A short story that my work asked me to write to celebrate Halloween. It had to incorporate one of our products.
Claire took another sip of her coffee and glanced at her watch. It was 10pm already. Where were the installers? They were meant to return to the branch earlier that evening. Why did she give the security guard holiday when she knew it would mean waiting behind to lock the branch? She tried ringing them again, straight to voicemail, ‘Argh!’ she slammed her phone down in frustration.
The flickering CCTV in the corner was flashing up all four show gardens which, at this late hour, showed various dark empty garden buildings, lit only by the spotlights. Claire stared aimlessly at the screen, willing anything to grab her attention in the 10 seconds of footage that appeared before it moved to the next garden. Warminster – clear, Bedford – Clear, Faversham – Clear, Flixborough – wait! Her own show garden came onto the screen, she edged closer to the screen as her eye was drawn to the corner. The Theodore Office in the far right of the garden looked strange. It took a few more rounds of CCTV before she realised what it was. The door had been left open and the indoor lamp was on creating eerie silhouettes in the darkness.
Grabbing the torch from the kitchen, Claire stepped into the cold outdoor air, internally cursing her team as she walked towards the garden; she had told them hundreds of times to ensure they lock up when they leave. The nighttime’s silence only enhanced the creaking sound of the garden gate opening as she walked cautiously into the dark garden. As she walked through the garden she told herself that she was being silly, that she was just turning off a light and would return to the comforting light of her office.
The garden, which seemed so small during the day, seemed to go on forever. She kept walking with her head down; jumping a little everytime her feet touched the pavement. The garden buildings seemed to groan as she walked past them, a noise which was clearly the buildings settling, created an eerie atmosphere. Claire glanced up to see how close she was and froze where she stood, the fog that had been made by her breath hitting the cold air had stopped as her heart caught in her throat. The shadow, which she assumed was a reflection off of the lamp, moved. There was someone in the office.
Her legs were replaced with led as she turned towards the nearest Log Cabin, she couldn’t risk being seen as she ran back to the office, the cabin would have to do. She opened the door as silently as she could, flinching as the locks made an audible click as they released, the door opened without so much as a creek. Glancing to her right, Claire made sure the intruder hadn’t seen her as she slipped into the darkness of the cabin.
She slunk to the floor of the cabin and let out slow, laboured breaths while contemplating her next move. She had left her phone in the office so she couldn’t ring for help; running was out of the question as she didn’t know who or what she would be running from and screaming would get her nowhere as all the other warehouses were closed for the night. She was trapped.
Deciding that she would wait for the team to return the next day, Claire steeled herself for the hard night ahead, the paralysis of fear stopping her from moving a muscle. She didn’t know how long she had sat there, imagining all sorts of monsters in her head; killers, attackers and psychopaths who were waiting in the dark for the moment to strike.
After what seemed like a life time, Claire had had enough. She hadn’t seen any movement so whoever was in the Garden Office was definitely not a thief that had come to steal some of the equipment in their revamped office. She would have to confront them, to fight them off, but how?
Whilst trying desperately to quieten the voice in her mind telling her this was a terrible idea. Claire steeled herself, ready to face anyone who was in that Office. Claire carefully left the Log Cabin, picking up the shears left over from the Grand Opening celebration they had had that day, and walked towards the Office. Her hands shook as she approached, trying to get a clearer view of what was inside. The shadowy figure had its back to the door and Claire almost stopped when she realised just how big it was. It was barely able to stand within the 6ft 9 building, slouching to stop its head touching the top.
She stepped forward, fear engulfing her with every step, and held the now pitiful looking shears up towards the shadow. “Who are you? Why are you here?” The shadow made no attempt to turn or look at her. Claire stepped forward “This is private property, get out before I call the police and have you arrested!” Still nothing from the shadowy figure, it just stood there, defying her instruction.
Annoyed now, Claire stepped towards the figure, close enough that the shears should have just grazed the surface. Should have. Claire fought to contain her scream as the shears started to disappear into the shadow, a dark mass substance enveloping them, crushing them like they were paper, before they were consumed. Claire stumbled backwards as the figure started to turn, showing her its face. The scream she had contained came out as she came face to face with the figure.
She ran as fast as her legs could go, ignoring the burning sensation that was quickly building in her chest. Unwilling to look behind her, she kept focused on the green gates that seemed to be just out of reach. She smiled as she reached them, relieved that she had made it. Running through the gates, she turned to close them behind her, to entrap the intruder. Her body relaxed as she heard the telltale ‘clunk’ that the garden gate made when it was shut. Turning towards the warehouse, a hand grabbed her shoulder causing pain to shoot through her arm: “I haven’t finished with you yet!”
The next morning Emma came in to meet Claire as per usual. She saw her car, her phone, her bag and her coat and assumed that she was making a coffee. “Claire? Claire?” she called out, wandering through the empty office, but she had no response. Checking the CCTV screens to see if she was in the warehouse, Emma noticed something a different about the Garden Office, was that a shadow?