When The Darkness Falls | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

When The Darkness Falls

WHEN THE DARKNESS FALLS By: Dallas G. Releford “You’re not really considering going to work in that stinking place, are you?” Jenny asked. “And why not?” Emily asked her wondering what the fuss was all about. “I mean, it’s only for the summer and it’ll give me a chance to make a little money for my schooling next year.” “Well, if you ask me,” Jenny replied putting her books in the hall locker and slamming the door shut, “I think that you’re crazy. That place is damp, dirty, dark and you actually have to crawl back into some of the areas where the mushrooms are grown to pick them. I know because my dad used to work there.” “Oh Jenny,” Emily replied pushing her long dark hair out of her eyes, “it can’t be all that bad and like I say, it’s only for the summer.” Jenny shrugged her shoulders as if she was about to give up on Emily. She couldn’t understand why Emily would take a job in such a horrible place. “Why are you doing this Emily?” She asked closing the door to her locker. “Do you like to suffer or are you just plain crazy?” “Jobs are hard to find,” Emily told her, “and believe me, I’ve applied everywhere. You should know how it is Jenny. All the good jobs go to certain people and with all the Mexicans coming across the border --- well, there isn’t much left for us Americans these days. What few menial labor jobs are left usually end up in China or India. The other countries import everything over here and sell it to us at a very high price and we don’t export much back to them. It’s a one-way street that has turned this country into a nightmare. America isn’t what it used to be and it never will be the same again. You already know that my father died last year and we don’t have much money. My mom can hardly make enough money as a waitress to feed us much less send me to school.” “Well fine,” Jenny said, “if you’re going to work there then I’ll get a job there too. I’ll go up and apply first thing in the morning.” “That’s up to you,” Emily said as they walked down the hallway and out the front door just as the rest of the kids were leaving. They both lived close to the school and normally walked home except when it was too cold or raining. Since they were two of the prettiest girls in school, they usually didn’t have a problem finding a ride. “Well, look who it is,” one of several boys said as they walked by them. “Well if it isn’t the mushroom girl.” Emily felt her face get warm as she blushed and became angry when she heard her name being slandered by one of the ugliest, meanest and worst smelling boys at Hustonville High School. “Don’t let them get under your skin,” Jenny advised her. “They just want to see how much they can agitate you because you won’t go out with any of them.” “I’m sure of that,” Emily said. “But I’m just wondering how they knew that I was going to work at the mushroom plant. I mean, well you’re the only one that I’ve told that and I just told you today.” “Oh, they all work over there,” Jenny said. “It’s kind of rough in that place and the only people they can get to work there are people like Jake Monroe, Billy Kidd, Tobe Smith and people like that. That’s why I warned you about working there. They’re pretty rough customers.” “Great,” Emily said, “that’s all I need. Well, I guess that I’ll just have to deal with it.” They walked on past the boys without paying them any attention. Their action didn’t stop the boys from watching them as they walked down the street. “Jake Monroe is such a nerd,” Jenny said. “Did you see the way he picks his nose all the time? I don’t know if you’ve noticed but those dirty clothes he wears stink like they’ve never been washed. He just sends shivers down my spine. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen anyone like him before and I hope I never do see anyone like that again.” “Well, I didn’t really pay that much attention to him,” Emily admitted. “I’m more concerned about going to work with those guys but like I said, I’ll just have to deal with it.” Emily was confident that she could deal with anything but there was a shadow of doubt in the back of her mind and that caused her some concern. She was young but she was intelligent enough to know that she would have to constantly be on guard against the advances of such people. Her first day on the job consisted of filling out endless forms and on the job training. By mid-afternoon, she was out on the floor collecting mushrooms in a wooden box and carrying them to the conveyor line that carried the dirty, smelly things to the processing plant. The worst part of the job was dealing with the smell of the manure that was used to enrich the soil that the mushrooms were grown in. The sweltering heat added to her misery causing the dirt and fine dust to stick solidly to her perspiring body and her wet clothes. She found herself wanting a long cool shower more than anything else. The labor in the dark, unventilated old building was long and hard but she did have the good fortune to be working with Jenny and another young girl named Wilma Barbour. “Imagine that,” Jenny said as she took another box of mushrooms from Emily and emptied it on the conveyor belt, “we only have to do this for the next three months.” The mushrooms were grown in long wooden trays that were stacked one above the other and looked just like any other shelf structure except the shelves were boxed in and filled with the smelly dirt. Emily and Wilma were picking the mushrooms, putting them into baskets or wooden boxes and then handing them down from the shelves to Jenny and another older lady named Joyce Sykes. Joyce and Jenny had the job of carrying the containers to the conveyor lines. As Jenny turned around to deliver the full tray to the conveyor belt she abruptly collided with something flabby that knocked her to the ground. The mushrooms were scattered all over the damp dirt beneath her feet. At first, she was disoriented by the impact with the solid object and the fall to the ground but her vision slowly cleared and she could see a huge form standing over her. As she became more aware, she was horrified to see that it was her worst nightmare, Jake Monroe. Even with her blurred vision, she could see his red face, the white of his eyes and his big mouth hanging open with the slobbers falling all over her. “Look what you did, maggot brain,” he yelled pointing at the dirt and pieces of mushrooms on his clothes as if a little more dirt was going to hurt him. In her mind, it was hard to distinguish the dirt she had accidentally thrown on him from the normal dirt on his clothes. “I never did anything,” Jenny screamed trying to defend herself against what she considered a bully. “You were standing behind me, probably gawking at my butt like you always do. And, don’t you ever call me names again.” “Is that so? Well, we got ways to take care of troublemakers like you,” Jake stammered stomping his big foot right between her legs and splattering mushrooms right into her face. Jenny braced herself as he grabbed her by the hair and jerked her to her feet as she screamed for help. When she was standing in front of him Jake let her hair go only long enough to draw his arm back and slap her on the cheek. Jenny fell to the ground unconscious. Emily had seen the trouble brewing like a dark, tall thunderhead on the horizon on a hot summer afternoon. She had descended the ladder just as Jake had pulled Jenny up by her hair. When she saw Jake slap Jenny and knock her to the ground, she was filled with hate for the mean slob and fierce rage filled her mind and heart with revenge. She seriously thought that Jenny was dead or very seriously injured. Jenny wasn’t moving and the big jerk was just standing there laughing at her. Emily grabbed the first thing that she saw, a shovel that was leaning against a post. She aimed for the top of his head and swung the implement with all her strength. The shovel bounced off big Jake’s neck and he fell to the ground like a plump pumpkin. She gasped as he fell right on top of Jenny but then rolled over on the ground on his back. Blood was gushing from his nostrils. By the time Emily realized what she had done all the women in the area were screaming and yelling for help. Their screams attracted the attention of many other workers. The small crowd that gathered soon swelled to a large crowd and among those that were in the group was several friends of Jake Monroe. “Look! Look what those women did to Jake,” Tobe Smith yelled pointing an accusing finger at Emily. “She killed him. Someone call the police.” Emily felt her heart sink to the lowest level that it ever had. Her first day on the job and she was already accused of murder. “I didn’t do anything,” Emily pleaded but there was so much noise that nobody heard her, or wanted to hear her. “He hit Jenny and knocked her to the ground and I was just defending her.” “Lair! Lair!” Bill Kidd screamed jumping up and down like the spoiled little brat that he was. “I saw the whole thing, she threw mushrooms all over him and he was just defending himself. They are lying. I saw it all.” None of the other workers that had seen what had really happened would say anything because they knew precisely what the friends of Jake Monroe would do. If you went up against one of them, you had to fight all of them. Emily stood there alone facing a mob of enraged, senseless boys waiting for the inevitable slaughter that was sure to come. “I’m with you,” Wilma Barbour said walking up and standing beside her. “I saw everything that happened.” “I did too,” Joyce Sykes said. Slowly but surely most of the women stood behind Emily and the men stood on the side of the Monroe gang. Several of the male workers that didn’t like Jake Monroe or his friends decided that they didn’t want any part of it and walked away shaking their heads. Just as they were ready to clash, Josh Claiborne, the plant supervisor walked up to the group and demanded to know what was going on. “What’s happening here people? Why aren’t you folks working?” Josh yelled angrily and he was about ready to yell some more until he saw the two injured workers on the floor. “What happened to them?” He asked Bill Kidd. “Aw, boss,” Bill said pointing at the female on the ground, “she started the whole thing by throwing an entire tray of mushrooms on Jake. There was a scuffle and the broad got knocked on the floor. Then that little hussy there hit poor Jake over the head with a shovel.” Emily was angered by at the thought that the big brute was accusing her of anything and that he was passing blame at Jenny. Before she could speak up Wilma Barbour came to her defense. “He’s lying Mr. Claiborne,” Wilma yelled trying to make her voice heard over the accusations and protests of Jake’s friends. “It was all an accident. Jake was standing behind her and was going to pinch her butt but Jenny turned around too quick and bumped into him. She accidentally spilled the mushrooms on him. She fell to the ground and Jake pulled her up by her hair and then hit her real hard. Emily hit Jake to keep him from hurting Jenny again. That’s the truth Mr. Claiborne no matter what his friends say.” Two of the other women started to speak up in their behalf but Claiborne held up his hands, “It doesn’t matter who started it,” he said, “but the truth of the matter is that we have two injured people here that have to be helped. I’ll deal with the problem later. Jessie, you run up to the office and call the life squad. Tell them we have two injured workers and we don’t know the extent of their injuries. The rest of you people had better get back to work and be quick about it.” Jessie Smith who was Mr. Claiborne’s assistant, rushed toward the office to call for help while the supervisor bent over the two workers and tried to revive them but had little success in doing that. Most of the people went back to work but Emily and Wilma stayed with their friend until the life squad arrived. “Do you think they’re alive Mr. Claiborne?” Emily asked with a stressed look on her face. “They’re both still breathing,” he said, “but Jake looks like he’s in the worst shape of the two of them.” When the life squad had finally arrived, they thought that Jake had a concussion and other head injuries but Jenny seemed to have fared a little better. She had suffered a pulled muscle in her neck and a possible broken rib. They surmised that when she fell that she had broken it on the side of the wooden box. They both were rushed off to the hospital as quickly as possible. “I want to see the both of you in my office right now,” Claiborne told Emily and Wilma as the ambulance pulled away from the dock entrance with the sirens screaming. The girls reluctantly followed him up the wooden stairs. Both of them were quite sure that this would be their last day of work. “You ladies have a seat,” he growled after they had entered the dirty, cluttered office. “We’re going to have a little talk.” Emily just wanted to tell him off and walk out the door but since she needed the money, she decided to wait and see what he had to say. She could always quit later. Wilma sat quietly near her constantly biting her nails. Mr. Claiborne sat down in the leather chair and folded his hands together resting them on the desk. “Now ladies, I know this is your first day here at Fred’s Mushrooms and that you both have had a rough day but I have a responsibility to the owners and that means that I have to make sure that this business makes money.” Emily’s heart sank and she knew his speech meant that they both were going to get canned. She once again thought about leaving but before she could interrupt him, he continued. “I know we have a lot of problems here mainly because we are forced to hire some of the elements of society that are quite undesirable. You both are beautiful women and from experiences we had in the past, those elements just aren’t going to go away. Sure, you have rights and you can file grievances, lawsuits and whatever else you want to file but they’re just going to keep bothering for as long as you work here. They probably wouldn’t bother you so much now that I know what their game plan is but that doesn’t prevent them from harassing you on the way home or even once you are at home. They are an arrogant, stupid and dangerous bunch of people and Jake Monroe is the worst of the lot.” “But that isn’t our fault,” Wilma said, “I mean, we can’t help it because we’re females and they perceive us as being a threat to them or something like that.” “Of course you can’t help it and I’m not blaming you for that,” Josh assured her. “I just need to reduce the possibilities that you will be harassed again. I’ve talked to the police and they said that Emily was just defending herself and Jenny so we don’t have a problem there unless Jake decides to file charges. I don’t think that Jake will be feeling like doing much of anything for a while. To give him more to do, like look for another job, I’m letting him go and he’s not allowed back on the property again, ever.” Emily breathed a sigh of relief and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Thank you Mr. Claiborne,” she said and sat back in the chair glad that she wouldn’t have to worry about Jake anymore. “No problem,” Claiborne said but before he could continue, the telephone rang and he answered it. They heard Jake’s name mentioned a couple of times and then Claiborne hung up the phone. “That was the hospital,” he informed them. “Jake does have a bad head injury but they think he will be fine in a week or so. Jenny has been released and has gone home. She’s a little shaken up, which is expected but she is fine and will be able to return to work tomorrow.” Emily was happy that Jenny hadn’t been hurt real bad and she was glad that Jake wouldn’t be able to get out and wait for her on a dark street corner some night. “Mr. Claiborne,” Emily said, “there must be some way to keep his friends from bothering us. We have a right to work without feeling threatened.” “Yes, you do have that right and I totally agree with you,” he told her, “and I’m working on that problem. I think the solution is to isolate all the females from them or put you girls on another shift or something. This is a growing company and we want to expand it. Unfortunately, the only way we can go right now is up or down. We have an old basement that hasn’t been used in years so we’re going to clean that up and move part of the processing operation down there. Now, that brings us to a question concerning you ladies. Would you be interested in helping cleanup down there? When the processing starts, I can assure you that you’ll have a job there for as long as you like. That job will be easier, cleaner and much better than the one you’re doing now. There is also a possibility that jobs will open up in the office but right now that is the only thing that I can offer you. Well, how do you feel about that?” Emily and Wilma exchanged glances. “It’s fine with me,” Emily replied, “and the clean job sounds good.” “Great,” Josh Claiborne said glad that some of the burden of his responsibilities would soon be alleviated, “if all goes well, you can start on Saturday. The only thing is that we’re going to do it on the midnight shift so it won’t interfere with our day operations. The processing operation will continue on the first shift until you have everything all cleaned up and then we can move the equipment in and you can start your new jobs.” “What about the rest of the week?” Wilma asked. “Just take it off and relax and we’ll pay you for your time,” he said. “We owe you at least that much. Be in here at eleven o’clock Saturday night promptly all ready to go to work. And --- another thing, there’ll be a supervisor here and a security guard in the lobby. There will probably be fourteen women on the work detail. If you have any problems just tell the supervisor or the officer at the front desk. There shouldn’t be any men in the building at all except for the guard. That should eliminate any of Jake’s crowd that can cause you any trouble. I’ve instructed the guard to watch the parking lot when the workers are arriving and leaving. So with that, we’ll see you ladies on Saturday.” They both thanked him and as they left the plant, they were aware of many evil eyes watching them with a hatred that they could feel until they had walked out the door. It was a feeling that they would feel many times in the future. Saturday night came before Emily realized that it was finally there. She had spent most of the day on Friday with Jenny shopping and just talking about all the things that had happened. Jenny had picked Emily up at ten-thirty that night and at ten-forty, they were sitting in the parking lot of Fred’s Mushroom plant watching the security guard checking out all the women coming in for the “graveyard shift” that they dreaded so much. “Well, I guess we had better get in before we’re late,” Emily said as Jenny turned off the radio. “I guess so,” she agreed, “we had such a lovely time on our first day here. I wonder what tonight will be like.” “It’ll be fine,” Emily told her. “Come on, let’s make haste.” As they walked toward the entrance, Emily surveyed the property with suspicious eyes. She could just imagine dark figures hiding behind the trees watching every swing of their hips, every step they took and just waiting to pounce on them. Everything looks so ancient, she thought. The parking lot was graveled and the old building was constructed from wood that was decaying in way too many places. The weather had removed all the paint from the rotten walls a long time ago. The manure odor stung her nostrils and she reminded herself that she would never get used to that in a million years. It’s only for the summer something inside her kept saying. They ignored the guard as they entered the building but they could feel his eyes staring at them until he couldn’t see them anymore. They put their things in their lockers and went to the assembly area where they had been instructed to go. “Ladies, may I please have your attention,” the lady that resembled a female wrestler said. “My name is Diane Griggs and I’m your supervisor. I’ve been working here for over twelve years and I can tell you that I’m not looking forward to going down to that basement. It won’t be all that bad but it’s dirty down there. If we all work together though and get the place cleaned up then we’ll have a real nice place to work.” “Are there critters down there?” Someone asked and everyone else laughed. Diane didn’t laugh and that action on her part gave Emily the impression that she was the type of person that was all business. “Diane sure is a real motivational and morale booster,” Emily whispered to Jenny. “A little bit more and she’ll have me convinced not to go down there myself.” “You know,” Diane said, “that I just knew that someone was going to ask that question about rats and other critters. I don’t know the answer but I wouldn’t really be surprised if we didn’t encounter at least a few of them. The truth of the matter is that not too many people have ever been to the basement. Some of the men have warned us not to go down there because of monsters and other horrible things but then you know yourself how some men are. They’re just trying to frighten us so they can make fun of us.” “I think they’ve done a good job at that,” another woman said. “Are you sure there isn’t a little truth to that?” Diane seemed to take the woman’s question seriously. “Of course not,” she replied, “and I don’t want anyone believing things like that. The only reason I brought the subject up in the first place was to dispel any rumors that you may have heard regarding such things. I can tell you that it’s a big place down there and it can be intimidating when you first see it. The electricians were busy all week installing lights so we can see how to work. Enough of the talk ladies, it’s time to get down to business. Let’s get organized and get to work.” Emily was astounded by the size of the huge basement that was just one big room. From what she could see of the place during the tour that had been conducted by Diane, it had been divided up into several smaller areas. Diane had said that the building had once been a nursing home and that most of the basement had been used for storage. The nursing home had been closed around 1924 and the building had been vacant until Fred’s Mushroom bought it in 1957. Emily, Jenny, Wilma and Ann Nelson were assigned to an area adjacent to another door that led down to where coal was once stored. They were told not to worry about the coal bin because it was going to be sealed. As they moved dirty boxes, pieces of old rotten wood and other garbage that looked like it had been there for a hundred years, they began to wonder just what they had gotten themselves into. “What a mess,” Wilma said scooping up a load of wet, decaying cardboard boxes with a shovel. It was almost all that she could do to lift it and toss it into the huge garbage bin. “What did they say they were paying us?” She rested her arm on the handle of the shovel as she watched the other three women working at tearing down the mountain of garbage that extended almost to the ceiling. “I don’t know but I’m sure that it isn’t enough,” Jenny complained shoveling up the rotten boxes, papers and tin cans and tossing them into the large trash bin. She wondered just how many loads of garbage it would take to clean up the mountain of debris. Luckily for them, all the trash carts had sturdy wheels and could be pushed to the rickety old freight elevator where they would be taken to the dumpster on the dock by the trash removal detail. The girls had started the task with a great deal of enthusiasm but by one o’clock they were frustrated to discover that the huge pile of debris just seemed to be getting bigger. They had filled twenty trash carts with the wet, moldy, smelly and heavy stuff and all that work had seemed futile to them. “When do we get a break?” Jenny asked. “It’s hot down here and I need something cold to drink.” “At two o’clock and then we get half-an-hour for lunch at three thirty,” Emily told them. “I always remember when I get my breaks.” As she was talking, Emily pushed the shovel under more of the debris and as she pulled the loaded shovel upward, something caught her eye. She let the shovel rest on the floor and took another look not believing that she was seeing what she thought she saw. The other girls immediately stopped what they were doing as Emily screamed. The echo of her voice bounced off the walls creating an eerie sound that sent chills down the spines of many of the female workers. It also attracted many other workers to the area where she was working. “What is that?” Jenny asked. “What did you find Emily?” “Oh, it’s just the skeleton of a doll’s hand or maybe that of a manikin,” Wilma said trying to remain calm and reasonable. “Maybe,” Emily said nervously, “but dolls are made from a solid material and they don’t have skeletons.” Wilma nodded her head and knew that there was only one other possible explanation. Before she could voice her opinion, Emily said the words that were in her mouth for her. “It’s a human hand,” Emily said backing away from the shovel that held the grisly remains. “At least it’s the bones from a human hand. There isn’t much else left but the bones.” “If that’s true then how did it get down here?” Jenny asked. “I don’t know,” Emily replied, “but I have a real creepy feeling about this place. There’s something else that I’ve noticed too. Do you guys see the tiny mushrooms that seem to be growing all over everything down here? I mean, they’re all over this heap of garbage and I’ve even seen them in the garbage that we threw out, especially where it’s wet.” “What’s going on here? What’s wrong?” They all turned around to see Diane and several of the other women staring at them as if they were all crazy. “What --- why aren’t you all working?” “Look what we found,” Wilma said pointing to the hand in the shovel with the garbage in it. “Oh you guys are just trying to get out of work. You’re sacred of your own shadows.” Diane made the comment as if she was the bravest one of them all but each of the ladies in the group knew that she was just saying that to hide her own fears. She walked over to the shovel and bent over it with her eyes focused on the pale, bony object as if attempting to prove them wrong. Her interest grew as she looked at it until her curiosity got the better of her and she reached down and picked it up by the thumb. The thumb immediately detached from the rest of the structure and fell to the floor. As she attempted to recover the other part of the hand, something moved in the pile of garbage and Diane jumped up just as a huge rat stuck its head out from behind an old cardboard box. The beady eyes of the creature that resembled those of a demon were fixed aggressively on Diane. Diane was frozen in time unable to move anything except her bladder. She felt the wetness between her legs and was angry that she had let a simple rat frighten her so much even though her excitement and crazed mind made it look almost as big as she was. It was still a rat no matter how big it was but she was so scared that she was thinking illogically. The only thing Diane knew was that it was big enough to take her head off in one quick bite. The women around her had been almost spellbound by the skeleton of the hand but the appearance of the huge rat activated their screaming mechanisms. Diane put her hands over her ears until she figured that she had had enough. Picking up the shovel from the floor, she raised the shovel slowly above her head but before it encountered the rat, the rat had leaped right over the smaller pile of garbage and ran at the legs of the other women setting off another volley of screams. The rat took a couple of chomps from the legs of a couple of women before they knew what had happened. The huge, dirty rat, confused by all the screaming and yelling ran at one pair of legs and then at another until it finally found an open space and escaped into the darkness down at the other end of the basement. “Girls! Girls!” Diane shouted as the women just kept on screaming and shouting curses at the rat. “Girls,” she said as they finally calmed down enough to listen to her. “It’s just an old rat and now it’s gone. It doesn’t matter how big it is because we scared it away. Marty, you get some help and take the women that were bitten upstairs. You’ll have to get a wheelchair from the closet in the lobby for the ones that can’t walk. You call the life squad and get the injured people to the hospital. Let me know what happens and how they are. You stay with the guard and make sure that nobody else comes down here until I tell you different.” “We know that it’s gone but how many more of those things are down here,” Ann asked her. “And, what about the hand?” She added and others began to ask the same question. “I don’t know how many more are down here but we’ll just have to deal with them. If there is a lot of them then we’ll just call in an exterminator,” she answered. “What about the hand?” Wilma asked. “Well, we have to determine what this is all about. If we find more of the body then we’ll have to call the police tonight but if not, then I’ll inform the president of the company tomorrow and let him deal with it. We have to remember that our job is to clean this place up, so let’s get to doing that.” Diane motioned with her hand for them to go back to work but most of them ignored her and just stood around waiting for her to make the next move. Most of them wanted to know what else was in the pile of ancient garbage. Diane picked up a shovel and began to slowly move some of the garbage toward her and once she was satisfied that nothing of interest was in it, she piled it on the floor behind her. As the stack of discarded garbage grew, Emily, Jenny and Ann shoveled it into the trash cart. Wilma began to help Diane move the garbage from the huge pile to the small pile. “Think we’ll find more bodies Diane?” Wilma asked throwing another shovel load onto the growing pile behind her. “I don’t know Wilma,” she answered, “but we’ll just have to keep looking. Maybe if we can get some of the larger boxes from about half-way up the pile then maybe it’ll be easier to work the lower part of it.” Diane raised the shovel and attempted to break some of the wet trash loose from the pile but all she succeeded in doing was to bring a huge mess down on the floor all around her. She just stood there looking dumb, as she almost became part of the garbage heap. It was stacked up around her legs and she couldn’t move. Emily and some of the other girls immediately came to her aid and attempted to move enough garbage so they could free her but before they could get her free more garbage began to fall as the mountain of trash started to shake and collapse. Before anyone knew what was happening, a huge hand with long, slender black claws shot out of the huge pile of trash and grabbed Diane by the hand. The huge mountain of debris exploded outward only to be replaced by a face with a long nose, two dark beady eyes and long whiskers that seemed to be sensing their presence. The face was all white but the only thing they really noticed was the huge mouth that was now wide open displaying two rows of very sharp teeth. Before any of the women could scream or even react to defend themselves, the huge white rat had bitten Diane’s head off and the headless body was flapping around amongst the garbage like a fish out of water. The garbage was being blasted in every direction. “It’s a rat --- a huge white rat,” Emily screamed grabbing up the shovel but not quite sure what she was going to do with it. As the women screamed, frozen to the floor by the appearance of the horrifying monster, the rat emerged from the garbage. Before their horrified eyes, the rat grabbed the writhing body, set back on it’s hind legs and casually tore the bloody flesh from the still corpse while watching the women as if it was enjoying its meal and already planning on which one of them would be the next victim. Slowly the realization came to the women that they were in a lot of trouble. They were all in such shock from the gross scene that it never occurred to them to get out of the building. “Our only chance is to get away from that thing,” Emily yelled as she heard the “popping” sounds the huge rat made when it chomped down on the bones of the corpse. “Let’s all move slowly away and when we’re out of sight of that thing, everybody head for the stairs and get out of here.” Emily motioned for a few of the girls to head toward the stairs while she kept her eyes on the rat. Unfortunately, the rat was keeping both huge, red eyes on them. At first, the women just casually backed away as the huge rat sat on its hind legs feasting but their nerves didn’t hold up for long and they began to run toward the stairs screaming. Emily, Wilma and Jenny were all following the rest of the women when the mass exodus suddenly halted sending the three women crashing into a wall of bodies. The wall of bodies soon became a mass of disoriented, squirming, screaming and horrified women as two huge rats ran into their midst. The rats were as confused as the women at first but the sight of fresh meat quickly turned them into monstrous killing machines with sharp teeth. Emily quickly realized that survival was the most important thing at the moment and if they were going to survive, they would have to act very quickly. As she was attempting to get up from the floor, a huge foot struck her in the back and knocked her back down on the floor again. She looked up just in time to see Wilma being dragged by her leg down the long dark hallway. Jenny grabbed Emily by the arm and jerked her up from the floor only to face another nightmare. The other rats were tearing the flesh from the bodies of the other women before they could reach the stairs. Emily had a few seconds to wonder why they were attempting to stop all the women from escaping. Wouldn’t they normally just grab a body and start eating it? It was almost as if they were intelligent enough to be working by some preconceived plan. “Come on, hurry,” Jenny pleaded with her. We have to rescue Wilma and get out of here.” “But how are we going to get out?” Emily cried. “They have us surrounded.” “Let me worry about that,” Jenny told Emily pulling her down the hallway. “I know another way out of here.” “Great,” Emily replied, “but how are we going to get her away from that rat?” “We’ll solve that problem too,” Jenny assured her, “but we have to find them first.” Emily heard a noise behind them and looked back to see the big rat that they had first encountered sitting on it’s hind legs chewing on a leg that she was sure belonged to Diane. The rat was just sitting there watching them as if surveying his next meal. They ran on ignoring the fact that they now faced a horrible danger from both directions. At sometime in the past, the basement had been divided up into large rooms. A long hallway ran from the center of the basement that contained a large open area to the other end of the building. Another hallway ran from the center of the basement to the end of the building in the other direction. The stairway that led to the floor above and the freight elevator were located on the west side of the huge open space. It was in this big open area at the junction of the two hallways that the women had become trapped. Unknown to Emily and Jenny, most of them were now rat food. Another fact that that was unknown to them was the fact that twelve new monstrous beasts had joined the feast. They proceeded on down the hall stopping at each door to check and see if the rat had pulled Wilma into one of the rooms. They could no longer hear Wilma screaming and that fact concerned them. Jenny wondered why the rat behind them hadn’t followed them and that concerned her greatly. Were they being led into some kind of trap or something? “That is my biggest worry,” Jenny said, “that we’re getting into some kind of trap here. These things seem to have a little intelligence that is frightening.” “That is my biggest worry too,” Emily said when Jenny expressed her feelings about the situation. “But don’t worry about a thing Jenny, we’ll figure something out.” Their whispered conversation was suddenly interrupted by several loud squeaking noises coming from up the hallway. They carefully made their way to the room where the sounds were coming from. What awaited them was more than their already horrified minds could comprehend. They peeped around the doorframe dreading what they might find there. The big rat was sitting on its hind legs chewing on an arm, looking almost like a kangaroo. The limp, torn, dismembered body of Wilma was on the floor in front of it. Unfortunately, four hungry baby rats were devouring Wilma’s mangled body. “She’s a mother,” Emily said trembling all over. “Great,” Jenny said disgusted, “then that means the bastard behind us is the father and if we don’t get out of here very quickly, we’ll be the next items on their dinner list.” They both realized the extreme danger they were in and momentarily forgot about Wilma. Both women had realized that she was entirely beyond help. “You said that you knew another way out of here,” Emily said. “Maybe now would be a good time to find and use it.” “You’re absolutely right,” Jenny told her as she grabbed Emily by the hand and pulled her down the hallway in the opposite direction of where they had last seen the huge daddy rat. “There’s an old coal chute that they used to use in the old days at the end of the hall. Diane was considering using it to carry out the garbage. The actual chute was replaced by stairs so we should be able to get out that way.” “What about the others?” Emily asked thinking about the other women that she thought were still alive. “Their only hope is for us to get out of here and get some help. This place must be full of rats and I don’t know what else we might find down here,” Jenny replied. The hallway ended abruptly in a long open space with wires and electric cables hanging down from the ceiling. Some of the wiring appeared to be new but Emily noticed that most of it was very old. There was new ductwork being installed for the ventilation system and Emily told herself to avoid the electric cables because she didn’t want to be fried. “Be very careful,” Jenny advised, “we don’t want to become entangled in this mess. The door is over there and they have been using it to bring the electrical equipment and all that other stuff in here. If we hurry, we should be able to get out without any complications.” There was a loud squeak behind them but when they turned around, they didn’t see anything at first. They both screamed as a figure emerged from behind one of the piles of garbage. “Darlene --- Darlene Newcomer,” Jenny said but before she could say anything else, she realized that the left arm of the young woman was missing. Blood was gushing from the short, mangled stub that had once been her arm and was leaving huge pools on the floor. As she moved forward toward them, they both could see that her right breast was also missing. A huge red patch of blood covered her stomach and her face was as pale as a white sheet hanging out in the bright sunlight to dry. As she attempted to struggle toward them, one of the huge rats stuck its ugly head up from behind several barrels of cleaning fluid. The smelly liquid leaked all over the floor as the rat leaped forward knocking several of the barrels over. Darlene Newcomer was in so much pain that she couldn’t see the danger that was in front of her or anticipate what happened next. Sometimes the best made plans of rats and men just fail. In this case, the obvious intention of the hungry rat was to capture Darlene and finish his meal but his timing was way off. As he jumped over the several barrels, he toppled two of them spilling the liquid on the floor in front of him. He landed in the liquid and slid right into the women. At about that time, two more rats appeared and tackled the first rat in a grim battle for the injured woman on the floor. While the rats were busy fighting, Darlene managed to somehow get to her feet and was sliding in every direction almost falling down again. “Well, do we help her or not?” Jenny yelled to Emily trying to make herself heard over the loud shrieking noises of the rats that were tearing each other up with their sharp teeth. They were having great difficulty because of the slick liquid. “Let’s try but I don’t think we can help her,” Emily answered. “It’s too slick and I think that she’s done for anyway. Let’s get out of here and see if we can get some help from the guard upstairs.” It was then that Jenny noticed the label on one of the cans. DANGER! HIGHLY FLAMMABLE LIQUID “I agree entirely,” Jenny said and she grabbed Emily by the hand and headed for the steps that would take them to safety. They were at the top of the steps when the unexpected happened. Darlene was screaming and pleading for the other women not to leave her when she felt herself falling again. The only thing she saw that she could grab for support was a bunch of old wires. She wrapped her hand around them but as she did one of the rats grabbed her by the leg and jerked her body to the floor again bringing the wires down to the floor with her. Two hot wires made contact and blue sparks flew in every direction at once igniting the flammable liquid. The women screamed louder as she was enshrouded in flames but her screams were soon covered up by the noise the rats were making. Their fur had been soaked in the fluid and it was only seconds before they became one thrashing, flaming mass of smelly, burning flesh. The mass was made of RAT flesh! Jenny managed to get the trap door open and pulled Emily to safety just as the piles of garbage caught on fire. “Those drums are going to blow,” she yelled and they began to run toward the front of the building and the parking lot. They had just taken cover behind one of the cars when the explosion occurred sending the west side of the old wooden structure forty feet into the night air. Luckily, they were not injured as huge chunks of burning wood fell all around them. Too terrified to move or say anything, they just stood there helplessly watching as the rest of the structure was engulfed in flames within minutes. It seemed like forever before they finally heard the sirens from the fire trucks and emergency vehicles but it was one sound they welcomed as they just stood there shivering. “What are we going to tell them?” Emily asked trying to make herself heard above the noise. “What are we going to tell them?” Jenny repeated. “Why, we’re going to tell them the truth, of course.” “They’ll never believe us,” Emily insisted. “They will if we tell them that the fire was caused by the contact of electrical wires with flammable cleaning fluid in the basement,” Jenny said. “I guess you’re right,” Emily agreed. “Well, I lost my first job in a week,” Emily complained three days later as the two girls sat in a small restaurant on Sycamore Street. “I guess that you could even say that we got fired.” She was attempting to make a little humor but neither of them smiled because they couldn’t find anything humorous or funny about the ordeal they had been through. “You know Emily,” Jenny said, “I’ve never figured out how those huge rats survived down there or why they grew so big.” “I don’t know either,” Emily admitted slowly chewing on a slice of Pizza, “but I figure that their growth had something to do with the mushrooms. Remember that mushrooms were growing everywhere down there. Those didn’t look like the usual kinds of mushrooms that were growing upstairs. At least, they didn’t look like any that I’d seen up there in the bins. I believe that the mushrooms in the basement got started somehow from upstairs only they got mixed with something that was already down there. Maybe it was some kind of bacteria or something that was in the garbage but that something made those mushrooms very different.” “Yes and the rats ate them and grew huge,” Jenny said. “Now that makes sense but what did those huge rats live on down there all those years?” “There must be another passageway in and out of there,” Emily said, “or they lived on human flesh. Remember that we found human bones down there and that one lady said that several people had disappeared over the years. The rats could have lived on small animals and humans. The company would never have thought to even look in the basement. After all, how many times have you heard of people just disappearing and were never heard from again? Who knows?” “That’s true,” Jenny agreed, “but don’t you think the fire department will analyze all that debris to see what caused the fire and don’t you think they’ll find all those human bones down there? Of course they will because that is what they do. Anyway, it was so hot in the basement during the fire that I don’t think they’ll find much.” “But what if they do?” Emily asked. “So what?” Jenny said. “Who would believe even them?” “Yeah, they’d probably keep it all hushed up,” Emily admitted. “After all, they don’t want the word to get out that huge rats are lose in the neighborhood.” “And as far as we know,” Jenny interrupted, “we are the only two survivors so they aren’t going to want to start asking us a lot of questions. That might get back to the press and they don’t want that.” “Quite true, so all we have to do is to keep our mouths shut,” Emily suggested. They both realized that a deep, dark, horrible secret would exist between them for the rest of their lives and that they would never trust the darkness again especially if two evil, red eyes peered out at them. They had learned that when the darkness falls, anything is likely to happen. The End
Click Here for more stories by Dallas Releford