Fiction Fragment Friday
The following Fiction Fragment Friday was written on Day One of NaNoWriMo this year. It is the first chapter of the novel project I am working towards this month. It is fairly long for one of these so I’m going to keep this kind of short. It is also a NaNoWriMo project so there is no editing and might have more than the usual amount of typos.
James Carter has what most would consider an unusual hobby. In his free time James likes to go dumpster diving for old computer equipment with a particular focus on anything containing a hard drive. When he finds such devices, he brings them home and tries to recover data from them. He never does anything malicious with the data but has a fascination with seeing what he can discover. Social Security numbers and tax papers are almost guaranteed to be on there, but for him the true treasure is glimpses into other people’s lives. Types out letters, or pictures from a digital camera are far more exciting than financial information that he will never use.
It was a Saturday afternoon and James was hard at work with his latest find. The living room in his apartment was big enough that he had used a sectional to split the room into two. On one half was his hand me down entertainment center with game consoles and media shelf full of mostly science fiction movies. The other half of the room had one wall lined with cheap computer desks and folding tables. One desk had his gaming computer with the nicest chair, monitor, and keyboard that he owned. The other systems were thrown together from spare parts or in various states of disassembly.
He was sitting on a cheap metal chair at one of the folding tables. His hands were working away at the keyboard of his spare laptop. Coming out of the side was a USB cable going to a special adapter that let him plug in hard drives. This drive he pulled from a laptop with a broken screen he had gotten from a dumpster in an alley downtown. Too many people seemed to think that if a screen was broken then no one could get the data. With his setup he could be pulling files off of the drive within minutes without ever turning the machines on.
James was working through his usual process. First, he went into the user folder to see what accounts existed on the laptop. On this laptop he found that there was a single user named Samantha. This told him the laptop was mostly likely someone’s personal laptop and not a work provided machine. Those tended to have multiple accounts and didn’t use first names. This was a relief because the last time he had found a work laptop he was so disturbed by finding a database from their HR system that he had to reach out to the company anonymously to inform them that they needed to encrypt their hard drives and dispose of them properly.
The next step was the part James always enjoyed the most. He opened up Samantha’s documents folder and started browsing through the files. There were not a lot of files in the folder, but one jumped out at him. “Unbelievable.” He shook his head in disgust as he dragged a files named passwords.xls to a folder on his laptop to go through later.
“Just once it would be nice to not find anything,” he said while picking his cat up off of the table. Her name was Connie and he had named her after his favorite function in excel, Concatenate. She was a gray and orange tabby that he had found as a kitten on one of his dumpster hunting trips. He never thought of himself as a cat person until he had met her, but she had become one of the most important parts of his life. The heat his computers put off always drew her attention and she had been perched on the edge of the table pawing at the hard drive. A few more seconds and it would have been knocked to the ground.
James sat Connie on the floor and watched as she jumped right back up on the table. “Oh, so it’s going to be like that huh?” Reaching out he grabbed one of the laser pointers he kept on the desk and shined the light across the room. “Connie. Look Connie it’s the red dot. It’s mocking you. Get it girl.” She shot off the desk pouncing on the light. For a minute he just moved the light around letting her run back and forth. Finally, he ran the light down the hall and into his bedroom with Connie right behind it. He knew that would keep her occupied for a few minutes at least so he turned back to the laptop.
After grabbing every file that sounded interesting in the documents folder James moved on to the pictures folder. He smiled seeing many named folders. After spending fifteen minutes looking through pictures of vacations and family, he came to a folder named Monsters. Inside there were four folders with the names: crime scenes, hunters, news, and videos. He moved the mouse right to the videos folder and clicked to open it. There were fifteen video files in the folder.
James played the video named riverbeast first. The video was shaky like it had been taken with a cellphone while someone was running. It flipped around and focused on the face of a young woman with long blond hair. She took a moment to catch her breath before speaking. “This is Samantha North coming to you from the Mississippi Riverfront in downtown St. Louis. This time I have irrefutable proof that these creatures are real.” The camera spun back to the riverfront.
After a few moments the image on the screen focused. On the left side there was a wall covered in graffiti that serves as a levee when the river’s water level’s are high. On the right was the Mississippi river coming right up to a series of short pillars with chains running along the side of South Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard. Running down the street was a creature that looked similar to a giant fish with six legs and a spiked tail. The angle of the camera was from behind, but teeth could still be made out in the thing’s mouth. It leapt into the air and unhinged it’s jaw like a snake to swallow a woman standing in the middle of the road.
The woman stood out almost as much as the creature. She wore a plain brown utility jumpsuit that made her combination pink and purple hair stand out. In her hands she held a very large harpoon gun braced against her shoulder. The camera zoomed in causing it to become extra shaky and unfocused. Through the blur the woman moved quickly. She braced her legs and with a single smooth motion she lowered the gun and fired the harpoon into the creature’s mouth. A smaller harpoon shot out of the back of the gun and in-bedded itself into the ground. At the last possible second, she dove out of the way letting the creature smash into the ground where she had just stood. Green blood poured out of it’s mouth.
The creature tried to turn towards the woman, but the chains attached to the harpoon started reeling it in. The video finally came into focus again, but the camera was too far away to make out the details on the woman’s face. Samantha’s voice came over the speakers, “You see that? She caught this one alive.” The camera swung up showing a van backing up to the creature and opening its back doors. Four men in plain brown jumpsuits hopped out and started shocking the creature with long cattle prods.
“Stop you idiots,” yelled the woman in the jumpsuit, but they did not listen. The creature swung its barbed tail and smashed it into one of the men’s chests. A large dark wet spot covered the front of the jumpsuit and the man started coughing blood. The creature’s tongue shot forward and speared through another man’s chest. In just mere seconds two of the four men had dropped to the street dying.
The creature was stuck to the ground by the harpoon but was thrashing around and pulling against the chains. With one final yank it pulled back ripping itself free of the harpoon. Green blood sprayed all over the ground. The creature backed up slowly and swayed unsteady on its feet. It turned towards the river and took three steps before collapsing to the ground. One of the men pointed towards the camera and the video abruptly ended.
James sat staring at the screen. “What the hell was that?” He opened up an Internet browser and searched for Samantha North. “Let’s see if we can figure out who you are Samantha.” His instincts told him that the name wasn’t just a character role from the video because it matched the account on the laptop. The search results returned a number of recent news articles with her picture. All of them asked for anyone with information on the brutal murder of Samantha North to contact authorities.
James pushed back from his desk suddenly. “Shit.” He stood up shaking his head. “No, no no, this can’t be happening.” He looked down at the hard drive. “Shit I tampered with evidence.” He started pacing. “Not good, not good.” He sat back down at the desk. “Ok, think. No one knows you have it.” He put his hand back on the mouse and started to search for the most recent files on the hard drive. “If I find anything I can just report it anonymously. If not, then no one needs to know.” The newest file was from the morning before she was killed. He hit play on the video.
“If you are watching this then I’m probably dead.” Samantha shook her here. “God that sounds so ridiculous even coming from me. I’m being followed, but the police won’t take me seriously. I guess I know too much. I’m going to put this video in an e-mail and schedule it to go out with links to all the videos I’ve taken. I’ll keep pushing the date back as long as I’m alive, but I guess if you’re watching this then…” There was a loud sound and the door behind her shattered into pieces and a tall man dressed in a black suit entered the room. He raised his right hand and it extended across the room forming a long blade that impacted just below the camera. The video ended there.
James looked over at the laptop he had pulled the hard drive from. The screen was shattered with a small hole straight through it. He had figured that there had been an accident with something sharp falling on the screen. Now he realized that last video had been recording when it happened. He wasn’t sure how the video had been saved, but he couldn’t deny that he had evidence of her murder sitting on his desk.
There was a sharp knock on the front door of the apartment. James was so startled he jumped scaring Connie who had just come back into the room and was rubbing up against his legs. “James Carter open up. This is the police. We have some questions for you.”
“Be right there officer.” James’s voice held more confidence than he actually felt. He tried to keep from shaking as he walked to his apartment’s front door. He always knew there was a chance his hobby could get him into trouble, but he had never imagined police at his door. He reached down and turned the handle. As the door opened, he found himself face to face with the tall man in the black suit from the video.
The man smiled down at him and then looked over at the laptop on his table. “Well, well Mr. Carter. You have been quite busy haven’t you.” James tried to step back, but the man put a strong hand on his shoulder holding him in place. “Oh no, don’t try to run.” He leaned down putting his face right in front of James’. His smile spread across his face and extended all the way up to his ears. Sharp pointed teeth filled the mouth, and his eyes glowed yellow. “If you run you might hurt my feelings.” The man stepped inside the door and closed it behind him.