The warehouse stood alone in the field like a single jagged tooth in the dry ploughed earth. It was a huge rambling construction of corrugated iron and concrete, sticking out in the rural landscape. No one ever asked what was inside. No one ever went near it. Except us.
On the night it happened, we struck during the night. I don't even remember whose idea it was. probably Joe's. We used Mike's brother's bolt cutters to snap the rusted padlock, God knows why Mike's brother lent us them in the first place though.
We were just kids you see. Mike was 14, Joe and I being a year older at 15. Mike's brother was into some dodgy shit, and he dragged Mike, and in turn, us into it. Unfortunately in rural England there isn't much to do outside of the dodgy shit.
Joe was the clever one. He was the cleverest guy I knew, and popular too. He had a parade of ditzy girlfriends, who all dumped him after a couple of weeks. They said he was too creepy.
Me, Joe and Mike had been friends since before we started school, the three musketeers. When we hit high school, though, we started to drift apart. Joe had his trashy girlfriends, and Mike was always hanging around with a bunch of guys from a grade above who smoked weed and carried knives. This night, this break in at the warehouse was supposed to be our last hurrah. We wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. We met at a bus stop just outside of town, and after stealing ourselves with liquor I stole from my dads bedside cabinet, we slid across the field to the warehouse.A slight drizzle tickled our inky silhouettes as we drew along side the building. It was dark, and silent. Shivering beneath my thin windbreaker, I took another swig of the alcohol as I waited for Mike to crack open the chain, and push open the door. With a creak, it slide inwards, revealing a thick darkness saturating the interior of the warehouse. Our flashlights barely penetrated it, and as we pressed further inside, row upon row of shelves were slowly revealed to us by the pale white glow.
The shelves held hundreds of cardboard boxes, in a plethora of shapes and sizes.
"Fuck yeah! We've hit the mother load guys!" Mike punched his fist into the still air, sending the flashlight beam careering wildly across the shelves and roof.
"You don't know what's in them yet." I pointed out solemnly. "It could be crap."
Joe was silent, he just proceeded towards the nearest shelf. He propped up his flashlight by the biggest box, and tore it open with his long skeletal fingers. The cardboard ripped easily, and he was soon inside. When he saw the boxes contents, he let out an amused snort.
"What is it?" Mike sounded for all the world like a kid on Christmas day; excited as fuck.
"see for yourself." Joe threw the box at Mike, and it bounced off his sturdy frame. Empty. Completely empty.
"What the Fuck?" I whispered. "Why would the have a warehouse of empty boxes?"
Mike shrugged, looking upset it wasn't edible or valuable stuff we could steal.
"Maybe it's just to put off thieves." Joe paused, not adding like us. "There could be better stuff at the back."
The heavy silence returned as soon as he stopped talking. I nodded uneasily, starting to feel some misgivings for the entire scheme.
"what are we waiting for then?" Mike's excitement felt force, as if he was deliberately trying to cheer us up. Mike waved his hand, and we started down the nearest aisle.
Joe was first, I could hear his trainers clacking against the concrete, because he walked in a odd manner. I followed the back of his head with my flashlight, taking occasional glances at the boxes to see if they had changed. Mike was behind me, whistling. The jolly tune sounded small in the massive space, echoing slowly off the rafters, like the building was humming along.
We walked for almost five minutes in silence except for the whistling, not talking, not saying anything. In the corner of my eye, I occasionally caught flickers of movement. It was the flashlight reflecting of metal and shiny plastic; nothing more.
The whistling stopped. Cut off mid-tune. Finally. The jovial blowing had been grating against my head for the entire time we had been walking. As the music stopped, it felt like a pressure had been released from my head. I turned around to thank Mike, pleased he had finally shut up.
He wasn't there.
"Mike?" I called out wearily, not wanting to look like an idiot.
"Where the fuck has he gone?" Joe had turned around in confusion to see if he could locate Mike. "Mike!"
Yelling at the top of his lungs, the name reverberated across the space.
"Mike...Mike...Mike" An almost mocking echo repeated the word over and over.
"Let's go. Nothing to fucking see here. Mike can go get fucked if he thinks he can scare us." Joe was confident against the dark, a faint smile curling across his lips. We turned to retrace our steps.
Clattering. A distance clatter made us spin round, sending adrenalin coursing through our bloodstream. All my hairs stood on end, as we searched for the source of the noise. There it was again, except coming from a different direction.
"Just Mike fucking with us. Or trying to." Joe sighed, and we carried on walking. The clattering continued, but from all across the building now.
Then it stopped. Dead silence. I stopped too, looking around. I was still uneasy, even if it was just Mike playing around. Each breath sounded like a tidal wave, crashing across my inner ear, ridiculously loud in this clammy silence.
Joe was silent too. I could see his dark tall silhouette from the corner of my eye. A sudden noise jerked me from my protective sphere.
Footsteps. Someone's footsteps approaching us, approaching very quickly.
"Mike! Is that you?" I called out. No response, the footsteps just got louder.
"Whoever you are, piss off! Quit trying to screw with us!" Joe pulled a flick knife from his pocket, and slid it open. The blade shimmered gently in the glow of the flashlight. He grinned, motioning it at me.
"Pretty neat huh?" His smile almost split his face in half. I could see under the beam of my light that his pupils were contacted, and his hands shaking slightly. I began to feel worried. The footsteps were close now, and incredibly loud. Each booming impact jarred my brain.
Then, all of a sudden, they stopped. Just like that. Silence fell once again.
"Shit..." I whispered.
"Let's get going." Muttered Joe, shoving his knife into his pocket. We walked quickly, wordlessly, the echoes of our footsteps reminding us of the footsteps we heard before.
Turning the corner, I saw a figure. Joe pulled out the knife, and screamed loudly ad he slashed. The figure fell back, to the floor. Joe stabbed the knife into it's chest, and left it their. I walked up to it, my inside twisting in panic. We might have just killed someone.
It was a little boy. No more than eight years old, dressed in dungarees and a baseball cap. Crimson soaked his pale skin, dripping onto the cold floor.
"Jesus Christ." I whispered in horror. "What the fuck have you done?" I turned to Joe. His eyes were wild, unresponsive to the light.
"No man, it looks like a boy, but it's not. That thing killed Mike for fuck's sake!" Joe grabbed me by the shoulders, but I shook him off.
"It's a fucking kid Joe. That thing was an eight year old kid. How could it kill Mike? How?"
"It's tricking you man, it can trick you..." He sobbed loudly, the grief and guilt wracking his body. He doubled up, and spewed.
At this point I realized Joe was high. He had been smoking something at the bus stop, it could have been any drug. That didn't matter. I had just let my friend kill an eight year old boy in cold blood. We were going to jail for the rest of our lives.
"It's watching me!" Joe squealed, and peddled backwards, off into the maze of shelves. I jumped after him, and tackled him to the ground.
"We've got to go, it's fucking looking at me! I can feel it's filthy fucking eyes crawling all over me." Joe shivered beneath my grip.
"What did you take?" I looked directly at Joe, his skin was soaked in sweat.
"Nothing! I'm not on drugs!" His voice broke "I'm just fucking scared man!"
"It's okay, it's okay." I soothed him, trying to calm him down. "I'm calling 911."
"No, it's listening! It can hear you." He grabbed me by the wrist, so hard his knuckles went white.
"I'm calling the fucking cops!" I shouted, right in Joe's face.
"It's not dead man. It's not dead." He pointed his other shaking hand to where the corpse lay. Or had been laying. It was gone. Bloody drag marks indicated the way it had been taken. I half stood, looking silently at the place the body had been.
"What the fuck?" I looked around for anyone who could've taken the body.
Someone tapped me on the back. I turned around. It was Joe. He had stood up, and drawn himself to his full height, and he was smiling.
"What?" I growled at him, sickened he could smile in a situation like this.
He didn't say anything, just tilted his head. Still grinning.
"Piss off Joe. You're a sick fuck."
Still grinning. Then he let out a scream.
It was high pitched and shrill, like the cry of a baby. It invaded my head, crashing down against my every brain cell. After that he was on me. Fingernails dug into my soft flesh. They tore at my clothes. Teeth clamped down on me, I could hardly see anything. I fell to the floor, and Joe launched a volley of ferocious kicks aimed at my head. One made contact, knocking out a tooth, and sending my blood flying everywhere.
I scrambled up, pushed of Joe with all my might, and sprinted for the exit. Behind me I could hear Joe's footsteps clacking close behind me, and he screamed again and again. I finally saw the door, my solace. My salvation. I burst through, into the light.
It was dawn. Beautiful grey light streamed onto my face from the cloud choked sky. I collapsed onto my knees in the brown soil, sobbing.
Behind me, Joe walked out slowly. His footsteps got closer.
And closer. He got within arms reach, and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, tears running down my face into the parched earth.
He was smiling.