After spending some time cleaning up the mess Von Chad had caused, the two prepared to head off to the mysterious G. Brand factory. Davis geared up in his typical large jacket and night vision goggles wear, and Louise not really bothering to change out of her school uniform.
They passed through a small few neighborhoods before hitting an area sparsely populated with shops.
The south of Tomahawk Hills was less developed than the north, so it was a combination of homes bordering small malls of shops and grocery stores.
As usual, Louise was trailblazing while Davis lingered behind, seriously considering buying a moped or electric scooter, some kinda vehicle if they were going to go out this far so consistently.
The neighborhoods and well-maintained streets soon paved way to scattered singular homes surrounded by farmlands, only connected to a cracked highway via dirt road.
Several minutes of travel later, those singular homes vanished, now replaced by endless grassy fields with an occasional abandoned farm in the middle of them. This landscape stretched on endlessly, nothing but grass and small hills all the way to the horizon.
The sun was still fairly high in the sky by the time their destination was in sight. It looked exactly how they expected it to look on the satellite map; A dilapidated, crumbling factory surrounded by overgrown grass. The walls were crumbling, along with graffiti tags on one point of the walls.
Despite its nature, there were still clean looking semi trucks parked at the loading docks. From the loading docks to the road, there was a path of dirt and flattened grass.
The two hid in the tall grass at a distance, Louise putting on her gauntlets, and Davis pulling out a pair of binoculars from his jacket.
The first thing he noticed was that these trucks were currently in use. Fumes spewed from their exhaust pipes, and they slowly vibrated with their running engines. The windows were tinted, hiding if it the truck had any occupants. Other than the trucks still running, there was no sign that the factory was even still open. No workers or managers or anyone to be seen at all.
There was one ramp to the very left of the loading dock that connected to an entrance platform, with a single completely rusted over door.
“I see nobody who could stop us if we snuck into the factory” he said, putting away the binoculars. “Unless those trucks actually have drivers having a bad day or something. Let’s just, creep through the grass and sneak through one of the doorways. I could probably pick the lock if it is sealed or something?”
Louise silently nodded, and the two slowly crept through the grass. One of the trucks pulled out from the docks, haphazardly bumping across a mud road to the freeway and heading away from the town. Minutes later, another truck pulled into the empty dock.
At the edge of the tall grass near the platform, Davis peeked around, still finding absolutely nobody. He turned and nodded to Louise, before sprinting up to the building.
Louise took the lead, the two flattening themselves against the wall. They creeped across it, turning a corner and approaching the rusted double doors of the platform. Davis jiggled the handle, finding it wouldn’t budge.
“It’s stuck, though I could ghost through. It’s dim enough here-”
Louise held up her hand, took a few steps back from the door. She did a shoulder check to the door, knocking it clean off the hinges and inward a few feet.
“Don’t waste your energy, I can handle this simple stuff, easy!” She said with a smile. Glancing inwards, however…
The inside was totally abandoned and rusting away.
There were several metal tables and machinery caked in mud and decay. Multiple pipes running up the walls and across the roof were cracked at best, and shattered at worst.. Weeds and grasses pierced the concrete flooring, growing through every possible crack. Metal shelving off to the side were completely collapsed. Various rotting wooden crates were rotted or smashed open, packing peanuts scattered across the floor like the innards of a dead animal. The entire place reeked of wet mud and rust.
Louise turned back to her partner.
“You got your tetanus shots and everything right?”
“I uh… I’ve been too nervous to go see the doctor in a while…”
“Then just wait out here, I’ll look around the area a bit closer. We’d kinda have to ditch everything right now if you got scratched by something rusty without noticing..”
She spent fifteen minutes creeping through all the dilapidated machinery and furnishings, some so out of shape she could easily bend with her normal strength.
Absolutely nothing of value could be found.
No secret hatch or still-operational machine, no alien autoforge creating products endlessly, no monsters nested up among all the scattered packing peanuts, nothing. She huffed at the end of her search, but excitement still resided in her mind; Those trucks were parking into the loading dock for some reason, right?
Opening the doorway that led to the docks, it was the same sorry sight as the rest of the factory: Destroyed, decaying machinery and debris all over the place. The metal shutters connecting to the trucks were still shut as well. She slipped back outside, meeting with Davis.
“There is one hundred percent somethin goin on here.” She whispered. “I saw the loading docks, they’re completely abandoned, not to mention the shutters aren’t even open!”
“So what are the trucks pulling up for?”
Louise glanced around, before staring Davis in the eyes.
“How about you like, ghost on in one of the trailers?”
He flinched. “That’s trespassing! Plus we don’t know what’s in those, you know? What if it’s a trap? Or maybe some monsters in the truck? Or what if I’m seen and reported to the police?”
“Then you can ghost out, you dummy! Come on, it’s the only way we’re gonna figure out what’s up with this factory!”
Davis sighed. “Well if you hear me screaming over the walkies, could you punch a hole in the wall of the trailer or something?”
“I’ll do my best to get you outta there, so don’t sweat!”
He nodded in response, her confidence easing his worries.
Glancing around, still finding no other workers, he left the building and crept up to the side of the truck, phasing into the shadows. Putting on his goggles, he passed into truck.
What came next felt like a bowling ball slamming into his gut.
He phased out immediately, reeling on the floor of the trailer. A blinding amount of light shined through his goggles, forcing him to yank them off.
He groaned, still holding tight to his stomach and moaning in pain. After several seconds, his walkie started to crackle with interference. He climbed back up to his feet, still gripping his stomach, and squinting his eyes.
The interior of the trailer was seamlessly white, lit up with small, yet powerful, lamps.
Behind him were a stack of white crates, each one only blemished by a barcode on the side.
The stacks went all the way to the top of the roof, and were large enough that they had to have been moved by forklift. Turning around, the gleaming semi trailer led to an equally bright room. He crept in, finding it was also a sterile, all-white room, this one connecting to all of the docks. There were several conveyor belts protruding from the wall, occasionally a large white crate moving on through and being dumped on the ground. Multiple mannequins wearing hardhats and safety vests stood near every docking gate. They were utterly motionless, but still a bit creepy to Davis.
A pallet jack, which was thankfully colored yellow, moved on its own across the floor to take the crate, loading it into one of the trucks.
His radio crackled again, and he grabbed it, pushing the talk button. A mess of static came on through.
Walking along the wall, he found a dock at the very end that was closed. He pressed a switch on the side of the door, opening the shutters. The outside air blew into the loading dock, facing out to the same endless fields and old road.
Louise hurried on over to the opening shutters, and skidded to a halt at the blinding white light that was coming out.
“Holy… Okay I think we just hit a TREASURE trove of paranormal ongoings here!”
She giddily climbed up through the dock, accidentally tipping over a mannequin. She jumped back as it toppled to the ground, head popping off and rolling across the ground. She glared all around at the contrast from dilapidated, vandalized exterior to clean, lab-like interior.
“This has to be like, haunted! Maybe this factory is a dimensional portal? Or what if it’s a secret government lab! Or aliens?”
“It would probably be the world’s emptiest government lab. You think they’d have like, a hundred security guards running around to shoot any trespassers.”
“Ooh, then perhaps this one is abandoned? Maybe they have some robots maintaining everything, but they just forgot about it or something!”
“They can’t be that stupid, can they?”
Davis glanced around the shining white walls of the factory.
“Let’s just make this quick. I’m kinda useless in all this light. Passing through that wall hurt a lot.”
Louise held up her fist. “Hey, I’m still here too! Plus you got your smoke bombs n stuff. Give yourself some more credit!”
He smiled. “Yeah, I can do some stuff I guess. But no splitting up, all right?”
Passing through double doors from the docks, they now stood in an impossibly large warehouse. The size was comparable to a mall, steel shelves several stories high climbing all the way up to the roof. Height wasn’t all, as the shelves even stretched from wall to wall.
Each shelf was packed to the brim with the same white boxes found in the semi trucks. Conveyor belts were next to every shelf, allowing only a small amount of walkspace between. Each belt funneled towards the loading dock, but others went through the walls of the facility. Clawed machines rode up and down the beams of shelves, grabbing boxes and placing them on the belt during seemingly random intervals.
The room was filled with the noise of clanging of boxes and mechanical whirring.
Even with the sheer scale of everything, it was impeccably lit.
With all this complex machinery, the only attendants were a few mannequins standing in the walkways.
Louise took the lead, glancing at each and every mannequin, while Davis jolted around at every action from the claw machines.
They stuck to walking straight, through another push double door at the opposite wall to the dock.
Passing through, the clanging of machines faded away instantly, the only remaining noise sounding like a computer humming.
They now stood in an ultra-sterile hallway, extending forward endlessly. There were also two more paths to the immediate left and right. Far forward, there were some intersections, with two open doorways across from each other placed between these junctions. Following her curiosity, Louise followed the path to the right. It turned right, and then right again, where she found an expansive hall running through where the warehouse should be. She backed away.
“I don’t really get a good feeling from this path, let’s just, keep going straight?”
The two continued until they hit the first intersection. To the right was a small room, made of the same blinding white sterile walling. Only an air duct broke up the pure white walls. A conveyor belt running through one wall to the other with mechanical arms assembling some type of plastic object. Four mannequins sat near the belt, seemingly observing the arms doing their work. Louise crept up, peeking at the assembly line.
Even up close, she still couldn’t tell what the objects were. She reached out to grab one, Davis grabbing her hand in response.
“What are you doing?”
“I dunno, wanted a closer look at this stuff? Like, genuinely, is this stuff a weapon or just some fake product or something?”
As she plucked an object off of the belt, one of the mannequins suddenly turned its head towards her. She shrieked, punching the thing’s head right off. It bounced across the floor, the mannequin itself tipping over.
“Louise, the hell are you doing?” Davis had leapt back in response to her scream, and was hiding near the doorway.
“I saw it, it moved! These things are alive or something!”
Davis walked up to another mannequin, waving his hand in front of them. “They’re just plastic. As bizarre as this place is, I really think I would have noticed if they were haunted or anything.”
She sighed, her heart still throbbing. “It wasn’t just my nerves, I swear!”
“I think we’ve stuck around here long enough, we can come back later-”
“No no, I’m fine.” She shook her head. “I wanna find something more, there’s gotta be something around here! More than just… Cheap plastic!”
Heading out and looking to the right, the hallway seemed to go on forever and ever in a straight line. It seemed even more distant than the endless fields they had passed by. She looked back at the path she previously observed, her head hurting at the thought of it.
“Just follow me, that paradox hallway has to lead somewhere.”
Louise tried her best to ignore how everything worked as the two headed down the impossible pathway. There were no signs, the room placement was all evenly spaced, and no furniture or appliances of any sort to differentiate any of the halls from each other. The only anomalies in scenery that came up were a metal framing to the walls, along with an air duct randomly placed somewhere.
The rooms themselves changed from time to time; Some were meeting rooms with a long table and several mannequins at the seats, there were mini offices with a single unplugged computer and coffee machine, and some rooms had only a single water cooler. They had been searching around for what seemed like an hour, and Louise still was determined to at least glance through every room for some hint on where to go.
When she was scouring through another room, Davis groaned, sitting against a wall.
“I really think we shouldn’t overstay our welcome here. Everything about this place is just setting off alarm bells in my head.”
She popped out of another water cooler room.
“What if we return and the factory vanishes because we figured out the secret behind it?”
“Well then PAIN won’t find it either then.”
She peered at the never-ending, twisting hallway behind her.
“I shoulda left some string or something…” She muttered to herself. “Fine, I guess we gotta find the exit too.”
“Find the-” Davis put his head in his hands, realizing he didn’t keep track of where they were either.
They went down a hall they think they entered from, and continued, winding down turns, passing more vents and metal framework, and passing by the seemingly same clusters of rooms over and over.
After fruitlessly continuing to search for an exit, even Louise sat herself against the wall, huffing.
“Trying to process where the heck we are is killing my brain a lot.”
He sat next to her.
“Same. How many of those cooler rooms does this place need?”
“Maybe they have really thirsty workers here?”
Davis snorted. “Yeah, we all know mannequins need a gallon of water a day from standing around like that.”
Louise giggled. “You don’t happen to have some more candy on you, do you?”
He sighed. “Just one, all right?”
He unzipped his jacket, pulling out and handing a blue lollipop to her.
“Thank you, I just need a little treat to keep the mood high.” She unwrapped it, tossing the wrapper on the floor. As she stuck it in her mouth, her eyes widened at the garbage.
“Wait, how much candy do you got on you right now?”
He lurched back. “Come on, don’t be greedy! You can buy some candy for yourself every now and then.”
“No, see candy is at least non-essential, so we can use the wrappers and maybe bits of it to mark where we’ve been!”
Davis glared at her. “It’s essential to ME.” He slightly shrank back.
“But, if we have to, I got like, pieces of gum, lollipops, some hard candies, individually wrapped chewy ones, chocolate bars, uh… I don’t think enough to make a proper trail.”
“We just need simple markers at every intersection.” She took out her phone, opening a notepad app. “Then we can make some kinda map, based on the candy. Like, blueberry lollipop wrapper here, connects to this from here. Maybe we can at least bring a bit of sense to how this place works.”
He nodded. “Wait, I wonder?” He opened up his jacket again, pulling out a small compass. Thankfully, it was working properly.
“We still need a frame of reference for direction whether we’re going north, south, east, or west.” He also pulled out a brown lollipop, unwrapping it and sticking it in his mouth. “ Also, we’re going to finish every piece we litter. I don’t want to waste any!”
Starting with the first intersection, they dropped a blue wrapper, following the compass south. Then, a brown wrapper, continuing south. Louise finished her candy, leaving a blue-tinted lollipop stick, and continued south. The path led to a left turn. Continuing through it, they found themselves at a blue wrapper. Turning around, the hallway had turned into a straight pathway. Davis smiled, pumping his fist to himself.
“So this place is just all messed up, it isn’t my brain. We can actually find our way outta here!”
The duo continued for thirty minutes, marking areas and trying to find their way out of the labyrinthine factory. They had gone through five lollipops, five different flavored hardened candies, and two different chocolate bars. For the chocolate wrappers, they decided to tear it at different letters of the logo, giving each bar seven uses each. Thanks to Louise taking notes on what direction led where, they were finally starting to get a hang of where they were. She at least remembered the hallway they entered: It was a long, doorless stretch that ended in a left turn. It was just a matter of trying new paths until they finally found it.
Their new method of marking not only helped them get their bearings, but now they came across new clusters of rooms. Some rooms had more computer setups, some stacked to the roof with file cabinets, and more assembly rooms putting together bizarre products, though this time with no robotic arms doing any work.
With another four-way hallway marked, Louise sat down, wanting to take a small break. She had more than enough energy, but her stomach was starting to ache from all the candy she was eating.
Davis was about to sit down as well until he heard something.
“Is anyone there? I’m lost!”
It was incredibly subtle, no louder than a fly, but it caused him to perk up. Louise glanced over.
“You all right there?”
“I-I… I heard somebody calling for help!”
She rolled her eyes. “How do I know it isn’t in your head? This place isn’t haunted or anything.”
He squinted his eyes. “Yeah, but what if somebody here is stuck and needs some help?”
She shook her head. “Again, I didn’t hear anything.”
“I’m just gonna check out this hall. I won’t go too far, I swear.”
He turned to where he thought the voice came from: A hallway with more of the weird metal framework. He slowly began walking down, constantly glancing behind him to make sure Louise didn’t vanish right behind him.
The moment he crossed the framework, a loud buzzing occurred. A massive slab steel slammed down the metal, perfectly blending in with the walls as if it had always been there. He ran up, smacking the wall.
It was solid all the way through.
The wall shook slightly, and he could hear a muffled moan from the other side. His walkie talkie crackled to life.
“Ugh… You okay in there? That wall that shut between is is… really hard.”
He sighed, glad the walkies at least worked with each other in here. “Yeah, just got split off. I literally didn’t do anything, and this just happened.”
“What about your fireworks or something? Could they blow the wall open?”
“They’re fireworks, not military grade explosives.” He glanced behind him, noticing the hallway was all of the sudden much shorter, connecting to a larger room than before. From what he saw, the room was lined with several desks side by side, like an office building’s.
“Just stay here, there’s a weird kinda room up ahead. Lot’s of computers and stuff. I’m hoping there’s some kinda control panel or something there?”
“Are you sure you’re gonna be all right? I can keep punching away till this thing opens up.”
“Yeah, it’s just, I CAN ghost through the wall, but it’s going to hurt like absolute hell. If there’s any hope of a button to open up, I’m taking that.”
He turned around, and walked into the office space.
Every single computer was turned on and running, cables running across the floor plugging into one bigger cable in the wall. Several of them were on some real time chat software, automatically responding to any customer request or questions. At least, what he could only assume were from actual customers. He came across a few that were stuck on a default login screen, asking for a password. Davis stopped at one of them, trying to type in “password” and hitting enter.
“Incorrect, please try again.”
He sighed. It was at least worth the try.
Further down at the corner of the space was a separate hallway, this space with several nicer looking offices with glass windowed walls.There were other bizarre sites in the hall, and it stretched on endlessly. He hurried on over, opening the fancy wooden door that led inside.
The office was small, had a shelf with a few medals and scattered out books, a big oak desk, puffy rolling armchair, and desktop computer all set up. He pulled the chair out, finding a mannequin was sitting in the seat. It was dressed up like a generic businessman, black tuxedo, fancy pants, dress shirt and tie. He shoved the chair away, and tapped the computer keyboard. It lit up, already being logged in, but the only programs on it were a spreadsheet application, email, a web browser, and a customer support chat app. He glanced through the files, still finding nothing. He started tearing through the desk to search for any secret button or anything, but something else caught his eye: There was a disassembled mannequin stuffed under the desk, along with a crumpled tuxedo and dress pants next to it.
He turned to face the mannequin on the chair, dressed in the exact clothes that were stuffed under the desk.
He inched slightly closer to it.
It launched out of the chair, the surface of its skin bubbling.
He fell backwards, the mannequin flying over his head and crashing through the window. He scrambled back to his feet, kicking the office door open and running for the hallway. There, the mannequin continued to grow larger and larger, towering over him and all the computer desks.
Its body changed from white plastic to a lite gray, carapaced material, with black fur over its back, and a mixed red and black camo plate of carapace on its chest. Its legs had extended into powerful beast-like appendages, with clawed feet. Its arms stretched out and put on muscle, fingers growing longer and pointed. Out of its mouth protruded a set of deathly sharp teeth.
Its crimson red eyes locked onto the fleeing boy.
Nearly at the hallway, he pulled out a smoke bomb and tossed it in front of him, spewing out a thick black cloud. As he leapt through it, he pulled out a handful of caltrops dropping them among the smoke.
The beast charged on forward, legs propelling it far faster than any animal Davis had seen. As it stepped through the smoke cloud, it shrieked, stepping on all of the sharpened bits of metal. It lost its footing and crashed onto the floor, the full force of its weight shaking the ground. Davis didn’t even bother to look back, keeping his focus on trying to get as far away as possible. He sprinted past the large office space, hearing crashing and crackling from behind him. There was another ghastly war that sent a pang of fear through his heart. The smashing of cubicles and machinery kept growing closer and closer.
Eventually, he saw the door that rapped him. He pulled out his walkie.
“Louise, there’s a freaking monster in here with us! I’m ghosting on through the wall RIGHT NOW!”
He shut his eyes, running at full speed at the wall. He vanished into black dust.
The last time he ghosted into a bright room was like a punch to the gut. Becoming non-corporeal when it was this deathly bright was like he was being squeezed by a hydraulic press. All of the air instantly left his body, his ears popped, and his eyes felt like they were bulging out of his skull.
He phased back in, crumpling to the floor. Louise ran over, shaking him.
“Oh my god, are you alright? Come on, you are, right?”
He weakly smiled. “Just a bit.” he croaked. “I uh…” He attempted to move his body, to no avail. “I kinda need you to carry me again?”
She hoisted him up. From the wall behind them, there was a terrifying thud, followed by a screech.
“You mind telling me what the heck that is?”
“Monster, please, we really gotta pick up the pace before it finds a way outta there.”
Holding him up with one arm, she brought out her phone.
“There’s like, ten hallways I think we haven’t checked yet.” She clenched her teeth. “We just need a little bit of luck and we’ll get out just fine!”
She hurried down halls, turning at various wrappers and lollipop sticks. As she continued down a new hallway, it was extremely long like the one she entered, but this one had a few more rooms. She hurried down, her heart racing hoping she got lucky on the first pick.
She suddenly slowed down, making little noise with her footsteps.
There was a new noise among the constant hum of machinery.
A lot of clanging, and it was getting louder.
She picked up her pace, now passing by two of the rooms. From one of them, the monster sprung out of the vents. The grate hit Louise in the face, and the monster followed suit. It tackled her, knocking the duo into the opposing conveyor room.
They crashed into the conveyor belt, Davis sliding to the corner of the room with a fearful expression. Louise was pinned to the belt by the beast. She was able to grab the monster and swing it around, throwing it into one of the mechanical arms. It snaped apart with a bone-like crack, but the monster landed on its feet, now with a bit of blood staining its black hide.
An alarm began blaring in the room.
The monster slashed downwards towards Louise, and she sidestepped the blow. It cut cleanly through the conveyer. The belt began squirting out fluids, and ceased all movement with a violent clunk. Some of the fluid spurted onto Louise’s face, and she recoiled. With that brief moment of hesitation, the monster was able to tackle and pin Louise to the floor.
It wasted no time in slashing across her stomach. She yelped in pain, feeling a burning sensation with every strike. The monster paused for a few moments, wondering why its blow didn’t disembowel its prey.
It suddenly felt a horrible stinging pain from behind.
Davis had crawled from his position and stabbed it in the back.
It swatted away Davis before retreating back to the vents.
Louise quickly got up, lifting up her shirt to check her stomach.
There was a red mark across her stomach, her skin slightly frayed. She sighed in relief, thankful there was nothing too serious.
“Thanks Davis, don’t know where I’d be without you!” She said, dropping her shirt and scooping him up, rushing down the hallway.
“Agh, yea, don’t mention it…” He wheezed out. “I just wish I… Didn’t have to lose my knife…”
They turned left, which led immediately to double doors. Louise openly smiled at the sight.
Finally, actual doors in this facility.
Pushing through, the temperate factory interior now changed to a refrigerator-like cold. She stood in a massive, cylindrical room that stretched up into a funnel. The room itself was full of strange tower-like devices, akin to old computers from the 1940s. The entire floor was made up with electrical and computer wiring, all running up towards the roof.
Near the top of the funnel was a brain-looking organism, the size of a house.
Multiple wood-like stems jutted out of it. Several were embedded into the wall, smaller root-like appendages splitting from the stem and digging further down and around.
Other stems were attached to antenna and satellite dishes, rotating and jolting with electricity. The duo looked up, unable to process the size of the organ, or creature. Whatever it was, they couldn’t exactly fully process what it was.
“I think we’re well out of our league right now…” Davis whispered to Louise.
“Agreed. You need to build some stronger bombs.”
The brain began to pulse. At the end of the hallway, a door with a large EXIT sign seemingly grew into the wall. The duo glared at it.
“I also think it wants us out of here.”
“The monster it sent my way was probably a good enough hint.”
Without hesitation, Louise sprinted towards the door, pushing it open.
It was fresh, nighttime air. She wanted to scream in joy, just sing. She felt like a prisoner locked in isolation for decades, finally free. She was so happy to be back outside she could cry.
But for all she knew, that monster could still be on her tail.
She continued her sprint, and didn’t intend on stopping until she got all the way back home.
She had left the factory in the dust, still sprinting full force down the road. Up ahead, a car was slowly approaching. It slowed down as she approached, the man inside rolling down the window. Louise bolted right past it, until she heard a voice yell out.
“HEY YOU, STOP!”
She froze up. She heard the engine turn off and the click of the door opening.
“Oh no not again…”
She turned around, this time finding a normal looking man calling out to her. He wore a brown leather jacket, jeans, and a nice button up shirt.
She sighed as he walked closer. From his back pocket he pulled out a badge. Her eyes widened and her heart sank.
“I’m Detective Gold, and I have a question for you.”