“Freshen your cup, honey?” the elderly waitress questioned.

Her perfume was just as sickeningly sweet as the soggy slice of pie on Trevor’s plate. The coffee was unsurprisingly subpar, however, after the long drive, he was thankful for anything warm.

“One for the road, I guess,” he replied politely.

The black liquid filled his mug and the grey-haired woman swivelled on her heels and bounded back into the kitchen. Trevor took a sip from the luke-warm brew, as he stared out of the smudged diner window. The sun had sunk below the skyline leaving behind a red-velvet hue – just as dusk converged to night.

One of the fluorescent lights on the ceiling of the kerbside kitchen blinked. The diner was mostly empty apart from a trucker and an elderly gentleman reeking of booze. Trevor was ready to pack it in for the night, but having driven straight for 12 hours – he was just desperate to reach his destination.

Trevor ran his hands through his hair where it stuck in clumps. The paths of his fingers were still visible right down to the scalp. Perhaps it was time for a wash after all. Hopefully, the small town wasn’t much further now. The life of a man discovering other people’s secrets for a living rarely had much time to look after himself.

Trevor was a private eye in California. There was occasionally a queue forming outside his practice for his expert services. The more peculiar the job, the better the pay. He made his living digging through other people’s dirt. From raunchy affairs to political scandal – Trevor witnessed it all. His recent venture brought him to a secluded town in Eureka, Nevada.

A recent missing person which the police had yet to investigate fully. The last known whereabouts were a bit of a mystery. He disappeared in the middle of the night with no trace of him since. Trevor had encountered a few jobs involving disappearances. Usually resulting in suicide, drug overdose or the occasional stag do gone wrong.

The missing person by the name of Greg Davis worked in real estate and appeared to be your typical married salaryman. His wife had a hard time getting the police engaged in the case. They tried to convince her husband had just walked out on her. It was common among men his age to become disillusioned with their lives and take up and leave. She decided to hire Trevor after finding his ad in the local paper.

A quick interview of family, friends and neighbours revealed that Greg was a typical middle-aged fellow. No skeletons in the closet or involvement in dodgy dealings. But Trevor knew from experience – it was always the quiet ones who had stuff to hide. Maybe the police were right – but it was his job to prove their theory.

Trevor stomached another bite of the nauseating slop of cherry pie. He often had to eat on the go which meant swallowing down what he could. The aged diner jukebox cranked out Patsy Cline on repeat. Trevor flicked through the file on Greg Davis. Searching his phone records, Trevor discovered a quick ten-second call made in a remote part of the Nevada desert before going silent. Near to where the call was placed was the small town he was currently travelling to.

The main question on Trevor’s mind was around ‘why an area in the middle of nowhere would have phone signal?’ He’d done some digging and found a string of bizarre activity which made this case even more peculiar. A few other missing people reports in the area and news articles about alien sightings. Trevor tapped his pen against the wooden table making a repetitive thud.

Tap, tap, tap…

Clank, clank, clank.

The noise poured in from an unknown source into the dimly lit cell. Although, it felt less like a cell and more like a coffin with headroom. The only source of light crept in through a small hole from above. The floor was five feet by three and constructed from a solid material. The only sound other than the strange mechanical clattering was Greg’s heavy breathing. The isolation was total while the stimulation was null.

Greg felt consciousness returning to him as his eyes adjusted to the lack of light in the box. He tried to move his arms but found them fixed in place above him. He felt a strange resistance and tried to crane his neck to get a better look but it was pointless. His legs suffered a similar fate. Greg had no choice but to struggle against the unknown bonds and stare out at the dark walls in front of him.

His limbs felt numb to the touch. Pulling against the bonds, Greg tried to scream out only to realise something was firmly lodged in his mouth. It felt and tasted strange. Slightly industrial with a weird spongey texture. The gag seemed to fill out his mouth without leaving any room for air. He couldn’t bear to dwell on the ache his jaw felt.

About several minutes of constant thrusting and wrestling against the bonds – a turquoise light emulated the room showing a bit more detail of Greg’s surroundings. What appeared to be a firm, metal floor was actually thick, solid glass. In fact, the entire room was a single glass chamber. A strange dark-purplish substance oozed around the outside of the glass box.

It appeared that Greg’s glass prison was submerged in a mysterious liquid keeping him safe from its threatening aura. He felt a whirlwind of emotion from panic to confusion to fear. He tried to comprehend his present crisis but nothing could explain it. Desperate to find escape, he glanced around his glass cell now with more light to inspect it.

A large industrial looking pillar split through the centre of the glass box with mechanical arms holding his limbs in place. The entire cube and surroundings were otherworldly – like something from a sci-fi film. A light buzzing sounded before a red beam scanned the inside of the glass coffin. Starting from Greg’s fingertips it proceeded down until it bathed his toes in red light.

Shortly after some more whirring of machinery, the lights dimmed down and Greg felt himself slip into another slumber.

The lights on full beam shone on the smooth tarmacked road. The tires made their monotonous hiss over the levelled highway. It was now after-dark and the air making its way through the filters was meadow-sweet.

Trevor fiddled with the radio. He drove along the empty motorway with no other cars in sight. A dark, moonlit desert outside his window extended into the horizon. Whatever this missing guy was escaping from – he certainly got his wish. Trevor thought he might be lost when a road sign confirmed he was on the right track.

The first sign of life since leaving the dreary diner appeared in the distance. The remnants of an old mining town, Brides Wells wasn’t a picturesque sight. Since it ran into decline in the early 1960s – it was almost a chore to find on any maps – Trevor’s biggest challenge in tracking the missing salaryman.

Not even a welcome sign gave the impression that Trevor had arrived at his destination. Several battered brick buildings served as relics of a bygone age. Most appeared vacant with boarded-up storefronts and windows. Trevor could make out some signs for a general store, gas station and a bar. Lights flickered in some of the windows meaning there was at least some life still left in the forgotten town.

He would have preferred another motel if he had the choice. A narrow three-story building, once a fashionable place of residence. Trevors LaSabre eased into the deserted parking as he cut the engine. He’d expected the town to be a bit of dive, even for a runaway to escape to, but now he was even more curious about the life choices of ‘Greg Davis’.

Trevor enquired about a room from the prehistoric receptionist who could barely utter so much as a hello. After navigating the winding halls styled in 60s decor, he found his room for the night. The interior included curtains of yellowed lace, low ceilings and gaudy wallpaper. Nothing actually dirty, just an atmosphere of decay and mould. Trevor closed the door behind him.

As he relaxed back on the creaky mattress, Trevor stared absentmindedly at the ceiling above. Two moths were orbiting the overhead light adding to the overall feel of the stately motel. After such a long ride, Trevor felt himself dosing off. His mind thinking over the investigation on Greg Davis’s whereabouts.

During the fact-find, he’d read articles about a secret military operation happening in the hills near the old mining town. A local media outlet compared it to an underground Area 51. He wasn’t much of a conspiracy theorist but a part of Trever was surprised to find the missing man’s last whereabouts matched the exact location of the supposed military base.

Trevor felt himself drift to sleep as the winged insects continued to flutter above him.

Darkness… Greg stirred from his slumber into the thick, intense blackness. The kind of dark space where you were guaranteed to be far from any source of natural light. Greg could feel movement in his limbs. While blind, he felt around his surroundings touching nothing except solid concrete. He crawled along the hard floor to find something that would elude to his current whereabouts.

The darkness seemed endless as Greg searched blindly in every direction. After fumbling on the ground, he forfeited his search and twisted onto his back against the solid flooring. His mouth was rid of the monstrous gag and his limbs felt a dull ache from how he’d been bound earlier.

Greg had no idea where he was or what was happening. After being abducted from his home in the middle of the night, Greg was positive his captors would reveal themselves sooner or later. As if on cue, the room suddenly filled with a bright light. A modest concrete cell became illuminated from a roof of solid light above the prisoner.

Greg immediately grimaced and strained his eyes with the sudden change in lighting. He cursed audibly with his hands trying to block the bright light. Slowly adjusting to his surroundings, Greg gazed over at the only wall different from the other three. A vast floor to ceiling mirror reflected a naked man resting on the concrete floor.

Greg took a guess that his current captors were watching and waiting behind that mirrored surface. He could try and make a scene but that wouldn’t likely get their attention. When they wanted to speak to him, they would.

With the blazing ceiling lights overhead, Greg could now get a sense of his present lock-up. It lacked the sci-fi embellishments that Greg’s previous cell had. This one was much more simplistic with bare concrete being the material of choice. A metal bed, toilet and sink were the only pieces of furniture on show.

The claustrophobic box felt like it had was engineered with absolute precision. The corners were sharp and straight, the wall mirror a perfect clean fit. Greg knew this wasn’t any traditional cell, certainly top-secret military grade. Soulless as to constitute additional punishment. Greg lifted himself from the concrete floor and took a seat on the metal bed. The frame creaked as he landed on it. He stared at his reflection across from where he sat in the narrow space.

Trevor rubbed the tiredness from his eyes as he stared at his reflection in the LeSabre rear-view mirror. His sleep in the motel was interrupted by an uncomfortable mattress and lack of aircon. Trevor flipped through his files on the missing person ‘Greg Davis’. He decided to investigate the coordinates when tracking the last known activity of Greg’s phone.

Golden light dribbled over the land as the sun began to rise behind the hills. Trevor decided to leave early in the morning. The desert wasn’t ideal for exploration in the middle of the day. Hr plotted the location on a map using the coordinate’s longitude and latitude.

About roughly a forty minute drive from the sleepy town, Greg was now bumping along on an old dirt road. His car buckled and bounced on the track, as he rode further and further into the desert. The main question on Greg’s mind was how one could even make a phone call in such a remote part of the world. There wasn’t a telecom mast or aerial in sight. With the sun now gradually higher in the sky, the desert began to bake. A golden brown expanse stretched for miles.

Trevor suddenly slammed on the breaks as he came across a dangerous-looking sign. As the dust settled around him, he read the text as ‘DANGER live minefield ahead, do not enter.’ He re-read the text a few times before stepping out of the dusty LeSabre. The road continued on into the distance but there was no sign of civilisation beyond that.

Greg’s last phone call took place a couple of hundred yards past the ominous sign. Trevor took a few steps to get a closer look. The sign appeared old and rickety, battered by the sun and wind. He couldn’t identify any sign of craters or a triggered explosion in the distance. The earth was completely undisturbed as dust swirled peacefully.

Trevor turned to get into his car, feeling defeated, when he noticed a marking in the dirt. It looked like a footprint. On close examination, Trevor could tell it was made recently. The trail extended past the sign into the supposed minefield next to the dirt road. He contemplated it for few minutes.

Trevor wasn’t exactly a thrill seeker and walking into a live minefield wasn’t exactly how he thought today would pan out. But his curiosity got the best of him as he climbed back into his car. He shut off the engine before stepping out of the car once again and walked over in the direction of the footprints.

It was clearly the impression of a heavy boot, the threads were even visible in the brown dust. Placing his foot over the track, Trevor began walking the same steps past the line and into the dangerous area. The walk would take roughly ten minutes unless the trail suddenly stopped. Lucky for Trevor, he managed to follow every step fumbling only once or twice along the way.

Sweat dripped from his brow from the stress of the situation combined with the baking sun above. Along his walk, Trevor encountered numerous signs with similar dangerous messages about turning back. This only fueled his curiosity more, as he got closer to the source of Greg’s phone call. Just as he reached the area marked on his map, Greg could hear a faint whirring noise.

Carefully turning around, he could see a number of large vehicles racing towards him from multiple directions. Not only that but the noise of a helicopter sounded above. Within seconds, a swarm of military vehicles and soldiers raced out aiming their threatening weapons at Trevor. He was shocked into disbelief as he quickly fell to the ground.

The sound of chaos was all around him. Soldiers barked orders as the chopper above blew dust in every direction. Laying on the desert floor, Trevor could almost taste the dirt. Army men ran in his direction pointing their weapons at him. He had really fucked up… only he didn’t know the exact consequences just yet.


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