You make your way up the sidewalk to the self storage facility, as casual as anyone walking along the road through an industrial park during the middle of the night can be. There’s a million innocent reasons you could be walking along this road at this hour, in a dark glitch-patterned jacket and a crowbar hooked to your utility pants, and you’ve memorized at least twenty of them.
The place is way better lit than you’d expected, a floodlight per row glaring down from every roof overhang, and one on a pole pointed directly at the gated and locked entrance. Not that you’ll be going in that way, of course. You’re not stupid.
A dark, empty parking lot borders the facility. That’s where you cross to, strolling across the street and through the lot before you hug the perimeter of the fence. It’s well away from your target and a total pain in the ass, but it prevents you from being too obvious if anyone does catch you.
Not that they will! You scouted this place out tons of times — well, a couple at least — and you’re sure that no one comes around here at all this time of night. If there are any security cameras they’re going to be cheap, like everything else in this rinky dink little town, and your digital-image-scrambling patterned jacket is going to foil that.
You’re also sure no one around here knows what’s in the shed you’re headed towards. God knows it was hard enough for you to track it down. So on the off chance anyone does come by and does start asking nosy questions, you’ve got plenty of good excuses. Who hasn’t had to look for their grandmother’s toaster or whatever in a storage shed across town in the middle of the night?
At the darkest corner of the lot you start hauling yourself up the chainlink fence. The crowbar catches on one of the links, sending a rattle all down the length of the fence. “Shit!” you blurt and yank on it, only making the rattle worse.
Okay. Okay! Just calm down! You force yourself to hold still and breathe, even though your arms are starting to hurt. Ever-so-carefully your work the crowbar free and finish heaving yourself up the fence, and then even more carefully lower yourself to collapse into a heap on the other side.
You’re panting, your breath condensing on your balaclava. You don’t remember climbing fences being this hard. It isn’t even a high fence. And if this works, you’ll have to climb back over it… but that’s a problem for future you. You stand and dust the thought away along with the dirt on your pants.
The night remains still and quiet now that the fence isn’t rattling. You saunter along the perimeter as if you belong there, secure in the fact that your jacket makes you look like a mass of static to the security cameras. Not that there seem to be any.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
You freeze at the voice, just behind your left shoulder. There’s no other sound, however, and you shake it off with a huff. Geez, the excitement must be getting to you if having a fleeting doubt makes you think you’re hearing voices. There’s no one here but you.
Tension melts from your shoulders as you make it to the first building. Piece of cake! You’re practically there already, and more or less obscured from the street by the buildings themselves. Good thing for you that whoever had stored that thing had put it in a unit way in the back of the lot.
You know you’re not getting it open with that little toy.
That ‘little toy’ is out of its loop and in your hand practically before you’ve ducked around the corner of the building. You turn and jump out from behind it, hooked end of the crowbar raised—
Okay. Okay. This is clearly getting to you. It’s fine, this happens sometimes! It hasn’t gotten to you like this in years but whatever! Just shake it off and move. You tighten your grip on the crowbar and creep along as silently as you can. Your skin crawls as you move past the gap between buildings.
Did you bring it to make yourself feel safe?
Oh god it’s coming from the fence. You flatten yourself against the end of a building. The floodlight under the eaves glares down at you with its harsh light. You’re about as hidden as a bloodstain on a white dress!
But there’s nothing there beyond the fence, just patchy grass receding into the dark.
“The fuck?” you mutter, or try to — you’re breathing too hard to make words. Your balaclava is now so wet that it’s sticking to the lower part of your face.
Then you hear something else. Footsteps. The incautious clomp of boots getting louder, then going silent. The faint slap of sneaker soles on concrete. The whisper of someone trying to sneak.
You’re caught, you’re surrounded, you’ll only go to jail if you’re lucky. RUN, shrieks every nerve in your body. You fight it, stubbornly, hopelessly — you worked so hard to find this place, you laid so many plans and greased so many palms, you’ll be damned if you turn back now!
The footsteps grow louder, joined by more pairs of feet. You jump away from the building and around the corner to bolt between two rows, crowbar raised in a pathetic attempt to menace.
Run, little girl!
The voice mocks you from ahead and behind. Your breath comes out in a sob as you make yourself run faster, even though your legs feel like lead.
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!
It’s all around you now, even from the sky, not so much falling on your ears but in your head — but not from your brain, no, something just to the side in some nowhere space lurking and prying and trying to get inside—
You reach the end of the row and turn the corner, skidding and almost falling before you right yourself. You’re going to die you’re going to die chants the voice, or maybe that is your brain, but you reach the correct door and fumble the key out of a pocket with shaking hand.
“Not today, you bastard!” you yell loudly enough to wake the dead, or maybe you only yell it in your head, but you get the key in and yank the roll-up door open and there it is
a deep void in the dark of the shed in a shape that makes your stomach turn
it moves and roars I KNOW YOU
and it’s reaching—
You bring the crowbar down onto it as hard as you can, again and again, until the voice stops and the footsteps die.