Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Featured Creature: The Room Under the Bridge

Ken had been struggling with the key for several minutes.  The metal door and lock were very old and a patch of rust had accumulated around the keyhole.  He wiped the sweat away from his eyes and scraped at the rust again with his screwdriver.  He tried the key once more. Finally the blockage gave way and the key slid in with a loud click.

He had to press hard to get the key to turn at all.  It felt as though it were going to break off in the lock, but the inertia within the lock slowly relented and the key turned.  Once the lock released he tugged at the door and it opened with an audible gust.  The air within was stagnant and musty.

"Finally!"  He took a swig from his water bottle and placed his tools back in his belt.  Ken returned quickly to his truck to get a flashlight and double check the paperwork for the site: #PDOTA13  Tertiary Water Interchange under South Highway Fourteen and Old Mason road bridge.  The commission director wanted an inventory of all the older pump sites in the county before funding could be approved for the new waterworks construction next year.  Everyone in site management was working extra shifts until all the pump sites had been checked and cataloged.  This particular interchange was the oldest on his list: it had not been accessed in over seven years.  He clipped his flashlight onto his belt and pocketed a filter face mask just in case the air was worse inside.  Clipboard under one arm, he returned to the door.

There was a decayed metal plaque bolted to the wall beside the door.  He could just make out a string of what looked like numbers in its flaking paint.  The rest of its writing had disappeared long ago.  He wrote down that the site's signage needed to be replaced.  A large section of grass had grown up at the edges of the door.  He put his foot across the long chutes and folded them back and away.  He pushed the door fully open and peered into the darkness within.

Ken clicked his flashlight on and stepped inside.  There was a small bar grated platform and a set of metal stairs leading down to the large pump that the site housed.  From the notes of the previous inspection, the pump had not been used in nearly twenty years.  More than likely, it was going to be dismantled for scrap or spare parts during the coming upgrades.  He stepped closer and scanned its structure with his flashlight.  Several cars passed on the bridge overhead.  The chamber resonated with a dull hum as each vehicle crossed over.  Ooooom, ooooom.  Ooooom, ooooom.

Most of the pump sites had electricity, but due to this site's extended disuse its power had been disconnected long ago.  There was a small window at the far end of the chamber that provided some extra light, but between his flashlight and the open door Ken could see everything quite clearly.  He checked the seals and valves of the pump.  One of the larger rotary handles had a bit of rust on it but generally the entire apparatus was in working order.

He was surprised at the extreme cleanliness of the entire site.  Usually older sites had been invaded by rats or pigeons or some other vermin. Sites were often covered in animal nests and droppings or sometimes being used as housing by transients.  The concrete floor here was smooth and clear as if it had just been poured and painted.

To examine the backside of the pump, Ken had to bend around the side and into the weave of pipes.  He leaned in with his flashlight and stretched his arm into the workings of the pump.  The cleanliness of the site extended even here.  There were no spider webs.  Usually the backsides of the pumps were covered in webs and arachnids.  Although his paperwork had indicated that this site has not been accessed in years, it looked at though it had been cleaned yesterday.  Ooooom, ooooom.

As he brought his arm back out of the workings, his elbow bumped one of the larger pipes.  The sudden jarring caused his arm to vibrate with pain and he dropped his flashlight.  It bounced and rolled with the slant of the floor.  It lodged finally in the far corner.  Ken sighed and trudged across the room to pick up his torch.  As he did he noticed that the wall to the left of the pump had a space just beyond it.  When he moved closer he could see that it was a small access to a second chamber.  His paper work gave no indication of a second room, just the one housing the pump.  He moved around slowly and into the other space.

The late afternoon sun had shifted so that the small window fully illuminated this second chamber.  The area was much smaller than the main room, but contained a large cistern that was embedded into the wall.  It was almost as tall as his truck and just as long.  There were several pipes running over it and what appeared to be a large dial on the far end.  As clean as the previous area had been, the smaller room was nearly its antithesis.

The cistern was covered entirely in thick flaking rust.  There was a large crack in the cement wall at the end of the room.  Several parts of the crack had fallen through to become large holes.  In one portion, Ken could see raw earth and plant roots.  Rain water had obviously poured in at some point and created a puddle of rust near the crack.  Dried up long ago, it had stained the concrete with an orange powdery residue.  Ooooom, ooooom.  Ooooom, ooooom.

Despite its visual decay, the entire area was suffused with the sweet smell of tangerines.  Ken sniffed as he examined the tank, trying to locate the source of the scent but it was omnipresent.  Upon closer inspection, Ken realized that the dial on the cistern was actually a porthole into the tank itself.  Around the rim of it was a string of numbers and letters, part of which matched the coding for the pump site.  The glass was frosted with thick dust and hard water stains.  He brought his flashlight up.  It seemed there was still liquid within the tank.  It was a deep greenish color.

"Most likely full of algae bloom," Ken thought.  He reached into his pocket for the air filter mask he had brought.  Just then the liquid within the tank gurgled.  Bubbles moved across the interior surface of the window.  Something fell against the inside of the porthole.  It was difficult to see at first due to the detritus in the liquid.  A decayed skeletal face tapped against the glass.  Its one solid eye stared out blankly.  It floated aimlessly at the window briefly then retreated further into the tank as if pulled.  Ken blanched and fell back against the opposite wall.  Ooooom, ooooom.

Ken struggled to stand back up, pushing his weight against the wall.  He shifted towards the access to the main room. There was a dull scraping sound from within the tank.  He kept his eyes on that porthole and pushed himself to standing.  The mask fell from his hands.  The tangerine smell suddenly grew stronger, cloying.  He could hear splashing, but the sound was thick and muted.  The angle of the sun through the small window was shining beyond the top of the tank.  It turned the wall behind the cistern a bright yellow orange.  Despite his fear, Ken was drawn to the light.

He hadn't seen it when he entered, but that entire corner of the tank had collapsed and was a jagged open hole.   A transparent green liquid was climbing out of the hole and up to the ceiling.  It shifted like taffy over the edge of the tank and into the room.  Ken turned, too late, towards the main room and reached towards the doorway to the exterior.  Ooooom, ooooom.

As the wave of green washed over him he saw skeletal remains within the coke bottle liquid.  A decayed head, arm, and shoulder rushed towards him.  He pushed back as the green wave hit him head on, filling his airways with the sweet sweet smell of tangerines.
~ Fin ~

{created in Adobe Photoshop}


Eddie said...

When he first noticed the extreme cleanliness of the room I was like, "Run, bitch! This is a Jesse Campbell story! Run fast, run far!!"

Also love the skeletal remains getting pulled back into the liquid. Super creepy. Rethinking that it gets even creepier. It's like the tangerine blob new just enough about it's prey to think it could lure it with the remains of a former victim. Not having even the slightest notion of how horrifying it would appear.

Jesse Campbell said...

LOL! Thanks! That made my day! :-D

Nothing quite like partially digested remains. Yeesh. Gives me the heebies every time. I've had a fear of predatory blobs since the remake of The Blob and The Thing. Actually I'm generally disturbed by that which wants to eat me...especially amoeboids of any sort...and zombies...and aliens...and giant spiders. Okay so the eating of me is just generally unacceptable. I prefer to remain intact. Yeah. No amoebas. Nope.

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