I turned and ran off toward the side of the building where no one from the station would see me coming. I swallowed down my nerves and took out my flashlight. I took a deep breath and flashed the light twice. Immediately the car lights came on and I heard the engine rev loud.
I saw the lights get bigger as they came closer and felt my stomach turn as I realized there was no turning back. I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. I thought about bailing with them, making up some excuse like they were on me from when I flashed them down or the desk jockeys saw me as I tried to get in, but there was no backing out when I saw them jump. Seconds later, the car ripped through the front wall.
Pieces of cement flew everywhere. An explosion of dust spread out into a massive cloud that blocked all sight. I ran toward the cloud and hugged the wall. I could hear the men inside coughing and cursing as they tried to figure out what had just happened. I watched their outlines through the cloud of dust as two of them came out of the station, weapons drawn. I slipped in quietly by them as one of them shot out into the street. I grit my teeth, hoping they wouldn’t hit my friends. I hadn’t even thought that might be a possibility and it seemed like the further I dove into this ‘plan,’ the more I became aware of how little I had actually heeded Mrs. Packard’s advice. But it seemed luck was temporarily on my side.
Once inside, I scanned the office as best as the dust would allow me to see. The waiting area had been trashed. Charis were tossed across the room, wires hung down with what was left of the lamps attached to them, flickering. Even the vending machine had a big hole through it, a chunk of wall sticking out of it. It looked like a bomb had gone off inside and turned it all into a post-war ruin. But one thing wasn’t there. Torrance.
I glanced at the two men outside just to make sure. I figured maybe he might be out patrol and they would call him to chase after Jackson and Benny, but I swear AP’s dad had said he would be here. He had said Torrance would see AP through the night.
I remember that making me real mad. It also made me feel like we had been right all along about him. He had to be in on it somehow. There’s no way this long-time family friend would just leave AP all alone when he had promised his parents to watch over him all night. No fucking way.
I rushed through and hopped over the counter. Right on the floor lay a partially opened nightstick begging me to pick it up. Without any words, it rested there ridiculing me for yet another flaw in my great plan. Goes to show at least that I had no intention of hurting anyone from the start. I snatched it up and took a moment to process how heavy it actually was, how good it felt in my hand.
I ran toward the door in the back, crouched so in case the two desk jockeys looked my way all they would see is the bess they would have to clean up during their shift. The door opened, allowing me to slip through and close it without much sound. I had expected to see a row of bars connecting cell after cell, like in the old movies, but I only saw solid metal doors with a single peephole. A similar door separated the one I had just come through from the cells. There were two other normal steel doors to the left and right of me. I gripped the handle and tugged at the door in front of me but it didn’t budge. A movement from the other side of the peephole caught my attention.
A familiar, bald, dark head slowly turned back toward me until there was no doubt in my mind who I was staring at. Torrance stared back at me through the peephole. There was no look of surprise or worry, it was as if he had expected me to be there. Behind him I could see the last cell door open and AP’s head poking out like a curious prairie dog.
Torrance turned back toward AP who frowned and said, “What the hell is going on Torrance?”
The bald officer pointed a finger at AP as he walked toward him and barked, “Get back in your cell. Now!”
I could tell something was wrong. No other cell was open. There was no reason for AP’s to be either. I tugged on the door handle and when that didn’t bear fruit I began laying my shoulder into it as if somehow my body would be stronger than a three hundred pound solid metal door.
“Move!” I heard torrance say. AP didn’t protest. He put his hands up and mumbled in agreement. “Go on, back of the cell.”
Those same movies that had led me to believe I would find rows of bars also reminded me that those bars were opened remotely. Try as I might to knock the door down, I would make no dent on it if I didn’t find that magical button. I turned toward the door to my left and twisted the knob, expecting it to give me resistance, but there was none.
I swung it open and found a display of all the cameras inside the building. Inside AP’s cell I could see him slowly backing up with his hands up as Torrance inched toward him, one hand on the weapon at his hip, the other pointing as if dealing with an armed and unpredictable threat. Below the monitor there was a small metal box with buttons on it, like a modern switchboard. The buttons were all in a row and since only a single button at the end was lit up green, it was easy to figure out how it worked. I pressed the button closest to me and took off toward the door the moment it turned green.
I burst through the door as if it could fly open but found it so heavy that the only option was moving at its pace. Once through I ran toward AP’s cell, determined to get him out of there at all costs. It all came to an abrupt stop as Torrance drew his gun and aimed it, and all his attention, toward me.
“Stay back,” he said through his teeth.
I felt my hands go up the nightstick still tight in my hand. My fingers began to tremble about as badly as my eyes. I wanted to focus my eyesight on his, show him defiance, but they instead shot down to his feet, shifting around as if there were cockroaches darting around them. He took a step toward me and I felt my shoulders cower forward.
“You should’ve stayed home boy,” said Torrance as he stepped closer to me. I looked up and saw the hooded man walking toward me, finally close enough to see my father’s face poke through the veil of the hood. The look of the devil riddled his features, just as it had the night he had killed my mother.
My whole body trembled. I could barely take a breath. I felt him push his gun right under my chin and force my head up. “Drop it,” he growled.
“Torrance,” came AP’s voice from behind but I swear it sounded just like my mother’s voice. “What are you doing?”
“Drop it,” spat the cop, shoving the gun harder into my neck.
I felt my grip on the baton loosen and heard it hit the floor. A grin spread over my father’s face. His voice echoed in my head saying, “I knew you were a bitch. Just like your mother,” his lips never flinching from that grin.
I felt the metal leave my skin but before I could process what was happening, I felt a sharp pain smash down over my cheek. I went down hard. The pain rushed me so quickly and it felt like my cheek bone had been shattered.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I heard AP yell out as Torrance kicked the baton away from me.
Torrance leaned down and growled, “Stay down boy.”
As he turned around to face AP, my old man’s head stayed twisted back, grin never faltering. “You heard him boy. Stay the fuck down.”
I watched it all out of the corner of my eye as I covered my cheek and focused on the floor. Torrance stormed toward AP who put his hands up to keep Torrance at a distance. Torrance slapped his hands away with so much force that AP’s entire body turned with them. The cop gripped AP’s neck from behind and picked him up with a single arm, turning him around and walking him toward the wall.
I could hear AP choking for air.
“Good little bitch,” echoed my old man’s voice as his hooded figure got closer to me. So close that all I could see were his rotting teeth and in the faint background AP’s head being slammed against the wall. It was as if my mind was trying to find a way to block it all out. “At least I taught you well.”
I could see the tiny ripped up holes from the needle in my old man’s neck, just as I had left him. Just as he had left me. Weak, scared, unable to do anything but run and hide.
He had left me full of holes.
I looked up at AP as his head crashed back and lulled forward. A small splatter of blood had begun to paint the wall. I glanced at the baton not far from me.
“Stay. The fuck. Down.” came my old man’s voice. His grin had disappeared and blood had begun to gush from his mouth and neck.
I gritted my teeth, only making the pain in my cheek worse but somehow also fueling my determination. I reached out for the baton and stood up, clenching the grip of it so hard that it may as well have fused with me.
“Show some fucking resp-.”
The scream died the moment I brought the baton over the back of Torrance’s skull. I put all of my force into it and watched as his head split open. He should have gone down. Any man would have, it doesn’t matter who you are. He should have dropped. Instead, he turned his neck around as if nothing had happened and dropped AP. His eyelids twitched unnaturally, as if somehow that would help ease the pain from his ruptured skull.
I felt my throat clog as he stepped toward me but swallowed as hard as I could and swung again, this time catching his cheek. His head barely moved and he kept advancing toward me as I stepped back. I swung again and saw his skin tear open, releasing a stream of blood from his mouth and cheek. Through the torn flesh I could see his bone, but it wasn’t real bone. It was smooth and metallic.
I managed to get one more hit in before its eyes burned red and it ripped the nightstick from my hands. It smashed it across my face and dropped me to the floor, delirious and spilling bloody drool like stringy melted cheese to smear my face and floor. I was barely conscious enough to crawl away, but I still tried.
I fought the dizziness, the desire to give up and faint, only to hit a wall that stopped me in place. Two dark boots stood at the cell door, ready to keep anyone from escaping. I closed my eyes and prepared to feel them come down over my head.
But they never did.
Instead, I felt my ears ring and nausea take over. They rang louder than they ever had as a gunshot was loosed above me. I squeezed my eyes tighter and brought my hands to my ears. After a moment I heard a muffled, “the fuck?” and two more shots rang.
Three. Four. They kept going until I faintly heard the repeated clicking of the trigger.
My whole body shook. I didn’t want to open my eyes but I mustered up the courage and saw the same boots in front of me. I looped up and saw Torrance with a bewildered expression.
I pushed myself away from him and he didn’t even flinch. He was so transfixed with the thing he had just shot that now sat slumped in an awkward position. A position that no normal human would ever be able to bend in.
As I stared at the thing, I saw that tentacles were protruding from its chest and back. The holes through its clothes let me see that underneath there was no flesh, only metal. They flailed about as if desperate to escape their cage before losing all power and falling motionless.
Behind the thing that had looked like Torrance lay AP, motionless apart from the occasional rising and falling of his chest. I wanted to go to him, make sure he was okay, but my self preservation told me I needed to make sure this other Torrance was no threat either.
“Torrance?” I said in as calm a voice as I could work up.
He flung his gun around toward me and made me flinch, even though I knew it was empty. He stared at me with crazed eyes, wide and blinking a million times an hour as if it would somehow help make sense of everything he was seeing. He looked like a man who’s entire world had been turned upside down.
I felt…sad for him.
“I need to check on AP,” I said calmly.
He blinked a few more times and said. “Why are you here?”
I didn’t say anything, I only glanced at the creature slumped on the floor. He followed my eyes.
“You knew this would happen?” he said. “How? I mean, what in god’s name is that thing? Why does it-?”
“Torrance,” I said, loud enough to pull him out of his head.
“Yeah,” he said, nodding a few times.
I braced myself against the wall and stood. My face throbbed something fierce. I was sure something in there was broken. I wasn’t sure what I looked like, but I bet it wasn’t a pretty sight.
As I got closer to the thing, I heard a metallic clicking strike up and my heart rate shot up. I turned around and saw Torrance shakily swapping the magazine from his gun.
I hugged the wall to stay as far from that thing as I could, but also because I was afraid that if I stood any closer to it, my curiosity would force me to check on it instead of AP. Not check on it like I was concerned about its health, more like, to understand it.
It’s human nature, no? At first, we reject everything that we don’t understand. We are scared of things that we can’t make sense of. All we ever want to do is make sense of it all.
I believe so.
When I reached AP, I checked the back of his head. The blood had thickened over his hair, making it look and feel like a sticky sponge. I tried to shake him while I called his name but he just groaned in pain. After a couple more times of trying, I looked directly at Torrance and said, “I need to get him out of here.”
His eyebrows furrowed. It looked like he was resisting the urge to aim his gun at me.
“I don’t know what these things are or why they’re after us, but they are.,” I continued. “He’s clearly not safe here. They got in here once, they’ll just come back and finish it. This time, they’ll be after you too.”
“Fuck,” he said. “I fucking knew you were bad news. I should’ve kept-.”
“I just fucking saved him!” I yelled.
“You crashed a car through the station and let this fucking thing in. How do I even know you’re not one of them?”
I stood and raised my shirt up, pissed that I was being accused of yet another thing I wasn’t guilty of. Obviously he had every right to. It wasn’t like I hadn’t thought the same of him at first, but I was still pissed.
I pinched the skin on my chest and stomach, repeatedly saying, “You see? You see that? Skin!”
Without thought, I dropped down over the metallic Torrance and ripped open the rest of its shirt. “You see any on…”
My words trailed off as I stared down at the inner workings of this complex machine. It was…beautiful. There were rods and tubes, some thick and some so thin and clear that they let you see the red fluid being pumped through them. It gave the appearance of veins within the body. It reminded me of the guts of a custom made computer with a see-through case.
The tentacles seemed to come from behind the rods, from within a small spongy looking sphere that had a hole in it from where a bullet had penetrated it. The remains of a faint symbol rested above the hole, the bottom of it cut off. Nonetheless, I could recognize the pattern.
The medallion held by the doll in front of the fridge had that very same patterned etched into it. *chuckle* Benny had been right, we should never have stepped foot inside that house.
“Okay,” said Torrance. “Okay, I believe you.”
He took a step toward us and I raised my hand at him. “Your turn,” like it would have made a difference. He could have, and likely would have, already killed us if he had wanted to. I think I just wanted to prove a point.
He hesitated but then pulled his shirt out of his pants. Sure enough, his light brown belly poked through. He pinched the small layer of fat and pulled it saying, “We good?”
I nodded and let him come toward us. He stepped around the metal creature and helped me pick up AP. We wrapped my friend’s arms around our shoulders and exited the room. Torrance made sure to pull the door shut and I realized then that I hadn’t even thought of how I would have gotten AP out on my own if Torrance hadn’t come around.
Luck was truly on my side for once that night.
He led us back through the main door and told me to wait by the door opposite of the control room as he buzzed us out. We went through a long hall that led to the back of the building where the ‘private’ parking was.
There were a few empty patrol cars awaiting us and a single cubby next to the gate that Torrance kept glancing at. I took a look myself and saw that no one was inside.
We took AP toward a squad car near the end of the lot and put him in the back.
“We need to open the gate,” said Torrance, motioning me toward the small cubby. I didn’t want to leave AP alone with him but I also knew it needed to be done. I nodded and ran to it.
Inside the cubby was a small green button and a chair. I pitied the person who’s entire job was to sit there and press a button each time someone wanted to come in or out. I hit the button and waited to make sure the gate opened. Torrance pulled forward I my stomach started to turn as I pictured him taking off and leaving me there.
I turned around and slammed open the cubby door, ready to chase after them, only to be pleasantly surprised at the car stopping right next to me and Torrance staring right at me.
“Let’s go!” he said.
I ran around the front of the car and hopped in the passenger seat. Torrance pulled the car out and took off as quietly as the car would allow. Once on the street, he floored it, the engine roaring as the force slammed us back into our seats. I checked the mirror and saw a cop run out onto the street and yell something. Moments later, after he was long gone from view, the radio chimed in.
“Torrance, that you?” came a man’s voice.
Torrance picked up the receiver and said, “Yeah, I’m going after them.”
-Your timeline is…different. *silence* Why didn’t he just ask them for help? Why take off the way you did?
Maybe because I had just crashed a car through a police station and he was being an accomplice in my crimes?
I know what they said, okay? I’m aware that the videos showed something completely different-.
Yes, but what I’m telling you is what really happened. Torrance didn’t die there, and neither did the other cops. No one did.
-Except that, thing.
Yeah. Except that thing.
-Okay, so is that when you went back to that house?
Sort of. Torrance had a million questions for me. A million questions I myself was asking too, but there was one in specific that he asked that caught me off guard.
“Where do we go?” he said, frustrated after I couldn’t answer anything he was asking. “What was the big plan after breaking him out?”
It seemed to be the question everyone was asking, except for me. I had no idea where I would have taken him or what I would have done if Torrancec hadn’t been with us.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Jesus kid!” he said. “So you were going to what? Take him to the fucking crack park and hang out there until we found you again?”
I knew when someone was trying to get a rise out of me and I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction.
“Not even skip town or nothing?” he continued. “Even Benny would’ve thought of something.”
I pointed at two figures walking in the distance. They were in the middle of a grass field, barely visible, but I had no doubt of who they were. Torrance came to a stop and squinted.
“That them?” he said.
We heard a groan from behind and I looked through the barrier to find AP holding his head as he shifted in the back. Torrance turned and tapped the barrier.
“Welcome back,” said Torrance in as cheerful a tone as he could muster. “How’s the head?”
“Where am I?” mumbled AP. “What’s going on?”
“Don’t know bud,” said Torrance. “Trying to figure that out with you.” He shot me a look before turning his attention toward the road. “Let’s go get your friends.”
He drove normally. I’m assuming so he wouldn’t spook the two as he approached them.
“We need to go back. Sugar’s still in there,” said AP.
It all clicked in that moment. We could run away, leave the state or even the country and hide out, hoping they would never find us. Or we could try and find some answers.
“Take us to the house on Bloom,” I said to Torrance.
“Are you fucking demented kid?” he said with disgust as he looked at me.
“I think we can get answers there.”
“Ain’t nobody been in that place for years,” he said. “You’ll find dust and spiders. Not a damn thing else.”
“Did you see the symbol inside that thing’s chest?” I said. “There’s a doll inside that house that’s holding a medallion with the same symbol on it. I think we might be able to-”
“I told y’all to stay the fuck outta there!” said Torrance.
I kept quiet as we got closer to Benny and Jackson. “Well we didn’t,” I said.
Right at that moment I saw Benny’s head turn, followed by Jackson’s, and both of them took off sprinting.
“Fuck!” yelled Torrance as he floored the car again. He cut through the field after them and pulled the receiver off its holster, shoving it at me. He flicked a switch and said, “Com on! Tell them to stop.”
I fumbled with the receiver for a moment until a got a proper grip on it and said, “Benny, Jackson! Stop. It’s us.”
“The button,” said Torrance impatiently. “Hold the goddamn button!”
“Stop! It’s us,” I said again, this time hearing the echo of my voice from the speaker outside. “Guys, I got AP.” I saw them both hesitate but continue running. “Get in the car, we’re good.”
They finally halted to a stop and Torrance breached the distance. They stood wary, ready to take off again at the first sign of trouble. As soon as Torrance stopped, I opened the door and stepped out.
“Let’s go,” I said, waving them over. “Get in.”
“Holy shi-,” said Jackson with a grin. Benny, on the other hand, let his eyes stray toward the driver.
“Mother fucker!” he yelled and started to take off. I glanced toward Torrance and back at Jackson, putting my hands up to show them there was nothing to freak over.
“It’s cool,” I said, raising my voice so Benny could hear me. “He helped us. Benny, stop!”
Benny turned to check and saw he was running alone and slowed to a stop.
“Fuck is that token nigga doing here?” he yelled.
“We’d be dead if he hadn’t helped us,” I said.
“Only thing he can help is these nuts!” he grabbed his crotch with one hand and flipped him off with the other.
“Where’s AP?” said Jackson.
“In the back,” I said. “He got hit pretty hard.”
Jackson scanned me, undecided about the entire thing yet. I glanced at Torrance again who sat in silence, gripping the wheel. I was glad he had enough sense to shut his mouth here.
“We’re gonna try to find some answers,” I said, hoping I wouldn’t provoke Torrance into speaking. “You guys should come.”
“Where?” said Jackson.
“I ain’t got no questions,” said Benny before Jackson shot him a look. He raised his chin and looked away until finally starting to make his way over. “Alright, fine! Maybe just a couple.”