House of Memories 7
DescriptionA man seeks to find clues about several disappearances in a remote area. He finds them.
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7: FollowHe fell and fell. The window quickly became a speck in the distance as he fell an impossible distance from it as he fell into an endless void of nothing. Alan was in a state of awe and terror as he anticipated eventually hitting something, and certainly dying on impact. The thought of the child, his fate, and Alan's failure to protect the child, hit his mind like a ton of bricks and in that short moment, he embraced the idea that he would soon be no more. Then, after what seemed like minutes of falling, something grabbed hold of his torso. When he looked down, he realized it was a grey, oily living appendage. Suddenly, he was snatched from his fall and pulled into another direction. Once again, he hit something with his back and sunk into it this time, shooting more pain throughout his entire back and nearly knocking the wind from him. Water this time, and while it hurt, it did not kill him. Alan instinctively swam for the surface, which luckily, wasn't far away. When he broke through, he inhaled hot humid air. He opened his eyes to find he was in a large body of water at night. In front of him was a massive structure. In the dark, he could only see it's outline and it appeared to be that of a huge suspension bridge connecting two land masses. As his eyes adjusted, he saw that everything had a sort of dim red tint. The bridge, the sky, the land, even the water itself was slightly red, but he was certain it was water this time and salt water in fact. Turning around, he saw an ocean that stretched out far beyond the land. Looking up from this position, he saw the cause of the red light. The moon was full and had an intense red glow that also filled the sky directly around it, causing clouds around it to show red as well. Alan's head began to ache just from looking at the moon and almost reflexively looked away. Alan began to get tired from keeping himself afloat and started swimming towards the nearest of the two land masses on his right. After several painful minutes of swimming in spite of his injuries, he managed to reach the shore. He steadied himself with his right arm as he was now on all fours. His left shoulder wound still made that arm useless. At some point in the water, the large shard of glass that protruded from his left bicep had come out. Despite this however, his bleeding was not profuse and he noticed that many of his cuts had clotted over. The water had washed away much of the blood that had covered him from head to toe and he was able to see things more clearly and the extent of his damage. The mud on the shore proved to be the most challenging as he didn't have a way to push himself up to his feet. So, instead he crawled forward through the mud and up onto dry land. Looking around, he found no lighting in any direction whatsoever. His only illumination came from the red moon above. Not far into the distance were large structures that had the shapes of tall buildings. Beyond that however, little was visible. The sky above him was cast in a blanket of dark clouds that covered the entire sky except for where the moon was. It was strange seeing the clouds appear to part around the moon in a perfect rounded radius, as if the moon itself pushed the clouds away from it. Alan began to feel a headache come on again and looked away from the moon, this seemed to make it stop. Alan figured the redness of the moon was some kind of trick caused by a dense cloud of dust or something to that effect, but if the moon was red for some other reason he couldn't explain with logic, he really wouldn't be surprised. Alan crawled forward, finding a small tree. He used the tree to prop himself up and got to his feet straining on his wounded leg and seeing that the glass from it was gone as well. From what he could tell, it too had stopped bleeding almost entirely. Alan felt lucky as he had expected to need to stop the bleeding himself as soon as possible, or else pass out and die from blood loss. The air was rather hot, even for a summer night, so even soaking wet, he was not cold. Alan reached over his left shoulder with his right hand to feel for more glass, but once again couldn't find any. Either he was extremely lucky, or something was keeping him alive. After being satisfied that he wasn't bleeding out anymore, he looked toward the massive bridge and saw where it connected to land. He decided to move toward the bridge in hopes of finding a road and following it to help. This time, he wasn't as hopeful that he would find help though. Alan saw a large stick in the sand. It wasn't ideal by any means, but it would serve as a sort of cane if he used by hands. He pulled the branch from the sand and broke part of it off to use the larger end. The thought that he was trapped in some kind of torture entered his mind for just a second. He pushed away the thought and forced himself forward, hobbling toward the bridge. After what he felt to be at least half an hour of stumbling forward, he was close enough to see much more of the bridge and the road connecting. From what he could tell, there were many vehicles that appeared to have stopped in a huge traffic jam with many of them wrecked and destroyed. He saw that one had appeared to have fallen off the bridge and was now upside down in the shallow water. He saw no movement and no lights anywhere along the bridge as far as he could see. Alan suddenly felt extremely alone. While the air was hot and heavy with humidity, he noticed there was no movement within it. Even the water at the shore line didn't lap or even move at all. He pressed forward, thinking that if nothing, he might be able to find something of use in one of the vehicles. A short period later, Alan reached the first car. It was a small vehicle that looked like it had tried to go around all the traffic but crashed head-on into a guard rail. The driver's side window was busted out. Glass littered the ground right outside the car door, meaning the driver had likely broken it to escape. Jagged pieces of the window still clung to the window seal. If the driver had escaped their car this way, it was hard to imagine not cutting themselves on it, and yet Alan saw no blood anywhere. Alan walked forward, stepping on the glass. As it crunched under his shoe the sound was loud and it echoed across the bridge. This was when Alan noticed just how incredible quiet everything was. At the same time, if there was some kind of danger, that cracking sound could have possibly traveled very far, and possibly alerted something dangerous. Alan immediately started taking care not to make any sound he didn't absolutely have to. He slowly pulled his foot away from the glass and set his stick down in the sand just off the road so as not to hit it on the asphalt with every step. He then walked slowly and cautiously around the glass and just off to the right of the driver's side door. Alan assumed the door wouldn't open based on the evidence and logic that compelled him to ask why someone would bust out their own window if they could just open the door. Still, he knew that if he was wrong, he could get in much faster and safer if the door was unlocked. He was wrong and he felt glad for it. The door was stuck pretty bad, and immediately made a whining and cracking noise as he slowly opened it. Rust was caked onto many parts and it took considerable effort to open the door far enough to climb inside. Alan looked at the seat and gently combed over it with his hand, going slow enough that he could stop if he felt any shards. The seat appeared to be clear. So, with as much grace as he could muster, he braced himself to the door and the roof of the car and stepped over the glass and into the car. Instantly, he felt great relief being off his injured leg and sitting on a cushioned seat. After a few moments, he looked down at the dash to see the keys still in the ignition and turned over. Meaning the battery was dead and there was likely no gas. Looking up at the guard rail that seemed to be stabbing into the front of the car, it likely wouldn't have mattered anyway. Looking over to the passenger seat, it was illuminated by the red glow enough to see two pieces of female clothing. They were small enough that they likely belonged to a child. On the floorboard, in front of the passenger seat, was two small shoes with socks still inside. Looking to the backseat, a pink backpack laid on the seat and some random trash littered the floorboard but nothing else appeared to be of any interest. Alan tried the glove box first. It's metal latch had rusted and it took everything he had to to force it open. The contents spilled out when he finally managed to get it open. A pile of loose papers and napkins hit the floor into a mess with nothing that looked immediately useful. He dug through the contents that remained in the glove compartment finding more papers, of which there was nowhere near enough light to actually read. At the very back of the compartment, he felt a small cardboard box. Pulling it out he saw it was small bandaids that looked very old. Alan sighed at the almost useless object and wanted to just throw them away, but knew that at least a couple of his wounds really couldn't go unprotected. He spent the next few minutes applying the bandaids to his shoulder wound, and his leg, thereby helping some of the pain as his clothes no longer brushed up against the wounds directly. Alan wished he had found some kind of disinfectant. He was also reminded of the fact that just a little while ago, he was covered in blood that wasn't his and he had open wounds. He now realized that if he were to make it out of this, he may not go far if he gets sick. After the wounds were covered as best as he could manage, he began looking elsewhere in the car. He grabbed the backpack from the backseat and went through it. As expected, he found nothing but school supplies and a couple of toys. In one of the front pockets however, he found a granola bar. He wasn't hungry at the moment, and he dreaded the suspicion that the reason for his lack of appetite was because he had ingested blood earlier. He kept the granola bar, hoping it wouldn't be the only food he would find. Pink wasn't his color, but he nevertheless emptied the useless contents of the bag and placed the granola bar inside one of the front pockets. He then decided to check the trunk next. It took him a few moments, but he found the trunk latch under the dash. He hesitated pulling it, as he was afraid of the sound it might make. His hesitation got the better of him and he decided against it. Instead, he pulled the keys out of the ignition. Alan shifted himself to the passenger seat and opened the door, it too was rusted and again, took effort to open, but this time there wasn't any glass on the ground. He stepped out and onto the asphalt with the backpack and keys that he grasped tightly in his hand to avoid any sound they may make. Looking around, everything was still the same: dead and silent. He began slowly moving toward the trunk, taking care with each step. After a few steps, he looked over to his left and saw that in the car adjacent to this car was more loose clothes. He stopped for a second to walk over to that car and look inside. Pressing his eyes to the driver's side window, he saw that once again the keys were in the ignition and turned over. He figured most, if not all the vehicles here, likely had dead batteries, but it was also likely that he would be able to check many of the compartments for supplies and increase his chances of survival. Alan couldn't explain why, but he just somehow knew that sound was his enemy and he must avoid it at all costs. Alan limped back over to the trunk of the first car. Taking one more look around him, he slowly inserted the key into the lock and turned it, making as little sound as he could manage. The trunk also took a little bit of help to break the rust, but fortunately, it didn't make much noise when it opened. The trunk was dark and the red moonlight just couldn't get around the trunk lid to show him very much. So Alan began fishing around inside with his hands. He fumbled around, finding car cleaning supplies, a jack, and a few bags of groceries. Inside the bags was a few canned goods, matches, and a small case of water. The rest of what was in the bags was long spoiled foods he wouldn't be able to do anything with. After loading up the backpack with everything he could use, he searched a bit more and was about to give up on finding anything else of use when he found a small heavy box. Pulling it out, he saw it was a box of small arms ammunition. Alan was not familiar with firearms of any sort. He never had a need or much interest in them during his life. For the first time in his life, he was grateful they existed. Finding the ammunition meant that it was very likely there was a gun somewhere in this car. Alan packed away the ammo and searched through the trunk more fervently. After several minutes, and nearly all the remaining contents of the trunk on the ground around him, he was unable to find any weapon belonging to the ammunition. Alan begun to think maybe the gun wasn't here but was wherever this person had lived, crushing his new found hope for some kind of personal safety. Just then, something flashed in the left corner of his peripheral vision. A white light that strobed across the landscape. Immediately, Alan ducked as low as he could behind the car, causing a shooting pain through his leg and back with the sudden movement. It took all of his will power not to cry out. Alan begun scanning everything around him, looking for a hiding spot. He could see the light hitting distant parts of the landscape to his right knee some kind of large spotlight and he could tell from the way it moved, that it's source was moving. From what he could see, the light's source was traveling in his general direction and soon it would have an angle to see him. So he moved to the right side of the car, this putting the light on the opposite side. He did so making as little sound as he could, but he wasn't seeing many options for hiding from this odd light aside from keeping it's angle of origin opposite of his own behind the car. Alan made it back around to the open passenger side door and kept very low behind it. The light continued to sweep across the area with it's beam hitting the vehicles around him and reflecting off windshields and mirrors. Alan was almost in a state of panic as he had no plan of action except hoping it wouldn't find him. Then he started to hear what sounded like a hum coming from the direction of the light. As it got closer, the hum became louder. Alan knew he had to do something immediately, he felt as if his life depended on it. That was when he saw something metallic under the passenger seat in front of him. He reached under and pulled the somewhat heavy piece out. He had found the gun. The light was coming closer and it's beam didn't stop sweeping across in his general direction. Even if he could run, he wasn't sure he could get away without being seen. He didn't even really know how to use the handgun he had found as his only reference was that of movies, and he very rarely trusted anything he learned from those. Then he heard a tiny click behind him. He turned around to see nothing, then the click happened again, this time he saw the direction was at the base of the bridge where the concrete supports met dry land. Then he saw a hand quickly do one small wave from around the corner of the concrete foundation. He didn't know what to do, but the light kept moving closer and closer and no matter how much he tried to stay out of it's sight, he knew it would eventually spot him with how fast it was now moving. Alan made a quick judgement and began moving in between the vehicles, making sure to stay low and timing his movements with the sweeps of the light. After a few moments, he had made it to the final vehicle he could hide behind before having to make a run for the bridge's foundation. The hand popped out and made a fist, signifying he should stop. Alan listened and made no further movement. A few seconds later, wondering why he couldn't make a break for the foundation as the light was getting closer and closer, a flash of bright light illuminated everything a around him. It's origin was obvious as the shadows lengthened in that moment stretching far out ahead of him, meaning the source was behind him and far away. He turned around to see an explosion far in the distance right as a blast of sound hit his ears. The sound was powerful enough to throw his equilibrium off balance and stun him slightly, especially considering how potent the silence had just been moments ago. He managed to brace himself against the vehicle's bumper that he had hid behind to avoid falling over. The moving beam of light suddenly turned toward the explosion and very quickly went off in its direction. Alan heard the click again and the hand was waving him to move to the bridge's foundation. Alan used every ounce of effort he had to force himself forward. He limped as fast as he could and reached the concrete corner a moment later. He looked back one last time to see the light moving toward the explosion in the distance and glimpsed a small black sphere at its source. A hand suddenly grabbed his shirt and pulled him around the corner before he could get more than that tiny glance at the sphere. A woman now stood before him. She was very skinny, looking as though she hadn't eaten for days. Her hair was dark and looked like it hadn't been washed for a very long time. She was a little shorter than him and looked very dirty with well worn clothes. Her eyes were frantic and she wouldn't make eye contact at all. He started to say something when she put her hand over his mouth and her other hand's index finger over her mouth in a shushing motion, all while still avoiding eye contact. Then she turned and motioned for Alan to follow as she went under the bridge's base along its side and down a set of stairs with a railing he was thankful for. At the bottom was a concrete slab with more railings that reached underneath along the base of the bridge. Alan followed as she went to a spot where he could just barely see the outline of a door. This was likely some kind of maintenance door for the bridge. Alan expected her to open the door but instead, she pulled a small object from her clothes and started pouring something out of it along the hinges of the door and the door handle. After a few seconds, he realized it was oil she was applying, likely to avoid any possible sound opening the door might make. Alan now realized that he was right when he suspected that sound here was highly dangerous and the noise he made at the car was likely what brought that sphere to him. The woman opened the door, slowly and carefully, and then ushered Alan inside. Following in, she latched the door as quietly as possible. Inside now, it was pitch black, but the air was considerably cooler. From the small sounds made by his steps and their slight echo, he could tell the room was small. A hand grabbed Alan's arm and gently pulled him forward. The woman stopped him after a few feet and put his hand on a metal bar that was angled at a slope. Alan realized this must be another stair railing and braced himself against it as he stepped down. The woman must have been satisfied as she descended ahead of him, with her steps showing an obviously greater amount of confidence than his own. The stairs were metal and grate-like as they slightly bended with each step. There was rust on this metal, but it seemed to be nowhere near as bad as the rusted metals outside. The slight echo of each step told Alan that this was a deep vertical shaft. He didn't know how far down it went, but as expected, the stairs converged into more stairs that descended further, but in the opposite direction. This repeated several more times until finally, Alan saw the flicker of light dancing along a wall at the bottom. With that tiny amount of light, he was able to see the silhouette of the woman just head of him, she kept turning her head back to Alan and then back to the stairs as they went as if she could see him plainly. When they finally reached the bottom level, Alan saw that the light was coming from a small square reinforced window belonging to a thick metal door. The woman put a hand in front of Alan to stop him and then pulled what looked like a small paper from her clothes and a pen. She then wrote something on the paper and slipped it under the door. Something took the paper from the other side and a head moved in front of the window. With the light coming from behind the head, Alan couldn't see what they looked like. Then, the sounds of the door unlocking and opening broke the silence and Alan heard its sounds echo back up the stairway. Alan realized then that there were sounds that just couldn't be avoided and that survival here was just as much based in luck as it was in caution and wit. The woman then motioned for Alan to follow and they entered into the fire lit room. Inside, Alan saw the light source was a single candle burning in a corner on the floor into a glass case. The room was more of an air lock as it was very small and another door, this one much larger that almost looked like it came from a submarine with a valve opening mechanism, was across from the one he had entered through. The door guard was a boy in his teens at most. He stood to the side with what looked like a spear leaning against the wall behind him. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the boy's face turned to fear. He was looking down at Alan's hand. Alan had forgotten all about the gun he held during the decent. The woman too suddenly realized what he was holding and her face turned to fear as well. Alan immediately put the gun on the floor to show he wasn't a danger. The boy grabbed the spear and aimed it at Alan. The woman quickly grabbed the gun off the floor and held it, inspecting it in the light. Alan did his best to motion that he wasn't any danger to them. After a moment, she looked up at the boy and nodded. The boy was instantly relieved but then motioned to Alan's backpack. Alan took the backpack off and handed it to the woman. She went through it and found the ammo and supplies. She only took the ammo out and handed the backpack back to Alan. She opened the box and pulled out one of the rounds, inspecting it in the light as well. Once again, she nodded to the boy, who then pulled the spear back to a non -threatening stance at his side. Alan didn't know why they were only satisfied upon inspecting the weapon and ammo closely, as disarming him should have had the desired effect immediately. Still, he was happy they didn't turn on him. The woman then walked over and gave Alan the signal to lift his arms into the "T" position. He did so and she proceeded to pat him down. The woman found his wallet and keys and then pulled them out. The woman looked at the keys as her eyes revealed a large amount of surprised and she mouthed the words, "No rust". She opened the wallet up to see his driver's license and gave Alan a very odd look he didn't really understand and then handed the wallet and keys back to him and turned to the boy. She then nodded toward the large door. The boy walked over to the door and knocked quietly on the door in a specific pattern. The door began to make opening noises from the inside and slowly, it opened. The woman took Alan's hand and then proceeded inside. Alan made sure to grab his backpack as he passed by it. Once inside, the large door was closed by a large elderly man. Inside the door was more concrete and a source of light, clearly not from that of a candle, came from around the corner of this concrete hallway he now stood in. The boy stayed inside making Alan wonder how long his watch was and how he communicated if he needed help. The elderly man then kept his eye on Alan in almost a glare that seemed to say, "Try something and I'll kill you." Once the door had latched completely shut, the woman spoke with a raspy voice, "Where did you come from?" She made sure to look away from Alan however, and seemed to uncontrollably fidget with her hands. Alan turned to the woman and said, "I... I don't really know." Alan knew the truth here would likely be perceived wrong and could result in suspicions and accusations he wouldn't easily be able to dispel, however he never had the chance to think up a story and the truth was nearly always his go-to throughout his life in most situations. Despite the odd but honest answer he gave, the woman did not seem like she was suspicious of deception. She then said, "We saw you fall from the sky." She then looked him over. His clothes, while torn and somewhat bloody, were still obviously in far better condition than the clothes of anyone he had seen thus far. To these people, he was likely a very big mystery. Bringing him here was risky, but Alan figured they were likely desperate for answers and help, especially from someone wearing fresh clothes that fell from the sky. "I don't know where I am or how I got here. An hour ago... I think I was in an entirely different world." Alan said, again knowing that would make no sense but not having much choice except to be truthful. The old man finally said something, "How long were you up there? Are others coming with you?" "I don't understand, I don't know what 'up there' really is. When you say 'up there' do you mean the sky, or the other place I was?" He said, confused as to what they mean and suspected that both them and himself may be confused as to what each other meant. The woman and old man gave each other puzzled looks so Alan decided to explain everything as best he could, starting from where he came from, to the roadhouse, the child's bedroom, and finally to now. After he had explained as much as he could, he asked, "Why is the moon red?" To which the woman gave a sad look and motioned for him to follow as she proceeded deeper into the facility. Alan turned and limped after her. His leg was now beginning to throb with pain and he knew he needed to get off the leg as soon as possible. The woman, for the first time, noticed his limp and went over to put his arm over her shoulder, acting as a crutch. He thanked her and they went further into the structure and around the bend at the end of this narrow concrete passageway. Further inside, he found that this large concrete hallway had many doors and a couple of forks. Old lightbulbs encased in protective metal grates were evenly spaced along the corridors, some were lit and others were not but they still gave the place plenty of light. Eventually, they made it to a large room with tables and bunk beds, some of which had people in them. At the far end of the room was a door with a large man leaning against the wall next to the door. He eyed Alan and the woman as they went around the beds and approached him. "Is this some kind of fallout shelter?" Alan asked the woman. "Yes." The woman said. "We think it was built during the Cold War." Alan still believed he was in an entirely different world from his own, but he wondered just how much this one paralleled his own. A few moments later, they reached the man by the door. "Who's this?" The man asked as they stopped in front of him. He was blonde with a large beard and at least a foot taller than Alan. He was also very muscular like that of a bouncer. Despite this, his tone and body language did not seem threatening at all to Alan. His question seemed to come from genuine curiosity and not aggressive suspicions. "Alan, according to his driver's license." The woman responded. The man let out a small laugh and said, "Drivers license? Are you serious?" "The woman nodded and said, "I think maybe he can help us. I need to get to the tv room." The woman said, not wasting time with explanations. "Alright." The man said and stood straight up from the wall. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large keychain full of keys. He opened the door and all three of them entered. Alan assumed he was the guard of this room and it's contents, but he was uncertain as to why a teenage boy guarded the primary entrance while this tower of a man guarded one little room. Inside, the room was lit by a lamp sitting on a desk that covered the entire opposite wall from the door. On the desk were around thirty tv screens. A few of them were blank, but many of them displayed images of areas around the bridge and along the road outside. On one of the monitors, Alan saw the fire from the explosion earlier. He also saw several of those moving lights circling around the fire. What was different right away however, was that he didn't see the sphere that appeared to be the source of the light when he was above. It was just a moving light where the origin seemed to have no source at all, it just came right out of the air. In front of the desk was a lady with large headphones on sitting in front of an old radio. The large man went over to the woman at the desk and began quietly talking to her. Alan then saw a small group of people moving into the view of one of the monitors. They appeared to be moving away from the fire and toward the bridge. The woman brought Alan to a chair near the desk and he sat down feeling both relieved and in pain. "Who are you?" Alan asked the woman. The woman briefly looked Alan in the eyes for the first time and said, "Melinda". This caused Alan to give her an odd look as in that moment, just briefly, he thought she sort of resembled the Melinda from the roadhouse. This very brief expression caused Melinda to look away again, returning to her unwillingness to look him in the eyes. She then quickly looked toward the monitors and hit a button on one of the tvs. The screen changed from a view of the shore line nearest the bridge, to one that was aimed directly into the sky. Everyone in the room except Alan looked away and she asked him, "What do you see?" Looking at the monitor, Alan saw what he had before, a blood red moon that stayed in a parting of the clouds around it, giving everything a red glow. "Just a red moon and clouds." The room went silent and Alan turned to look at everyone, they were all giving strange looks. Finally, after a few very awkward moments, Melinda spoke, "Those aren't clouds." Then she hit another button on the monitor and the camera zoomed in. The clouds began to change in detail as shapes began to emerge. The closer the camera zoomed in, the more detail he saw until he realized what he was looking at: People. Lifeless, with grey skin and naked as they floated in a countless mass of corpses dense enough to block out the entire sky. "And... That isn't the moon." Melinda said as the camera panned over to show an enormous perfect sphere of red slightly rippling liquid that Alan knew in that moment to be blood.