Chapter 01Mature

Robert Noles was never one for urban legends and conspiracies. All that changed on the night he received a flash drive from a stranger fleeing for his life. The contents of the flash drive are bizarre and mind-boggling: blurry scans of 20-year old photos, maps, and sparse documents that seem to hint at a particular event in cryptic descriptions. Something happened two decades ago. Something vile and evil, and wrought in darkness. And someone is trying to bring it back.

[Rec 11:03:49 PM May 14 2016]

My name is Rob.

I'm recording this video as a series of logs related to this... flash drive that was given to me.

A flash drive containing documents and photos that, by all accounts, could - and should - be a hoax.

Even now, I ask myself what I was doing out there, in the dark and the rain. Downtown Brookings, Oregon. It was a late shift. My beauty of a bike was waiting for me - a black, 2012 Kawasaki Ninja. And I was on my way to her, though I took my time. I lingered along the sidewalk, despite the rain. Perhaps as a three-year Oregonian, I'm used to it now. But there was a feeling in the air that night. Something electric and rousing that took hold of me.

Through the drenched gloom I saw him, running through the cold wet, so hard and desperate, I was almost certain he'd fall. I watched as he sharply careened a corner and skid, nearly tumbling headlong, though he quickly righted himself. He continued his sprinting closer and closer until I could finally make out his face. His frightened, dark eyes were fixated on me. At that last moment I wanted to run, to be out of his way, but before I knew it, he had caught up to me, grabbing my shoulder.

"Please, take this!" he cried hoarsely, his voice strained and out of breath. He reached down for my hand and forced it open, placing a tiny object in my palm.

A flash drive.

"It's all that's left," he spoke in a coarse, hushed tone. "Please... take it with you. And it keep it safe."

With that, he turned and continued his broken run, the rain's mist obscuring his form. But seconds later, the sound of an engine loomed and drew nearer, and a car zipped past me, speeding down his same direction.

Then there was silence.

For a moment I stood there, unsure of what to think. I replayed what had just happened again in my mind, trying to make sense of it. It was late, maybe it was just exhaustion. I glanced down towards my hand to find it clenched shut, and slowly loosened my grip. There it was, peering from my wet palm, a tiny flash drive. The slim variety, minus the plastic coverings, bells and whistles they used to come encased in. It was simply the metal port, along with a thin, looped fiber that could be attached to a keychain, if one desired.

What could possibly be on this thing, I wondered quietly. Then, as if the entire incident was just a dream, I slipped the flash drive into my pocket, and continued on towards my bike.

I have a special fondness for hard rock and metal. It's about the only genre of music I can tolerate these days. As I sat on the cycle's seat, before starting her up, I flipped through my phone's collection of music, before finally settling on a track that suited my state of mind. Then after plugging in my earbuds and slipping over my helmet, I headed off into the night.

The drive home isn't bad. It's about a 15-minute trip both ways. But it was past 10 P.M. now, and the downtown area begins to shut down around 9. With the streets dead, I can make it back home in roughly half the time - a humble 715-square-ft apartment.

I clumsily unlocked my door and sauntered in wearily through the dark towards my couch, collapsing onto the cushions. I stared thoughtlessly up at the ceiling, my mind lost in a tired daze, but suddenly felt the incessant poking of a small object in my pocket. Somehow I'd forgotten all about it.

I didn't want to concern myself with the flash drive, at least not now. I didn't want to think about it being something important, or urgent even. Perhaps I was intimidated by the contents inside. Was it a cry for help? Was it the last bit of evidence remaining from some crime?

And yet the very thought of it gnawed at my mind. I couldn't ignore it. I couldn't put it off for later, or pretend it wasn't there. It demanded my attention, and it demanded it now.

I forced myself up and wandered over to my open laptop, always left in sleep-mode. With the twitch of the mouse, the screen awoke brightly, and the apartment was illuminated by its light. With the flash drive in hand, I fumbled around the laptop's side for the proper port, until I felt it click firmly into place. Almost instantly, the drive's folder of contents opened in a window - a collection many more folders, each named by a number.

The folders were locked, coded to open by means of an answer prompted by a cryptic question - all except for a single file named "Folder I". Its only contents were a set of four images. Two of them were grainy and faded - obvious scans of older, physical prints.

"What the... hell?" I uttered aloud. There was an unsettling air about the images. Curious, but unsettling. Something off and strange. They seemed to be of random places, but places that made little sense in context to the other. One photo depicted a furrowed and broken acreage of land, littered with dirt mounds, metal crossbeams, and unfinished structures - the remnants of a construction site.

The other photo showed a building, one that resembled a simple beach house in style, but larger, more than likely a recreational or community center. Behind it were pale glimpses of ocean and sand.

The last two were satellite images, each marked with a set of nearly identical coordinates.

One read 40°46'13.9"N 124°11'45.8"W, situated right on the coast - no doubt the location of the beach house. But the other read 40°46'41.9"N 124°11'17.6"W. I plugged it in to Google Street View. What came up surprised me - a café, though one I was familiar with. It was called the Gran Sorona, and last I checked, my childhood friend Timber was recently hired on there as a barista, shortly after it was built.

I sat there for a moment with my chin resting in my hand. I was tired from a 9-hour work day. But I couldn't help but be interested, perhaps even a little concerned. None of it would have mattered had I not seen the coordinates of the café. Now I couldn't ignore it.

Tomorrow was my off-day. I would be free with virtually nothing to do and endless possibilities. As I'd stated earlier, I've only lived in Oregon for roughly three years, but I grew up in NorCal. These days, I stay in touch with old friends by means of text and internet, but I hadn't seen them since the move - which doesn't bother me. I typically keep to myself.

Here I was with this flash drive. Given to me by a man seemingly on the run. A flash drive containing who-knows-what within, but one of these being the location of a place I knew - as well as it being the day-to-day job of a close friend. What I had to do tomorrow was obvious.

I'd have to check the bike over and make sure I had the funds for a two-hour trip.

A trip back to Eureka. A trip back to California.

~

Note from the author,

Coming soon - a collection of three prequel-novellas: 
The Remnant
The Awakening
The Pursuit

Bonus Extras: 
Extended (complete) summary: 

"Where have you been all this time?"

The year is 2016. Twenty years after a war unlike any other. And something is very, very wrong.

Robert Noles was never one for urban legends and conspiracies. All that changed, however, on the night he received a flash drive from a stranger fleeing for his life. The contents of the flash drive are bizarre and mind-boggling: blurry scans of 20-year old photos, maps, and sparse documents that seem to hint at a particular event in cryptic descriptions. As Rob and his friends are drawn further along into the rabbit hole, one thing soon becomes vividly clear - amidst the utter scarcity of past records, the numerous, cavernous sinkholes in the earth that have suddenly collapsed and opened, and a missing band of legendary heroes known only as "The Five" - something happened two decades ago. Something vile and evil, and wrought in darkness. And someone is trying to bring it back.

The End

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