Read Burning Shadows chapter 1 here ==> https://arunwrites.home.blog/2020/10/09/burning-shadows-chapter-1/
How can someone describe things that they can’t understand? Their eyes, face and emotions tell a better story than words. Disconcerted was how I would tell mine when I saw the Space communication and research facility at the west hill countryside. A giant research facility that stood at the dead centre of a sombre village town fenced off by electric wires with three large towers and a gigantic communication dish used for satellite communication that could cover the entire facility if put upside down. Half the residents engaged in farming and fishing while the rest fled the state in fear of the facility. When the call came to me early after Christmas night telling there was news at the west hillside, there was only so much one could hope from that place. I could have turned back when the guard at the gate stopped me from entering the facility, I could have. Yet I went on arguing with the him till an officer came by and asked me my ID.
“Shirley, from The Nation daily I see,” the officer said with a wicked grin lining his face, I was sure he knew me from television but not wanted to show it on his face. “We are not letting the medias in.”
I knew very well the facility won’t let anyone in without an authorization letter from the officials and I had none, but that couldn’t stop me. As I looked around there was a crowd gathered about the gate, mostly reporters and cameramen trying to gather whatever was going on from outside. There was no way I could get in if they can’t.
“We have witnesses stating that about seven ambulances rushing out of the facility early this morning to the State general hospital,” the info I got from the call that morning. His grin remained on his face, which slowly started to show a few of the white teeth underneath.
“Nothing fatal, there was a minor accident in the facility, nothing that needs to be worried about.” He said clapping his hands together as if things were as normal as before. But I needed answers.
“My sources find that the people who were taken to the hospital, some of them suffered severe injuries,” which was utterly fake, trying to bait the officer into giving up more than he intended.
“Then your sources must have been wrong, there were no such situations. The state would officially address the event very soon and then you will know the truth,” he said but the grin he wore now disappeared. He kept his hands at the back and walked to the facility. “Looks like your charm didn’t work this time,” someone called out from the crowd and I knew who it may have been. Being sure nothing much could be acquired from standing there I turned towards the crowd to search for the familiar face.
“Look who we have here, the Great Dev if not who,” I said as I saw him standing with his video camera a little away from the rest, the eyes of the crowd turned to me, some of them smiled some scowled, I get it, being better isn’t easy. He bowed to acknowledge my praise. I knew Dev from several years back when he used to work for the Nation daily, we started almost the same time, an energetic young man who always had the thirst for more. But the boundaries of a media company could only hold him for so long that he quit his job one day out of nowhere and went on to explore carrying his video camera as a freelancer. I always appreciated his effort and dedication but never his character. So if he was there filming, there was plenty wrong at the facility.
“I see that you are early,” he said, a half burning cigarette on his lips.
“Not early enough,” I said eyeing at the crowd of journalist waiting for the moment to burst out the question rolling in their mind. “What have you got?”
“Questions have been asked,” he said. I nodded realizing that he didn’t get anything better than I did.
“I hoped to see you here today, inside the police car for breaking into the facility,” I said with a weak smile, it was true, I honestly hoped he would do that.
“I almost did that, but gave it a second thought,” he said cracking a laugh, “you’ve got anything?” I shook my head, it was a dead-end. Every case was until it wasn’t. “What could go wrong at a facility like this?”
“Everything.” We stood there till noon hoping someone would come out of the gate, to give away anything worth the wait, I almost gave a thought about slipping in but no the security was tighter than ever, chances of getting caught were higher and I didn’t have time to spare sitting at a police station. Dev proposed an idea to get lunch as I hadn’t had breakfast I jumped into going with him, also asking around a few of the residents would shed some light about the matter.
We chose a grey and shady restaurant a little away from the facility, the giant dish at the facility was visible through the window, much of the tables were empty, a middle-aged man worked the table. “Perilous business up at the facility, isn’t it?” Dev asked the waiter who came by the table. The man nodded, he was smiling not showing any sign of awareness about what was happening, “You’ve heard anything?” he asked again. But the response came from behind, an elderly man who sat with a woman eyed us from their table.
“Wicked things going up there, these godless man bringing destruction upon us,” the man said, his face reddened at the mere sight of the giant dish through the window, “First they took our land, now our lives, soon they will be digging our bodies from the ground that is if they could find them.” The woman next to him laid her hands on his shoulders trying to calm him up, which seemed to have some effect on him.
“You working for them people?” He asked, the wrinkled forehead narrowing down in disgust.
“No, we’re reporters. We heard something happened at the facility, thought about learning it, No luck yet.” Dev said, me waiting for him to work his magic, I was fully aware of his ability to make people talk.
“They won’t tell a thing, always been that way, those demons. The last seven days, I am telling you, there were unusual things about, our animals could feel that they are restless like they are going mad.” The woman whispered to the man trying to remind him of something he forgot.
“Yes, the sound. There had been these sound at night, deadly noise, like a siren. Nothing like I’ve ever heard before, trust me when I say that, I’ve been in the army and have heard all kind of alarms and siren. That is nothing as such. I can’t sleep at night, no one here can.” His hands trembled at the thought which he now tightened to a fist. “I don’t hope the government will do anything about it. They don’t even care about us.”
“I heard there was a lot of ambulance going this way today morning, some accident up there maybe,” I said trying to make him talk more about it.
“Accident? You think they cause accidents. Its devilry that’s what they are doing there. People have been going missing for the past two weeks. I am sure they must be doing some evil tricks on them.” Missing, that was something new. On one hand, people going missing from the village and the case of ambulances running out of the facility on the other, some part of my mind wanted to bring those ideas to a conclusion. But no, without sheer evidence those were just assumptions. But I wanted to know more.
“Missing? who?” I asked. He eyed me as if I asked something I shouldn’t have. He shook his head and stood up, “I have said more than I wanted to.” He gathered his belongings and walked out followed by the woman, “If you could do something, please make them stop the sound.” And they both went out.
Dev looked at me, a sceptic stare that shared the same questions as I did. The man may be exaggerating on somethings, the facility was made for satellite communication, not for human experimentation, but if people were missing there should be some explanation. My question was if the facility and missing cases were same or two widely different ones that shared no links whatsoever. I needed firm proofs to reach either end.
“How far is riverside,” I asked Dev, he was staring at the giant dish, “six or seven kilometres, probably half an hour ride, why?” he said without taking his eyes off the window.
“I have a case I need to look into,” I said as I started to get up from the table and made my way to the door.
“Do you want me to join you?” he asked, I knew it wasn’t because of old times sake, it was pure professional interest if the case was worth his time he would work it out, but it would only hurt my ego. Moreover, the case came to me, specifically to me.
“No,” I said, “we don’t work together anymore, remember” I smiled as I went out of the door watching him nod his head in agreement.