Fiction: Husks pt.2

Alick stepped forward, carefully scanning the layout before him. Walls of hay bales were at both his sides, forming a walkway to a clearing in the center of the barn. A dim ray of light shone in through an opening above the barn’s small hayloft, which was at the side of the barn that Alick had approached from the forest. The fading light subtly illuminated where he stood. He looked around at his surroundings. There were harvester attachments along the wall opposite from where he had entered. A small tractor was parked in front of the barn’s main entrance gate, with several tractor tires stacked beside it. At the other end of the barn there looked like what seemed to be a work area beneath the hayloft. Alick pulled out his wind-up flashlight and started generating a charge, pointing it at the work space. There was a work bench set up along the wall, along with several wooden tables littered with tools. Shelving units lined the walls, holding all kinds of miscellaneous junk. Jars filled with screws, an old radio, lamps, a dusty family picture, children’s toys, tin cans, screwdrivers, mallets, wooden fixtures. As Alick shone the light along the perimeter of the barn’s walls, he started to feel a little more at ease. The barn seemed safe, there were no signs of habitation. He just had to check the hayloft, which a ladder lead to from the center clearing in the barn. Grabbing the outer planks securely, he slowly climbed up, holding the flashlight in his mouth. As his eyes raised above the edge, he saw that the hayloft was sparsely filled, with just a few rectangular bales of hay off to the sides. As he climbed up onto the platform of wooden planks, the barn gently creaked. It looked like he would be spending the night up here. He unloaded his rucksack onto the floor and peered out through the window’s opening, towards the forest from which he came. It had become completely dark outside, and the view afforded him little to see. He looked in the direction of the cornfields, and could barely make out what he thought looked like a small clearing within the center. Exhaustion began to set into his bones. He laid his back against a pile of hay, the window to his right, moonlight coming through, and the ladder and ledge to his left. While thinking about how the whole thing started, he drifted off to sleep with his rifle across his lap.

The light of dawn woke Alick, the warm rays of light across his legs. It was probably between six or seven. He shuffled upwards and looked out the window. The open farmland seemed clear of any disturbances. He looked towards the cornfield and saw the clearing, but could not see whatever was within it. Turning away from the window, he could see that the interior of the barn was well-lit now. Alick walked towards the edge of the hayloft and looked down. Seeing something for only the second time is always a strange feeling, your mind works to process the familiar while integrating the details you never picked up on the first time around. Climbing down the ladder, Alick noticed things he hadn’t been able to make out when he entered the barn. An old motorcycle partially covered behind a wooden support column. More woodworking tools hung along the walls. Various crates to the right side of the entrance where he entered the barn, near the work area. He pulled the cover off the motorcycle and saw that it was an old Honda, from the seventies by the looks of it. It was in a well-maintained condition, and possibly even functional still. There was no key in the ignition. He turned and walked towards the crates, one stacked upon another, and noticed something he hadn’t seen the night before. The edge of what looked like a trapdoor protruded from beneath them.

“What the fuck is this?” he thought to himself. He immediately began to imagine what the answer may be. He wasn’t kidding himself – the first idea was that somebody had trapped one or several of those creatures down there. If that was the case, he thought he would have heard something. They’re almost always making noise. Then he thought of other possibilities. A wine cellar, a basement compartment for more equipment, a tunnel leading somewhere. A secret shelter with guns, food and equipment, he hoped. He realized how hungry he was, and grabbed a pack of peanuts and a granola bar from his pocket, eating while staring at the predicament before him. It felt strange knowing that he had just spent a whole night sleeping above this mystery and potential danger. He took his rifle and hit the butt of it against the part of the trapdoor that was exposed. The unmistakable sound, muffled through two inches of wood came immediately. Shrill howls and screams – there was more than one of them down there. The fear set in. He checked the weight of the top crates, which were heavy, and with several of the same ones beneath them, he knew the once-human creatures weren’t going anywhere. Someone had done the job well, but who, and where are they? He wondered. Whoever it was, it seemed they were long gone, and in a few minutes Alick would be as well. He did a quick search of the barn for any resources worth taking. There was nothing applicable to his immediate situation to be found. The motorcycle came into his mind. It would be loud… and fast. He quickly grabbed his rucksack from the hayloft. Wheeling the motorcycle away from the post, he shook it and heard the slosh of gasoline within the tank, maybe half-full. He located the wires coming from the ignition. Skinning their sheathing with a knife, he began to cross them in random configurations. After a few minutes, the bike’s headlight clicked on. He wheeled it towards the entrance he had entered the barn through, and opened the gate. The light blinded Alick, his eyes adjusted into focus on the path ahead that lead into the forest. Pressing the ignition, the bike’s engine revved up. Alick rode onward into the forest, leaving the barn and its creatures behind him.

To be continued…

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