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Science Fiction Mystery Suspense

Twenty five-year-old Alfred Parks crammed the last of the crisp papers of the report in his desk then slumped in his chair, sighing contentedly. Raising his arms over his head to ease the cramps in his back and neck that came with bending over the monotonous writing of one of his co-workers, he yawned. Only then did he realize how tired he was - his eyes drooped and his arms felt like lead - and how dark it had gotten outside the large, glass-paned windows of his office. On the street far below, he could see the yellow headlights of the vehicles heading for home. 

Shaking his head to clear his drowsiness, he considered calling for a cab. But he discarded the notion. He wasn’t too tired that he couldn’t drive - a fresh cup of coffee would do him wonders and sustain him until he could collapse in his waiting bed. Besides, it would save him a few bucks that he could better use to buy some flowers for his fiancée. 

Alfred gathered his laptop and placed it in his satchel. Then grabbing his jacket, he turned off the light, closed and locked his door, stuffing his keys in a pocket. He hurried through the dark interior of the empty building towards the cafeteria to acquire a steaming cup of coffee, peering into the corners as he went. He passed darkened cubicles and shivered - the shadows seemed to reach out to him with spindly fingers to snatch him and spirit him away. 

As a young child, Alfred had been terrified of the dark and that fear had carried on into his adulthood. The silence and mystery of the unknown unnerved him. Even to this day, he would always bury under the covers in the confines of his room, hiding his face from whatever horrors his mind would concoct. 

Entering the cafeteria, he quickly flicked on the light, breathing a sigh of relief as the shadows retreated. Alfred moved to the counter and dumped the last dregs from the coffee-pot into the sink. Then rinsing out the filter, he scooped two tablespoons of grounds into it, filled the reservoir with water and pushed brew. 

While he was waiting, he checked his notifications on his phone. There was an email from his boss, Mr. Torsney but he ignored it, deciding to read it at a later date. There were a couple missed calls and a text or two from his boss as well, but he didn’t think much about it, turning his attention to a text from his fiancée, Cynthia. 

My grandma fell ill this afternoon, she wrote, and I am going out of town for a week or so to take care of things. I won’t be able to come over tomorrow. Sorry, Al. I’ll see you when I get back. Call me anytime. Love you.

Alfred’s throat felt tight with disappointment, but he knew that Cynthia was in a rough spot and there was nothing he could presently do to change her situation. So he replied with understanding words, wishing her well, and adding a smiley face emoji to the end to make sure his meaning had been clear. 

It never hurts to add an emoji, he mused, but he figured that he probably used them unnecessarily a little too often. He faintly heard the coffee-maker beep, signalling that his drink was ready. A minute later, he was sipping on the steaming liquid from a disposable mug and preparing to head home. 

Turning off the light, he rushed back through the eerie office, trying his best to keep his eyes focused on the ground. Alfred breathed a sigh of relief when he reached the elevator and the cheerful light greeted him. He stepped off once he reached the ground floor, and slipping on his coat, he exited the building.

And he was instantly hit by a wall of wind. 

It whipped around him, pushing at him from all angles, threatening to knock him off his feet and blow him away. Little projectiles pelted his face and neck, sending a stinging sensation all through his body. Alfred realized with a start that he couldn’t see. He knew it was night, so it would obviously be dark. But this was different. He should’ve been able to see the lights from the street or the building across from him. 

But he couldn’t.

He was blinded by something, most likely the same things that were battering him. He turned around to return inside, but he noticed that he couldn’t see the door. 

Panicked, he desperately pushed through the haze. I couldn’t have gone more than two steps, he thought. But as much as logic and reason tried to shove its way to the foremost of his mind, dread ruled. 

He had always been afraid of the dark, but this was different. He was being blasted by a frigid torrent of wind, assaulted by little missiles. He felt restricted, trying to push against the gale and finding that his movements were sluggish. He tried to shield his face with his arm, but his efforts didn’t have much effect. 

Suddenly, he, or to be precise, his face, came into contact with something hard and cold. He yanked open the door and stumbled into the lobby, panting and sweaty, despite the cold outside. Sprawled on the ground, Alfred calmed his breathing, wiping his drenched forehead with his hand. Now that he was inside and his panic was slowly subsiding, he wondered what had happened. Then it hit him. 

Snow. 

It was snowing. A blizzard, more accurately, which explained why he wasn’t able to see the passing cars. That also explained the little stinging pelts. Alfred felt a wave of idiocracy. His irrational fears had gotten in the way of his induction, which he had always been notorious for. 

How hadn’t I noticed the blizzard earlier? he wondered. Then he realized, It must’ve sprung up while I was making coffee, and I hadn’t been paying attention to the outside on my way down. But I’m confused as to how I wasn’t aware of it beforehand.

Understanding dawning, Alfred pulled out his phone. He decided he’d take a look at his boss’s numerous attempts at contact. 

***

Alfred flicked on the light of his office and threw his coat on his desk before sinking wearily into a chair. His boss’s texts had confirmed his suspicions. Mr. Torsney had said that it would be wise if Alfred spent the night at the office since there was a blizzard coming and he probably wouldn’t make it home in time before it hit. 

The email and the voicemail had relayed the same information.

So Alfred, as unhappy about his situation as he was, resigned himself to an uncomfortable night. 

***

He gave up. 

After twisting and turning his chair for a couple hours, Alfred rose abruptly, frustrated and tired. There was no way he was going to be able to fall asleep, no matter how padded his chair was. He reached for his coffee mug and took a swig, then instantly regretted it. It was cold and bland. 

Groaning as he stood on his stiff legs, he went back to the cafeteria to pour himself a fresh cup. This time, he took the liberty to turn on the lights. The warm drink rejuvenated him, washing some of the fatigue from his eyes and limbs. Alfred figured he’d never get to sleep, not with his nerves as steeled as they were, so he decided to walk around. 

With the office building being as large as it was, and Alfred being consumed with constant reports to edit and send off, had never had the opportunity to explore the entire complex in the few short months he had been employed there. 

“Better now than never,” he mused aloud, then frowned. “And now I’m talking to myself. Great.” Shaking his head, he took the elevator back down to the main floor, returning to the lobby. Curious, he peered through the glass doors. “Still can’t see anything,” he said, adding, “Still talking to myself too.”

Alfred turned a slow circle. There wasn’t much to see here. The front desk, curved in a semicircle, was situated in the center of the farthest wall, with an elevator on either side. There was an intricately woven rug on the marble floor. Eight chairs lined the wall on the left and right of him, sixteen in total with a few small plants for decoration scattered about. He saw it everyday as soon as he entered the building. 

Off to one side, there was a plain, wooden door, leading to...somewhere. Come to think of it, Alfred didn’t know what it was. But it was so inconspicuous that he never thought too much about it, passing by it without so much as a sideways glance. Now, he crossed the room to take a closer look. 

There was a sign hanging from it. “Basement. DO NOT ENTER. Restricted access only,” Alfred read to himself. “Interesting. Definitely worth looking into.” Taking a look around to make sure no one was watching - then facepalming since there was no one there - Alfred eased the door open, which was unlocked, to his surprise. Peeking in, he saw a dark stairway heading down, a dim light emitting from the bottom, which seemed very far away. 

Alfred crept down, leaving the door cracked so as to make a quick escape if necessary. His footsteps echoed ominously on the steps. He slowed his racing heart, realizing he was tense and ready for danger.

“Which is stupid,” he muttered, trying to reassure himself. “There’s nothing dangerous down here.” Then he noticed that he was talking to himself again, and also noticed that it was strangely comforting. He smiled grimly. “I’m going insane.” 

Finally, he reached the cold, concrete floor of the basement and was shocked by what he saw. He was in a vast room that stretched for at least two hundred meters on three sides of him. This must cover the entire block, he thought. But the size of the cavern wasn’t what startled him.

It was the strange, oddly-shaped machinery concealed by tarps and the large containers filled with glowing, neon green ooze. It was the maze of racks stuffed with contraptions and the evil looking weapons that looked like they could annihilate the entire city. Everything looked like it came straight out of a science-fiction movie. A science-fiction horror movie where everyone died in the end. 

Alfred’s breath caught in his throat, his thoughts racing like the whirlwind outside. “What is this?” he whispered, afraid that if he spoke any louder mutant beasts would leap out at him, lunging for his throat. His mind conjured terrifying images that he tried in vain to shove away, but they stayed fixated in the foremost of his imagination. 

He instantly decided that he had seen enough when he heard quick footsteps on the stairs. Agitated voices drifted to his ears. His heart racing, Alfred ducked behind a rack, crouching on his hands and knees. He couldn’t see the stairs or the men that came down them, but that meant they couldn’t see him either. 

“You’re sure you shut the door?” one of the men snapped at his accomplice. 

“Yes! I shut and locked it behind me!” 

“Well obviously you didn’t!” 

Ah, thought Alfred. That’s why the door was unlocked. 

“Maybe whoever is down here has a key?” suggested the second man. 

“Who else besides us and the boss has a key?” the other one demanded. “This is a top secret project! No, it’s someone who’s not supposed to be here.”

Alfred held his breath as they moved farther into the room, but not far enough from the stairs to allow Alfred to dash back up them and to freedom. 

“What do we do Liam?” the man who had spoken second asked. 

There was a pause, as if Liam was contemplating his answer. Finally, he replied, in a low tone, “I suppose we’ll have to deal with him.” 

That was too much for poor Alfred. He jumped to his feet and began running away from the stairs and the two men, figuring that if he could get them to chase him, he could double back and make a break for it. Instantly, Liam and his friend saw him. 

“Hey! You! Stop!” one of them shouted and they took off after him. Alfred wove through the racks and vats of goop like a madman. At first, he tried to keep his bearings so that when the opportune moment arose, he could return to the stairs, but as the two men began gaining on him, he discarded the notion. His only thought was to stay out of their clutches. 

At one point, he turned to look behind him, searching for them, so he wasn’t watching where he was going. The next thing he knew, he slammed his head into a metal bar of one of the racks and lay sprawled on the ground, fighting to stay conscious. 

The last thing he saw before he blacked out was the dim forms of Liam and his friend leaning over him. 

***

“He’s awake,” a familiar voice said and Alfred’s eyes popped open, light flooding his vision. An agonizing headache flared and for one horrifying moment, fear overtook him and he thought that he was trapped, but when no bonds restricted his movements, he calmed. But only slightly.

Once his eyes adjusted, he recognized the face of Mr. Tornsey, his boss, who smiled at him. “How are you feeling, Mr. Parks?”

Alfred sat up, rubbing his head. He was shocked to realize that he was in the company lounge, laying on one of the plush couches. “My head hurts.”

Mr. Tornsey nodded, as if he expected that. “Yes. You had a nasty hit last night. We found you in the basement this morning, knocked out cold.”

Alfred peered at him uncomprehending. He didn’t remember going to the basement. He didn’t remember hitting his head. But he still felt overwhelming fear and nerve racking despair, although he wasn’t sure why. There were emotions for experiences he couldn’t recall. “Why was I in the basement?” he asked. 

Mr. Torney raised his eyebrows, but he didn’t seem surprised by Alfred’s question. “You were probably looking for more printer paper. But it was dark and you most likely just accidentally ran into a shelf.”

The puzzled editor racked his brain, but he could only recall going to get a fresh cup of coffee since he couldn’t sleep. His mind was blank after that. “I-I don’t remember any of that,” he mumbled, downcast. 

His boss placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “That’s alright, Alfred. I’m sure it’ll come to you eventually. Now why don’t you go home? That nasty blizzard stopped. You should have no problem now. Actually,” Mr. Torsney smiled, “why don’t you take the next couple days off. You’ve had a stressful night, I’m sure.” 

Alfred could only heartily agree.

January 21, 2021 19:59

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2 comments

Christian Singer
01:46 Feb 11, 2021

You’re really good with detail and involving the senses. I felt like I was there. But what happened? 1. Was Mr. Torsney the other man with Liam? I’m thinking not because there’s no mention of him recognizing either voice. 2. Why did Mr. Torsney suddenly show up? And how? Depending on the time of day, the roads were probably still bad. Maybe those two men weren’t the only ones there, and Mr. Torsney was in the building somewhere, too, and this was a setup for the guy who explored where he shouldn’t have. 3. What did they do to him? Why can’t...

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Ellie Keierleber
14:43 Feb 11, 2021

This was supposed to be a mytery of some sort so I left some things up to the reader to decide. But thank you! I will definitely keep these things in mind!

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