The wind picked up as the rain moved closer. Scraps of paper and debris swirled in the street. Lennie kept an eye on the buildings to either side. People living in them could dart out into the street for whatever crazy reason.
At the end of the road, she turned left, drove along the river until she reached the fourth building. The docks were empty of the usual fishermen. Although who would want to eat the fish they catch is beyond me. The water’s so polluted it stinks. She grabbed her bag and exited the car. Nickie joined her on the sidewalk. “Here we are. Remember, stay near me.”
Lennie pulled out a high-beamed flashlight and followed the beam through the broken doorway. A rumble of thunder echoed through the building.
Nickie muttered, “It was a dark and stormy night…”
“Not quite, but getting close.” A glance at the walls revealed the usual graffiti. Lennie took a step and paused. “Which way?”
Nickie pointed to the right. “Down the hall there, third door on the left. The windows in that room are blocked with bricks.”
Lennie stepped over piles of litter and debris. Unlike other buildings she explored, this one didn’t stink of piss and rotten garbage. Despite her best efforts, an involuntary shudder passed through her. All right, get hold of yourself. You’ve explored lots of abandoned buildings and ruins. Nothing to be afraid of here. Something scrabbled in debris against the opposite wall and Lennie jumped.
“I don’t like this.” Nickie stayed close to Lennie.
“Same here. The air feels different, sort of old, and musty. With broken windows and door, the inside should smell more like the outside.” The light’s beam illuminated a large rat. The creature chittered in annoyance and scampered away. “It doesn’t make sense.”
At the doorway, they paused; a heaviness in the air pressed down on them. Lennie patted Nickie’s arm in reassurance, and entered the room. The light revealed a wall covered in runes written in red. Lennie handed the flashlight to Nickie so she could bring out her camera and take pictures before going closer to the wall.
As she walked toward the wall, a light footstep broke the silence and Lennie turned. A shadowy figure slammed into her, and she fell. Her head hit the floor.
Nickie stared at the runes, when a coldness washed over her. She turned and caught a glimpse of a human-shaped creature within a shadow run past. It slammed into Lennie before bolting through the doorway. Nickie hurried to Lennie’s side. “Lennie?” She shook her shoulder. “Shit! What am I supposed to do?” She grabbed the flashlight and examined Lennie, discovering a lump on the back of the woman’s head, but no blood. She didn’t see any other wounds. “I hope she doesn’t get mad,” Nickie muttered slapping Lennie’s face. “Lennie! Wake up!” She slapped her again, heartened by the flutter of the eyelids.
Lennie opened her eyes. “Son of a bitch! What the hell hit me?”
“I don’t know. It sort of looked like a human and moved fast.” She helped her sit up. “You all right?”
Lennie probed the back of her head. “Yeah. Give me a minute. Where’s my bag?”
Nickie retrieved the item and handed it to her. “Here.”
“Thanks.” She pulled out a bottle of aspirin, one in her mouth and chewed. “I should’ve brought water.” A couple minutes later, she stood with Nickie’s help. “Let’s finish here and go home.” She grabbed a small leather case and two sample jars. “Keep the light on the runes, please.”
From the toolkit, Lennie took out a small knife and some tweezers. She took two samples from the runes and placed them in the jars. She noted the time, date, and location on the labels. From a spot without the runes, Lennie scraped two control samples. She stepped back and studied the wall. Interesting. These match the runes from the other building, but the order is different. Near the floor a drawing caught her eye. Closer inspection revealed part of a map. “I hope this is a map to one of the ruins outside the city,” she muttered as she took a few pictures.
Lennie reclaimed the flashlight and studied the rest of the room. A pile of metal to the right shone dully in the light. The remains of a machine stood in the corner, rusted and falling to pieces. Trash and broken pieces of furniture rested at the base of the other walls. That’s the only place the thing could have been hiding. Lennie approached the area. The smell of old sweaty socks made her gag and she clapped a hand over her nose and mouth. “Gross!” A highly reflective piece of metal didn’t fit with the rest of the trash. “What’s this?” She retrieved the object in question. Close examination revealed a few runes. Running a finger over the surface she found it smooth to the touch. “Excellent! I rarely find something like this.” She placed it in a sample jar.
“Are we going home soon?”
“Yep.” She studied her companion. “You tired?”
“Yeah. Guess all the excitement is catching up to me.”
“Did the creature touch you at all?” Lennie flashed the light around the room, but nothing else stood out.
“It brushed against my arm when it passed me. It felt kind of cold when it did.”
“Let’s go.” Lennie paused in the doorway. “I think I will come back here in a few days and do a more thorough search.”