Let me tell you a story...
The ear-piercing ring of the buzzer sounded and the lock on the heavy steel door clunked loudly alerting Lieutenant Williams that he was free to enter building C at Bear Air Force base. His heavy boots echoed on the metal floors as he rushed down the dimly lit hallway to the guard station. The only light that showed him the way came from yellow bulbs encased in wire cages. He carried his duffel bag on his shoulder; full of uniform changes, toiletries, and some reading material. He had been placed on a new top secret assignment and had few details. Lieutenant Williams only knew that he would be expected to guard something valuable for an undetermined length of time.
Williams approached a large glass window that looked into the guard room. There was a silver speaker embedded in the center of the glass. Inside the room sat a pretty young woman with blue-black hair. The sides were pinned up in victory rolls and the length at the back was curled and fell like drapery over her slender shoulders. Her crimson lipstick was glossy and glistened like fresh blood on the battlefield. She looked down through long black lashes as she filed her nails.
“Mmmmm mmmm,” Williams cleared his throat loudly.
Williams fumbled around the breast pockets of his uniform. His hands shook as he began to worry he had forgotten his badge back at the barracks. He patted and fumbled in his waist pockets searching, digging for the piece of plastic with his name, photo, and rank. An older, gray haired officer stepped to the window.
“Finger Lieutenant. She’s new.” He turned to the young woman, “Remember Darla, we did away with the plastic badges, everyone is chipped now. Use the scanner.”
“Right.” Williams said, mostly to himself.
Darla pulled out a gray scanner with a black screen and slid it through the small opening at the bottom of the glass. Williams placed his index finger on the screen and a green light ran up and down the length of it. Then, an image, much like his old plastic i.d. appeared on the glass partition. It allowed people on both sides of the glass to see his name, rank, and photo. Additionally, a brief explanation for his granted access to the building was also provided.
“Please, stand back. The door swings inward.” Darla instructed.
“Ok. Thank you.”
“Colonel Rogers is expecting you. Room C145.”
The door made a low grinding noise when it swung open that resonated deep within Lieutenant Williams’ gut. He had always taken his orders, whatever they were, and carried them out without question. He never hesitated. He never let fear get the best of him, not even when he had to drop bombs over Germany two years ago to rid the world of the xenophobic tyrant. This time was different, though. He wouldn’t be behind the controls of a bomber or have his companions talking him through the job. Whatever the mission was, he was assigned it alone. It would be like prison, or worse, for however long the government needed him. They might as well tell him they were dropping him on a desert island somewhere. His stomach quaked and groaned as he turned the corner and walked the long hall to Colonel Rogers’ office. C145 had been placed in opulent gold on the door. Williams knocked with a shaking fist. The steel bruised his knuckles.
“Come in,” came a muffled gruff voice from inside the room.
Williams opened the door and entered, his duffle bag banging off the door frame and swinging around awkwardly as he tried to close the door behind him. Once he gathered himself he stood straight with a hand on his brow.
“At ease lieutenant,” Colonel Rogers choked as he placed a big cigar in a gold ashtray.
“I see you brought some things with you.”
“Yes sir, just some uniforms, toothbrush and other toiletries, and a couple of books and magazines. I hope that’s ok.”
“Fine. Fine. The Air Force has provided some necessities. A cot, a shower stall, well…you’ll see when we get there.”
Colonel Rogers snuffed out the cigar that had been sending a steady stream of gray smoke into the air. He stood up from behind his mahogany desk revealing a large pot belly that strained the buttons on his olive green uniform. He pulled at the bottom of his jacket in an attempt to adjust it over his sizable stomach and used his palms to smooth his too brown, slicked back hair. He placed a hand on Williams’ shoulder and escorted him out of the office.
The two men moved quickly around the labyrinthian hallways of building C. Colonel Rogers kept a few paces ahead of Williams moving with precision, like a rat seeking cheese at the end of a long maze. Williams grew more anxious with every turn. They were entering a secure location, one in which only those with clearance were permitted. Whatever was awaiting him must be important, a massive secret.
The two approached what appeared to be a dead end, a wall made of solid steel with no hinge, no opening, and no visible door. Colonel Rogers approached the wall and pressed all five fingers on his right hand to the exact center of the wall. Green lasers shot out from the sides, top, and bottom scanning Rogers’ fingers. When they faded, he removed his hand, the wall emitted a loud buzz, like the door at the front of the building, and the entire steel wall shifted a foot backward and lifted into the air.
“Sir, I’ve never…”
“Chips in every finger for this kind of clearance, Williams.”
Inside, the room was like a vault. There were no windows and not a single other door; just dark concrete walls that reflected the light emitted from the enormous tank in the center of the room. It was glass, a gigantic aquarium, filled with some sort of amber fluid that glowed ominously in the darkness. As they approached it, Williams saw her. Pale, nearly translucent skin stretched across a thin, tall frame. Her arms and legs were long, lean, and muscular. Her feet elegant. Her hands dangled in the fluid like she was reaching out for him. Her face--her face was soft and angelic. Full cheeks with pouty lips that formed a perfect bow. Her closed eyes were rimmed with dark black lashes. Long tendrils of blonde hair swayed like seaweed in the Pacific. She had been wrapped in black cellophane, Williams presumed to preserve a sense of modesty.
“What happened to her?”
“That is Specimen G-476. We call her Rose. She was discovered along with an unidentified spacecraft near the town of Hopewell, Arizona on May 3, 1943. She has been in this state of suspended animation ever since.”
“She’s an alien!” Lieutenant Williams jumped back from the vat, large glittering brown eyes trained on Rogers.
“Based on the research that has been conducted, yes. For the last year all government agencies have been hoping Rose would wake up. So far, she hasn’t. We keep a guard on her at all times. That is now your duty until we see fit to remove you.”
“What if she wakes up, sir?”
“Notice the electrodes on her temples. There is also one under the cellophane covering her chest, and a small one on her left index finger. There are monitors over here,” Colonel Rogers lead a very disturbed Williams to the left side of the room to a control panel where he punched a series of buttons and monitors appeared on a large glass wall. “These monitors keep track of Rose’s brain waves, heart rhythm, and other body functions. If a change occurs, you’ll see it on these monitors and a light will flash.”
“Yes sir,” Williams said with a shaky breath. “Do they think she’s dangerous?”
“There were no weapons on the craft.” Rogers said. “Besides, look at her. How dangerous can she be?”
“She’s very pretty.”
“Don’t get too attached, Williams. That’s an order. Dangerous or not, she isn’t human.” Rogers hacked and coughed. “Anyway, as you can see, there is a cot set up for you over here. A shower stall is over there. The bureau sent us a brand-new television for you guards a few months ago so you don’t go stir crazy. There’s also a radio and lamp on the table next to the bed. A cook will drop meals by three times a day, and there is a refrigerator with drinks and a closet with snacks. Just explore. You’ll figure it out.”
“This isn’t an easy assignment, Williams. It will just be you and her. She doesn’t talk back.”
“I’ll be fine, sir. No problem.”
“Alrighty. If you run into trouble, if there is a change in her, there is a red button on the wall by the monitors. Press it, and you’ll get a doctor or one of us on the line.”
“Yes sir. Got it sir.”
“Good luck, Williams.” Colonel Rogers said as he saluted his inferior and made his way to the steel wall and exited the room.
* * *
Bradley Williams stood in front of the small mirror next to the shower stall and felt the blade of his straight razor as it chopped at the course hair on his tender cheek. He had been locked inside the vault for a week and the face that stared back at him in the mirror was becoming pale. His close cropped dirty blonde hair lengthened just slightly, making his neat appearance look slightly disheveled. His brown eyes that usually twinkled with golden flecks looked dull in the glow of Rose’s eternal amber bath. Bing Crosby crooned “Swinging on a Star” in the background, filling the dim, desolate vault with too much joy; too much humor. Williams flicked his eyes to the monitors where they repeated the same steady rhythm they had for the last week. Then, he finished his shave.
Williams redressed in a fresh uniform and walked over to the vat where Rose hung suspended. He examined every detail of her features hoping there would be some indication of change in her condition. He crooked his index finger and tapped the glass with finger. The fluid inside the vat shifted slightly, but not enough to move Rose. Williams gave up and walked away.
At 12:05 p.m. his lunch arrived. It was always at precisely the same time. He waited next to the steel wall to grab the tray that would be passed through the small opening that seemed to magically appear. Today was chili, cornbread, fruit salad, and a bottle of Coke. He took the tray and sat it on the tiny table next to his cot and ate using his cot as a makeshift dining chair. The food wasn’t bad. At the very least he got three hot well-prepared meals a day. He missed conversation but filled the void by reading “The Shadow” comics or George Orwell novels. He repeated the same process at 6:17 p.m. when his dinner tray arrived.
To fill the gaps in between meal times Bradley Williams kept his body fit by running around the vast vault, doing sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups on an exposed piece of pipe. He monitored Rose. He listened to the radio. He watched various television programs, although he preferred the late-night horror movies. Occasionally, to his dismay, he found himself talking to Rose, though he considered it relatively harmless.
“Good morning, Rosie,” Bradley shouted as he slammed the side of his fist against the thick glass of Rosie’s tank.
The illuminated amber fluid inside tossed her, and her lithe body bobbed up and down as if to return his greeting. Williams scratched his head and pushed hair out of his eyes as he shuffled over to the sink. He shoved his toothbrush under the paste dispenser and began violently brushing his teeth. Bradley watched Rose in the mirror and pulled the toothbrush out of his mouth.
“I bet your breath stinks to high Hell, Rosie.” He said with a mouth full of blue foam. “When was the last time someone brushed your teeth?” He spat and rinsed his mouth. “Do you even have teeth?”
He didn’t bother shaving. His face had accumulated a thick forest of stubble, but he had seen only Rose for two months. He doubted she would mind if he got a little relaxed with his grooming.
Bradley Williams was not accustomed to spending so much time alone. He came from a large family; the youngest of seven children. He had always been surrounded by people. His siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors; in the small town where he grew up in central Pennsylvania, there was always someone around. Now, he was here. His mother wanted him to make her proud, so he joined the service. He fought for his country. Kept the whole world safe when an angry little man wanted to eliminate genes and beliefs he didn’t find satisfactory. Was that what his government was doing to Rosie? Keeping her locked up because she was a threat, or because her race didn’t meet genetic requirements? Who was he protecting? Rosie or the world? She seemed nearly dead, anyway.
He walked over and put a hand on the gargantuan glowing tank.
“So, Rosie, do you want to listen to some music or would you rather read?” He paused and cocked his head as if expecting an answer from the floating figure. There was only silence in response. “Music it is.”
Williams galloped over to the radio and turned the dial until “It had to be You” streamed melodically through the speaker, filling the vault and echoing off the concrete walls. He adjusted the belt around his waist and scratched absent-mindedly at his bare chest as he walked back over to Rose’s watery cell.
“Sure be nice if you could dance, Rosie.”
He put two hands on the glass as if one were holding one of Rose’s delicate pale hands and the other wrapped around her waist. He shifted gently to the music and he pressed his forehead to the glass; he hummed quietly. Rose’s placid form floated unconscious like a spell-bound ballerina.
“Chow. CHOW!” A deep male voice yelled impatiently from the steel wall.
Williams broke from his trance and ran to grab his tray from the small opening. When he did, the hole shut up and disappeared as if it never existed. He looked down. Same breakfast as usual; eggs, today they were over-easy, two slices of toast, a bowl of congealed oatmeal, a banana, orange juice, and coffee. He walked with his tray and sat on the cold floor in front of Rose. He ate without looking down at his food.
“Back home we call these dippy eggs.” He said. “No, I’m serious. I know, I know it sounds kind of backwoods. Look, you take your toast and dip it in the yolk—dippy eggs. It isn’t really rocket science.” He took a bite of food and laughed to himself. “When I moved away from home, I’d go to diners and ask for dippy eggs and all the waitresses would give me the stink eye. I had no idea that it was only a thing in PA.”
He kicked the tank hard which caused the water to ripple. Rose bobbed like an apple.
“I’m not uncultured, Rosie. Thanks very much.” He responded sarcastically. “My mom used to read me all kinds of books. She liked that English romance shit, though.” He shook his fork at her. “She used bedtime to read me Bronte and Austen. So, I know how to be romantic and shit. I just like Science Fiction better. It takes more imagination, don’t you think?”
He kicked the tank, again.
“Yeah, well, being an alien you’re pretty much bound to agree.”
He picked up his empty tray and carried it to the shoot that sent it to the incinerator. Then, he checked Rose’s monitors hoping again for some indication of change. Still, the same squiggles peaking and dropping as they had the last two months. Williams ran a hand through his hair and sighed. He pushed the shiny red button on the wall. A new screen appeared over Rose’s monitors and a man with a gray flat top hairstyle, thick black glasses, and a white lab coat appeared on the screen.
“Is there a change? Did she wake up?” He asked.
“No, sir. This is Lieutenant Williams. Do you know when my orders are up?”
“Lieutenant Williams, your orders are presently indefinite. Unless there is a change regarding Speciment-G476 you are to remain where you are. Are you ill? Do you require medical attention?"
“No, sir. Just cabin fever being stuck in here.”
“Try reading or watching television to keep your mind occupied.”
“Yes, sir, but…”
“Williams,” the doctor responded with a warning tone. “You aren’t talking to her, are you?”
“Maybe a little. I’m bored.” Bradley replied.
“Don’t. Remember, she isn’t human. We don’t know anything about her. Don’t get caught up in some silly fantasy. Goodbye, Lieutenant.”
The screen disappeared and left Williams staring at Rose’s vitals again. He turned back to look at her, hovering like an angel lost in space, and he walked back to her over-sized aquarium.
“They aren’t stuck in here alone. We can keep talking. Who’s it hurting? You can’t hear me anyway, can you?”
He kicked the tank.
“If you’d wake up, Rosie, we could both leave here. Maybe I could take you out; buy you a cocktail.”
* * *
“It’s been five months, Rosie. Please, open your eyes.” Williams begged.
He stood in his boxer shorts, his flesh pale yellow in the iridescent yellow glow of Rose’s watery tomb. His hands pressed against the glass tank, now covered in the specters of loneliness and longing where his hands had been before. Bradley’s forehead felt cool against the glass and his eyes were level with Rose’s closed, unseeing ones.
“I love you, Rosie. Wake up. I’ll help you if you wake up.”
The screens displaying Rose’s monitors peaked and dipped in the same predictable way. Williams’ breath began to fog up the glass and he used his forearm to wipe away the thick, warm condensation. There was some static on the radio, then a smooth horn section filled the vault, and the voice of Frank Sinatra sang “I’ll be Seeing You”. A tear slipped from Williams’ eye and dropped with a splash next to his foot on the gray concrete.
He was startled when he noticed a bright white light flashing out of the corner of his eye next to the monitors. He jerked his head up to see the alert light was blinking and the monitors were peaking and dropping at sharp, irregular intervals. Williams jumped in exaltation, slapping the tank with his palms.
“Rosie! Rosie, are you there? Are you awake? Hello, Rosie. It’s me, it’s Bradley. Williams. It’s me.”
She didn’t move.
“Oh, Rosie. Open your eyes. Open your eyes, Rosie.”
Williams pushed his head against the glass in desperation and fixed his eyes on the black lashes that rimmed Rose’s closed eyes. Her lids fluttered, just barely, and in an instant, they slammed open. Those eyes were terrible. Enormous and black as space, and they stared menacingly at Williams as if they saw straight into his soul, unblinking.
“Rosie?” He muttered.
Then, she opened her mouth and released a silent scream. Giant air bubbles exploded from her gaping mouth, a mouth filled with nightmares. Inside were two rows of jagged shark-like teeth. Jaws that looked like they were made to tear a man limb from limb. Her face contorted into the ferocious mug of a beastly, homicidal killer. She looked nothing like the soaring angel Williams knew. Her body shook violently, and she contorted her arms and legs awkwardly as she began to tear the monitors away from her delicate flesh. Williams was frozen in terror, unable to move, unable to run for the red button.
Rose pushed to the surface of the water and her head emerged. She reached her long, thin arm for the edge and pulled herself over, hoisting herself up.
“R—Rosie, stay calm. I can get help.”
Her mouth curled in a sinister smile reminding him what hid behind her pouty lips. She inhaled and exhaled deeply, her black empty eyes fixated upon him. When she spoke, her voice was guttural, deep, male.
“I am Pogeer.”
“You, you…” Williams stuttered in disbelief as he backed away from the tank.
“I am Pogeer.” Rose repeated as she climbed like a spider out of the tank and leaped with cat-like grace onto the concrete floor.
Williams trembled with fear but ran toward the monitors for the red button that would call for help. Rose chased him like a leopard and grasped his shoulder with one of her dainty hands. He screamed as she pulled him back and held him tight against her wet, rubbery chest. Williams flailed his arms, reached around attempting to punch, scratch, slap at the thing he had fallen in love with in his captivity.
“I am Pogeer. I am leader of the Cregrarb army. Our planet is dying, and we will infiltrate yours. Your men are weak. See how easily you loved me, even though I am no human woman? Thank you for showing me the way out of my sleep, your death will be quick, but I must eat.”
Pogeer’s jaws opened, his jagged teeth glistening with thick saliva, and with a quick movement he tore into Williams neck ripping the muscles and his jugular vein. Williams dropped to the floor, followed by Pogeer, where the alien crouched over the soldier and devoured just enough flesh to quench his hunger; tearing it from the bones with his evil jaws. Slurping and sucking the blood that dripped from his human feast.
When he had his fill, he pushed the red button that alerted the doctors and the Colonel that there had been a change in Rose’s condition, stood by the steel door, and waited.
Within minutes the steel wall emitted its heavy, loud grinding noise, the wall shifted, and a group of men ran into the vault. They immediately observed the empty glowing amber vat and what was left of Williams in a sea of sticky red blood shimmering on the concrete. There was a collective gasp and pandemonium as they began calling out and searching for Rosie. Colonel Rogers was among them with a small pistol drawn and cocked.
Pogeer stepped out of the shadows, covered in Williams’ blood, holding his petite hands to his face. Glistening tears trickled down his rosy cheeks. His long, corn-silk hair hung in matted waves. He took timid steps toward the men and stood shaking violently in the dim light. The gray-haired doctor that Williams had previously spoken to was the first to see him.
“She’s over her. I found her.” He called.
He moved slowly toward her, his palms out-stretched.
“Hello, Rose. We’ve been calling you Rose. I’m Doctor Miller. We won’t hurt you.”
“D—Doctor Miller.” Pogeer stuttered in a sweet, quiet feminine voice.
“That’s it.” Doctor Miller said. “Colonel Rogers, come on over here.”
“Miller, did she do this to Williams?” Rogers asked with his gun still cocked and pointed.
“Rose, is it ok if I call you Rose?”
“I like Rose.” Pogeer said innocently.
“Ok, Rose. What happened to Williams?”
“I don’t know. I—I woke up and he was on the floor bleeding. I could hear him talking while I slept. He was going mad Doctor Miller. The loneliness. He kept saying it felt like he was going crazy, like he could tear his flesh off.” Pogeer sobbed and cried hysterically. “I tried to wake up sooner. I wanted to get to him. I loved him. I rushed to his side.” He looked at his bloody hands and buried his face in them.
“I ordered him not to talk to her. Told him to call if he needed help.” Rogers said lowering his gun and shaking his head.
“I’m sorry this was the first scene when you woke up Rosie.” Doctor Miller said taking off his lab coat and wrapping it around her. “Come, we have more comfortable lodgings for you.”
The other men stayed behind to clean up the vault and call for paramedics to carry out Williams’ body. Rogers and Doctor Miller opened the steel wall and ushered Pogeer, Captain of the Cregrarb army of the planet Mars, out of his prison cell, out of captivity, and into the freedom of Earth.
#HumpdayHorror #Her #KiraMcKinney Copyright Kira McKinney 2018
Welcome to my blog. Sit back and enjoy a short story, a poem, or some flash fiction--whatever I have recently cooked up. I will post a new piece as often as possible. Check back once a week to see what's new.