This is a seed story. It’s like exploratory surgery.

I had this idea a few days ago, and this little bit of fiction is my way of testing the waters. There’s a decent chance this will become the premise of a much longer story, maybe even a novel. I like the mix of fantasy, sci-fi and horror.

I know, of course, that those of you following my current series will be disappointed to be left hanging for a week. I actually have bad news for you, there. Next week’s story won’t be a part of The Dark Calling, either. I’ve already written a Halloween tale and scheduled it to post. But I promise to get back to Kenna, Ormar and Skadi the week after that.

What’s life without a little anticipation?


“People, it’s really not a big deal.”

It was the third time he’d said it. It didn’t do any good. He could see it on their faces. They were panicked. More than that, they were inches sheer of hysteria.

Man, they take their tech seriously, he thought.

It was his fifth day on the job, and his first visit to this particular facility. His new employer, Cingo Systems, catered to those with unique security needs. To hear his coworkers talk about it, the job was fairly mundane. Most of Cingo’s clients were so secretive, he and his co-workers didn’t even know what they were protecting.

His specialty was CCTV surveillance systems.

“I assure you, Mr…” she paused.

“Johnson,” he said. “Travis Johnson.”

“I assure you, Mr. Johnson, it is a big deal,” she said. She was running both hands through her hair, pulling the bangs taunt against her scalp.

“Look, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. “Let me explain. The system is just rebooting. You won’t lose any footage. At most, the cameras will be off for 30 minutes.”

“Oh, God!” a man standing near the door exclaimed.

“And then they’ll come right back online,” Travis finished.

“Why does the reboot take so long?” she demanded.

“Well, Ms. Abbey–”

“Just Abbey.”

“Okay, Abbey, the servers are remote, and they’re huge. A full scan of the system hasn’t been done in almost 24 months, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. Before the system boots up it’ll run through a set of security protocols, just to make sure everything’s working the way it should. I know it’s an inconvenience, but it’s probably for the best. You were overdue, anyway”

“And tell me again about the doors,” she said.

In the corner, there was a younger woman sobbing. She was literally in a fetal position, rocking back and forth while she hugged her knees. Travis was beginning to suspect this particular site was kept secret because the residents were all insane.

“Just another security measure,” he said. “Normally, the cameras record any traffic in or out. Of course, the same system controls both the doors and the cameras. I checked your logs. No one is scheduled to arrive or leave in the next two hours, so I performed a full lock-down before rebooting the system.”

“So, we’re locked in?” she asked.

“Effectively, yes. But just for a little while.”

There was an older man standing behind Abbey. His name tag indicated he was called Roman.

Roman put a hand on Abbey’s shoulder and squeezed. “Nothing can be done about it now,” he said. “I’ll gather the rest of the staff. We’ll wait it out in here.”

He left looking over-wrought with concern.

“What am I missing?” Travis asked.

“Do you know anything about the work we do here?” Abbey replied. “Anything at all?”

“No, not really.”

“We investigate and resolve paranormal activity. Mostly demonic.”

“I’m sorry, you do what?” Travis asked.

“You heard me,” she said. “There’s more of it in the world than you know. More than you care to know.”

“You’re serious,” he said.

“Don’t be daft. Of course I’m serious. Mr. Johnson, have you ever seen one of those paranormal investigation programs? The TV shows that track down ghost stories, haunted locations and alleged demonic forces?”

“You mean like the ones on TLC? Sure.”

“Do you know why they’ve never managed to capture hardcore evidence of the paranormal on film?”

“I would assume because it doesn’t exist,” Travis said.

Abbey smiled. It was not, however, a pleasant smile.

“No. It’s because confirmation of such activity would not benefit paranormal entities. Think about it. What would happen if I posted a video on YouTube that definitively proved the existence and activity of malevolent spiritual forces in the world? How do you think people would react?”

Travis considered this for a moment. “I think a lot more people would show up for church next Sunday,” he said with a chuckle.

Then he looked around the room. Every eye was on him. Slowly, Abbey nodded.

“Exactly. Proof would turn people toward positive spiritual forces, like the Christian God. The end result would be disastrous for ghosts, demons and the like. Armed with faith, their victims would be much harder to manipulate. They can’t have that, so they never interact with the physical world on camera. Never. You’ve seen the extent of our system. Tell me, does it seem like overkill? Cameras in every room, even the bathrooms and showers. There is literally no corner of this facility that isn’t being recorded 24/7. Except right now.”

Roman returned with several others in tow, including a priest. He and the rest of the room’s occupants held hands and began to recite the Lord’s Prayer.

“You’re saying this system isn’t meant to record activity at all…” he began.

She nodded, finishing the sentence for him, “…it’s meant to stop evil paranormal forces from attacking us, as they most certainly will when they discover the system is down.”

“Even if that were true, the doors are all locked. They can’t get in,” Travis said.

“Doors won’t stop them.”

“Then why does it matter that the doors are locked?” he asked.

Just then, a terrible drumming sound began. It echoed through the halls, each beat coming a little faster. Each thump a little louder. Underneath the rhythm, there were whispers. Travis couldn’t make out what the voices said, but the tone was not friendly.

The main lights went out. In the soft glow of the emergency lighting, Travis saw Abbey position herself between him and the door, a crucifix in her right hand.

“It matters,” she said, “because we can’t escape.”

The door burst inward, slamming into Abbey’s body. She was thrown several feet, stopping only when she hit a wall. Travis heard her neck crunch. Then he looked back toward the open doorway, and there, in the darkness, he saw eyes. Eyes of all shapes and sizes. Dozens of them. They were looking at him.

From the darkness, in unison, they whispered his name.

☩          ☩          ☩

The cameras came back on 22 minutes later, 90 seconds too late to hear Travis Johnson’s dying screams.