Flashfiction for the NYC Midnight challenge two years ago. Prompt was ‘cinder block’, genre was ‘horror’.
He has always been quite critical of this building sticking out from the landscape, an eyesore. In the middle of the fields, the otherwise green and pleasant land. And it’s about as sturdy as a cardboard box in his opinion. They built it from cinder blocks, handmade by workers in each of the surrounding villages as a symbol of their ‘cooperation’, constructed with the very earth of their land. The nearest village is three miles away. He’s here for his turn watching the building, a makeshift security guard, armed with a torch and a gun that he doesn’t know how to fire.
The stupid thing is that it’s the middle of the day, but being in a desolate building surrounded by crates of building materials and cupboards and fridges and freezers void of food and frost. It’s creepy if only because it looks like a desolate, abandoned place rather than somewhere that’s being spruced up, the heart of several communities, the symbol of their shared work on the land, built by their own fair hands.
Wind whistles through gaps in the walls where the cinder blocks are too loose or too light. He’s sure that come the winter the whole damn place will just blow away. He’ll laugh. But the draught creeps along the floor and makes pages of defunct paper move or blows the plastic curtain over the cold storage which is in complete darkness. That is the place he’s most apprehensive about and he stays as far from it as possible. It’s not really even a different room, but it just brings to mind images of abattoirs and carcasses.
He kicks a loose piece of something across the floor, hearing it rattle against the wall, echoing gently around the high ceiling. It fades, and then there’s a click. Just one click, like a pebble hitting a window. He looks up at the windows instinctively, but there’s nothing there. Just bright sunshine, mocking him.
He goes to take another step. Click. It’s coming from inside. His eyes immediately go to the cold storage at the back, but that’s too far away. The sound is closer.
Despite the bright daylight outside and the obvious warmth it should be emanating there is a chill in the air that blows around him. He waits in the silence, holding his breath.
The footfalls sound so much heavier after that, with the thought that there is someone or something that can hear every movement he makes. Thud. Thud.
Again he looks towards the cold storage. Wishes that things were set neatly back against the wall rather than in piles. Wishes the fridges and freezers on rather than laying empty like metallic coffins. His imagination is running away with him.
His heart is pounding in his chest and, despite not knowing what he’s going to do with it, he unlocks the catch on the gun.
Click. It mocks him.
The gun, though, boosts his confidence, because it’s something. He doesn’t care how heavy his feet sound on the floor as he paces forward, keeping in the shadows, ducking behind the strewn cupboards and containers like a spy.
Click. It’s louder. Click. And a more defined sound. Click. Like stone on stone. Click. Like a flint on a tinder. And it seems to be picking up. He points the gun out in front of him. With no sense left in him, he follows the noise.
Another man sits on the floor, close to the wall, his eyes fixed on his work. In one hand he holds a stone, sharpened to a point by another that he brings down slowly, methodically. Click. He doesn’t look up at the approaching footsteps, as though he’s been waiting for them, luring him in like a creature with sonar. Click. He doesn’t look up at the demand to identify himself. Or at the presence of the gun.
Click. This time it’s the gun, the press of his finger to the trigger and the futile sound of no bullets leaving. He tries again. Nothing. Only now does the man on the floor look up, smiling toothily, his eyes wide with what must be described as delight.
Clickclickclick the gun rings out, empty and spent. Why hadn’t he thought to check for bullets? He hadn’t asked, they hadn’t been offered. He sobs in frustration. Clickclickclick.
His attention is so focussed on the gun he doesn’t know the other man has moved until the stone is embedded in his thigh and the pain rips through him. He screams, screams for help and in pain. But they’re three miles away from the nearest village. The pain doubles and he’s on his back, blood pouring from both thighs as he’s dealt a matching wound. He blacks out.
It’s cold. He can’t open his mouth. His head is heavy and feels drugged. None of his limbs are working. He’s hanging upside down. The room is dark but he can see the slats of light through the plastic that tell him exactly where he is. The cold storage area. He tries to blink everything into focus and then wishes he hadn’t. Because once his eyes are trained on the light he sees more. Sees he’s not alone, oh, no. He’s not. But he’s the only one who knows it.
He’s hanging at the end of a row of bodies, trussed up like him but they’re all dead. Their throats are slit and the blood is still darkening the floor beneath them. If he swings slightly he can see further back to where some have already been butchered. He recognises a few. One or two of his neighbours, their rib cages open, their organs gone, their thighs and backs marked like slabs of meat on a butcher’s table. He tries to fight, tries to wriggle himself free though he knows it’s futile.
Click. He turns his head. The butcher is there again, smiling as he holds the sharp stone to the hanging man’s throat.