Few people notice the absence of Victor Lewis, an Urbex that targets one building a month, taking pictures and recording video. Two weeks ago, he targeted an abandoned mall, and told friends of his plans – only they made the connection to his plans and disappearance, and share it on a small local forum. As the rumors spread, more follow after Victor’s footsteps.
Mature | Death; Body mutilation; Body horror;
A week has passed since the last time she was in Findlay. Carol expected them to call during the week, but she hadn’t tried calling herself, worrying over if they would even try to pick up. Maybe everything was fine down there, the three that went into the building probably just got out and then had some fun – forgetting about the weird encounter that night. In all nothing she should worry herself over, Carol decided, all she needed to handle was herself and Tilly; the police can handle the disappearance of Victor Lewis and she can spend a quiet evening alone. Since Hadi needed to sort out a new apartment and to fix his clunky car, the group wasn’t going to get together this week or the next, and Tilly liked that.
Carol pushes Tilly out of the way with her foot, passing the Rottweiler and sitting down on the couch with a bag full of various candies. Tilly jumps on to the couch beside her, patting Carol’s thigh with her paws and laying her head down into the sweater and pajama pants. Carol just gave her a few pats and then turns on the TV to surf through the channels. She passes over to the local news network, just to catch up on government affairs. Between sticking candies into her mouth she flickers back and forth to channel lineups and the news, then she can fall asleep while the TV is on in a candy-coma. The best coma.
The talk-show winds down and covers earlier material – Carol weighs between the action movies and reruns, and switches channels when ‘missing’ comes up. Carol switches back quickly.
“How long has this guy been missing?
“Since November first, his ex-wife reported him missing the following Saturday when he didn’t come visit their kids. Again, this man is 37, and is 5’8” and around 180 pounds. If anyone in the Toledo area has any information, please give information to the police.”
“There has been nine people missing in the Findlay area; Chris ‘Chip’ Isaiah, 17; Colin ‘Ko’ Erden, 27; Matt ‘Detroit’ Heldsen, 23; Nick Wheatly, 18; Phillipe Klestler, 31; Jessica Helmelten, 32; Katerine Whendel, 21; Vince Whendel, 16; Bennie Thompson, 22; and Jessica Namesy, 23. These ten have been missing between the November first and now.”
Ten photographs, in a two by five form, sat upon the screen. A young teen hugging a dog and smiling; a man posed with two guns and throwing up gang symbols – a white rat on his shoulder; a large man working in a soup kitchen; a smiling man with an arm slung over a woman’s shoulder; a mug shot of a man with too many wrinkles; a girl among friends, all but hers blurred; a tall muscular woman posed with arm wraps; a short kid with playing with a white rat; a wrestler practice punching, the tall muscular woman standing off to his side; and a young girl making the other half of the smiling man’s photo.
“Oh shit,” Carol whispers as she puts the controller down on the couch, folding the bag of candy over itself and runs to her bedroom. Her phone sat in the room charging, the front panel dark until Carol pulls the cord out. Their number is on here somewhere – she calls Jessica first, the one she drove home last week. Nothing, not even a tone. “Fuck, I told her not to, fuck,” she pulls up John’s number and paces out into the living room to turn down the television’s volume.
“No, Carol.” A soft ‘oh’ and a heavy sigh follows. “I saw the missing person bulletin, caught it just a few minutes ago.” Tilly jumps off the couch and crouches down, tail wagging. “No Tilly.” She whispers away from the phone.
“Oh, so now you know.”
“Why haven’t you called?”
“I’ve,” a distant sigh, “I’ve been wrapped up in supporting her daughter – my niece, and didn’t want to talk about it.”
“Do you think she went in there?”
“Hell if I know, she’s here one day then gone the next and I can’t reach her! I- our parents freaked out, asked me, then reported her missing earlier today. Since apparently not coming back to her daughter is less important inventory than not being seen or heard from in a week.” In the background a baby is crying. “I’ve had to take care of her daughter for now, our parents are heavy travelers and won’t be back for two more days.
“She went back in after I told her not to?”
“She’s stubborn and misses the shit out of Nick, so maybe she went in to find him – hell if I know!” He shouts at the crying baby in the background and turns back to the phone. “I might call back latter if I know anything new.”
“Alright, good.” The call closes, Carol slides her phone into her bra and goes back into her bedroom, changing out of the sweater and pajama pants to thicker clothing. A charm from the back of her sock drawer goes around her neck and she crosses her chest. “Tilly!” she grabs the green leash and a set of dog snow shoes, the rottie scrambles over whining and pawing at the ground. Carol knees down and snaps the lead to her collar, calming her enough to grab her a paw. “I know you don’t like these, but don’t want to get frosty toes.”
After much fussing Tilly has her booties on sitting in the back seat of Carol’s car, beside a small bag with binoculars, a flashlight, and a small camera. Carol returns to the car after shaking the doorknob a few times and relocks it, when satisfied she gets into her car and backs out of the driveway – driving along the dark streets before getting onto the highway to Findlay where she follows the white rats.
The mall still stands as a dark block in the horizon and she glances back at it every so often, tracing the sky with her eyes where she swears the sky above it is a bit different. Tilly in the back of the car is barking, Carol telling her more than once to shut up. The Rottweiler eventually settles down but stares out the window at the lights and the few passing cars. Her stomach is still in a rumble but she prefers working on a low stomach – it helps her see more of the shadows. The trail of the white rats leads her back to the mall and she parks along the side of the fence, always watching the building among the snow. “Tilly, heel,” she whispers when the rottie jumps out of the car and starts looking around. Carol stands on the leash while she pulls out the small bag and slips the items on and in her thick jacket. A rush of wind makes her shutter and zip up the front of her coat and pick up Tilly’s trigger-controlled leash. “Come,” Tilly follows her into the snow. They wade through the deep snow, Tilly letting Carol lead her through and standing in her shadow, where it is easier for her to step.
Halfway into the parking lot Carol stops and pulls out her camera, filming the sunset sky and tracing the shape in a side sweeping motion. “Tilly, trace,” The dog moves around Carol and begins to lead to the mall, Carol plodding along behind her in the snow, still recording the sky. Tilly stops a few times, looking around the area, for Carol, and at the building itself – her sight trained on the dark window above the entrance. “Good girl,” Carol rubs her head then puts away the camera, replacing it with the binoculars and the flashlight – one set for long range.
There’s a smear on the window hardly visible between their distance and the dark tarp covering it from the inside. She juggles the binoculars and the flashlight, training her sight on the odd smudge in the window. It’s black, almost like tar, but a faint red against the tarp behind it. This place was being used as some sort of hideout, nothing specifically wrong with it, and Carol turns towards the entrance. Tilly barks and stares at the window, barking few short times before looking at Carol and bobbing her ears, then back to the window. Carol snaps the light and the binoculars back to the window, tracing around it until Tilly stops barking and whines.
“What is it Tilly?” The Rottweiler is looking up at the sky and whines, and Carol looks up.
A cloud is passing over, lit in a pale glow from the vanishing sun, and at a basic glance nothing is odd. Then she looks along the sides of the building and the faint glow is there, a bare echo of light but there. She brings her camera out and begins to film it, letting Tilly bark at her feet – she’s looking back at the window again. A chill, not from the wind, shakes Carol, and she records a new mark among the side of the window and a faint fluttering back sheet. Something is in there, and it’s watching out of her sight. Carol rubs Tilly on the head and walks backwards, “come on Tilly,” she whispers, the dog moves and then looks back at the window. “Tilly, come.” Then Tilly follows, looking back to the window when they are half-way out of the snowy parking lot and when she sits in the back of the car.
Carol snaps Tilly out of her trance at a McDonald’s, ordering two burgers and large fries for herself and a chicken sandwich and chicken nuggets for Tilly. The car sits idle while they eat, Carol passing one piece at a time to Tilly who takes each bit of food gently from her hand.
“Tilly, what in the hell is going on,” Carol speaks through a bite of one of the burger, “One guy may have gone to it, vanishes, then all these other people fuck off afterwards. Jesus Christ, that place lit the fuck up – shit,” she wraps the burger back up and pulls her camera up with her and goes back through the footage. After review, none of the glowing besides the cloud is there, and the huge window is without much difference – then she watches it a second time. In the recording, while Tilly barked in the background of the mute video, it passes over from the far left side to the far right, crossing the window on its journey. In one of the frames two specks of yellow flash for a moment, then are gone. “What the fuck,” she only stares, forgetting the whining Tilly in the back seat and her cooling fries.
When she snaps back, she holds the remaining pieces of food for Tilly in a flat hand and stuffs her burger and fries into her mouth with another. “I really hope Alexis isn’t out partying.” A quick phone call answers it; a large yes. Disgruntled, Carol starts her car again and heads home, giving the dark building on the horizon a passing glance on the highway.
They arrive home shortly and settle down again while the TV blasts a trashy action movie, Tilly asleep on the couch with her head on Carol’s stomach, who lies down on the couch with a small ottoman pulled in front of her. The bag of candies she had put away earlier sits in front of her, as well as a bowl of cheese crackers, a bottle of water, and her phone, which she eagerly waits for Alexis to call back. During a commercial break in between two movies, Carol falls asleep and doesn’t wake up until the next morning – three missed calls on her phone.
At the first glance it did not register to her, half asleep she walked into the bathroom and then to her bed in the back. Another hour passes before she comes out again, heading for the kitchen and heating up a canned soup. Tilly begs for food, and Carol just gives her a few milkbones to chew on. A few more minutes, and she’s back in the living room watching the tail end of a cartoon rerun – her foot hits her phone.
“Oh shit,” Carol picks the phone up, the screen blinks on, and a red three box sticks in a corner. It was Alexis. “Come on,” she flips through any other missed messages, one that came from John that was a descriptive ‘meet @ mcd’. She notes it for later and calls Alexis up, taking a sip of her soup as the call waits to be picked up.
“You’ve reached Alexis wonder chick, I am in no way a professional,” her voicemail rings, Carol keeps eating her soup. A groan greets her after a few minutes. “Ughn, what is it.”
“You tried to call me back last night?” Carol looks over to the staring Rottweiler on her right. On the other end sheets are rustling and someone besides Alexis is mumbling.
“Which we?” Drunk dialing, Carol reckons.
“Carol, black chick, Urban Exploration, Spiritual Senses,” Carol sips more soup while the other side is silent, probably just Alexis trying o collect her thoughts. “I tried to call you last night, I went back to Findlay and the mall-“ a massive sigh comes from the other end.
“Carol, goddamni – shit,” a chair falls in the background of Alexis side.
“I know, sounds the same like Erie, etc, don’t do that again, etc. This time I took Tilly with me – she sensed it too, and I got pictures and video.”
“So you want me to take a look at them, and hopefully dispel your suspicions?”
“Well, yeah, that’s what your good for.”
“Gee thanks,” in the background a door slams, “Give me like an hour, or two, got a bad hang and one night stand.”
“So you got it on with a small table stand?”
“Oh shut up. I’ll call you back when I don’t feel like shit.” The call ends. Carol shakes the smile off her face, puts the phone down, and calls Tilly to the back door.