It was the second week of my summer vacation and my mom was taking me out for the day.
“What kind of ice cream do you want?” she asked.
“Cookies and cream,” I answered as usual.
“You always get cookies and cream. Don’t you want something special?” she urged.
“Cookies and cream is special. And I always get it because it is my favorite.”
“Alright but you’ll have to be more creative the rest of the day. This city has all sorts of things to offer and today you can do anything you want.”
My mother has a predictable pattern. Whenever she is about to make some drastic change in my life she suddenly becomes more generous. The more damage she’s going to do the more stuff I get. So, I figured this time she was going to seriously ruin my life.
When I got down to the waffle cone of my scoop we were walking in a park downtown. It was part of the city’s initiative toward a healthier more productive environment. I finally broke under the suspense.
Against my better judgment I asked, “So how are you ruining my life this time?”
“What? I am doing no such thing.”
She feigned surprise.
“I – Well ok remember how I always said I hate my job and don’t get paid enough to deal with the anal-retentive pains in the neck that I diagnose?”
“Yeah, so you got a new job?”
“Yes, and I feel like I can actually help people with real problems. Bigger than ‘I fantasize about killing my boss, is there a pill for that?’”
“Well I think this is going to be great for us, there will be fresh air and,” at this point she began to slowly walk in another direction saying, “you can make new friends.”
“Excuse me?” I asked freezing in place and nearly dropping my cone.
“Sweetie you are going to love it green trees, fresh air-”
“You already said that. Where exactly are you going to work?” I asked cutting her off.
“It’s out… in this state. A little more rural than we’re used to.”
It was literally in the middle of nowhere.
“Only two percent of the U.S. population farms, and we have passed enough vacant land for all of them,” I commented to my mom.
“I thought you would like this. You are the one always talking about saving the environment and natural habitats.”
“Yes for the animals. I never said I wanted live with them.”
We had been driving for three hours. The rehabilitation center for the mentally ill and otherwise challenged was not technically in the middle of nowhere, but a place called Nower seemed close enough. The center was, for lack of a better term, very sterile. It was an oxymoron, old and new at the same time. Take the building for instance; brick and ancient looking from the outside; white, shiny and new on the inside. Then there were the staff members. They were clearly very interesting people yet somehow devoid of any interesting comment on life. For instance the nurse that gave us a tour of the facilities. Her name was Barbra and she was from the Philippines. She had clearly super sized her value meals a few times too many and drank one too many shakes; her heart was still frozen.
“These are the staff quarters,” she told us, thoroughly bored. “They are across from the nurse’s station on every floor. When you walk in you will see the station, the staff quarters and further down the hall are the patient rooms. Almost all patients have their own private room. You are not to go into them unless scheduled to do so. Which means you,” she indicated me, “will never go into a patient’s room. First and second floors are patient rooms. Third and fourth floors are activity designated. The fifth floor is where you, Dr. Linsdale, will spend most of your time. The evaluation rooms are on that floor.”
After a lot of walking and a lot of listening to Nurse Katz monotone monologue, I was thoroughly convinced of two things. One: this was going to be a long summer and two: this place was huge. Nurse Katz finally showed us to our rooms after about an hour and we still hadn’t seen everything. Mostly just what my mom needed to know about for her job.
“Hey, you,” Katz called right before I checked out my room.
“Yes,” I answered mildly.
“You might like the pool, little girl.” In case there was any mistake I might take this as a sign of kindness on her part, she added, “Maybe then you can stay out of the way.”
Our rooms were pretty nice: mahogany furniture and wood paneling, queen size beds.
“Mom this place must have a lot of money.”
“It does,” she answered frankly.
“So do all the servants- I mean staff members live here?”
She smiled and said, “No just some of them and we aren’t going to stay here either.”
“Really? Won’t it be a long drive every day? There is nothing out here.”
“Maybe so, but when summer is over you are going to need to be closer to school.” She checked her watch and added, “It’s pretty late. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”
I received a kiss on the forehead with some discomfort and then my mom left. I sighed then got ready for bed, but that night I couldn’t sleep. The room looked like a hotel suite, they even used key cards for the doors, but there was no television. As I lay in the dark approaching the brink of unconsciousness I heard what sounded like whimpering. I sat up listening. The sound was coming from a vent in my room. I knocked on the vent. The crying continued, it sounded muffled.
“Hello?” I whispered up the vent.
I heard nothing, the muffled noise stopped quickly. I tapped on the vent again and got no response. I shrugged in the darkness, figuring it was a patient or nurse who I probably embarrassed. Tomorrow I could investigate and find out which room the vent connected to. I like to investigate things, not to embarrass anyone just to satisfy myself about the level of my covert skills. I’m saving the embarrassing for when I become a reporter.
The next morning my mother had already begun work when I woke up. There was a blueberry muffin and some cereal on a wooden table in my room. I vaguely remembered an outline with my mother’s voice saying something about breakfast and milk in the fridge at some ridiculously early hour of the morning. With the grooming and nourishing essentials out of the way I began day one of the “Noise in the vent” investigation. Maybe I read too much Nancy Drew as a child for I am incredibly good at solving the cases I discover for myself. Or maybe they are just too easy to solve.
Anyway, I had an enlightening talk with the nurse at the nearest station and determined the only place that the sound could come from. My room was on the first floor and the patient I was looking for was on the second, directly above me. The nurse Debbie had been most helpful; sometimes a compliment is as conducive as desserts for opening mouths.
I learned that nearly every patient on the first floor was fed sleeping pills.
“Especially the ones nearest to the staff sleeping quarters. So darling if you are ever kept awake it’s probably the guy above you. But he’s a quiet guy and with his condition I figure night would be most peaceful.”
Conveniently, the doors were labeled with patient’s names. I stopped at room 221. It was the only room with a closed door. The other patients were participating in activities on the third and fourth floors.
I knocked on the door and said, “Hello…Jakub?”
There was a long silence and I almost left.
“Who is it?” he answered in a barely audible tone.
I could just barely make out what I presumed to be Jakub Farly’s voice if the door was labeled correctly.
“Jakub, hi. I’m Kai, um-”
I still don’t know what I was planning to say. Something like, ‘last night your whimpering intrigued me,’ just didn’t seem like an appropriate conversation starter. Fortunately he interrupted me, which is actually rude but a good thing in this case.
“Kai?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said slightly relieved.
“Are you Hawaiian?”
“Not as much as my name. My family actually hails from Jamaica on my mom’s side and Hawaii on my dad’s. Most people don’t guess that about my name are you Hawaiian?” I asked relaxing.
“No Irish mostly, but I read a lot it’s come up…”
“Oh…” I suddenly had the urge to say something silly like, ‘so what are you in for’. Instead I broke the silence with “What are you in here for anyway,” followed by a slap on my forehead. Sometimes I think my impulse control goes on summer vacation too.
I heard Jakub laughing, he laughed a little too much.
I guess he realized it too because he said, “Sorry I don’t… interact with live people as much as I’d like to.”
“Really, so you interact with… virtual people?” I asked sitting down by the door.
“Yes. This one shrink gave me a computer to help with my problem. I’ve been in here for nine years, since I was seven. I think he felt bad for me not being able to see the world and he was afraid I would lose my social skills. But then I don’t think a lot of the weirdo’s I’ve meet online are the best people to develop social skills with. There was this one guy-”
Once I recovered from the shock I had to interrupt, “Wait a second are you telling me, you are my age and you have been locked in that room for more than half your life?”
“Well, I don’t know. If you are sixteen then yes on both counts.”
“That is incredible! What’s wrong with you! I mean…” I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase it.
When he answered he sounded sad. “I just can’t come out because of the light. I guess it’s a kind of photophobia but not the usual case. I’m not sensitive to the light because it bothers my eyes. I …”
“What is it?” I was facing the door my eyes wide with anticipation.
He cleared his throat before responding, “I just met you. I don’t want to sound like I’m completely insane and scare you off… Do you think you will talk with me again?”
“Definitely. Look everyone has problems and fears it’s just unfortunate that yours makes it difficult to interact ‘normally’ in society. Whatever normal means. It’s all relative.”
Jakub laughed quietly and continued, “Thank you that makes me feel better.” He paused, “I know something bad will happen if I’m exposed to light. Not just any light but continuous light from the outside.” He started talking faster, “The last time, no, the last three times I tried to be in light people got hurt. Me too. No one thinks it’s because of what I know it is.” He seemed to run out of steam for a minute. “Are you still there?”
“Are you rethinking your decision to come back?” he laughed and didn’t wait for me to answer. “Ok. Now you know I belong here. It’s ok if you don’t want to talk to me anymore.”
“Are you kidding I don’t have a TV, you’re the next best thing,” I said with a smirk.
He laughed again for too long, I heard him inhale sharply. “Sorry.”
“It’s all right I take it as a compliment. I just may have a career as a stand-up comedian. Besides I feel like I’m being rude to you. I think before I speak but I still end up saying just what I was thinking. I don’t mean what I say in a bad way. If you laugh I feel like less of jerk,” I told him honestly.
“I don’t think you’re jerk.”
“That’s real comforting, even if it is coming from a guy who hasn’t spoken with a live person in nine years.”
We both laughed.
Then he said, “That’s not true I’ve talked to plenty to nurses and doctors. Besides I’ve met plenty of jerks online… You are closer to being one of those weirdoes I was talking about earlier.”
He laughed at his own joke.
I smiled and said, “Touché. I guess I’ll just pick on someone my own size or much larger, like Mrs. Katz.”
“Hey, I know Mrs. Katz.” He said seriously, “She is a great person and the only one who has ever been nice to me.”
“I’m sorry. Is she really?”
“No,” he laughed and it was infectious. He added “I wish I could have seen your face.”
After a few weeks I was still going every day to talk to Jakub and was becoming increasingly curious. I would also go up to the activity center and talk to the other patients some I liked and others not so much. Every single one had visitors often enough but never Jakub. I was at the activity center playing air hockey, when Ricky came up to me. He was about 26 and a patient at the center.
“Hi, Ricky,” I greeted him.
He stared at me awhile before saying. “Can you help me look for something?”
“Sure,” I said cautiously, with Ricky I never knew what to expect.
“No.” Victoria, another patient, whined, “We was playing, schitzo.”
Victoria was one of those moody patients. Some days she was fun and other times I had to avoid her. Just then another patient pushed me out of the way and I was soon forgotten as they played.
“What’s wrong, Ricky?” I asked.
He motioned for me to come closer, and then whispered, “I lost my body.”
I smiled sympathetically, “Well, let’s go find it.”
A male nurse came over to us as I stepped down from checking the ceiling fan for Ricky’s body.
“Kai, I’ll take care of this why don’t you go for a swim or check out the new delivery to your room,” he said with a cunning smile.
I looked at him quizzically then ran to investigate. It was awesome the TV and laptop for my room had finally come.
“Now I don’t have to fight for control of the remote in the activity center or get kicked out by Katz,” I told Jakub leaning against his door.
“That’s great I can message you too. Over my completely secure system,” he said proudly.
I took a deep breath for my next statement, “Jakub I was wondering, are you going to get a visitor soon?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve never had a visitor.”
“Really for the whole nine years?” I suspected as much but it was still a sad confirmation.
“Kai… my family’s dead.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright it’s not like you did it,” he said flatly.
“Then who pays for you to stay here?”
“The government does, believe it or not. I think they would have chosen a less expensive facility but my parents had friends far up the ladder. I guess they figured it was the least they could do.”
“How did your parents know government officials?”
“My parents were part of an exploration group working with the government, I don’t know which division. But I know they were testing new equipment that could be used for exploring the aphotic zone of the ocean. That’s the deepest zone: completely black, very high pressure. They were tech divers and ocean explorers, among other things. That’s how they died, you could probably look it up since it was a famous story… I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Then let’s talk about something else,” I said thoughtfully.
When I left Jakub I decided to stop by mother’s office upstairs.
“Hey mom,” I said walking through the open door.
She looked up and tilted her readers down.
“Hi sweetie good to see you,” She said sitting back. “What’s up?”
“You haven’t been irritating Mrs. Katz again have you?” she asked, regarding me with suspicion.
“No,” I said annoyed.
“Because if I hear one more complaint-”
“Don’t sweat it mom. I’ve gotten the hang of avoiding the floors she’s on now. But I have to ask you something. I was wondering; does everyone have visitors?”
“Of course, that is one of the reason’s I was attracted to this place. The people who stay here have families that care a lot about them.”
“What about Jakub Farly?”
“Oh well he hasn’t had any yet but I was assured that everyone receives a visitor at least once a month. I think that really helps with preventing severe depression in the patients.”
“And you think it’s alright if I visit one of the patients?”
“Don’t you do that all the time at the activity center, wandering around the halls and such?” she said with a somewhat disapproving tone.
“I meant a little more privately, like how the other visitors see their friends…Sometimes in their room.”
“I don’t know…”
“But mom you’re the one always teaching me to be compassionate and saying how mental illness is not contagious and-”
“I know but they are still sick when they are in the activity center that means they are having a good day. I do not want you to be shocked or hurt the first time they act less than normal or don’t recognize you. A lot of things could happen.”
“So, I’ll be ready.”
The intercom interrupted her, requesting her presence on floor three.
“Look mom, I don’t know what you were told, but Jakub doesn’t get visitors. He can’t come out of his room because he’s afraid of outside light. If I could just see him even with a nurse or something-”
“I have to go.”
I had to plead one last time, “But mom when was the last time he had real human contact with a friend. What about visitors being good for depression?”
“Kai I know he’s one of your favorite patients-”
“Friends,” I corrected.
She looked exasperated as she continued, “But I don’t know why you need to meet him face to face. I understand you feel sorry for him, but I’m sure he will get a visitor soon. Isn’t talking to him if you pass his room is enough?”
“Yeah, but I always feel like there’s this wall between us. Oh, wait it’s a door.”
She gave me an annoyed look then said she would see me tonight before leaving. I hadn’t really told my mom about how I talked with Jakub every day. She would be concerned I would get too attached bla, bla, bla. I could handle it. If I could look for someone’s body while they walked around in it, I could be friends with Jakub.
I would miss our chats when school started but I could visit and now I had the laptop. Besides it was not like I was obsessed, just because I found him interesting to talk to and his past terribly intriguing. It was not like that was all I ever thought about when I had a moment to myself.
Anyhow, with nothing better to do I decided to look into Jakub’s visitation records. It was pretty simple to find an unguarded nurse station and login. I had been using any free computer there until mine came. It was no wonder my mother figured Jakub would have a visitor his log showed multiple people visiting him over the course of the years, but Jakub wouldn’t lie, would he? Maybe he had more problems than I knew about. I couldn’t jump to conclusions.
The original records were in the basement I knew because I had helped Debbie carry some old ones down there before. The basement was by far the least sterile of the whole building, but was kept uniform with everything else by being impeccably organized. I found Jakub’s file and was careful not to snoop into anything besides the visitor records. I knew right away that many of the visits had to be fabricated. The file containing the sign in sheet was much too thin for the nine years of visits the computer reported. I examined the sheets and although the names were different, the hand writing was the same for different people. Even stranger the handwriting was different for the same people when they returned a few months later, but if you checked the papers out chronologically all the visitors in a month would write exactly the same.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” I said quietly.
That night I messaged Jakub and told him what I found.
Knightly02: That’s strange I don’t know any of those people.
Krazykai: How about Lara Smith, Lewis Ferrell, Frank Anthony?
Knightly02: No… Are you thinking about investigating?
Krazykai: Your life does fascinate me infinitely, but I won’t if it bothers you.
Knightly02: Actually I would like to know more about… my life I guess. Such as what really happened with my parents and what’s happening with me. I’m limited by my internet searching skills and I don’t have a phone. If the info’s not online or if I’ve got to pay for it I can’t get to it.
Krazykai: Then I’ll get to work. I’ll get to work on it tomorrow. I’m going to need to ask you some questions.
Knightly02: All right, do you want to watch a movie? I just downloaded a comedy, I could connect you.
Krazykai: No thanks I’m pretty tired, ttyl.
Knightly02: Alright, talk to you later.
The next day I went directly to Jakub’s room and sat in my usual spot outside the door.
“Jakub are you up?” I called through the door.
“Always,” he responded.
“I was wondering. Is your phobia connected to your parents’ death?”
“Yes,” he admitted after a lapse.
“Can you tell me about?”
“Wow, first thing in the morning.”
I heard him sigh and then continue.
“Um, when I was seven, my parents took an exploration job from some federal research agency. Like I said before they were testing a new bathyscaphe and equipment for exploring the aphotic zone of the ocean, very big news in the scientific world. My parents went along with Melissa Pearson, Jason McDonald and James Tabour. Communication had been lost at least a day before they reached the site of their dive. I’m pretty sure their boat took unexpected damage. They found my parents and the other two members of the crew all dead in the same area. James Tabour’s body was in a different room below deck. The FBI claimed they died from decompression sickness but how could all four of them miss the symptoms, and why wouldn’t they use the recompression chamber? They were professionals I know they wouldn’t have skipped something like that after deep diving. It was all very bizarre and the government was doing this whole cloak and dagger routine about the situation. By the time I was old enough to really look into it a lot of details seemed to have vanished. I can’t even confirm the name for the agency that was conducting the experiments.
Anyway, first I should tell you what I remember from the day of the funeral, since that is the only time I got direct information about what happened to my parents. I was at the funeral home and had just escaped from a from an old friend of the family, whom I had never seen before, by claiming I drank a whole Big Slurp all on my own and it was making a return visit. I was headed as far away from everyone as I could get when I overheard two men talking in a room to my right. This is the important part.”
“The woman’s note said to tell her son she loves him and to stay out of the light.”
The other man asked, “Anybody have any idea what that is supposed to mean?”
“No but one thing is clear; they weren’t alone on that ship. And whatever was with them killed them.”
“Whatever was with them? So what are we thinking, alien invaders or a creature from the black lagoon?”
“It’s not a joke. That makes about as much sense as a stowaway on their boat. We had the boat kept under high security before they left. Something killed them and now others are being found murdered in the same way. Think it’s just a coincidence?”
“I don’t know, but we definitely don’t need the media to link any mysterious deaths to this. I’ve already got too many people breathing down my neck about over this case. We have no leads. I mean what am I supposed to do?”
“You’re the FBI, investigate.”
“That’s when I knocked over a vase. I was so startled by what I heard I had stepped backwards into a table. I ran down the hall with them right after me and hid in an open closet behind some coats. After I heard them go by I peeked out, I started to walk slowly out of the closet. Then…I know it sounds crazy, but the air began to change, it got really warm very suddenly and I heard a whistling sound, kind of like the one teapots make when the water is ready. That’s when I felt the cut. I don’t know how or from where but I fell back into the coats. My legs where still sticking out in the light of the hallway, and I was cut again by something I couldn’t see. I finally leaned against the door and it closed. I kept hearing scraping against it. I used to hear it here too. Wherever I was, it would stay for days and then leave…
When I was found, in the closet, I was mumbling ‘stay out of the light, out of the light.’ I was saying it over and over again. I would refuse to be exposed to it. A couple of doctors tried CBT and gradual desensitization with me. I told them nothing was wrong except the light was trying to kill me or something was. Only two doctors tried gradual desensitizing with me. In an enclosed dark room turning on a light does nothing.
I think whatever attacked me needs a path, a continuous stream of light from wherever it is to me, because when I went outside the room...” He paused as if remembering, “Those two doctors got severely hurt. I was moved to different facilities until I ended up here. Everything was covered up Kai. I looked the reports up. The state paid for their medical expenses and they somehow miraculously came into enough money to quit their practice and retire. Every doctor since those incidents has been instructed not to disturb me. Everyone listened except the one your mother replaced. He thought it was abnormal and unfair to ignore one patient. It would have been fine except he came in the morning.”
He seemed to struggle to speak now, “Remember how I told you sometimes I would hear the scratching at my door?”
I cleared my throat and answered, “Yes.”
“I was hearing them that morning, when I heard someone coming down the hallway. It was Doctor Shaw. I tried to tell him. I screamed for him to go away. I don’t think it wants anyone but me, it usually comes when I’m alone, but if someone tries to help me like during those two treatments or interrupts, like that morning, they get hurt.”
He was silent for awhile then asked, “Do-do you believe me.”
“I think I do. If what you say is true about having been to different facilities, it is easy enough to find out. If that’s true someone may have been covering up more than you know. We already know your visitors are fakes and they date back nine years as if you have always and only been here.”
Yes, I believed him because I was looking at his door and although it was painted over I could see the indentation left from the scratching of something. Maybe he was nuts maybe there was no great conspiracy but something strange was going on and if Jakub was paranoid he had reason to be. Practical explanation or invisible attackers, I wanted to know the truth and after that maybe I could find some way to help Jakub.
First I wanted to find out what happened to the other family members of the crew. I checked online for the names of the crew and their family members. All I could find out about the ‘accident’ was general information: date, location, time, all things that I already knew and nothing helpful. Jakub had already told me that the FBI took over investigation of the case and declared that the crew members had died from decompression sickness, but then I found out that before they took over the case there was evidence that the bathyscaphe had been attacked in some way. The boat was found far off course and there were notes indicating they were attacked, but the FBI credited it to neurological damage from the decompression sickness then completely blocked off all inquiry into the case. I didn’t find anything supporting that the crew had been murdered as Jakub overheard but I did find out about other murders.
All direct family members of the five members of the crew, siblings, parents and children but never spouses, were now either dead or institutionalized. I needed to know how they died or why they were hospitalized. If Jakub wasn’t the only one having these attacks it would add credit to his story. And maybe someone out there knew how to help him. So I decided to call the funeral homes and mental rehabilitation centers. As expected no one would provide information about the condition of the bodies or the reasons for the hospitalizations. I finally got a break at one rehabilitation center I called. The receptionist was new and I told her I was looking for Debra Tabour.
“Yes we have a patient by that name.”
“Twenty years old?” I asked to be sure.
“Yes, she is,” she confirmed.
“Good it must be her. Could you possibly tell me why she is under treatment?”
“Umm, I don’t know. I’m new but I don’t think we are allowed to release that information.”
“I understand but I’m her cousin. The family and I were going to come for a visit and I just don’t want to do anything to upset her.”
“Well I don’t think I am supposed tell about patients’ personal records to anyone but direct family.”
“Oh… well that could be a problem. You see there is no more direct family. Debbie’s parents were in an accident. That’s why we are coming to see her, to break the news. I just don’t want it to be any more traumatic than it has to be.”
“Oh my goodness I’m so sorry. Umm… the only problem I see here is a fear of exposure to light. You probably won’t be able talk to her face to face.”
That was enough for me. Another crew member’s relative had the same phobia as Jakub. I managed to verify two more with the same phobia and I bet the other institutionalized relatives had the same fear. Then there were the rest, they were dead and I couldn’t find a single cause of death in the public records.
I couldn’t get any legitimate information on their cause of death, but I did find some interesting rumors online. What happened to Jakub’s parents was very well publicized at first and everyone had a theory about what happened during the dive. Two theories fit in with what I had put together. The information I did find was as discouraging as it was remarkable, but I had to share it with Jakub.
I was sitting outside Jakub’s door again.
“I have some interesting news.” I told him.
“Good or bad.”
“I’ll let you decide.” I continued, “Have you ever heard of a Tasmanian tiger?”
“Sure they are extinct now aren’t they?”
“Yes. Now what was interesting about that creature is that when it picked up a scent it was relentless in pursing that scent. It wouldn’t stop until it killed its prey or was exhausted. Now imagine something else with an even greater determination. Imagine an animal that not only tracks down one prey but anything closely related to it relentlessly, because as bizarre as it sounds I think that might be what we are dealing with here.”
There was a short pause before Jakub said, “How did you come to that conclusion?”
I filled him in on what I had learned. “First there is what you told me. Then I did some investigation on my own. I called the other facilities you had been to and most were very tight lipped. I was fortunate to catch an employee at one who actually let on that you were there before someone terminated the interview. Also, there are a lot of rumors going around on the net about what happened to your parents.”
“I know but they are all nonsense,” he broke in.
“None of them make sense alone but if you take two of them together, they fit in with your story. Plus there were some reports leaked about two years after the ‘accident.’ Now they could never be officially verified but the reports were about an unidentified biological substance found on the bathyscaphe and memos with instructions to be careful to shut off all access to direct streams of light to the outside you found out were being sent to the agents examining your parents’ boat. There’s even evidence they were trying to contain something that was never revealed…”
“But those reports could have been fake,” Jakub said.
I took a deep breath there, “If the reports were fake why did Eugene Topa, who was suspected as the leak, get suspended. If I’m right Topa is behind the theories I’m talking about. He thinks the crew discovered something down there, a new species of marine life that attacked them. It’s really strange but it all fits and if Topa was actually working on the case he’d know. Now I need to ask you something.”
“Go ahead then, what do you want?”
“Well so far I have mostly just been finding more evidence that proves you are not crazy. I think you’re right about something attacking you but if Topa is right you’re never going to see daylight again unless this thing is killed.”
Jakub hesitated, “But how?”
“I have an idea but I’d like to know more about what this thing is and how it survives out of water. In any case I don’t see a way to catch without…bait.”
“You mean me?”
I nodded even though he couldn’t see me. “Yes, so I wanted know how you feel about that?”
I heard him sigh softly. “I don’t know Kia. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life here but seems too risky right now to think about catching or killing it. We might not even be able to find out what it is let alone how to catch it.”
“You’re right, but if I did?”
“If that time comes I’ll let you know.”
When I left Jakub I decided to head to my room for a much needed nap. On the way I ran into a much unneeded employee. Grant something started working at the center a few days ago. He was creepy, I always felt like I was being watched for hours after I left his line of sight. Besides that, I was a little disappointed, I had pulled an all-nighter and still didn’t know how to help Jakub. Plus, I thought I might have made him feel more hopeless than hopeful. I shrugged off my disappointment and took a long nap. I woke up at eleven that night. My cell was ringing, and I groggily picked it up.
A male voice said, “Kia Linsdale?”
My eyes narrowed as I answered. “Yes. How did you get this number? Who is this?”
“Not over the phone. If I know who you are, they do too. If you want to know about the Farly’s case, I’ll meet you in two hours.”
I asked where but the line was already dead.
A minute later Jakub was messaging me:
Knightly02: Kai are you there?
Krazykai: Jakub, I just got the weirdest call.
Knightly02: Then this e-mail must be for you.
Jakub had received an encrypted file which he decoded to reveal directions to a pool hall an hour and a half away. It was signed E.T.
Krazykai: I didn’t even know pool halls still existed. Do you think ET stands for Eugene Topa or is an extra-terrestrial alien trying to communicate with us?
Jakub laughed, I was outside his room again, now paranoid about computer and phone conversations.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure you should go.”
“I’m going there’s not a question about it,” I said.
“ Be careful.”
I had to ‘borrow’ my mother’s car to get there. When I got to the pool hall I sat down on a green booth seat and a moment later a brunette sat next to me.
“Kia?” she asked
“Yes?” I answered cautiously.
Two long pink well manicured nails held out a card.
“This is for you,” she explained. “There’s a pay phone over there.”
I dialed the number on the card and heard a familiar voice.
“I’m impressed,” ET said, “Especially when I figured out how old you must be.”
“Thanks I guess.”
“Listen carefully. If I found you they did too. I’m sure someone is watching you at the center just like I’m watching you right now. That person won’t want the truth out.”
“I don’t see a need to send the public into a panic either,” he continued, “You help your friend and let it go.”
He hung up again. I went back to the car a little confused, and then I noticed something different about the passenger seat. A thick envelope had been placed there. I checked the back seat and the brakes before speeding back to the Nower center. The nice thing about living in nowhere land is that nobody pulls you over for speeding.
I was sitting outside Jakub’s room again. A moment ago I had slipped the envelope to him. It contained the case file on his parents’ investigation.
“So James Tabour was found hiding in an enclosed area of the ship with a flashlight and this gives you an idea?” Jakub questioned me.
“Yes. The file says that whatever this creature is it not only travels by light it is weakened by the absence of light. That’s why it was undiscovered all this time. Down in the aphotic zone the lack of light must have put it in some sort of deep hibernation that your parents woke it up from. Darkness can at least sedate it, if not kill it. James must have been trying to lure it into a completely dark room where it could get weak enough for him to kill it. But if you check the time of death the sun must have risen before he had a chance. So if we do the same thing but in a room without a window, we can take this thing down,” I said.
“I have to be honest with you, reusing the idea that lead to James’ death doesn’t really fill me with confidence.”
“Trust me. I’ve already worked it all out.” I explained my plan to him, “I think we should do it right away as soon as this thing comes back to try and kill again.”
As I finished that last sentence I heard someone call my name. I looked down the hall to see my mother and Ms. Katz coming.
“Kai, what are you doing it is past two in the morning,” my mother said pulling me up upon reaching me.
“I knew it. Disturbing patients this early,” Ms. Katz gloated. “I knew she would cause some sort of trouble.”
“I’m not causing trouble. I’m … visiting a friend.”
“And what couldn’t wait until a decent time?”
She didn’t really want to know, she had dragged me halfway down the hall.
“But mom-” I cut myself off and tried to turn around.
“Do you hear that?” I asked.
The only thing she could hear was her own anger roaring in her ears, and possibly Ms. Katz going on about children needing more discipline. All I could hear was the sound of scratching barely audible and getting fainter as my mom pulled me away and Ms. Katz went on babbling. Finally, at the elevator Ms. Katz turned and left us. As the elevator closed I saw her talking to that creep Grant. What kind of name is Grant anyway? I knew he had turned me in and that’s what I was telling Jakub later that afternoon.
Krazykai: its back isn’t it? and that snoop Grant has me condemned to eternal boredom locked in my room.
Knightly02: So we can’t go on with the plan? If it can’t reach me it’ll leave in a week.
KrazyKai: We won’t need that much time. We’ll go on as planned. I’ll just have to be careful.
It was almost one A.M. the next time I reached Jakub’s floor.
“Are you ready?” I asked Jakub.
“As I’ll ever be,” he concluded.
I went a little ways down the hall to hide while I watched his door. I heard the scratching and this time I was close enough to see the marks appear in the door. I stared for a minute then snapped back to attention. I had already blacked out two of the three windows. The only one left was closest to Jakub’s door. Then I shut off the lights in the hallway. I had to clamp my hands over my ears because of the high pierced shriek that followed this action. The glass of the last window cracked and the shrieking stopped. I walked slowly to Jakub’s door and told him to come out.
“Can you follow the sound of my voice? Grab my hand.”
When he did I led him to a storage room. It had no windows. I wasn’t taking chances. I closed the door and took out the flashlight and handed it Jakub.
“I’m going to turn on the light in the hallway. When you feel ready turn on the flashlight I’ll be by the door. I’ll close it and you turn off the flashlight.”
“Right,” Jakub took a deep breath, and then he turned on the flashlight and pointed it in my direction.
I squinted and said, “Hey. What’s that about?”
“I was just wondering what you looked like.”
I smiled and he said, “Okay, Now I’m ready.”
I went in the hall leaving the door open and turned on the light. That’s when I discovered how quickly this thing moved. I was running back to the door, but it had already gotten to Jakub. I closed the door and the piercing shriek started again, but it had already knocked Jakub down the flashlight was spinning on the floor a few feet from him. I tried to reach for it but something smacked me back. In the beam from the light I could see something vaguely a pale yellowish color. Then the door was kicked open. Light came flooding into the room and then it was Jakub who was screaming.
“Idiot,” I said seeing Grant enter the room holding a gun like one I had never seen before. He pointed it at the creature that was holding Jakub down it had a long sleek looking body that reminded me of a cross between a leech and a tapeworm with tentacle-like members. Grant shot and it jumped up and crawled through boxes and junk on the floor knocking Jakub’s head against a wooden desk. It was crawling over the wall and dragging an unconscious Jakub with it. Grant shot again and missed.
Now it crawled into a large open dumbwaiter, part of the system that was used before the modernization of the building about three decades ago and something I had stupidly overlooked. I ran over toward it. I wasn’t sure exactly what I expected to do. I grabbed the nearest thing. It was an old floorboard with a few nails sticking out of it. I climbed up over old supplies and furniture and we reached the dumbwaiter at the same time I grabbed a hold of Jakub and stabbed the leech with the other hand. It shrieked and whipped me down. I fell backwards onto the floor. It pulled Jakub into the dumbwaiter before getting stuck. It released him to break through the back of the dumbwaiter and kept going.
Grant came over to me. “Are you ok?” he asked.
“Yes I am,” I answered rubbing my back.
“I think we definitely injured it,” he said climbing toward Jakub. “That’s why it’s visible now. Its camouflage weakens when it is tired or injured.”
I was really becoming furious with this guy. “You know what would have helped? You, NOT, coming in and flooding the whole room with light.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t know what was going on,” he said unapologetic.
“So how about you just back off?” I asked cutting in front of him to the dumbwaiter.
Jakub was waking up.
“What happened?” he asked groggily.
“I am so sorry Jakub. That thing pulled you up here into the dumbwaiter and old vents.”
“That explains the dust.” He started coughing.
“Here let me help you out,” Grant offered.
Jakub reached for his hand but he kept coughing, then the dumbwaiter creaked and fell down before anyone could react.
“Jakub!” I screamed as we heard it crash to the ground.
“He must be in the basement,” Grant said.
“Great,” I said despondently. “Which way do you think that leech went?”
He shrugged. “Stay here,” he said, but I think we both knew that wasn’t going to happen and didn’t waste time arguing.
We took the stairs and ran down to the basement.
“Jakub!” I called.
I heard him answer from the left of us. A dull light illuminated the gray of the basement.
We ran around filing shelves and then I saw him.
“Jakub,” I said happily before I screamed as he was lifted into the air by a barely visible menace. I could just barely see the top of the heinous animal hanging from the ceiling. Jakub grabbed at his neck and tried to pry something, I couldn’t see away from it.
“Do something!” I yelled at Grant.
“I don’t know where it is,” he shot directly behind Jakub and hit the wall behind him.
I looked around for something to hit it with, then pushed Grants arms up.
“No try up there it’s hanging from the ceiling. Can you see that outline?”
Jakub was changing color fast. Grant kneeled to get a better shot at what he couldn’t see. His first shot did nothing. Jakub stopped moving.
“Hurry!” I cried.
He tried again this time the shot stuck. The body of the animal became visible as some sort of frost appeared over it. I tried to jump to reach Jakub.
“It’s not letting go,” I said to Grant.
He shot again. Then he came over to help me. The leech let out another one of its shrieks but didn’t let go. I was panicking and I felt hot tears sliding down my cheeks.
“I think it’s trying to kill him before it dies,” Grant said astonished.
I glared at him.
“Wait what does that gun do?” I said finding hope.
“Freezes it,” he explained.
“Give me boost and that gun,” I ordered wiping away tears.
Grant lifted me up on his shoulders I beat at the tentacles of the beast wrapped around Jakub’s neck with the butt of the gun. It cracked. I hit harder for what seemed like a year. Finally, it cracked deep and began to break apart and Jakub began to slip.
“Let me down, grab him,” I said.
Grant caught him then pulled out a phone and telephoned an ambulance.
I was checking Jakub’s pulse and put my ear to his chest.
I shook my head and said, “He’s not breathing.”
Grant began CPR and soon I could hear the whole center was awake. Fortunately, Jakub was breathing before the ambulance came, but he still hadn’t woken up.
Two days later, I was in the hospital sitting next to his bed, uninterested in a six year old magazine, when I heard my name.
“Kai, is it over?” he asked slowly sitting up.
I was so happy I couldn’t talk. I hugged him and gave him one of my best and brightest smiles and nodded.
When I found my voice I said, “Yes it is.”
He leaned back then and looked up and squinted at the glowing lamp illuminating his room, but he didn’t close his eyes to the light.