Sheriff Addison cast a look at his deputy and shook his head in dismay. Buddy was feverently trying to cram the last three inches of his sub into his mouth, eager to finish it before they reached Bio-Med. If that fat, lazy idiot weren't the Mayor's son, Addison would have fired him a long time ago, but politics and family are the two most powerful forces on an island community and you don't maintain your position by pissing on one or the other. Addison had his own family roots on the island, but he had lost a certain amount of respect when he had moved away, even if it had only been for about six years.
Porter's Way had not been an awful place growing up, it had merely lacked the opportunities that Addison had wanted to seek out. Less than a month after graduating from high school, he had left for New York to face his future and what ever it threw it at him. It had thrown him a four year stint in the army, followed by what he had thought would be a career on the New York police force. That career had ended with the job offer of Sheriff of his hometown when had returned for his mother's funeral.
The sense of loss, the sense of nostalgia, they had both conspired to overwhelm his judgement and cause him to accept the offer. The first two years had been perfect, he had settled back in fairly well, though most of his friends that had remained on the island were convinced that he had changed somehow, that he had a harder edge to him. He couldn't help it if they expected him to look the other way when they got out of line, that wasn't how he did things.
Then Bio-Med had come to the island and things had begun to change. Nearly half the island, which had been left in a natural state to draw in tourists, was razed to make way for Bio-Med's state-of-the-art research center, and the dozens of rows of track housing for their employees. The City Fathers had gotten extremely rich over the deal, vacating the island faster than those that were disgruntled with the changes. Bio-Med made a big deal about keeping as many locals as possible, hiring a number of them for support jobs within their new facility.
Money was spread around to spruce up the local businesses, Bio-Med wanted to make sure that their employees had access to the best commodities available. After all, a happy worker was a productive worker, and Bio-Med was one of the most productive and innovative medical research companies for exactly that reason. The last ten years had seen Bio-Med make significant advancements in bio-engineering, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment, and it was a lead that they did not want to lose.
Part of keeping the employees happy was keeping the locals happy, and the locals were mostly happy with their Sheriff. More honestly, they would have been less happy if some stranger had been brought in to replace him. Bio-Med met them half way, ensuring that Addison got a sizable raise for staying on, but at the same time making sure that he was under the strict supervision of the Mayor's office.
And the Mayor's office was, of course, under the strict supervision of Bio-Med.
There were plenty of nights that Addison fully admitted that he had sold himself out, answering to the corporate lap dogs, even if indirectly. Most the time he was able to forget about it, drinking himself to sleep many a night, but every once in a while the fact would slip through, like tonight, and he would wonder what in the hell he was still doing there on the island.
They were traveling out to the main Bio-Med facility in response to nearly a dozen calls having come in about spouses not home from work yet. Phone calls to Bio-Med had gone unanswered, and it was considered out of the ordinary since Bio-Med controlled the phone system of the island. Addison hated going there, the ultra-modern architecture seeming like a slap against his character, a harsh reminder of what the island had become and what he had given up, but he had little choice. The Mayor had stressed that only the Sheriff was to handle any concerns that came up involving Bio-Med, someone that they could insure remained quite about what situation arose.
"Don't choke on that sub, Buddy," said Addison, concentrating on the road. "I ain't about to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on your fat ass."
Buddy said something, but the words were lost in the munching of the sub. What ever he had said, Buddy have must thought it had been funny. He started laughing, crumbs and bits of meat dropping down the front of his uniform. The slobbering did little to take away from the tan shirt, it already had a mosaic of stains on it that were the source of many a town joke.
"That was sure nice of Mrs. Helman to offer us dinner, Sheriff," said Buddy, finally swallowing the last lump of food that he had been chomping on.
"I don't think you left her much of a choice, Buddy. The way you kept eyeing the damn subs, saying how good they looked and how hungry you were."
"She didn't have to offer."
Addison just shook his head, hoping to hell that Buddy would simply shut up and let him enjoy the rest of the ride in silence. He had cursed his luck when the calls started coming in, the other deputies being out on patrol for Porter's annual Fall Celebration. The festival was one of the last holdovers from the calmer days of the island, before the corporate invasion, and this was looking to be the last one. Bio-Med didn't like the influx of tourists coming to the island, it upset their structured community.
The first indication that Addison had that something was not right at Bio-Med was the fact that the guard box was empty. A six-by-six room, the guard box was suppose to be manned twenty-four-seven by two armed members of security, and Addison could not recall ever having seen it empty.
"Check the gate, Buddy," ordered Addison as he brought the Dakota to a halt in front of the ten-foot high mesh gates.
Buddy slid out of the truck, tugging to unhook his gun belt from where it had caught on the seatbelt latch at the side of the seat, then trotted up to the gates. One push and the gates swung open easily, Buddy turning and running back to the truck.
"They ain't locked, Sheriff," blurted Buddy, his eyes wide with surprise.
"Yeah, I noticed that, Buddy."
Addison lightly touched the gas, nudging the Dakota forward before Buddy even had his ass half way in. The Sheriff suppressed a chuckled as his deputy hopped along, trying desperately to propel his considerable bulk into the slow moving vehicle.
The road led past the guard box, winding around a tree-lined bend that gave way to a rather large parking lot, a veritable sea of vehicles spread out before them. The thirty foot high light poles were blazing away, bathing the area in a sharp white that reflected from the dozens of windshields and chrome pieces of the parked vehicles.
Addison drove on through the employee parking lot, following the road as it wound through another expanse of trees to let out in the visitor's parking lot before the corporate building of Bio-Med. Ten stories tall, a circular structure of steel and mirrored glass, the central management building held the offices of the elite members of Bio-Med. Clients and backers arrived at this building first, almost always flying in by helicopter, and were greeted by the CEO and his VPs here. It had been constructed to symbolize power, control, and wealth, all the things that mattered to investors, both prospective and current.
Twenty yards of lush, immaculately kept grass separated the visitor's lot, which was empty, from the main building, the two man-made elements connected by three concrete walkways spaced evenly apart. A huge, three-tiered marble fountain sat in the center of the small plaza before the doors to the main building, the tumbling water seeming louder than normal in the still silence of the night.
"Maybe they're all in some important meeting," offered Buddy, even his dim senses picking up on the tension that Addison was feeling.
"A meeting so important that they don't even leave anyone to answer the phone?" asked the Sheriff. He glanced at Buddy, saw the look of concentration on the man's face, and added, "it was rhetorical."
Buddy looked at him in confusion.
"I wasn't expecting an answer."
"Oh," said Buddy, nodding as if he understood. He hated it when the Sheriff used those big words on him, it made him feel even dumber than when his dad yelled at him, berating him and calling him stupid. He hated it because it made him have bad feelings towards the Sheriff even though he really liked him.
"Come on, let's check it out," said Addison, climbing out of the Dakota.
Buddy managed to slide out of the vehicle without snagging his belt a second time, and fell into line along side the Sheriff. In his mind he saw himself as a Lawman of the Old West, insuring justice on the outskirts of civilization, though he could never phrase it that way, and he truly believed himself to be the victorious hero.
Sometimes Addison felt sorry for Buddy, but usually he just let it go. No matter what life would throw at the boy, er, man, his daddy always saw to it that things got straightened out. No one was allowed to give Buddy a hard time but his daddy.
Bio-Med normally closed up at five o'clock sharp, the main building locked down for the evening as it's employees returned home to revive themselves for another productive day in the morning. The doors were equipped with slide card locks that would allow after-hours entry by authorized personnel, and the heads of Bio-Med had declared that the Sheriff was not one of those authorized. They had their own security personnel for such matters, the Sheriff was merely there for the locals and off duty employees. Addison tried the door any way, quite surprised to find that it opened as easily as the front gates had.
Something was very wrong at Bio-Med.
Addison unsnapped the small strip of leather that held his gun in place, and wrapped his hand around the grip of the .357 as he edged his way into the building. Following the Sheriff's example, Buddy readied his own gun, pulling it out and thumbing off the safety as he followed his boss into the dark interior of the building.
It had been a few months since Addison had been out to Bio-Med, he loathed facing the power-tripping bastards that ran the place, but he was certain that the reception area had looked nothing like it did now. He was also fairly certain that it had not been remodeled, there was no way that anyone could consider it's current aesthetics pleasing.
The main lobby had actually consisted of half of the building, a vast and reaching empty space that had stretched up to the ceiling and gave view to circular balconies that led to offices. Hanging flags had draped down, representing the many countries that Bio-Med had supported, and had offered a bright splash of color that contrasted with the white walls and green plants.
None of that was visible now, thick and wide strands of something hanging off of the balconies and ceilings, the sheen on the dark green material causing it to appear as something natural and moist. The stuff was everywhere, stretching up into the darkness that encompassed the ceiling area of the lobby and coating the walls like some sort of obscene, inverted cocoon.
"What the hell is this stuff, Sheriff?" asked Buddy, gingerly touching a finger to the wet looking substance.
"I don't know," replied Addison, examining a thin strand of the stuff, unaware that Buddy's finger was now firmly stuck to the material. "But don't touch any of it."
"Uh, er, well…"
Addison turned around to see Buddy with his finger firmly pressed against the dark pine colored substance. Shaking his head, Addison stepped over to his deputy, and tugged on the man's hand, surprised to find the Buddy's finger was very stuck, almost as if the stuff was coated with super glue. The material seemed to vibrate, it's entire length trembling with each tug of Buddy's finger.
"Hold still for a minute, would you," barked Addison, growing irritated.
"It feels funny," said Buddy. "Like it's going to sleep."
"Close your eyes, Buddy," instructed the Sheriff, trying to calm Buddy.
Wrapping his hands around Buddy's wrist, Addison gave a quick tug with all of his strength, the deputy crying out in pain. All of the skin from the tip of his finger had been ripped off, still stuck to the strange material.
Buddy was whimpering, waving his finger in front of his face as he blew on it, trying to make the stinging pain go away. Tears were forming at the corners of his eyes, the man never having experienced a pain so sharp and intense.
"Hush up," ordered Addison, a barely audible noise coming to his ears.
"It hurts, gawd dang it!"
"Shut up!" yelled the Sheriff, subduing Buddy to muffled groaning.
From up within the darkness that engulfed the ceiling came a soft, almost musical sounding click-clack noise that seemed eerily unnatural. The noise came in a series of short, abrupt bursts, and though he wasn't sure of it, Addison thought it was coming from more than one location within the darkness.
Buddy finally noticed the sounds and began looking upwards, scanning the darkness along with the Sheriff. A new sound rang out, a sort of wet-whipping noise like you hear when snapping someone with a wet towel, and a glob of the dark green stuff flew from the darkness to strike Buddy in the face. The deputy was trying to scream but his entire head had been enveloped by the strange substance and his voice was muffled as he also fought for air.
Clawing at the substance proved to only complicate matters as Buddy's hands became stuck to the glob that covered his head. Buddy twisted around, flaying about as he tried to free himself, and only succeeded in wrapping the strand about his hands, encasing them in the gunk also.
Addison hesitated, knowing no way to help the man, and suddenly registered the fact that it was not a glob of the stuff that had fallen on Buddy. The material was part of a strand that stretched back up into the darkness, much like the web of a spider.
The strand suddenly jerked taught, lifting Buddy a foot into the air as a resounding crack issued from his now still form. Addison began backing away from hanging body, muttering a series of curses as he pulled his gun and continued scanning the darkness.
Buddy's still form began to ascend into the darkness, pulled upwards by the incredibly strong strand of dark green material, and Addison felt a wave of helplessness wash over him. He watched as the blackness swallowed up his deputy, his shape barely discernable in the shadows. Barely, but he could tell where it was, and he could also detect other shapes within the darkness, shadows within shadows.
Addison leveled his gun at the dark blotch that hovered near the body of Buddy, and slowly thumbed the hammer back. Certain that he had a bead on whatever the thing in the shadows was, he fired, and the shot was like a clap of thunder in the silence.
The thing that fell from the darkness was a nightmare that no man could have ever dreamt up. The thing flopped about violently, like a fish out of water on speed, it's never ending movements making it almost impossible for Addison to register what it was. He didn't need to, he saw enough of it send an ice cold chill down his spine.
In a trench coat, in a dark alley, the thing could have been mistaken for a man, it had the basic shape of human, but that was where the similarities ended. It's round head sported two black orbs for eyes, it's wide mouth sided by pointed mandibles that reminded Addison of the face of a tarantula. It had four arms instead of two, all of them tipped with criss-crossing pinchers like it's feet. It was covered with a thin layer of short, coarse hair, it's chest like the black underbelly of a spider.
A veritable cacophony of click-clacking sounds rang out from above, the deafening noise evidence that the creature was not one of a kind. Terror fully gripped Addison as it seemed like the entire pool of darkness moved, and his bladder emptied as he realized that he was seeing a swarm of the things.
Screaming with horror, Addison ran from the building, countless dozens of the creatures flowing down from their hidden perch in the shadows. He stumbled down the steps, casting terrified glances backwards, and ran directly into the fountain. Pain racked his leg as he pitched forward, diving into the cold water, and he clamored about as he tried to turn himself around to climb back over the side.
The glass front of the building exploded as the swarm crashed through them, headless of the slicing, shattered bits that rained down on them. The creatures scurried about the front grounds, their pinchers constantly emitting that freakish clacking sound as they spread out.
Addison froze in place, waiting for the monsters to swarm over him and kill him like they had Buddy, and probably everyone else there at Bio-Med. The creatures seemed to not notice him at all, running around the area with their arms swinging wide as they appeared to be carrying out a search pattern.
A piece of broken glass, which had remained stuck in it's upper seal, suddenly fell, hitting the ground and shattering with a sharp crash. The creatures immediately turned and flooded back to the building, scurrying about the entrance way as they investigated the noise, climbing over one another as they searched.
They're blind! realized Addison, hope springing up in his mind.
Ever so careful, straining to make no noise what so ever, Addison raised himself up out of the water of the fountain. He cautiously slipped one leg over the side, confident that the splashing of the fountain would mask the dripping of his clothes, and figured that they had grown accustomed to the sound of the fountain, ignoring it as a background noise. Bringing his other leg over the side, Addison slowly turned around and stifled a curse as he saw that the creatures had realized that their prey was not at the front of the building and were beginning to spread back out onto the grounds.
Slipping a hand into his pocket, Addison pulled out one of his speed-loaders and hurled it at the front of the building. The metal cylinder, holding six bullets, struck another of the shattered sections, knocking it loose with a crash. Once again the creatures swarmed over the entranceway, certain that their quarry was there and that they had somehow missed it during their first search.
Addison began inching away from the fountain, certain that he could make it back to his vehicle before the creatures again widened their search. He could feel the water squishing out of his shoes, thankful for the monotonous gurgle of the fountain as it blanketed any noise he might make.
He was less than a dozen feet from the Dakota when the fountain suddenly stopped, the splashing from it quickly fading away as the water became still. Addison nearly cursed aloud, figuring that the fountain must be on a timer, and prayed that he was far enough away from the creatures that he could get into his vehicle and get the hell out of there before they overwhelmed him.
Slipping off his shoes, Addison trotted to the Dakota, the soft thudding of his feet definitely no louder than the constant clicking sound of the things. As he reached the Dakota, Addison suddenly realized that the night had become quite again, that terrible click-clacking sound gone.
Risking a look back, Addison saw all of the creatures standing perfectly still, their heads cocked as if listening for the slightest sound. He held his breath, certain that even that would give him away, and he caught a faint, distant noise.
He knew what the creatures were listening to.
It was the sounds of civilization. The noises from the Fall Celebration, carrying on down in the small valley that was the town of Porter's Way, nestled far behind Bio-Med. Hundreds of people, partying, playing games, having a grand old time, and everyone of them a meal for the creatures spread out before him.
Click-clack went one of the creatures, ever so softly.
Click-clack came a response.