Something Inside

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Mattie McConnell

“Fluorescent lights flickered on one by one, aligning on the ceiling, stopping only at the turn of the building a couple hundred feet in front of us" (Photo Courtesy of Mattie McConnell).

Yes! Hello? My friend and I are at the Brinkham Research Facility. Please send help.” I cried into the phone. “There’s…something else here.” 

 

7 hours earlier

 

I hopped over the rusty chain-link fence. A fray in my jeans caught on the top, causing me to land unsteadily. 

“You ok?” Kel said.

“Yeah,” I said, brushing a brown leaf off my army green flannel. 

He handed me his bag and my camera before climbing over the fence himself. It was a cool morning. The leaves above our heads were beginning their transition from green to orange, and a layer of leaves from past seasons made a distinct crunch underfoot. 

“Callie said she’d meet us at the front gate,” Kel said, taking his bag from my hand. A few more yards of walking and the huge building came into view. White walls towered above the treetops. 

“Spooky,” Kel said, walking up behind me. 

I took a deep breath and pulled my camera from its case. With a quiet click, I did my best to capture the magnitude and unsettling stillness of the building. 

Kel pulled his phone from his pocket and called Callie. “Hey, we’re outside the east entrance. Ok,” he said into the phone. He put it back into his pocket. “She said she’ll meet us back here.”

“Awesome,” I said. My body shivered. Just the cold, I told myself, although it couldn’t have been colder than 50 degrees out. 

After about five minutes Callie emerged around the corner of the building. She wore jeans with a plaid navy jacket and grey rubber boots. She smiled as she pushed a curly black lock of hair out of her face. “Hey, Maggie, hey Kel. You guys ready?” 

The Brinkham Center for Autecology Research and Development was a private research facility that had closed down in 2008. The building was still restricted for public entry, but something in my gut told me it needed to be explored. 

I learned that the facility had abruptly shut down and ceased all ongoing projects, claiming that a lack of funding was responsible for the closing. However, upon further research, I learned there was much more to the story. 

I had approached Callie about the story, and she suggested that we go to the facility to investigate. 

“In 1996, some freak accident in the Experimental Research Department killed six scientists,” I said to Kel and Callie. 

“What about the survivors?” Kel asked. 

“That’s where it gets interesting,” I said. “Timothy Blanchard and his family are killed in a car crash about a week after being released from the hospital. Caleb Lancaster dies of a heart attack at age 27 two weeks after escaping the accident uninjured.”

“Jeesh,” Kel said. 

“So the Brinkhams’ are doing some unsafe ‘research’,” Callie said, motioning air quotes with her hands, “one of them goes wrong, and they kill off everyone involved.” 

“Pretty much,” I said. 

It took a few shoves to get the side door open, and we were in. Inside, we found an eerily quiet lobby, dead leaves that had drifted from outside littered the white floor. A tightness formed in my stomach and a cold laid over my shoulders, giving me chills. 

“It’s cold out of the sun,” Kel said as he pulled a black denim jacket from his bag and layered it over his red sweater. 

We made our way deeper into the facility. The lights still had power in many of the rooms. Callie held a blueprint of the building, guiding us down corridors and hallways as if we were on a hike in the wilderness. The building seemed to get colder as we walked further toward the center. The knot in my stomach refused to vacate despite my efforts to take deep breaths. 

I heard the echo of a low creak, and my stomach churned. Kel stopped in his tracks as I did. 

Callie glanced up from her map and then looked back at us. “Chill, you guys,” she said with a smile. 

I took a breath but couldn’t settle the uneasiness that filled my chest. 

“Where are we?” Kel asked.

“On the second floor,” Callie answered, calling over her shoulder, “If we walk to the Western side of the building, it’ll take us straight to some stairs that lead to the Research Department.” 

As we walked towards the end of the building I heard that same creak, a bit louder. I looked at Kel, who looked more scared than me and then to Callie. She laughed.

“You two have got to calm down,” she said. 

“Fine, you tell me what that was and I’ll calm down,” Kel said. 

Callie looked around. “This building is on its last leg, it’s probably the air conditioning finally sputtering out.” Seeing the unconvinced look on our faces, Callie rolled her eyes. “Come on, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. We can’t turn back now. I’m going, with or without you.” 

Kel and I looked at each other. 

“Fine,” he said.

We made our way up the flight of stairs on the West side of the building that would lead to the Research Department. The room we walked into was dark and cold. I noticed a light switch and flicked it on. Fluorescent lights flickered on one by one, aligning on the ceiling, stopping only at the turn of the building a couple hundred feet in front of us. I pulled out my camera and took a picture of the hallway, the flash momentarily illuminating the white walls. 

We walked down the long hall for about five minutes before Callie abruptly turned. 

“Here. We’re here,” she said. 

Kel shined his flashlight on the door in front of us. Experimental Research Department. The copper letters reflected in the light. 

I couldn’t help my hand from shaking as I reached for the door handle. I used my shoulder to force the door open. Being on the northern edge of the building, moldy windows let some light in from the outside. 

I took several pictures of the room. Half of the ceiling had caved in, exposing pink insulation. The tile was cracked and split in many places, and glass from broken monitor screens and windows littered the floor. The remaining windows were cloudy and let in a cold, bluish light. 

Kel walked around the room, taking pictures and jotting down notes. Callie sat down in a chair around the corner and pulled out her laptop, beginning to write her summary of what we had seen inside the room. I walked to the left side of the room, its walls made up of gloomy glass squares. As I came closer to them, I noticed they were enclosures, varying in size. I placed my hand on the glass. It was cold. Looking down the wall, towards a corner that was darker than the rest of the room. 

I heard that same low creak, louder and longer this time. The hair on the back of my next stood up. I backed away from the corner. The echo of a door closing rang through the room. Kel and Callie both froze. 

What was that? I was about to ask, but the words wouldn’t come. 

I stepped backward toward Kel. Callie was across the room, concern on her face. 

For half a minute no one made a sound, though it felt much, much longer. The room felt colder than anywhere else in the building had before. Suspense rose in my chest. 

Callie closed her laptop. “That was weird–” 

Before she could finish her sentence, a deafening crash sounded through the room. Kel and I quickly shuffled into the monitor room. Callie huddled under a desk. 

Weighty footsteps carried an echo into the room, heavy thuds followed by a scratching sound. 

Thud, scrape. Thud, scrape. Thud, scrape. 

I peeked above the monitor desk, horrified and filled with terror by what my eyes perceived. 

Something, some creature. A body resembling that of a lion with grisly, grey fur. Claws, some as long as a human forearm, present on each foot. A head of mangled fur and manged ears. Eyes whitened no doubt from blindness. Sharp, yellow teeth protruding every which way from the mouth. A nose covered in a red stain that was undeniably blood. 

Aside from the gate of the creature, the room was silent. It opened its mouth and let out that same low shriek I had heard so many times before. 

My mind wanted me to scream, to run, to do something, but I knew I had to stay where I was, and not make a sound. Kel clutched my hand as we peeked over the desk. 

I closed my eyes as the creature made the noise again. I could hear it moving around the room. 

Thud, scrape. Thud, scrape. Thud, scrape. 

It turned around and left the room. Then silence. Awful, suspenseful silence. 

I stood slightly and looked over the desk. 

That was insane!” Callie whispered. Her mouth was turned in a smile, but I could see the shock in her eyes. “We have to go after it! We have to get a picture or a video or–” Her voice was getting louder as she began to stand. 

“Callie, you need to quiet down,” Kel said in a low voice. 

“I mean, this is amazing! I was hoping to find some abandoned files but this!” She was practically yelling now, appearing almost hysterical.

“Callie!” Kel said, then quieted himself. “Callie, we need to leave now.” 

“Just let me get one picture, and then we’ll leave,” She said. “Please.” 

Before Kel could answer, we heard the creature approach the room again, quicker this time. 

Thud, scrape, thud, scrape, thud, scrape. 

Callie hid behind the desk. Kel and I huddled under the monitors again. 

I felt breathless, wrecked with fearful anticipation of what may happen next. 

That same shriek, in small bursts. I looked over the monitors and saw the creature, and beside it, Callie standing from her spot behind the desk, camera in hand. 

“Callie,” I whispered, “No!” my voice was louder than I anticipated. 

The creature whipped its head toward me. I then noticed a third eye in the center of its face, not whitened by blindness like the other two. 

It began to walk toward me, not a sound ringing through the room but its footsteps and a low, throaty croak that it bellowed. 

Click!

The sound rang out like a gunshot in a forest. 

The creature turned towards Callie and let out a deafening shriek. She shoved her camera in her bag and dove around the corner. It leaped after her, slipping on the tile floor was it rounded the corner. 

Kel was frozen. I leaped to my feet and grabbed his hand, dragging him toward the door. 

“Callie!” I yelled.

“Get out!” she called back. ‘Run!”

I was hesitant. I couldn’t just leave her behind. 

“We have to go,” Kel said softly. “We have to leave her.”

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

Kel and I lunged toward the door, hand in hand, and slipped out onto the vast hallway. I heard Callie let out a chilling scream, ultimately drowned out by the creature’s groans and shrieks. 

My legs were fueled by adrenaline as we aimlessly ran down the hallways. 

“Wait,” I said, slowing down. “I think we were supposed to turn back there.”

“No,” Kel said. “The research offices lead back to the staircase we came from.” 

I clicked on my flashlight and shined it onto a door beside me. 

Department of Public Affairs,” I read out loud. “Where are we?” My heart rate picked up as panic rose in my chest. 

“I–uh.” Kel let out a few quick breaths. “I don’t–we might–um.” 

I swallowed and a knot formed in my stomach as I realized Kel and I wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon. Callie had had the only map of the building, and without it, the facility became a maze that had no obvious escape. 

“Downstairs,” I croaked. “We need to get downstairs.” 

I heard the creature’s call ring out through the hall. I grabbed Kel’s arm and dragged him through the stairwell door. We tumbled down the stairs, one flight after the other. A light shone through the window in one of the doors, and we bolted through the doorway. The door closed with a click.

I heard nothing but mine and Kel’s breathing as I looked around the room. Blue and red light bulbs above our heads. Monitors flickering but displaying nothing but static. I looked at Kel and moved toward the stairwell door to go back up to the main floor. I reached for the handle. It was locked. I jiggled the handle, pulled on the door. 

“No, no, no, no, no,” I said, my voice cracking. 

Kel jogged over and tried to open the door as well, to no result. 

I heard that shriek, louder than ever, ringing down the stairwell. The sound of claws scraping against metal made my skin crawl. 

Kel grabbed my hand and we crowded into a storage closet, peeking through the small window on the door. Kel began trying to get the paneled ceiling open. I peered through the window. 

A few heavy thuds on the door and the creature entered, crouching low, ready to attack. I watched it pick up a paw and lash at the square of light switches. It swatted at it, sparks flying onto the floor. The lights flickered out, leaving only the red light above my head, illuminating my face. The creature growled, its white eyes turning red in the light, fixated on me. It pounced toward the door, ripping it off the hinges in one swift swipe. 

The creature gripped my leg. I grabbed a wrench from on top of a box as I was pulled from the room. I felt blood drip down my leg and onto the floor. The creature growled as it pulled me towards it. I brought the wrench I had gripped in my hand above my head and slammed it onto the creature’s nose. It let out a high whimper as it back away momentarily, its mangled foot pawing at its face. I stood, my adrenaline masking the gash in my leg. 

The creature stood again as well, creeping toward me. It let out a low croak as it readied to lunge toward me. 

Suddenly, Kel ran past me, holding a fire extinguisher. He ignited it, spraying the creature and filling the room with a thick fog. The creature let out a high, whimpery scream, and I winced at the magnitude of the sound. 

It retreated to the opposite side of the room, clawing at the walls. Kel and I bolted for the staircase, thundering up the steps toward the upper floors. 

“What just happened?” I asked, breathless.

“Somebody doesn’t like the cold, I guess,” Kel said. Noticing another extinguisher on the wall, he tore it off the wall and threw it over his shoulder. “I didn’t think that would be so effective. I only did it long enough to distract it from–from you.” 

We didn’t stop moving until we found ourselves on the second floor, blockading the stairwell door. I tried to call authorities as we walked the hallways, but I couldn’t get any service in the large compound. 

I removed my flannel shirt and tied it around the gash on my leg. Although I should have been cold in just a t-shirt, my adrenaline was enough to keep me warm. 

There was a long silence between Kel and me, a small drop in the silence that was a recurrent theme in the building. 

“Do you think we did the right thing back there? You know, leaving Callie like that?” Kel’s question was not one I was ready to answer, and not one I wanted to think about at all. I let silence float between us, struggling to find words that would justify the feeling of guilt that bubbled inside me.

“I didn’t want to,” I finally said, my head low. “but there wasn’t anything else we could have done, Kel. It would have killed both of us, too.” 

“Did you try your phone again?” Kel asked. 

I stood and walked toward the window. Holding my phone toward the murky window that lit the room.

“I have service!” I said, holding my phone above my head. 

“Uh, you might want to hurry up that phone call, Maggie,” Kel said.

I heard a crash down the hall. Kel began to stack chairs in front of the door. 

RIng, ring, ring, ring. It seemed as though no one would ever answer. Then, “911, what is your emergency?” 

I explained our situation to the woman on the other end of the line. 

“We’re on the second floor in a conference room. We had the staircase blockaded but it must have broken through, we have the door barricaded but–” My voice stopped in my throat. I heard footsteps. “Please hurry,” I whispered. 

I hung up the phone and began helped Kel move chairs in front of the door. 

“Listen,” I said, looking around the room. “That door leads to the next conference room over. If we go that way and can spray it with the extinguisher, we might get out, but we’ll have to run. Fast.” 

Kel looked scared but ready. 

“Can you handle that?”

He nodded. 

We exited through the door adjacent to the conference room, slid along the wall until we were in the doorway leading to the hallway. For the first time, peering around the doorway, I saw the creature in full light. Its grey, glistening skin covered with manged fur. Ears so chipped and twisted they could be mistaken for clumps of hair. Two eyes on either side of the head, appearing mostly normal besides their blinded whiteness, and the third eye, off-center on the forehead, a grey-blue hue glistening in the fluorescent lighting. Teeth that were log and sharp and jutted out of the mouth like splintered wood. Claws attached to muscular paws that were long and looked as sharp as hunting knives. 

“Now,” I whispered.

Kel took one large step into the hallway, pointed the extinguisher at the animal. It let out its unnatural shriek, saliva, and blood flying from its jaws. Kel ignited the extinguisher, letting the white foam sputter and spill onto the creature. I heard it let out a scream and it ran down the opposite side of the hallway, mirroring a frail, afraid dog in its mannerisms. 

Kel and I bolted toward the emergency stairwell, barreling down the moldy concrete until reaching the ground floor. I heard sirens. We made it to a side entrance, a glass door with security systems locking it in place. 

I spotted a police officer. Kel and I beat our fists on the door. A few officers ran in our direction, a fireman holding an axe behind us.

“Help!” I screamed. “Help us!” 

“Stand back!” They said. “Cover your eyes.”

They broke open the glass and a feeling of liberation filled my senses. For a moment I felt calm, and then it all drifted away. I heard the all-too-familiar shriek of the creature ringing out through the woods. It was loose.