Dig Site

May 2019 short story

Today

He sprinted away, not daring to look back, his footsteps echoing down the hallway like distant gunshots. He just had to get to the back stairway and up to his office on the second floor, where like a fool, he’d left the artifact sitting.

Two weeks ago

The dig was going well. So far, they’d found several fossils, no complete skeletons, but those were rare finds anyway. Still, this dig would probably secure his grant money for at least five more years.

He was looking over the labels and cataloging that his students and summer interns had completed this week. They already had three crates to send back to the university.

He was impressed with the efficiency of his team this year. He’d be giving out a lot of recommendation letters. He was thinking about taking some time to pack this afternoon to avoid the rush that would happen tomorrow morning as they were leaving when he heard a lot of shouting.

Today

As he got closer to this office, he heard boots coming up the stairs – lots of boots. He decided to pick up his pace. He didn’t want the artifact in the wrong hands and he wasn’t sure who would come bursting through that door – CIA, FBI, NSA, or one of the sketchier people who were aware of and interested in his find. 

Two weeks ago

“Dr. Cooper! Dr. Cooper!” There were fifteen grad students and interns shouting his name and running towards him.

When the first one spotted him, they all bee-lined for him and forced him to the final dig spot they’d been finishing up that day.

“Tony, what is going on?” he asked.

“Dr. Cooper, you aren’t going to believe this.” Tony stepped out of the way and all the others stopped talking and shoving each other. They were outside, in the Montana wilderness, but you could have heard a pin drop.

Today

He began fishing his keys out of his pocket, but never made it to the door. He was surrounded by men wearing a lot of black, armed to the teeth, and all of them following silent orders given through headsets. He was handcuffed and led away from his office with brutal professionalism.

Two weeks ago

There in the ground was a metal egg about the size of a basketball. It was all black and perfectly smooth. It didn’t actually look like any egg he’d ever seen or heard of. And there was something so perfect about it, that he knew there was no way it was a shaped rock or gem.

“Why didn’t it show up on our scans?” He started to edge towards it. It beeped. “What the hell?” He reached out to touch it. It was metal and cool to the touch and now it was beeping.

Without looking up, he said, “Get a crate with lots of padding.”

No one moved.

“Someone. Go. Now.”

A group of students and interns ran off and returned several minutes later with a crate.

As he carefully placed the egg in the crate, the beeping stopped.

Two days later he was back in his office; he’d spent all his time with the egg since returning. He let Tony deal with unloading and arranging the rest of the dig finds.

The office secretary came rushing in.

“There are several angry men in suits here to see you.”

He had a feeling this might happen. Several of the students from the dig site posted video and images on the night the egg was discovered.

The last two days had been the most exciting days of his life. He didn’t want it to end.

The egg beeped off and on the entire time it’d been at the university. They had scanned it and ran it through every test they could think of. Nothing changed about the egg, and it didn’t do anything other than beep. Despite this, he just knew that something was going to happen. This egg meant something. It was something important, and he wanted to be the one to figure it out.

It was new and exciting – or possibly old and exciting. Everyone would be interested in figuring out exactly what it was.

No Where to Hide

*This is my November short story. I am running behind because of Nanowrimo, but did I mention I wrote 50,000 words last month?*

Until that day, fear had been an idea, a concept. Now it was real: a feeling I would carry inside me for the rest of my life. The day began innocently enough, with my father and I going through our normal daily routine. We barely spoke. We ate breakfast. And we drove to the bookstore in quiet.

This is how pretty much every day of my life had started since I can remember. And most days ended with the two of us closing the shop in quiet and returning home without saying a word. Ever since my mother passed, my dad didn’t talk much, not that he’d said much before.

Tonight, though, I wouldn’t be riding home with my dad. Tonight, I was being held captive in the high school gymnasium with every other person in town; well, maybe not every person, just those who hadn’t been killed already.

In the morning when we arrived at the shop, my dad went to the office in the back and shut the door. He and I were the only employees, but he always said he was doing manager duties. I didn’t really care. It was his store.

I set about making coffee and turning on lights. After turning the chairs over and taking them off the tables, I went to the counter at the front to open the pile of mail that had been waiting since yesterday. There wasn’t anything important in the stack, so I recycled what I could. Then I just took my seat behind the counter and dreamed of something more interesting than this life I was stuck in.

The first explosion shook the store, but to be honest, I didn’t even know that’s what it was because I’d never experienced anything like it before. The second explosion rattled the big window in the front so much, I thought it might break, but it held.

I stood there doing nothing for what felt like several minutes but in hind sight was probably only a matter of seconds. Then I saw people running down the streets.They all looked terrified. I looked out the window.

As I looked at the alien, it looked back at me. It was at least seven feet tall and covered in scales that appeared metallic. It had two large eyes that took up most of its face. Its appendages were humanoid but elongated. Each finger was at least six inches.

As I stood there gaping like an idiot, it made a sound that shattered the glass. I shielded my face with my hands and arms, and in that moment, it reached in and grabbed me.

Having extra long and slender limbs didn’t mean the creature wasn’t strong. It grabbed me with one hand and didn’t even bother placing the second one on me. I couldn’t get out of its grip no matter how I flailed.

It held onto me until a hovering vehicle of some sort pulled up along side it. It casually tossed me and I was pulled in by some sort of tractor beam. Inside the ship were people I knew.

After that,we were all dumped in the high school gymnasium. Now we are all just sitting here. If we make a sound other than breathing, they just kill us.  

Image result for alien invasion

Crime Scene

Reporters are trained to develop a sixth sense, a nose for when a story smells fishy. And something about this one wasn’t right. First of all, Captain Evers was too eager to share. He was never willing to parlay with the press unless pressured. Additionally, the cops were giving us the “it was a gas explosion” bull-shit again. 

I walked back to the news van and pulled out my notebook. Scanning quickly through my most recent press release list from the PD, I counted five “gas explosions” in five months. One a month in fact. That’s what they call a pattern. 

I immediately called my brother. As I listened to this cell ring, I kept saying “pick up, pick up,” under my breath. On the sixth ring, it went to his voicemail. Typical. 

“This is Detective Sean Fox, I am unavailable….” I waited for the beep. 

“Sean, this is your sister. I want to talk to you. I feel like we haven’t had a nice visit in a long time.” I was trying to keep the eagerness out of my voice. “Meet me at Tom’s at 7 pm. Dinner and drinks on me.” I hung up and knew he would be there. I needed to know what the cops were hiding. Lying to my brother was a small price to pay for getting a story — a real story. Now, I just had to convince him to open up to me. That was easier said than done. 

My brother was a good cop, and sister or not, he knew better than to tell the press something that Captain Evers was purposely hiding. There were times when I was surprised that Sean had chosen to become a cop, but then again, being nosey was part of being a detective as well as a reporter. We liked to puzzle together the pieces and get our story — we just had different motives for wanting the story. My brother would probably say he was helping dole out justice. I am more honest with the world than that; I want the truth so I can sell it to make a name for myself. It’s not pretty, but it’s the cost of being a field reporter. 

***********

The small talk was winding down. We had talked about mom and dad, and Sean told me he had just ended yet another in a number of relationships with a woman who couldn’t handle being with a cop. 

“It’s the long hours. I think at first they don’t realize that it’s never going to let up. There is no slow season on crime,” Sean said as he finished his beer. 

I didn’t really care why women didn’t want to stay with him; that was his business. I was trying to figure out how to change the subject without being too obvious and deep in thought, I didn’t hear what he asked me. 

“Earth to Mary,” Sean was saying as he looked at me with one eyebrow raised. “Did I lose you there for a minute?

“Yes,” I said. “I was just zoning out a bit. You know, work stuff.” I looked at him expectantly. 

Sean folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair. As he glared at me, he said, “Ah ha. Here’s the truth then. You didn’t want to have a nice dinner, you want a story.” 

I shrugged. “Come on, Sean. You know me.”

He cut me off before I could continue, “Yes, all work and no play. Even when it comes to having dinner with family.” He stood up and reached in his wallet dropping $20 on the table. “That should cover my part.” 

As he tried to leave, I blocked him. “Stop. Sean, don’t leave. It was wrong of me to lie to you, but…” 

He shoved past me and was out of my reach before I could do anything else. 

I shouted at him, “I know there have been five incidents in the last five months. I know Captain Evers is covering it up. And I know they’re not gas explosions.” 

He stopped. He came back over to me and whispered, “Don’t.” He looked tired and he rubbed his temple before he continued. “I don’t want you involved with that. Do yourself a favor and find a different story.” 

“Why? Is it something horrible?” My voice sounded eager and I checked my enthusiasm as Sean glared at me. “Serial killer? Arsonist? What?” Sean just kept shaking his head. 

He placed a hand on my shoulder and said, “Stay away from that story, Mary. You don’t want to be involved with that craziness.” 

Craziness? That left me confused. What would a cop of over a decade consider crazy? I was gearing up to press him some more when he turned and left. 

I grabbed my stuff and dumped some money on the table and caught up with him just as he was getting in his car. 

“Please, Sean. I need a good story.” 

He sighed. “This is not that story, Mary. Trust me.” 

“Seriously, what’s got you so nervous to talk about this one? Just give me a hint. A tiny, teeny hint. I’m your sister.” I was begging but didn’t care. Anything to get the story I desperately needed. 

I will never know if it was the pleading or just that he really thought he could change my mind. 

“Get in,” he said as he slid into his sedan.

************

He drove us to the crime scene that the Captain had talked about that day. As we walked up the steps and past the crime scene tape, my brother stopped and turned to me. 

crime scene

“Listen, Mary. I am showing you this, but after I do, I fully expect you to walk away from this. Nothing good can come from being mixed up with… Whatever this is.”

Walk away? Did he know me at all? Clearly not. And why was he being so vague? Did he not know what was really behind these doors? Or was he just trying to creep me out? He was my older brother after all, that wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility. 

We entered the brownstone and walked into the hall of what appeared to be a nicely kept household. My brother went up the stairs and I followed close on his heels. He stopped as we came to the first doorway. He gestured for me to proceed into the room. 

“Go ahead. Take a look,” he said. “I will wait out here. I’ve already seen it.” 

I shrugged as I walked past him into the room. It turns out, my brother was right. Seeing it once was enough. The first thing that hit me was the smell. I instinctively covered my nose and mouth. I only took three steps into the room. I didn’t need to go in any further. I scanned the room trying to take it all in. 

Horrific doesn’t begin to cover what I was seeing. There were two twin beds in the room, one on either side of where I was standing. The beds were covered with delicate pink ruffled comforters. On top of each bed was what I assumed were the remains of the two girls who shared the room. Though to be honest, it was hard for me to say that what I was seeing was human, let alone female remains. I knew enough about anatomy to recognize what appeared to be two bodies completely removed of their skin. What was stranger was that I could also tell there were no bones. How the hell does someone remove skin and bones but leave everything else intact? Something else occurred to me as I turned to leave. Where was the blood? This had to be a secondary scene. You can’t remove skin and bones without leaving a mess. 

I shook my head at that thought. I went back in the hall and leaned on the railing breathing deeply for a minute. “What? I mean. How?” I couldn’t get words out. 

“Come on. Let’s go get some fresh air.” 

We left the crime scene and went to the closet coffee shop. We just sat there for several minutes before I began. 

“Sean, have all five ‘gas explosions’ been like that?” I gestured vaguely in the direction of the house we’d just left. I shut my eyes, which it turns out was a bad idea. I saw the remains posed on the beds when I did that. Posed? Why did I think of them as posed? Because I knew that was true. Someone had ​posed them like that. 

“Yes.” 

Apparently, I was going to have to pry the information out of him. “Sean. You have to give me more than that after what I just saw. Why are you guys covering this up? People should know about this?”

“Stop right there,” he said. “How would the public knowing about that help anyone? It would just create panic. Honestly, we don’t even really know what’s going on.” He sighed. “The Captain doesn’t want the press running with it mostly because it will make the whole force look like incompetent assholes.” 

“Why? Clearly you have the work of a serial killer. A very sick one.” I sat back in the booth and tried not to think of the smell or what I had just seen.

“We don’t know that actually. You saw it. We have remains. We have no easy way of identifying the remains from any of the crime scenes. I am sure you noticed the lack of skin.” Once he started, he told me everything he knew. “Did you also notice the lack of bones? There are no finger prints. No teeth. We have to use bone marrow DNA samples because there is also an alarming lack of blood. We haven’t even found primary crime scenes for any of them.” 

I shook my head. I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. How could they have nothing after 5 months? 

“Listen, Mary. You may have noticed the horrific nature of this story, but there are other reasons I want you to steer clear of this one.”  

I gestured for him to continue. 

“The Feds are taking over. They have a special unit working these cases. Did you notice we haven’t moved the bodies yet? They were discovered late last night and yet those two little girls or what’s left of them is still laying in their beds instead of on a morgue slab.”

I looked up at this. I hadn’t thought of that. Why leave them after processing? 

Sean continued, “The Feds are working this from a paranormal perspective. They think aliens or some shit are involved.” 

“I’m sorry. Do you really expect me to believe that the government – our government – thinks that e.t. and his cousins are killing little girls and leaving their insides behind?”

He sighed again. “Yes. That’s why you should stay away from this one. I don’t want you mixed up with the weirdos working this.”

I shook my head. Could I walk away from this? Reporters who were associated with paranormal stories didn’t usually end up with all the glory. They usually ended up working for the National Inquirer tracking down bigfoot and captioning blurry photos of the Loch Ness Monster and UFO sightings.