...watch your step!
|They think I’m crazy, but I’m not. I’ve just seen, heard, and otherwise perceived things they can’t comprehend.
It all began when my partner Detective Sherman Helms and I encountered a peculiar set of circumstances surrounding a series of mysterious deaths in our precinct.
The first was old man Gentry. On the afternoon of January 7, his daughter Shawna found his scrawny chalk-white carcass perched on a folding chair in front of the computer she had given him as a Christmas present. When we arrived at the scene, the computer screensaver was displaying the head of a horned goat floating across a background of flickering flames. Shawna tearfully advised that she had come to check on him when he failed to answer her phone calls. There were no signs of an intruder. She told us he had been in excellent health and nothing seemed to be missing from the premises. An autopsy only served to intensify the mystery rather than solve it. Although the corpse exhibited no wounds, there wasn’t a drop of blood in his veins.
The next piece of the puzzle was young Amelia Bailey, whose lifeless form was found by her college roommate Angela Moreno upon returning from a night on the town with some friends on the night of April 30. Amelia had stayed behind to work on a term paper. Between sobs, Angela explained, “I-I th-thought she w-was asleep. Sh-she looked so peaceful propped on her bed with her hands resting on her laptop.” Our examination uncovered no signs of disturbance. Interviews with the roommate, family and classmates portrayed the perky sophomore as a popular, talented go-getter, a star athlete who consistently appeared on the scholastic honor rolls. An autopsy disclosed that she had been in perfect health and failed to identify the cause of death.
Finally, there was the case of Brian Bixby, who was found dead in the seat of his commuter train when it reached the end of the line on October 31. Dressed in a navy-blue pinstriped business suit, he had a black briefcase on his lap and held an iPhone in his stiff left hand. The rigid index finger of his right hand still pressed firmly against the browser screen. His autopsy exposed another healthy specimen with no signs of distress.
With three unexplained precipitous deaths on our hands, Sherm and I were beginning to feel the pressure. Having worked together for so many years, we had developed an empathetic rapport that often enabled each of us to anticipate the other’s thoughts. I knew he agreed with my feeling that there was more than pure coincidence at work here. We pored over the medical examiner’s records, photographs of the different death scenes, and the transcripts of all our interviews, desperate to find some clue. One day as he squinted at all the data, he exclaimed, “Hey, Jim! There does seem to be a common link here. All these people were working on their computers when they died.”
“You’re right, Sherm, but what could that have to do with their dying?”
“Well, we should at least take another look.”
So we returned to the scene of the first incident, which had remained undisturbed since Mr. Gentry’s sudden demise. While I probed the room for the umpteenth time, Sherm sat down on the same folding chair the old man had occupied and flipped the switch to boot the computer. In total absorption, he started mumbling as he read the captions under icons leading to various programs. “Hmmm. Recyle Bin....Game Channel...Data Spreadsheet...Internet Explorer....Finance Network...Ah! Here’s one I don’t recognize. I wonder what kind of evil lurks behind it.” The sarcastic tone in his voice reflected the frustration we were feeling.
Then I heard a whooshing sound, like the air being released from a car tire. “What was that, Sherm?....Sherm?”
Looking around, I saw my friend sitting motionless with his eyes glued to the computer screen.
“Sherm?” Still no response.
As I approached his side, I perceived a vacancy in his eyes and the same expression of awe on his face we had seen on the face of Cyrus Gentry. His hand gripped the mouse, and the cursor was poised upon a strange icon depicting a large eye embedded in the tip of a pyramid. The caption read, “Your Future.”
My partner remained motionless as I reached for the mouse, but some intuitive sense told me not to touch it. I felt that my friend was warning me, but there was no sound coming from his unmoving lips. This extrasensory perception helped me realize that the soul of Sherman Helms had been sucked from his mortal flesh through the point of contact where his finger touched the mouse into some unknown dimension beyond space and time.
When I reported the situation to our supervisor Lieutenant O’Shaughnessy and divulged my revelation about the cause of Sherman’s untimely death, he figured the stresses of the investigation were finally getting to me and sent me to see the department shrink.
My paranormal communications with Helms continued as he presented a detailed exposition of his current predicament and the fate of our other three victims. When I told the good doctor Schubert about these communiqués, he promptly declared me insane and had me committed to this Sanctum by the Sea loony bin, where I am currently being held in custody, as you well know.
Otis, you are the only rational human being I am allowed to have contact with as you go about your duties of maintaining these facilities. It is IMPERATIVE that the world be warned against the danger which lurks behind that evil icon before more unsuspecting people are sucked into that infernal universe of torment. Please use every means at your disposal to spread the alarm. Shhh! You’d better hurry and go now, before your superiors catch you talking to me. They say the visions are just figments of my imagination, but those four cadavers are as real as these walls.