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;
“Come on, answer,” Carol snaps her phone close and opens it again, recalling John’s number while snapping her seatbelt close with one hand. She starts the car, waiting for an answer before backing out and heading off to the highway. The next attempt is more successful, a little girl babbles into the receiver. “Are you Jessica’s daughter?”
“What’s your name?”
“Can you get John? I need to talk with him.” Carol backs the car out and smashes the phone between her shoulder and ear. She looks back while backing out. The little girl screams something far from the phone and someone comes over, an older voice.
“Carol, I’m a friend of John’s. Is he around?”
“Yes, but now’s not a good time.”
“I understand. Can you tell him I called? It’s sorta urgent.”
The older man on the phone sigh and lets out “alright,” before the call closes, just as Carol approaches the curb into the main street. She flips her phone out into the front pocket of the backpack and turns her radio up, humming with it as she turns off into the far lane. Only the radio and her partial singing preoccupies the next hour. The phone didn’t ring the entire time, but Carol wasn’t worried about it since, hey, he could be doing something else at the moment.
There was still a chance that he had decided to go in alone – what would happen to her plan if that was the case?
She shook the thought out of her head and kept driving until she was in Findlay and found a place to park for a while. The car pulls into the parking lot of a large park, where Carol turns the car off and digs through her backpack. In the shuffling around for a bag of almonds, the cell phone rings. “Hello?”
“Hey Carol. Good news, the admins removed the thread.”
“Awesome. What else is going on in the site?”
“A thread popped up in the complain sub-thread about its removal – but the admins are taking care of it. Got in contact with your contact yet?”
“No, but I talked with what I guess was his father, and he said he’ll tell him I called.”
“Great. Think you can call us before you arrive back?”
“Oh don’t tell me you two are-“
“God no, Carol. Series Marathon. Wipe that mind some time, Jesus Christ.”
“Whatever you say Alexis.” Carol cuts the call off and puts the phone back in the backpack. A small book replaces it, Carol takes a glance at the clock – 11:32 – and she pulls the book open at a tagged point and begins reading. Around 2:13, Carol’s phone goes off again.
“Hello?” She tags her book while the phone sits snug against her ear and shoulder.
“John, you said it was important?”
“Yeah. I was wondering if you’d join me and my group in planning something.”
The other end is silent for a few seconds, “why?”
“Well,” Carol repositions herself straight in the driver seat, “my Urbex group was thinking about going in there. And the three of agreed that you’ll be very useful for our plan.”
“The three of us go in; you sit outside and check in on us every so often.”
“I’d give you my car, all you got to do is call us every half hour or so to check if we are alright. Also, we were wondering if you could help spread word to stay out of there until we go in on Wednesday.”
“Are you nuts, why would I… okay, it’s a stupid idea, but its more than what I am doing now. So, what, you are already in Findlay to pick me up?”
“Yep, to take you up to Toledo to plan, then get you back home.”
Another person is speaking in the background, “A friend wants some help fixing up a car.” Carol sits back and listens closely. “No, I won’t be gone all day, it’ll just be for a few hours dad, I know what I am doing…. No, it’s not with the White Rats.” A person in the background sighs heavily before saying ‘fine’, “thanks mom,” John’s voice sighs at the thanks. “Okay, you remember where you dropped me off before? I’ll be there to be picked up. My mom doesn’t trust anyone with a car.”
“Ah, alright. I’ll be there in a couple minutes.” Carol closes the call and settles it back into her backpack, starts the car, and gets onto the road again. Soon John’s sitting in the passenger seat with a small backpack by his feet and watches the scenery buzz by. Carol glances at him for the first 10 miles before she starts worrying, “Haven’t been this far up north before?”
“No. Neither of my parents have a car; they’ve lived in Findlay their whole lives.”
“Ever wanted to go somewhere outside of Findlay?”
“Not often, it’s the only place I’ve known. But I’d like to go somewhere else… too comfortable for me, you know?”
“Yeah, I’ve been in Toledo most of my life, but when I got this car, I was able to go where ever I wanted. As long as I got a job, can’t go any place without money.”
John only smiles for an instant, “your group, do you do a lot with each other?”
“Yeah, we drive somewhere for a weekend and spent some time making videos, taking pictures. It’s not often, but it is better than spending every weekend at home.” Carol looks down at the time and then back to the road. “Can you get my phone from my bag?”
“Uh, sure.” John unclips his seatbelt and reaches back into the back seat area, pulling Carol’s bag forward and starts digging through it. In the front pouch he finds the phone and passes it over to Carol, dropping her backpack behind their seats. “You got a lot of food in there.”
“Yeah, when I spend a lot of time away from home, I take food with me,” Carol mumbles as she snaps the phone open and calls Alexis’ phone, slowing the car and pulling into a right lane. Voice mail greets her, and after a sigh, she talks to the silence. “Yeah, Alexis, it’s me. I’m on the highway right now. I’ll be there in half an hour or so.” She closes the phone and sets it in the drink holder.
“You left to come get me and head right back to your… group meeting?”
“Yeah. We decided to host an emergency one today.”
Carol stares at the highway and remains silent long enough for John to turn his attention to somewhere else, only then does Carol open her mouth. “I went to the mall last night, with my dog, Tilly. I wanted to see what she thought of the place, and if I could see anything strange on the outside of it.” John looks over at her. “There was… something in the window. I didn’t catch it until I went back over the video later on.”
“Was it Jess?!”
“No, no. It was something… I don’t know, like a… zombie, I think? It had something sticking out of it’s arm. Well, my friend thinks it did. And it left a dark mark on the window when it turned away. This was after a shit ton of editing by my friend, she’s really into video editing and wants to be a cameraman on some sort of show.”
“Oh…” John turns back to the window and just stares.
Carol says no more, letting the radio hum throughout the car until they hit the limits of Toledo, when she turned it down and called Alexis again. “Hey, you there?”
“Yeah, sorry, we went to get some food. How does pizza sound?”
“Please tell me one of them is four cheese or something.”
“Nope, all have chicken and pineapple on them.”
Carol stares at the road and takes a slow inhale. “I’m within the city limits, are you guys ready for me to come back yet?”
“Oh yeah, sure. I just need to reconnect the projector to my computer if you want him to see the video.”
Carol turns over to John and then back to the road. “Yeah, do that.”
A few minutes pass before Carol pulls into Hadi’s apartment complex parking lot. She leads John up to Hadi’s apartment and introduces him to them, but tells him beforehand to call Alexis a she. The meeting between the three of them goes smoothly except for a small offhand comment, but they gather around in the living room with the projector and pizza taking up the entirety of the coffee table. Carol and Alexis explain the whole situation, including knowing about the mall, to John, allowing Hadi to input about the figure in the window while the video plays.
“What in the fuck… my sister is in the same building as… that?”
“Yeah, Alexis, is the original video still in your files?”
“Of course it is, give me a moment.”
The original video plays on the white wall, repeating it a second time due to the short length the figure in the window preoccupied. John was sure he wanted to be a part of Carol’s idea now. For two hours, the four of them built up the plan to enter the structure; John would hold down Carol’s car, he’d call from Carol’s phone to Alexis’ phone every thirty minutes, and if he couldn’t contact them, try three times in the next hour.
Alexis was confident of taking her usual load, three cameras, her laptop, and a first aid kit in her usual bicycling bag. Hadi would take his gun – a Springfield handgun – along with him, with a small bag of food and water. Carol, after a bit of convincing, decided she’ll bring her tazer and her long-range heavy-duty flashlight, and a bag for the phone, additional batteries for the tazer and Alexis’ laptop, and her own camera.