This past weekend I had to knuckle down and churn out a horror flash fiction for the NYCmidnight Flash Fiction Challenge. This was a great challenge for me as I used to write a bunch of horror stories years ago, but haven’t since. It was a wonderful to dust off some creepiness and pour it onto the page. I ended up writing two separate pieces. The first was in an older and more classic style of horror in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. The slower creeping horror. The second piece was a far more modern ‘Flash in the Pan’ style. Eventually I decided to submit the classic style story because I felt it embodied more of the genre, but I thought both were really pretty fantastic so I’ll post the Reject here until I get the go ahead to post the other. This means you get two horror stories for the price of one.
So here’s the first of the group.
“What the fuck was that?” I slammed the E-stop on the pumps.
Gerhardt spun around. His Alpha level radiation suit glistened dully in the red light as individual strands of woven fiberglass briefly caught the light and moved past. “What are you doing?” he demanded. “We need to hurry.”
“I thought I heard something.”
“It was the pump.”
“No,” I said. “Something over the radio.”
“Static then. Hurry.”
“It didn’t sound like static.”
I waited an extra beat and flipped the pump back on. It took three more seconds for the sealant to fill the hose. Gerhardt fell immediately to work. He was right, we needed to hurry.
“Is… someone there…?”
That time I knew I heard it. I shifted my end of the hose so I could hold it one handed and slapped my thumb to the transceiver. “Hello? Hello? Anyone there? This is NEST zero-zero-four. Anyone copy?”
“I told you, boy.” Gerhardt growled. “There’s no one-”
Gerhardt kept spraying the sealant. The thick grey sludge of the liquid epoxy resin was already several inches thick over the lab’s walls and the door leading toward the inner pulse chamber. The chamber where the accident had been. “Dammit.” he cursed.
“Gerhardt, stop! Someone’s still here.”
“No one’s here, boy. We keep going.”
“Help-” The static was horrible, but the voice was there. It was definitely there.
I slammed the stop on the pump and hit the radio. “We hear you. Identify yourself, this is NEST zero-zero-four.”
“This is Nuclear Emergency Search Team zero-zero-four. Identify yourself. What is your location?”
“I was in… in the pulse chamber.”
“I hear you. We’re in the outer lab. We can-”
Gerhardt’s heavy hand slammed the switch on my radio, slapping my hand away and scrambling the incoming signal. He glowered down at me from inside his alphas. “We have to hurry.”
“But you heard him! He’s still inside. We have to get to him. We have to-”
“No!” Gerhardt roared. “There is no one inside. No one. We seal the inner chamber or the radiation will spread.”
“Damnit, Gerhardt if there’s even a chance.”
“Damn you. We’re a search team! It’s our job.”
“My fingers are bleeding…” The voice boiled back over the static. “I can’t feel… There’s so much blood.”
“That’s it,” I said “I’m going in.”
“Is all that mine…?”
Gerhardt blocked my way, moving to push me back. I tossed the heavy hose toward his feet and shoved, knocking him backward. The unwieldy alphas tangled in the coiled blue hosing, making it impossible for him to recover on time. He tumbled, landing hard on his side.
“Wait,” he said. “You can’t!”
“There’s so much dust… I can barely see…”
“We’re the only team that can still reach him.” I said, slapping away at the heavy grey gunk. “The sealant hasn’t dried yet and he’s only a few yards down the hall. They’ve already started pouring cement into the vent shafts. If we don’t go now he’ll be trapped.”
“Williams, please stop.” Gerhardt’s voice was somehow both pleading and firm.
I turned to stare down the barrel of a massive revolver. “You knew,” I said. “You knew he was in there.”
“Of course we knew. The lab kept constant track of all personnel. We knew exactly where he was.”
“Why didn’t you go in after him? God sakes, man. He’ll die.”
“He’s dead already. He just doesn’t know it yet.” The pistol barrel wavered slightly. “Think man, you heard him. He can’t feel his fingers. That means his central nervous system is fried. He’s having trouble seeing because there is so much radiation in that chamber that his eyes have started melting. His skin is covered with bleeding sores. That poor bastard is going to spend the next few hours melting from the inside out until he’s finally lucky enough to drown in his own blood. The only thing we can do to help is bury him in there behind twenty tons of cement and epoxy so that if the damned pulse reactor blows the blast is contained. We’re leaving him in there so no one else dies in the same horrible way.”
My mouth was sandpaper dry. “Whats his name?”
“Furikawa. Doctor Jonah Furikawa.”
I backed away from the drying sealant and thumbed my radio. “Dr. Furikawa sir? Can you hear me?”
“This is Williams, sir. NEST zero-zero-four. We’re coming to get you sir. Don’t be afraid.”
Gerhardt rose to his feet, leveling his pistol at me again. I raised a hand, still speaking into the radio. “We’re coming sir, but its going to take a while. We have to cut through the debris. The best thing for you to do sir is try to get some sleep. Conserve your strength.”
“I… Thank you. I… It feels strange…”
I handed Gerhardt the hose and turned the sealant pump back on. “Yes, sir. Thats why we’re here.” I wanted to vomit inside my environment suit. Gerhardt had shut off his radio.
“Please…It’s my son’s birthday. There’s a present for him in the outer lab. A toy train. Please…if something happens…see he gets it.”
I glanced around the small room we were in. Gerhardt worked rapidly in front of me, pumping hot sludge onto the doorway. We needed it eight inches thick and we had twenty more minutes before the protection of our alpha suits began to fail. Finally, I found it. A box half buried in radioactive sludge and covered with epoxy lay beneath the twisted remains of some furniture. There wasn’t much left of whatever had been inside. A few blackened lumps that I could imagine might have been keys, a cell phone, maybe a wallet. I nudged the box with my foot, shaking loose a few melted lumps of metal, probably tin. The remains of a toy train so radioactive it had already reduced itself to slag.
“I’ll get it to him Doc. Not to worry.”