The Watchman | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

The Watchman

THE WATCHMAN By: Dallas G. Releford Jim Kennedy sat quietly in the auditorium of the local high school and listened intently to the President of Texas Machinery, Incorporated speaking. It was a hot summer day and the heat, the flies and the threat of losing his job distracted him as he tried to focus on what Mr. Benjamin Schauer was saying. Jim had worked as a machinist for the company for over thirty years but with the depression going full blast, everyone was losing their jobs. Being so close to the Mexican border didn’t help matters any either. There was an almost constant flood of bodies coming over from Mexico looking for work each day as the depression got worse. Jim wasn’t a bit surprised when Mr. Schauer announced that the plant was closing. He had heard rumors about that possibility for weeks but now it was finally official. Like most of the rest of the world, he wondered how he was going to survive without a job or even the prospect of one. He had enough money saved to last him for less than two months but after that, his future was extremely questionable. Like many other unfortunate Americans, he wandered the streets looking for work but every place that he went had NO HELP WANTED signs all over their places of business. At age sixty-five he would have a hard time finding a job in a normal economy but in the present situation, he found that finding work was nearly impossible. The weeks went by quickly as the little amount of money that he had saved slowly disappeared. Jim considered taking what money he had left and moving to another city but the newspapers were saying that things were bad everywhere. One day around noon, he stopped at a company on the edge of town out in the boondocks to ask for a drink of water because he had been walking for hours. The name on the old shabby building was Ryan’s Import and Export Company but Jim barely noticed the sign because he was so tired, thirsty and hungry. “Do you think it’s going to get any hotter?” Jim asked the man sitting at the desk. “I hope not,” he said casually seeming disinterested in another beggar off the streets. They must get twenty a day he thought as he stared at Jim. “What can I do for you sir?” “I just wanted to ask if I could have a glass of water because I’ve been pounding the streets looking for work since seven o’clock this morning.” “Sure you can have all the water you want,” the man said. “My name is Bill Sherman and I own this company. What is your name?” “Jim Kennedy,” Jim said shaking Mr. Sherman’s hand. “I appreciate the water.” “Help yourself Jim,” Sherman told him. “What kind of job are you looking for Jim?” “Just anything --- I’ll do anything,” he said. “A hungry man can’t be too choosey.” “We’re in need of a night watchman,” Sherman told him. “If you’re interested you can start work tonight. It doesn’t pay much but it’s an income and we give you one free meal each night.” “Ill take it gladly,” Jim said feeling relieved that he finally had something to look forward to. “I really appreciate you giving me work Mr. Sherman.” “No problem Jim,” Sherman replied. “We’ll get the paperwork done and you can start work at ten o’clock tonight. We have a few people working here until nine but I’ll give you a key so you can get in. It’s a simple job Jim. All you have to do is to lock the place up every night and make sure that no unauthorized person gains entrance.” “That does sound simple,” Jim agreed. “Is there anyone that can show me around?” “I’ll give you a tour right now,” Sherman told him. “There’s one room you should never go into for any reason. We call it “the freezer” because it is so cold in there. We use it to store our “perishable” exports. It’s kept locked so just don’t worry about that area.” Jim followed Mr. Sherman through the building trying to memorize where all the doors that he had to lock were located. That night found him walking back to the place along the almost deserted streets. It wasn’t much more than five miles from where Jim lived to Ryan’s Import and Export Company. With the arthritis in his left hip bothering him, he hobbled onward toward a night that he was sure to remember forever, if he lived through it. When he arrived, he tried to open the front door but it was locked. He remembered that Mr. Sherman had forgotten to give him the key and wondered how he was going to get into the building. Finally he found a small button on the right side of the door and pushed it several times. Jim waited hoping that someone would come and open the door for him. He waited longer and rang the bell several times because there wasn’t anything else that he could do. Eventually, he heard footsteps and then someone tinkering with the lock on the door. He supposed that whoever was in there tinkering with the lock was attempting to let him in. “I’m sorry but I was in the back and didn’t hear the bell,” a tall man with a balding head and deep set, penetrating eyes said. “Don’t worry about it,” Jim said, “because I’m just a little early. I have to walk so I left early so I can get here on time.” “That’s fine, punctuality is important when you’re working,” the man told him. “I’m Olin Wilson and I usually work until about ten-thirty getting the last orders filled and ready to be shipped early tomorrow morning. I leave in a few minutes --- it’s been an unusually long day for me. Now, what did you say your name was? Oh, Mr. Sherman told me your name was Jim --- Jim Kennedy. Is that it? Is my memory serving me right?” “Yes it is Mr. Wilson, Jim replied, “and I’m glad to meet you.” “Just call me Olin,” he said to Jim smiling. After Wilson left, Jim explored his new domain checking doors and windows to make sure they were secured. When he was finished checking the doors and turned out all the lights that he thought he wouldn’t need, he went back to the desk in the front of the plant and decided to have a cup of coffee. He had brought his own coffee with him because he hoped the caffeine would help to keep him awake. He only had to make a patrol every two hours but before the first hour was up, he was already feeling alone in the large dark building where every “snap, crackle and pop” had some particular significance. Some sounds sparked his imagination, some sounds merely caught his attention and some of them terrified him because he didn’t know what was causing them. As he sat there trembling and dreading walking through the dark building again, he could hear muffled, far way voices speaking. It seemed that many voices were speaking at the same time. He couldn’t tell much about what they were saying because there were so many of them but he knew there were men, women and children making the sounds. Some voices spoke in English while others spoke in what he thought was Spanish. At first, Jim thought that it was his imagination but as he listened to the sounds, he knew that they definitely weren’t in his head but were coming from a very specific direction and that direction was from the rear of the building. As he listened, Jim wondered if he wasn’t just hearing the hot water expanding the pipes or maybe steam hissing out some leaky valve somewhere. The more he listened, the more convinced he became that it wasn’t in his head, it wasn’t a leaky valve and it wasn’t coming from some old hot water pipe. Jim Kennedy wasn’t a coward. Like his ancestors, particularly his father and grandfather, he had fought in a terrible war and had survived. He had seen and heard many terrible, horrible things in his life but nothing was more eerie than the sounds he was hearing now. There was something so mysterious about them. Jim finished the cup of coffee, grabbed up the flashlight and walked toward where he thought he heard the sounds coming from. He was annoyed that a few sounds, nothing more than muffled whispers, screeching voices and unintelligible grunts could frighten him so much. He was frustrated, embarrassed and humiliated that such things could scare him completely out of his wits. Jim had never heard anything like those sounds in his entire life, until now. The closer Jim got to where he thought the sounds were coming from the louder the sounds became until he could hardly stand it. It was hard to tell exactly where they were coming from but the closer he got to the locked storage room the louder they became. When he finally walked up to the door that led to the interior of the storage room the voices ended abruptly. Was he imagining things? He wondered as he stood there staring at the large padlock on the door. He placed the palm of his hand flatly against the door only to find that it was too cold for him to keep it there for very long. He quickly withdrew his hand because the coldness hurt it so much. He considered placing his ear next to the door to see if he could hear anything that might sound like human voices but decided against it. Jim figured that any living thing inside the room would be frozen solid and could hardly make the sounds he had heard. Frustrated, confused and a little scared, he decided to check all the doors and windows in the building again. Maybe he had left a window open and he was hearing a radio or something? As he walked away from the door the voices began again. This time they were almost inaudible but he could still hear them very clearly. Jim had had it. There was either someone else in the building or he had left a window open. He carefully and meticulously checked all the windows and doors again only to find that they were all closed and locked. He was walking back toward the front desk when a blue light suddenly formed in front of him. Jim stopped in his tracks dropping the flashlight in the process. Jim trembled from head to foot as he watched the light and as he did so he was able to distinguish a figure in the light. The light became less intense as the figure became more dominant. “Who are you? What do you want?” Jim asked as the figure became brighter hurting his eyes, but he could readily make out a distinctive human form. Jim wasn’t sure about what was happening. He was just a simple country boy with a lot of common sense and very little education. He had operated the same machine for thirty years and things like what was happening to him now had never happened to him before. “The room --- you must go into the room,” the phantom told him. The figure that looked more like the ghosts that Jim had seen in magazines and in the movies, started to take on more of a human form one that wavered from some other world to this one. Finally, Jim could plainly see a middle-aged Mexican man standing before him. “There is much evil in this place. Please be careful and please be aware of the Vampires,” he said. “The room --- go into the room and you will see what I mean.” Before Jim could respond, the man walked back into the light and they both disappeared. Jim pondered over the strange request and the eerie figure of the Mexican man. He had been instructed not to enter the room under any circumstances and even if he could cut the lock from the door and didn’t find anything, then he would surely lose his job and he needed it very badly. Was the thing that had visited him a ghost, an apparition or was it just someone playing tricks on him? Maybe his bosses were trying to test him to see if he would indeed go into the room? He didn’t know but he figured that anything was possible. His curiosity was getting the better part of him. Maybe he could get into the room and they wouldn’t know? What would be the harm in that? What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, he figured while contemplating what to do. Jim had worked on machines all his life and he figured that he was as good as the next person. After all, he had worked for the same company for over thirty years and if he couldn’t come up with some way to remove a lock from a door then he wasn’t the machinist that he thought that he was. It was as simple as that. He figured that opening a simple padlock shouldn’t be such a big problem. As he walked back to the desk so shaken up that he could hardly place one foot in front of the other, he thought more about the padlock and how he might be able to unlock it. The building had once been a manufacturing plant and all the vertical and horizontal lathes, drill presses and other machinery were still there. He didn’t know if the present owner was using the equipment or not but he didn’t think they would know if he used what he needed to use. He was surprised to find several shelves of metal stock with almost every size, shape and diameter that could be used to make just about anything. He located the smallest round rod that he could find. Jim very carefully cut two pieces in the band saw. He next turned the round metal stock in a small lathe until it was the right diameter. He sanded and polished the two metal rods until he was satisfied that they were what he needed to pick the lock. Not wishing to leave any indication that he had been using the machinery, he carefully cleaned up the area so that it looked exactly like it had looked before. The only difference was that eight inches was missing from one of the long, round rods and he hid that one among the others so it couldn’t be seen. It took Jim more than an hour to pick the lock. He nervously but carefully removed the padlock and laid it aside before opening the door. What he saw there made him dizzy, sick at his stomach and all he wanted to do was get as far away from the place as possible. The temperature wasn’t as cold as he had first thought but he did notice a huge walk-in freezer in the back of the room. He tried to remain calm as his eyes surveyed the room. There were perhaps twenty Mexicans naked and bound to heavy wooden tables with long tubes running from their bodies to some kind of a machine on the wall. One single tube, much larger in diameter than the others, ran from the machine to a huge glass container on the floor. There were several of these huge containers and all except the one with the large tube were filled with blood, human blood. The container with the huge tube was receiving blood from the victims on the tables. Jim tried to control his urge to run while he attempted to figure out what was happening. He figured that the machine was a pump that slowly drained the blood from the humans into the large bottle. When that container was full then the mechanism triggered so that blood would flow into a new container. He saw several of those smaller containers near the wall and they all had tubes running from them to the pump. Jim shivered. He never did like cold weather and he figured that the 20 degrees in the room was playing havoc on his arthritis because most of his joints were beginning to hurt. He carefully ventured into the room looking at the silent, pale figures on the tables. Did they have all their blood drained in one session or was it a continuous process where the body was allowed to make new blood before it was drained again? He wondered about it but figured that all the blood was drained and that each body was replaced with another one when it no longer contained any blood. He wasn’t a doctor but the bodies on the tables appeared as if they were almost dead. Jim knew that it was much too late for him to do anything for them so he turned his attention to the walk-in freezer. He had never seen such a contraption before but he had become convinced that it was being used to freeze the blood. He couldn’t even guess why someone would want to collect so much human blood but he figured they were selling it to some other company or something like that. He was absolutely right. The freezer was used for storing the processed blood and some of it was being packed in crates for shipment. Jim cringed in fear as he made one horrible discovery after another. He was terrified and appalled to find dozens of human bodies, men, women and children, naked, frozen and stacked neatly on top of each other in the rear of the huge locker. One of the crates caught his eye as he walked back toward the front of the freezer. A sign on the side of the crate was written in huge block letters. It said: PERISHABLE KEEP FROZEN. Then Jim noticed the small shipping label on the top of the crate. There was one word that caught his eye the most and sent shivers down his spine. It said: TRANSYLVANIA. He had never heard of the place but the coldness and the fact that he had seen so much just made him want to get out of the locker. Jim Kennedy was even more terrified when he heard the locker door slam shut making him a prisoner with all the dead people. “See, I told you that his curiosity would get the best of him,” Sherman said to the man next to him as they looked down upon the frozen body of Jim Kennedy. “That’s the fourth guard we’ve lost this month.” “What do we do with him Mr. Sherman?” The man asked. “Do what we did with all the others. Just thaw him out, drain his blood and freeze him again.” “How are we going to explain all these missing guards?” The man asked. “We’ll just say that he quit the first night and that’s the truth. We’ll say that we haven’t seen him since. Most of them are drifters looking for work or someone that nobody cares anything about like this old man. We’ll dump him and the other guards with the Mexicans below the border where they’ll never be found.” “Yes its quite a business we have here,” Roy said. “We supply blood to all the other Vampires in the world and of course, there is always plenty for us so we don’t have to worry about where our next blood comes from.” “Exactly,” Sherman agreed, “and as long as the Mexicans keep coming across the border, we’ll have an endless supply of fresh blood. The Master is very pleased with us Roy.” The End
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