carpet of fog and biting cold flowed into the metal box to greet me. I wanted to press the up button immediately and just say “fuck it” to the whole thing. But instead, I took a breath and stepped into the tunnel.
I listened to the clicks of my boot heels echo down the walk, accompanied only by the hum of massive amounts of wattage. My boots waded through the fog like it was swamp mud, shifting and swirling around my ankles. I walked briskly, little beads of sweat forming on my forehead and chilling me almost immediately.
I paced down the Endless Walk fast enough to keep my heart pumping loudly in my chest — or it may have just been the adrenaline from the fear and sense of urgency. I made my walk quickly and wasted no time. I didn’t quite jog, but I was marching like a German aristocrat on speed. I got to my last couple of meters when I noticed the red light was not on the narrow horizon. I can usually spot that dangling red lantern from 100 yards away, but I was only 40 feet from my last stop and it wasn’t there. I checked my clipboard. I was at the stop I thought I was, and worse, the numbers were high again.
I looked back along the Endless Walk towards the elevator. I couldn’t see it, and there was only more and more fog gathering in that direction. I cursed a little to myself and turned back to head down to the last meter. My pace slowed substantially and I hardly took my eyes off the vanishing point deep down the Walk.
I got to the last meter, and there was no light. Not like it had switched off or the bulb had busted, but there was no lantern at all. In its place was a dangling cord with ripped and exposed wires. Like something had yanked the light and ate it, because no part of the lantern was on the floor. No broken bits of plastic or glass. I pulled the cord close to take a good look. It smelled like a toxic plant or a poisonous animal — something natural but disgusting.
Just as I noticed a light layer of something viscous on the end of the cord, I heard a horrible metallic howling. It sounded so close I yelled in reaction and spun around. The mist had gathered down the Walk. It was rolling in slowly like it had a mind of its own, as high as my waist, merely 50 feet from me. There was even more fog behind me, but that fog wasn’t moving in like a thick bed of lava or accompanied by an inhuman howl, so I backed away from the moving mist. I didn’t take my eyes off of it either.
I’d only taken about three or four steps back when the howling abruptly stopped, cut off by one final screech like the needle scratching a record. I stopped in my tracks to listen. There was a long moment of silence and relative stillness. The fog had stopped encroaching and simply decided to swirl 40 feet away from me so slow I could barely tell it was moving at all. That stillness didn’t last for long, though.
There was a hissing sound, just as metallic as the howling I was becoming far too familiar with. The hissing was quickly accompanied by three spouts of mist that shot up 40 feet ahead of me. In each of the spouts, I could see a hint of red. A thin tail twitching and twirling in the mist, the skin bright and shiny like some demonic porpoise. The three tails shot towards me like torpedos below the mist, that awful skittering noise scratching into my ears. I turned and ran away like my life depended on it, because it sure as hell felt that way.
I turned to look behind me to catch a glimpse of my pursuers. I screamed and nearly shit a brick when I saw them. The tails were maybe ten feet behind me, kicking up fog like dirtbikes in the sand. I turned back around, gritting my teeth and pounding my feet against the ground. Just as I turned, I saw the horrifying pale figure. He was inches in front of me, just hidden by a wall of mist. I could see his giant white form, hunched over and arms spread wide to embrace me.
I couldn’t stop in time, and I ran right into him. Though, I didn’t really run into him, exactly. I ran through him. I plunged through the wall of mist, and fully expected to be grabbed by the tall bastard. Instead, I was struck by an intense feeling of nausea and dizziness, and my body felt like it had run through a wall of quicksand. I stumbled and nearly fell to my knees, vomiting. I threw up so forcefully and instantly that it felt like my intestines were going to come shooting out of my mouth and onto the floor. All I could smell was that toxic, poisonous scent.
My throat and stomach hurt like nothing I’d ever felt, but I gathered myself from the stumble and kept running. I looked back when I realized the sounds were gone, and slowed to a walk when I saw the tunnel behind me. The mist was beginning to settle down onto the floor. There were no spouts of fog shooting towards me. No shiny red beasts dashing through the white mist to pull me under. I stopped completely to catch my breath. I glanced behind me again. I felt like whatever was in the mist, it was trying to trick me, though who fucking knew why, as it obviously could’ve gotten me at any time.
Nothing stalked up on me. The mist stayed settled to the floor and I noticed the whine and hum of the electricity begin to lessen in frequency. I leaned over to a meter that was just to my right. The gauge was decreasing in number, and it was almost back down to a normal level. I looked back down the Endless Walk, a light but cold breeze played with my hair.
“Fucking hell,” I whispered under my panting breath.
I made my way back up to the Concrete Box, my stomach still doing flips and my throat burning like it was coated in acid. I made it up to the security room and managed to get to the office chair before I collapsed into it. The running and the vomiting sapped away all my energy, and coming down from all that adrenaline didn’t help. I felt my eyelids get heavy and my body ended up giving into sleep. I remember my brain shouting at my body to cut that shit out, but my body was long past the time where it was taking my brain’s advice. I passed out, slumped over in the ancient and comfortable office chair.
The first thing I remember when I woke up was that disgusting, toxic plant smell. There was also something cold and wet pressed firmly to my mouth. I shot my eyes open to see a blurry white figure, looming over me, larger than my eyes could comprehend. He was shoving his huge, moist hand over my face, keeping me from screaming. My eyesight was still blurred from the sleep, but I was able to make out four round, large black eyes. His hand was large enough to cover nearly my whole face, and it was soft. His palm and fingers felt like there were wet tendrils protruding out, squirming around my face and into my mouth. I thrashed and tried to pull his hand away with all my might, but he didn’t budge. He only slowly leaned his face in towards mine. I couldn’t make out any of his features except those black orbs, glimmering and never blinking, staring right into me.
I yelled bloody murder as I woke up, jolting upwards nearly out of my seat. I took a large gasp inwards like I’d just come up from deep sea diving without a tank. For just a moment, I grasped at my throat and mouth, still trying to pry that pale son of a bitch off of me. I quickly realized it had all been a horrible nightmare, and between the cold sweat and the struggling for air, I tried to calm myself down.
I’d only been awake for a few seconds when I heard a loud banging on the front door to the Box. I jumped a little, still not quite recovered from the nightmare. I glanced out of the security room towards the sound, then turned to the TV monitors. Every single monitor was black with flecks of snow sifting across their dark screens. My anxieties weren’t getting a break.
I stood up in my seat and grabbed my big, heavy Maglite. I slowly leaned out of the security room doorway. Just as I poked my head out, there was another loud banging on the door. It sounded like a torture machine being put to use in a dark and damp dungeon, somewhere not nearly far enough away. I was wishing more than ever that I had my goddamn gun.
I inched through the break room and into the reception lobby. I was within a few inches of the door when the banging started again, sending tremors through the heavy, reinforced steel just inches from my hand. It caused me to jump a little and I actually got pretty angry.
“Who the fuck is it?” I yelled, my flashlight gripped tight in my hand.
“It’s Ricky, bro!” came a nervous and muffled voice through the seams of the door.
I let out a long breath of relief and slumped my shoulders. “Jesus Rick, you asshole. You scared the shit out of me.”
“Open up, man. It’s scary as hell out here, too!” Rick shouted from outside.
I hesitated for just a split second. The thought of that pale thing being on the other side of the door. Waiting there to greet me, somehow tricking me using Ricky’s voice. I chalked that up to leftover jitters from the dream and cautiously opened the door. As soon as the door creaked open, freezing mist from nearly eye level began to flow inwards, like opening a walk-in freezer. Ricky pushed himself quickly through the narrow gap in the doorway and past me. He held a pizza box with a small brown paper bag sitting on top. He stood behind me, shivering and rubbing his arms and shoulders with his free hand. He motioned to the door almost frantically, wanting me to close it. I did, quickly.
“Colder than a witch’s tit out there,” Ricky said through chattering teeth. “And I’m pretty sure there’s something out there, man.”
“What do you mean ‘something’s out there’?” I asked, focused intently on the shivering Ricky.
“I don’t know man, I saw something weird on my way out here. It was hard to tell, but it looked like something in the mist out there. Three or four little spouts that popped up in my rearview, way down. I thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me at first, but they didn’t go away. When I was getting closer to here, it looked like they were getting closer to me. I hauled ass to get here,” Ricky rambled, a distant and worried look in his eyes. Then he chuckled nervously, “I am pretty high, though.”
“Wait, what the hell are you doing out here? I didn’t call you,” I said, my curiosity giving way to my confusion.
Ricky laughed with a slightly embarrassed smile, rubbing the back of his head as he spoke. “I don’t know, dude. I was bored and this place is pretty crazy. Just wondering if I could chill here and check out all this creepy shit with you. I brought pizza and some good green.” Ricky offered a big, dumb smile and a slight shrug as he held up the pizza box and the small brown bag atop.
I stared at him for a moment, more than a little dumbfounded by Ricky. I couldn’t tell if he was brave and bored or stupid and bored. After a second, I decided it didn’t matter, and I was just happy to have the company. I laughed a little and motioned him to join me.
We headed into the security room and I saw that the monitors were all back up and operating seemingly up to standards. I was actually kind of pissed. I felt like that fella’ in the old Looney Tunes that had the singing frog. Here I was, ready to show Ricky what the hell was freaking me out, and there was nothing to show. Though, when I told Rick what’d happened he didn’t seem skeptical. He stared at me with wide eyes while mouth breathing, astonished by my tale.
“Dude, I need a smoke after that. I don’t even know how you must be holding up,” Ricky said with a worried laugh.
I turned my gaze back to the cameras. There was definitely a nice thick layer of mist out there, but it had died down a bit and I needed the peace of mind. I agreed with little reluctance and Ricky grabbed the brown bag before we both headed outside. The fog swirled around our legs and the chill in the air seeped through our skin and into our bones. We posted up in the bed of my truck, the cold trying to creep up over the tailgate to nip at us. I set my Zune to play through the truck radio and we jammed to some Zombies and Turtles and Kinks.
We blazed through the first joint and were halfway through our second. For such a foggy night, the skies themselves were surprisingly clear. The ground, however, was covered in an icy cold, three foot sheet of white that didn’t quite linger in place. It felt like we were stranded in the back of my truck, afloat in some sea on an alien world. Ricky’s car was about 15 feet from my truck, and was just able to poke a foot above the fog. The little blue hatchback looked like an extra terrestrial sea turtle, poking out of the white mists and lounging nearby. Physics and chemistry didn’t seem the same here, and the stars themselves somehow looked foreign. It was a surreal feeling, to say the least. Maybe it was just the phenomenal green that Ricky managed to get a hold of.
“Hey, you still can’t let me down there with you, right?” Rick asked while continuing to stare up at the stars and take a major hit of the joint.
“‘Fraid so, Rick,” I said as I took the J from him and hit it myself. I held it in as I continued, “All the insane and dangerous things that’ve been happening, I can’t let you go down there. I’m gonna’ be honest Rick, I don’t know why, but I feel like I have to go down there. No matter how scary or weird it is, I get the impression that if I don’t go down there, something much worse is going to happen… I don’t know, maybe this place is just making me crazy.”
“I guess I get it… it’s just, I have this sweet board in my car. I wanted to ride down the tunnel. See how far I could get, if there’s anything different down there… and end to the tunnel, maybe…” Ricky trailed off as I handed him back the J and he stared upwards.
As soon as he mentioned the skateboard, my ears perked up. “You’ve got a board? What kind?”
“Longboard. I’ve had it since I was a kid. I shred it up, bro!” Ricky fist bumped me before handing me the J. I hadn’t made a fist nor expected the bump, and it made me chuckle just a bit as I grabbed the dwindling joint.
“I used to ‘board when I was a teenager. Goddamn, it’s been an age, but I bet I could still rock a longboard,” I responded, half in my own head. I finished the J and coughed as I stood up in the bed of the truck, “Starting to freeze my balls off, let’s get inside.”
Rick and I started heading back for the door to the Concrete Box. My truck and Ricky’s hatchback were about 20 yards from the door. I knew I’d be smoking outside, so I figured I’d put some distances between myself and the cameras outside. We’d only made it a few feet from the cars when the metallic howling rose up quickly. Like whatever it was had been watching just, just waiting for our feet to hit the ground.
Just in front of the door to the Concrete Box, the mist sprouted up like a tiny tornado. In the funnel of white twirled something shimmering and red. Right away, two more spouts erupted next to the first, and two more after that. Before I had time to think, there was five spouts of mist twirling ahead of us, a glimmer of red in each.
“What the fuck?” Ricky yelled next to me.
His yell snapped me out of the awe I’d been struck into. “Fucking run!” I yelled back.
Ricky and I jolted into a sprint. I instinctively turned to head back towards my truck, but there were two more spouts of white mist and red tails heading around the back of my truck and towards us. I pivoted on my heels so quick I nearly slid face first into the dirt. I grabbed Rick by the arm and spun him around, yanking him in my direction. We ran as fast as we could away from the quickly approaching spouts, their twirling red tails and their skittering and scratching at our heels. I turned the corner around the Box and started running past the fenced off area in the back. I could hear Ricky’s panicked breathing right behind me, and the skittering of the creatures right behind him.
I laced my fingers into the fence as I rounded the second corner, the calluses on my palm scratched by the metal links. I heard Ricky mutter and stumble, then a loud thud. I looked back just in time to see a huge cloud of white mist puff out in a slow motion explosion. I ground my heels into the desert and this time I pivoted too fast. I slammed down on my knees as I lost my footing, but I was back up in less than a second. Ricky wasn’t so lucky. I rushed towards him, seeing his back rise up out of the mist with a low and pained moan.
I was nearly 10 feet away when I made eye contact with Rick. He looked terrified and confused, all the wind knocked out of him and his face covered in dirt and sweat. I reached out and he did the same. Just as his hand lifted out of the mist, the spouts made it to his feet. There was a horrible gnawing sound joined by the skittering, and Ricky yelled out in sudden and sharp pain. Then he was gone, pulled quickly under the mist that the fog hardly reacted. The spouts wreathed and rushed backwards, Ricky still screaming as they dragged him. I could see his blurry silhouette thrashing as he pulled away from me at a ridiculous speed.
I chased after Ricky as he yelled my name through the pain and dirt. The creatures dragging him caused the mist to fountain out and upwards in a huge trail as they dashed through the fog. I ran without thinking about the consequences of actually catching up. I just didn’t want my new friend to be fucking eaten alive. The blurry mass of Ricky and the red creatures began to pull away from me, despite me running at full speed. I realized I wasn’t going to catch up, so I dove forward, arms and hands stretched out. Just as I came crashing down through the fog and onto the ground, Ricky and the creatures disappeared. Ricky’s screams echoed out over the flat desert, but he was gone, literally in a puff of mist.
I scrambled quickly to my feet, afraid of being submerged in the mist for any length of time. I hastily scanned my surroundings, looking for Ricky and also wondering where the spouts that were undoubtedly coming for me were. I didn’t see either.
“Rick! Rick, can you hear me?” I yelled out across the desert, my panicked voice echoing into the distance and fading out. No one answered. Not even a howl or skittering to alarm me. Just the cold, dead air and my heavy breathing.
I looked through the mist, calling out to Rick and glancing over my shoulder every now and then. When my throat started to hurt from all the yelling into the freezing night air, I gave up. I went to my truck and grabbed my gun. I was about to head back in when I remembered the conversation I’d had with Ricky right before they took him. I went to his hatchback, the roof just poking over the top of the fog. I tried the handle, and thank Christ it was unlocked. I rummaged through the mess in his back seat until I found the longboard he’d mentioned. It was old and had plenty of miles under it, but it was still sturdy and solid with plenty of spin on the wheels. I rushed from Ricky’s hatchback and back to the Concrete Box.
I shoved my way through the door, expecting a row of teeth to sink into my heel at the very last second. As though the creatures were toying with me, fueling my anxieties up to the most appetizing moment. Thankfully, I was wrong. As soon as I was inside the Box, I slammed the door shut, locked it, and pressed my back against the cold metal. I was worn out and couldn’t breathe. I held my head back as the cold sweat dripped down my face. I slowly looked down as I began to calm myself, and that’s when I saw it on the floor.
Splayed out on the floor of the reception room, all over that disgusting grey tile, were thousands of ripped up pieces of glossy paper. The paper had been shredded to pieces and spread out in front of me. The small, round metal table had been flung to one corner. There was a crack on the wall where it had hit and stucco powder and debris on the floor. The chairs were all together gone, no sign of where they went. But all of that was secondary to what the ripped pages displayed. It took my eyes a moment to realize just what they were seeing. Then I discovered the image, collaged together from thousands of tiny pictures and words. Made of ripped colors and shapes was Ricky’s face, screaming silently and frozen in a state of extreme fear.
I was terrified and enraged at the same time. Something had taken Ricky right out from under me, and now it was taunting me with his tortured image. I had no idea what could be capable of completely vanishing with someone, and be able to make something like what I was staring at. I had so many awful questions racing through my head, with absolutely no answers. I angrily kicked the pile of papers into a burst of shimmering colors through the air.
I marched through the break room and into the security room. I threw Ricky’s old long board on the ground and slumped into the ancient office chair. I wanted to shout as loud as I could, I was so frustrated. I buried my forehead hard into my hands and rubbed at my temples. I could feel the cold metal of my .357 pressed against the small of my back, reminding me I wasn’t completely helpless. Just completely aimless.
I heard the flicker and static of the monitors all come to life at once. I slowly and cautiously raised my gaze up from the floor. The 12 TVs all displayed a black screen sprinkled with snow while they crackled and hummed. Then, starting with the top left monitor, they all started to click to a clear screen. The first one popped into focus and there I was, sitting defeated in the ancient office chair, staring at the stack of TVs. The next one popped before I had a chance to realize what has happening. There I was again. The next monitor clicked onto the same angle of me, then the next, and the next. Before I knew it, every TV monitor displayed me, alone in that tiny security room, staring at a dozen worried copies of myself.
Just as I was getting to my most paranoid state, the “ding” of the elevator sounded to my left and nearly sent me flying out of the chair. I stood up in a hurry, and pushed the chair back as my hand instinctively went for my pistol. I drew my big-ass revolver and took aim as the heavy metal door slid open with a low, unnerving screech. The inside of the elevator was pitch black as the door opened, and it looked like it was creating a portal to the darkest void of outer space. I could feel the freezing air assault me, and I watched my breath mist out in front of me. Finally, the light flickered on inside the elevator, dimly lighting it. I was ready to unload all eight shots into whatever I thought was waiting for me in there. To my relief, it was just an empty metal box with a flickering light.
“Fuck that,” I murmured to myself as I backed away a few slow steps. I turned to see the red digital read out glaring at me in the darkness. It read: 2:58 AM.
I backed up even further, finding the back of my legs up against the chair in the corner of the tiny security room. I slumped into it, feeling paranoid and defeated. I wasn’t going down there, no matter what fucking force wanted me to. At least, that was my intention. My intentions were about to shift dramatically, though.