Monday, September 21, 2009

"Demolition Without Borders"

This is from a challenge to write a story about a worker with the Demolition Without Borders" company who is called in to demolish a structure somewhere (my choice) in the world. A strange wooden box is discovered and a necklace with a charm is found inside. Something happens when the necklace is put on.... This one is a little dark. (Hmm...lots of dark things lately. Time to write about something happy!)

Two things are certain, I thought as I finished up some paperwork before hitting the mess hall, I'm cold, and I'm hungry. I rubbed my gloved hands together in an attempt to restore circulation. More cold than hungry.

My job with Demolishers Without Borders had taken me to many strange locals over the years, but never one so cold. The Quebecois had two words they used for cold: froid and frait. Froid was your common variety cold - minus 20 degrees below zero, give or take a few degrees. (Centigrade or Farenheit, take your pick. At those temps it didn't really matter which.) Frait was a step beyond. This was Frait, with a capital "F."

The trailer where we had located the office cut the chill a bit, but only so much as it slowed the icy winds that relentlessly battered the settlement. We had brought a couple of generators with us, but we had severely underestimated the effect of the temperature. Both generators were working overtime to heat the habitat tents, leaving the office at the mercy of the elements.

As I rubbed my hands I reflected again on the reason we were out here. It was unusual to find a settlement like this so far north in the province. The logging company employing us said the small community used to belong to an Algonquin tribe, but had been deserted for many years. They wanted to construct a new base camp at the site, but the prefab structures the company preferred wouldn't fit unless the old dwellings came down first. The buildings were little more than shacks, so the company could have done the removal themselves, but this was the off season and a great majority of their workforce was gone until spring. The company never did say why the settlement was deserted, but since an official records search had declared the land as belonging to the company (never say DWB didn't do due diligence) we took the job.

Feeling temporarily restored to my fingers, I tried to finish up my paperwork only to discover that the ink in my pen had frozen. Of all the.... I unzipped the front of my Carhartt jacket and shoved the pen into the pocket of my shirt. I few minutes in there ought to warm it up just fine. Then a few signatures and I could move over to the habitat tents for some food and some much needed warmth.

While I waited, my eyes fell on the small wooden box one of my workers had pulled from one of the buildings earlier in the day. He had been unable to open it and so turned it in to me. It was rather crudely carved with figures obviously meant to invoke fear. I vaguely remembered the Algonquin tribes believing in demons and evil spirits, so it was easy to image the box once belonging to a tribal medicine man. My interest piqued, I studied the box until I found the cleverly hidden catch. I had to take off my glove to open it, anxious to discover what kind of ancient Algonquin talisman it might contain. I slipped the catch, and the box popped open.

I wasn't disappointed. Inside I found a dried, shriveled piece of *something* attached to a small chain that had the appearance of gold. I held the necklace up by the chain. Closer inspection revealed the dessicated flesh to be a finger, though this finger was much too hairy to belong to a human. Maybe a monkey? Though where a tribal shaman would have found a monkey in northern Quebec I had no idea. The thing was truly ugly, but I couldn't resist the urge to slip the chain over my head.

My stomach turned as the finger settled on my chest. Suddenly this didn't seem like such a good idea. I removed the necklace and set it back in the box. The task was made more difficult by the fact that my fingers were beginning hurt from the cold. I closed the box as quickly as I could and shoved my hand back in my glove. The demons on the box seemed to stare at me. They seemed infinitely more menacing than before. I opened a drawer and tossed the box inside. Better if I didn't have to look at it.

My stomach chose that moment to rumble. Man was I hungry.

The door to the trailer opened and Fred leapt inside. A frigid wind followed him in tearing at his face. It was hungry, too.

Fred slammed the door shut, trapping the wind outside. "Man, that wind is vicious! You almost done in here, boss? Weather report says another storm is coming through. Best to be in the habitat before it arrives."

"Yes," I replied, my gut rumbling again. "That would be best."

Fred must have heard my stomach. "You hungry? Supper's on."

I was hungry. Very hungry. My hand acted of its own accord, grasping the letter opener on the desk and plunging it into Fred's neck. Fred's blood steamed as it hit the air. I was so hungry. And Fred was so warm.

Moments later I exited the trailer. My jacket didn’t fit so well any more. It was much looser through the chest, but the arms seemed to have shrunk, coming only to my elbows. My flesh was turning gray, though I doubted it was from the cold. I was much warmer now - Fred had seen to that - but his marvelous flesh had done little to satiate my ever growing appetite. I was so hungry.

The biting wind did little to hinder me as I walked to the habitat. Fred had said supper was on. They were waiting inside. Waiting to feed me.

I entered the habitat.

The wind laughed as it welcomed me home.


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