Prompt: thousands of people disappear without a trace every year. Explain these disappearances.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Johnathan ran down the road in the industrial district, trying hard not to glace over his shoulder. He’d seen something back there. Something… wrong.
His breath began to run out, and he ducked behind a dumpster. He could hear nothing above his heartbeat, and it was a few moments until he realized just how quiet the alley was. The whisper of the few neglected trees had disappeared, and not a single sound came from the nighttime factories or the inevitable insects that surrounded him.
Footsteps sounded down the road, and Johnathan glanced behind him. A light was coming closer; any moment it would be on him. If he didn’t act now, he’d be trapped.
After one more deep breath he launched himself down the alleyway. Shouts rang out behind him, but he was too quick. Only two dozen metres to go, and he’d be close enough to the highway to find a cell signal, or maybe even flag down a car. Now a dozen metres, and he’d be free.
Johnathan Barker knew a story when he found one. In this case, it was Heath and Diet Incorporated. They were hiding something, he knew, but it was the what he was interested in. Posing as a health blogger, he’d managed to get a private tour, and now here he was, the belly of the beast, getting the runaround from his perky tour guide as she exhibited for him their “superior processing method” before their pre-prepared diet meals were released for consumption by what seemed to be half the population.
“We use quality products, Mr Barker, and as you can see, it’s minimally processed before it’s prepared. We use a fraction of the salt of the next leading brand does, and zero preservatives.”
“What about additives?” Johnathan pointed up at a large mixer suspended above an assembly line. “What do you add before you put everything together?”
“Just some seasonings to make our product as appealing as it can be for our valued customers.”
“And the ‘valued customers’ that claim your meals are almost addictive?”
She reddened slightly as she replied, “I’m a consumer myself, sir, and I can assure you that the only thing addictive about our meals is how delicious they are.”
“Do you have a washroom or something?”
“It’s just down the hall. Shall I – ?”
“That’s alright, I’ll find it.”
Wandering down the hall, Johnathan realized he’d spotted only a handful of employees. Considering HaD Inc went on the record saying they offered second-chance employment for thousands of the nation’s preciously incarcerated, the lack of people during peak hours was suspicious. He’d checked, of course, and the company was regularly paying thousands of employees for 40-hour work weeks, but where were they all?
The sound of cutlery caught his attention, and he followed the clink of metal on metal and the hum of conversation until he found a solid double door at the end of the hall. There were no windows, but the lock presented him with no problem. He’d picked a few locks in his day; it was one of the skills he’d acquired as an investigative reporter.
Glancing down the hall as he pulled out his tools, something tickled the back of his mind. It was only until he heard the click of the lock opening that it occurred to him – why would the cafeteria be locked leading into the factory? His question was answered when the stench blood hit him. The room was not a break room; it was a slaughterhouse. He pushed the door open just a crack, and tried to take in as much as he could. He pulled a mirror out of his break in kit and slid it through, trying to see what else was inside without giving himself away to whatever employees might be inside. Lucky for him, the only employees inside were those hanging from cattle hooks.
Johnathan tried to hold in the bile collecting in his throat, but was unsuccessful. The door slammed closed as he retched on the pristine floors of the hall.
“Are you ok, sir?”
Johnathan jumped like he’d been kicked, and glanced up just in time to see the perky guide stride up to him, her heels clicking efficiently.
“Yes. Yeah. Just. Must be the… flu or something. Maybe we should… reschedule so I don’t contaminate your facility.” Johnathan backed up slowly, trying desperately to remember where he’d seen a fire exit.
“I’m afraid,” she smiled prettily, “that’s already happened.”
Johnathan heard them before he saw them; heavy boots coming quickly down the way they’d come.
Thank God, he thought as he neared the road. He pulled out his phone as he ran, praying he’d find a signal, and swearing when he didn’t. A light on the highway, though – maybe it was a car. Maybe he’d be lucky.
Waving his arms wildly, he signaled the vehicle to pull over, to save him. The light slowed, and he allowed himself to breathe. An unmarked truck pulled up beside him, and he jumped inside.
“Thank you. Oh, fuck. Drive. Please.” Johnathan slammed the door shut and stared out the window, and seeing no lights following him felt the adrenaline leave his body.
“Sure, kid. Just need to make my drop-off.”
The lock on the door clicked down, and it was only then he heard the noises coming from the back of the rig.
Hammering, and the wail of human voices came from the back of the rig.
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