A Strange Encounter. Short Story.

Jack paced in the small white room, it was about six foot by six foot, a bed was bolted to the floor against one wall and that was it for furniture. The floors were hard concrete but the walls were covered in some kind of soft, spongy material. They had thrown him in here hours ago and since then there had been nothing. At first he thought they were arresting him for something drugs related, but this wasn’t a prison or a police station. He had been standing in the street, talking to that strung out woman when he had been tackled, handcuffed and shoved into the back of a windowless van. The van had driven for about half an hour before he was pulled from the back and into an underground car park. From there it was just a short elevator ride and followed by being pushed through a few hallways. No one had spoken to him since they had put him in handcuffs.

He sat down on the bed, this was bullshit, he didn’t do anything, they couldn’t keep him locked up like this forever, he had rights. He had tried yelling but that hadn’t gotten him anywhere, the room seemed to dampen sounds and he had heard nothing from outside once the door had closed.

The door opened and a man stepped inside, he was wearing a grey suit, he stuck one hand forward and smiled, “Hi, I’m Sam Smith. I’d like to apologise for all this trouble, we’ve had a bit of a hectic day here and unfortunately you kind of slipped through the cracks. First things first, you’re not in trouble, you are not under arrest and you are free to leave once we finish our interview. You were supposed to be kept under medical observation for only two hours, but unfortunately things got in the way. If you’d like to follow me please.” Sam turned and left the room, Jack went after him. They walked through the halls taking turns until they were in another small room, this one had a large table with two comfortable chairs on either side. A large jug of water sat in the middle of the table along with a selection of sandwiches. “I figured you’d be hungry after that. They really put you in the shit one too, most of them have TV’s or some magazines at the very least. I think the staff have been slacking a bit. I know some of them keep a room spare for sleeping, so maybe they put you in there by accident. Now, I’m sure you have a lot of questions and I’ll be happy to answer them, if you’d just like to take a seat and please, help yourself to the food and drinks there, if you’d like something else like coffee or tea please let me know.”
Jack sat down and grabbed a sandwich, once he had finished eating he took a long drink of water. “Ok, so first I want to know where I am and who you are.”
“You’re currently in a kind of detainment centre, I can’t give you the exact location unfortunately. Don’t worry though, we can give you a lift home once we’re done the interview. As to who we are, well, we’re a small, government run agency, you won’t have heard of us so you’ll excuse me if I don’t give you the name. We investigate cases like yours.”
“Like mine?”
“Yes, don’t tell me you didn’t notice anything strange today.”
“Well, yeah, I did but it had to but like she was just a junkie or something, wasn’t she?”
“Look. I’m not going to lie to you. She wasn’t just a junkie and we need to figure out what happened to her and what happened between the two of you. So, why don’t you start from the beginning?”
“Um. Ok, well, I woke up and had breakfast and all that, then I left the house for work. Everything was pretty normal until I came to South Street, I cut through it because it takes about ten minutes off my walk in the mornings. Everything was fine, I guess the street was emptier than usual. Normally there’s a few people walking along it, or a couple of old guys sitting outside having a smoke. I noticed her pretty quick, she was the only other person on the street. What first caught my attention was the way she was walking. Like she was drunk, I assumed she was on her way home from a night out at first, but then I noticed she was wearing a suit. She was walking slowly and stumbling every few steps so it didn’t take long before I caught up with her. I asked if she was all right and she turned slowly to look at me. Something about the way she moved sent chills up my spine. It was slow, but fast at the same time. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt this enormous weight drop in my stomach, I knew I shouldn’t have spoken to her. I tried to convince myself I was just being paranoid, after all it was a Wednesday morning for Christ sakes. She looked at me for a second, there was something wrong with her eyes, they were slightly too wide and it looked like she was having difficulty focusing. It was then that I thought she was probably on drugs. She smiled at me, it wasn’t a normal smile, it was threatening some how, like I had done exactly what she wanted. Her hand reached out for me and I took a step back, I didn’t want her touching me if I’m being honest, but I half thought maybe she was going to try and pick my pocket. She frowned when I stepped back, then she spoke to me. I don’t know what was wrong with her but her voice was all wrong, raspy and shrieky, but whisper quiet with almost like an echo? She said “come a little closer, I need to tell you a secret.” It’s weird, the last thing I wanted to do was get any closer to her, but I started to step forward. She smiled at me and I saw her teeth, they were blackened and rotten, with bits of blood pooling around the gums.” Jack shuddered.
“If you need to take a moment, that’s fine.”
“No, I’m ok. It feels good talking about it. I kept replaying it in my head earlier, it’s good to get it out. It kind of feels like I’m draining a wound or something.”
Sam nodded, “Yes, people often feel that way.”
“When I saw her teeth I kind of stepped back in surprise and she looked angry, it was like her eyes got darker, her hand shot out and grabbed my tie, she yanked me forward, she was strong, stronger than she looked. She leaned in close to me, I could smell her breath, rotting and bitter, but I could smell something else too, her perfume and then underneath that a smell of damp and mildew, of dark, wet places that despised the sun. She said something to me, but I don’t really remember. It’s like there’s a blank spot. Then there were people around, yelling at us.”
Sam leaned on the table, “Are you sure you don’t remember what she said? No matter what it was you won’t get in trouble, but it is important that if you do remember you let us know.”

Jack frowned, “I feel like it’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t figure out the words.”

Sam smiled at him, “That’s ok, it’s common in cases like these. The woman was sick, unfortunately, but she had some good information that we could have used. We’re not entirely sure what was wrong with her yet, she is incoherent at the moment, we were hoping we’d be able to get something from you.”

“I’m going to be all right aren’t I? She wasn’t contagious or anything?”
Sam chuckled, “No, don’t worry, there’s no chance you caught what she had.” He stood from the table, “All right, that’s pretty much it. We’ve you’re statement recorded, you’ll have to sign some forms on the way out but that’s just formality. After that we’ll get you home, we already put in a phone call to your place of work, they know you were assisting us after witnessing an incident.”

Sam sat in the empty room, they’d have to keep an eye on Jack, for the next few months, make sure he didn’t start behaving strangely. The woman was already gone, reduced to nothing but a pile of disgusting mush, but then that was always the way with her kind. Sam believed Jack when he said he didn’t remember but he felt like what ever Jack had heard was important. He always hated cases like this, all loose ends and no resolutions. It wasn’t the first time it happened, nor would it be the last. Hopefully what ever that thing was it wouldn’t be back for another few years.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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4 Responses to A Strange Encounter. Short Story.

  1. jmwwriting says:

    I am really curious about your style of paragraphing. I find it a bit jarring. And it is so contrary to the common advice these days to have short, digital-friendly paragraphs. How did you decide this form, and what is the goal?

    • Usually with paragraphs I break them up when the scene or moment ends. So for example in the above it opens with Jack pacing in a small room, then there’s the paragraph break, some time has passed where he has kept pacing/doing what ever, then he’s sitting down so new paragraph.

      Personally I would think that short, digital friendly paragraphs are more of an article/information/essay style format, rather than in creative writing. You can quickly do an info dump on most things in a short paragraph, but I think it can break up the flow of the story if you’ve broken up one scene into several paragraphs with only a little bit of info in each.

      I didn’t necessarily decide on the form. it’s just how I’ve always done it, I put in the paragraphs where it feels most logical for me and that is when the scene ends or to denote the passage of time without having to go out of the story to remark on it.

      Just as an aside there is a bit of a spacing issue, I break up speech by line to make it easier on the eyes/easier to follow rather than one big block of text. However I’ve run into a problem on wordpress in that sometimes it separates one line of speech into it’s own paragraph or starts a new paragraph mid conversation, which isn’t intentional. I haven’t been able to find a solution for it yet, despite following any advice I could find on it.

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