A couple years back, there was a software flaw in a few webcam brands. Whenever they were active, they could be accessed by scanning the Internet for a particular open port. Once the port was found, anyone could tune in without the user knowing they were being watched. And millions of people used these webcams.
The companies quickly released software hotfixes, but no one, aside from a few tech-savvy folks, updated their webcam software. So even today, they broadcast everything they do in front of their computer to anyone who’s voyeuristic enough to watch. People like me.
For the last 35 years, a lake in northern Canada has been the site of hundreds of suspected drownings. The location is in the middle of the Canadian tundra. There is nothing around. No food, no shelter. Just cold, inhospitable wilderness.
The lake is frozen eight months out of the year. Nothing happens then. But during the thaw, when we’re doing our flyovers, we’ll see clothes floating on the surface of the water.
Like we’ve always done, we’ll dispatch a team to investigate. They’ll bring back what they can recover, which will invariably be clothing and someone’s wallet or purse.
I was getting my hand stitched up in the ER last night when a series of rapid beeps sounded on the intercom, followed by an announcement of “ABD, code A, bay 1.” Every doctor and nurse in the area stopped what they were doing and rushed to the main ER entrance. They got there just in time to meet the ambulances.
I couldn’t see anything, so I waited. I figured there had to have been a serious accident. My phone rang. It was Lucy, my wife. She asked how my hand was. I told her they were still stitching it up. I apologized for getting blood all over her bagel, and she laughed and said she told me not to cut it that way.
There was a pause while Lucy answered one of the kids’ questions in the background. Then she came back on the line and asked if I saw that really bright light about a half hour ago. I didn’t know what she was talking about, so she went on.
“It was crazy bright – the whole sky was this weird, pastel pink color. Then it turned white. It almost hurt to look at it was so bright.”
“Huh,” I replied. “Maybe it was a UFO.” I craned my neck to see over the mass of people still huddled by the ambulance bay. Still nothing.
Lucy laughed. “Yeah, must’ve been aliens.” She said something to one of the kids again, then came back on the line. “Ok, I’m gonna go. Joey said he’s about to throw up.”
I said goodbye and ended the call. The commotion on the other end of the ER was growing as more people from other parts of the hospital had gotten there. Something smelled terrible.
I covered my nose and mouth with my shirt and stood up. I walked over to the window so I could get a better look at what was happening. The crowd had thinned slightly. I saw a few nurses running off, probably to pick up supplies. At the end of the hall were two gurneys with medical personnel hovering over them.
The smell got worse and I gagged inside my shirt. One of the gurneys began to move as someone pushed it down the hall.
I stood in the doorway and watched. As the victim came into view, my eyes widened. It was a young woman, covered from head to toe in what I could only describe as bubbles. Some were as small as a pea, others were the size of a grapefruit. They all throbbed and pulsated from some pressure inside them, and every so often, one would tear open and weep yellow fluid onto the gurney. The smell was overwhelming.
They pushed her into the room next to mine. I could see everything from the window in the wall. They didn’t bother closing the curtains. I heard the other gurney being pushed by and glanced over at it. A girl, maybe 12 or 13. I shuddered.
I directed my gaze back at the person in the adjacent room. The doctors were popping bubbles to insert an IV. Fluid oozed onto the floor and I used every bit of self-control I could muster to avoid throwing up.
The woman’s eyes were wide and darting back and forth. It was an expression of terror. Terror and agony. As if sensing my stare, a thin stalk slid from the center of her left eye. The doctors shouted and backed up. The stalk elongated a little over a foot, and its tip grew a bubble of its own. The bubble expanded and the weight caused the stalk to droop. When it was the size of an orange, it stopped growing. It hung like an obscene fruit.
There was a yell from the room where they’d brought the other victim. I assumed it was for the same reason. On the other side of the window, more stalks emerged in a cluster from the woman’s other eye. All of them produced bubbles like a bunch of grapes.
My phone beeped. It was a text from Lucy. “Can you go look outside? It’s that light again!”
As if on cue, every light in the hospital went out. The emergency lights clicked on for half a second, then they went dead. There was nothing – nothing but the stream of pink light coming in from the open ambulance bay doors.
I stepped in the hall and asked, to no one in particular, what was happening. I doubt anyone heard me, because the light shifted from pink to white, accompanied by a blast of noise I can only describe as static. It caused me to clasp my hands to my ears and retreat backward into the room, where I cowered in the corner.
I saw shadows passing in front of the white light reflecting off the floor. Bizarrely-shaped shadows. They moved in a way that was both jerky and fluid, like jelly suspended on bone. The shadows darkened as whatever was making them got closer. Doctors and nurses in the next room shrieked, and there was a flash which silenced them. Then, two feet away in the hall, harshly illuminated from the back by the piercing, white light, I saw it.
My initial thought of jelly suspended on bone wasn’t very far off. Six ossified tubes carried heavy, segmented portions of sloshing, semi-transparent sacks. The first thing that came to mind was the body of a jellyfish. Bubbles and waving stalks decorated the entirety of its trunk and it walked by, either not noticing me or not caring about my presence. It reached the room of the other victim. Just like before, there was a scream, a flash of light, and then silence.
The light outside went dark. The sound stopped. The emergency lights in the hospital clicked on.
I scrambled to my feet and looked through the window at the room next to me. The doctors were writhing on the ground with burns on their exposed skin. The burns didn’t look life threatening. But the woman on the gurney was gone. Nothing was left but the sticky, yellow fluid on the floor.
“What the fuck was that?!,” I yelled, and banged on the window. The person who’d been stitching me up got off the floor, came back into the room, and asked me to sit down so he could finish. A nasty burn on the bridge of his nose wept tears of lymphatic fluid down his mouth and chin.
“ABD code,” he said. “Abduction. We’ve trained for them, but it was the first one I ever saw. They’re not supposed to come back for the abductees, though. I wonder why they did that.”
I sputtered and asked, “You..you people have dealt with this? How isn’t this going to be on the front page of every paper?”
“Well, you’ll forget about it in a couple hours. Everyone will. Better write down what you remember so you can tell your friends. You’ll recall something happening, but you won’t remember what it was.”
I looked at him, stupefied. “So how could you train for something like that? And how do you know it was your first one if you can’t remember?”
He shrugged. “It’s just what I was told. And good point about that other thing.” He paused and I saw a series of nearly invisible, faded scars around his hairline. He smiled and nodded. “Very good point.”
This is going to get swept under the rug because of the Hurricane Matthew coverage. Even if it isn’t, whatever’s mentioned in the news will be sanitized for public consumption. People aren’t supposed to hear about this kind of thing – especially when you consider how frightened they are already.
There’s a daycare in Charleston, SC. It’s in an awful neighborhood. I was patrolling the area before dawn this morning when the owner ran out in the street and flagged me down. She was covered in blood. I got out of the car and called for backup. Officers Fitzgerald and Ndoma were a block away and got there a minute later. Ndoma stayed with the inconsolable, trembling owner while Fitz and I drew our weapons and entered the building.
There were six children inside. Unclothed. Dead.
I called for paramedics and a supervisor. Amid the chaos of hurricane preparations, by the time they’d arrived, Fitz and I had cleared the small building. If the owner of the daycare hadn’t killed the kids, whoever had was gone.
The news media, who would’ve been all over something like this, hadn’t even noticed our radio chatter. They were too busy reporting on the storm. To be honest, I couldn’t have been more relieved. The city didn’t need to know about this yet.
The daycare owner still hasn’t said a word. We have her in custody and it’s obvious she needs a psychiatric evaluation, but that’s off the table until at least tomorrow. We pulled the records of the children from the daycare files and are beginning to notify parents. The last two of the six bodies are being examined as I write this.
The hospital is being prepared for an influx of storm-related injuries, so the deceased were brought directly to the city coroner. The examinations are cursory and unofficial. I know the main guy down there. My father was the best man at his wedding. Whenever I wanted to know something about a case that was above my paygrade, he’d usually fill me in. Today was no different. I know what I saw, but were a lot of unanswered questions.
When Fitz and I entered the building and saw the victims, we knew the cause of death right away. The wounds were gaping and obvious. In fact, I don’t think I’ve blinked today without seeing them in that split second of darkness. To me, it was clear the owner couldn’t have done it. She’s 5’1”, and if you told me she was 90 pounds, I’d be surprised. Her mouth’s small, too. Yes, that’s relevant.
Here’s the thing: at first glance, I assumed the kids had to have been killed by some kind of animal. The bites which prompted the massive blood loss must’ve come from something with large, powerful jaws. After we cleared the building, though, and Fitz was outside with Ndoma trying to get the owner to say what happened, I took a closer look at the wounds. They were too uniform. Too precise.
What I mean by that is the children were all bitten in the same spot. Everything between their legs, from navel to lower back, was gone. There were smudges on their thighs. Something white. It was more obvious on the darker-skinned victims, but nonetheless present on all of them. I was about to examine the fibers I saw sticking to the wounds, but I was interrupted by the paramedics and the coroner’s office. They needed to do their thing, so I left them to it.
I’ve spent the whole morning at my desk, filling out reports, and writing this account to help clear my mind. About an hour ago, I called my contact at the coroner’s office. He told me, like I mentioned above, that they’d looked over four of the six. It was, certainly, the bites which had killed them. They bled out in a matter of seconds.
I asked him what he thought could have done it, and he paused. To me, that meant he still didn’t know for sure. After a few seconds of silence, I asked about the fibers I’d seen.
“Red hairs,” he told me. “Wiry, red hairs. John thought they could’ve been from a chimpanzee, since they’ve been known to attack the genital area, but they usually do damage to other places too.”
“What about the white stuff?,” I asked.
“We’re not sure yet. The lab will have to do an analysis after the storm, but from what everyone over here can determine, it’s some kind of makeup.”
I thanked him and was about to hang up, but he told me to hold on.
“There’s one more thing. Something we found stuffed up around what was left of the caucasian boy’s bladder.”
I shuddered, but told him to continue.
“Well, it’s foam. When we pulled it out, it was just kind of a blobby thing. But then John washed it off.”
My friend trailed off and I heard him sighing deeply into the phone’s receiver. I gave him a second, but urged him on. He sighed again.
“Max, it was one of those red foam noses. The same ones clowns wear.”