“Well, that certainly looks like something,” Kihri said slowly.
It was the first thing either of them had said in a while, and so it gave Zarah a small scare when her sister began speaking. They’d gone straight across the road into the park after leaving Market Square, and although Kihri had started talking about something called a ‘grid sweep’, Zarah had instead opted to head straight for the centre, following a gut instinct. Of course, being ignored had thrown Kihri into a sulk, and so she had spent most of the time floating a few meters behind Zarah, facing the other direction with her arms folded.
Quite frankly, she was glad for the respite – the park was beautiful enough that incessant chatter would have detracted from it. It was essentially a very small forest; tall pines ran in uneven rows from one end to the other, essentially keeping the entire park in the shade. There were some simple dirt paths here and there, and the occasional bench, but for the most part it was just the trees overhead and the dirt and grass underfoot. The wind was strong, and so the sounds of rustling branches and leaves filled the air, nearly drowning out the bird calls and other animals.
It was… tranquil, she decided, and so it seemed like a shame to her when they came to the centre of the forest and found an ugly, squat, concrete building there.
“Seriously, what the fuck?” Kihri had caught up as soon as they saw the clearing up ahead, and now she floated on ahead, beginning to circle the building. “This looks like… a power plant or something? What’s it doing here?”
“Maybe it is the… maintenance building? Where they keep the tools and things?”
“One, why the fuck would they use concrete, instead of just making a shed?” She disappeared from view behind the building, but her voice was still clearly audible. “Two, why the fuck would they put it right in the middle? Why not on one of the sides.” She re-appeared on the other side. “Three, there would be literally any signage at all.”
She was right, it turned out. The two of them scoured the entire outside of the building, circling it multiple times, but couldn’t find a single plaque or sign. Kihri thought she found a place where a sign used to be, but the concrete was so weathered that they couldn’t say for sure if they were actually seeing it or if their minds were just tricking them into thinking so.
“Hold on,” Kihri said suddenly, after they’d reconvened at the ‘front’ of the building (the side they’d approached from). “Search something for me?”
“Look up images of… what’s the fucking term. Breaker station?”
“That only brings up some kind of book.”
“Shit, alright. Um… try ‘power station small’.”
“Scale models and toys.”
Zarah blinked. “Huh. That does look quite similar, actually.”
“Third time’s the charm,” Kihri said with a fist pump. “Ooh, now check if there’s a subway running underneath here.”
“…there is. How did you know that?”
“Only possible reason I could think of for it to be here.” She spun around. “Welp, mystery solved!”
“Mystery not solved!” Zarah said. “Where are all the signs? Should it not be fenced off?”
“…okay, that’s a good point. Well, guess we’re going inside!”
“I do not think that is a good idea. It could be dangerous.”
“Yeah,” Kihri snorted, “for you.” She began floating up the steps towards an unmarked door. “Come on, loser, take some risks.”
Reluctantly, Zarah followed her up the steps.
After Kihri stuck her head through the door and gave the go-ahead, she slowly creaked it open.
It led out onto a grated metal platform, overlooking a large room that looked to be about the size of the building’s exterior. Down on the ground floor, behind fences and warnings at last, was electrical equipment that look similar to ones that they’d seen on the internet. The room was dim, but not completely dark, thanks to a small, yellow skylight on the roof, which gave it a very dim, grimy vibe.
There were no stairs down, but there was a ladder. It seemed solid enough, but she still tested the first few rungs before climbing down into the small area of the main floor outside the fences. Or, considering the relative sizes, it was more like it was the fenced-in area. Still, the signs were on her side, which supported the original thought.
“I mean, I’m no expert on power stations- sorry, substations, but this all looks pretty normal to me.” Kihri had already floated through the fences, and proceeded to stick her head inside one of the machines.
She re-emerged almost immediately, sticking her tongue out. “Ugh. Tastes weird.”
“You should not do that,” Zarah cautioned. “It could cause it to malfunction.”
“Oh, yeah, for sure. Eight years of not being able to affect anything, and it finally works as soon as it’d be dangerous ?” She paused. “Okay, actually, I see your point.”
Zarah inspected the door in the fence, and the lock attached to it. “Can you look around in there? I do not want to break this or climb over.”
“What am I looking for?”
“Great! Super specific and helpful.” She was grinning, though, and when Zarah made a shoo-ing motion, she went (albeit with an obscene gesture).
While she did that, Zarah turned her attention to the small filing cabinet and desk.
The former was locked, and the latter was bare, save for a single piece of paper, which turned out to be a slightly scuffed maintenance schedule. The same name and signature appeared on almost every monthly occurrence – “Jona Mehrvitz”.
“Jona Mehrvitz,” Zarah repeated out loud.
“Who the fuck,” came the reply from the other side of the room, “is Jona Mehrvitz?”
“I do not know. I just needed you to remember the name.”
“Oh, that’s all I’m good for now, huh? I’m just your fucking rolodex. Nevermind everything I do for you, or that I’m your sister, or that I’m dead, you just want me to… remember… names…”
“Kihri?!” Zarah asked, alarmed.
“…there’s like a fucking mineshaft back here,” she replied after a moment. “Little hole in the wall and a ladder going down.”
“Oh. I thought it was going to be something serious. That is probably just an access to the subway, remember?”
“I wasn’t done. And also maybe I was ordering information for dramatic effect, whatever. There’s also, like, a scary amount of blood here.”
“…please mention that first next time.”
It was indeed a significant amount of blood, dried and caked in layers on the ground and on the walls around the ladder. To get inside, Zarah had eventually had to jimmy the lock on the fence open – not something she had much experience with, but Kihri had made her watch more than a few internet videos on the subject. Skirting around the edges of the room to avoid getting too close to any of the equipment had also been difficult, and she’d taken off her jacket and left it on the table before even attempting it, but she had eventually made it over to Kihri, safe and un-electrocuted.
Not that it was a particularly pleasant achievement. After a second, she realised that there were faint streaks in the blood, all leading towards the edge and the ladder, and only a second longer to intuite their source – fingers, clawing at the ground as they were dragged inside.
“I retract any previous flippant comments about danger,” Kihri said.
Zarah pushed down the wave of nausea that threatened to rise. “Can you tell how old the blood is?” she asked hoarsely.
Kihri looked like she wanted to make another comment, but held it back, and floated down closer. “…it’s in layers,” she said slowly. “Freshest is probably a few days old, then about a week under that, and so on. Looks… pretty consistent, actually.”
“…what do we do?” Zarah asked.
“We do nothing. I’ll go check it out down there. Yell if you… get electrocuted, I guess.”
She disappeared through the floor. Carefully, trying not to touch any of the blood, Zarah leant against the wall, propping herself up to wait. The low hum of the equipment hadn’t bothered her at first, but as she stood there it seemed to grow louder and louder, drilling into her brain until it was all she could hear, drowning out even her heartbeat and the blood rushing through her ears-
Zarah yelped, spinning around and sending her foot flying through Kihri’s face where it stuck out of the floor.
She raised an eyebrow. “Rude. What crawled up your ass?”
Zarah shook her head, the humming suddenly back to its background level. “…sorry. I was just… startled.”
She didn’t seem convinced. “…alright? Anyway, there’s no-one down there. Can’t see much, though, too dark. Something big in the middle of the room, but it’s not moving or breathing.”
Zarah nodded, then began pulling off her sweatshirt so she could wrap it around her hands. “How far down?”
“Maybe ten feet.” Kihri began to sink back into the ground. “Also, you’re gonna want to hold your breath, I think.”
The smell hit her about halfway down the ladder, sickly sweet rotting meat and coppery dried blood. She’d folded up her shirt over her face, but it was still almost too thick to breathe, and quick, shallow breaths were the only thing keeping her from vomiting. Even through the shirt, she could feel the slight stickiness on the rungs, and she resolved to burn the garment once they were done rather than even trying to salvage it, because some stains were never coming out.
“Three more rungs,” Kihri counted for her from below. “Two more rungs. One more rung. Next step is the ground.”
“Thanks,” she replied as her foot touched ground. It was almost completely black – the light from the top of the shaft created a small well at the bottom, but beyond that there were no other sources. She could vaguely make out a room about the same size as the one above, but in the opposite direction and with a lower ceiling. There were what looked like cabinets or fuse boxes along the walls, and, like Kihri had said, a large object in the middle of the room. It was boxy at the bottom, but more rounded and asymmetric at the top, almost organic-looking.
“Blood on the walls?” she asked Kihri.
“Not as far as I can tell, no. Try to your left.”
She reached out a hand, feeling up and down the cold concrete wall. After a moment of searching, she found a large, clunky switch, and flipped it down.
It made a hefty-sounding chunk, and a moment later, the fluorescent lights hummed into life, and bathed the room in bright, cold light.
The two of them stood frozen, taking in the scene before them. The boxes around the edge of the room did indeed turn out to be fuse boxes and various pieces of electrical equipment, sealed wires and tubes disappearing into the wall behind them. There was an isolation switch on the wall near them, bright red with a yellow symbol, and a large, slightly rusty handle, and a large cabinet with the label ‘KEY’ on the front. To their right, a small table sat, with an old television displaying the CCTV view of an empty subway tunnel, presumably the one that the station managed. A half-eaten sandwich sat next to it on one side, and on the other, a set of pristine tools lay on a clean black cloth.
They weren’t looking at that, though, because the object in the centre of the room took up the entirety of their attention.
“So.” Kihri said after a moment. “Good news. I think we found Jona Mehrvitz.”
The object turned out to not be an object at all, but instead three separate ones. The first was a medical chair/table hybrid, the kind you might see in a dentist’s office, which had been adjusted to a semi-upright position, and was bolted securely to the floor.
The second was a corpse, held into the chair with thick straps. It was wearing an electrician’s coveralls, but it was too mutilated to make out any details in the face. A bloodstained name badge on the coveralls did indeed read “MEHRVITZ”, and his shoes had been pulled off and set to the side, exposing the bloody, pulped mess that had been made of his feet.
The third was a large, bright red hammer protruding from his chest.
It was about two feet long along the haft, and seemed to have a spiked and blunt end to the head, the former of which was buried deep in the corpse’s torso and protruding from the back of the chair.
Zarah had thought it was made of painted metal at first, but as her eyes adjusted to the light, it became clear that it wasn’t. It wasn’t just painted red, it was red, and slightly translucent, in fact. The entire thing looked like it was made from one solid piece of red glass, with the translucence causing the edges to become darker and more prominent. It barely even seemed real, let alone capable of causing such horrific damage.
“Couldn’t have just used a regular hammer, huh?” Kihri commented after another period of silence.
“This is not the time,” Zarah snapped at her.
“Oh, come on.” She rolled her eyes. “You’ve gotta get desensitised eventually. S’bad for your mental health if you don’t – saw that in a documentary.”
“That was a documentary about child soldiers.”
“Well, sure, but the point still stands.”
Zarah growled incoherently at her, then stalked forward onto the veritable island of blood stains that covered the floor around the chair. Why can’t she just have some basic respect? You’d think that she of all people would understand, but no. She just has to be the funniest one around, has to crack the best jokes, has to be so ‘cool’ and disrespectful all the time!
“You okay there, Z?” Kihri asked from behind her. “What’re you muttering?”
“Nothing,” Zarah muttered.
“Sure, sure.” Surprisingly quickly, her sister swooped in front of her, stopping her short. “Let me go first,” she said. “Don’t want to get blood all over you for no reason. Well, more blood, anyway.”
Grudgingly, Zarah waited at the edge of the blood while Kihri ducked in closer, spinning around the chair and observing it from different angles.
“God, this is insane,” she commented, floating up to the corpse’s face. “I genuinely have no idea how he’s not just a pile of bloody giblets. Like, what’s even holding him together anymore?”
“Is the brain still intact?”
“…huh. Yeah, it is. That’s kind of terrifying, actually. Means he probably actually bled to death while in excruciating pain the entire time.”
“So he was not just killed, he was tortured.”
“Seems that way. Skillfully, too. Someone who knew what they were doing.” She glanced around at the faded bloodstains. “Or,” she admitted, “someone who had a lot of opportunities to practice.”
Unbidden, a fact that Kihri had shared with her once rose to mind – namely, that there was about one and a half gallons of blood in the average person. How many people were in that pool? How many had-
“Fuck!” Kihri shot away from the body like she’d been electrocuted, shaking her hand furiously. “Son of a bitch, that hurt!”
“Are you okay?”
She continued shaking for a few more moments, then fell still. “I think so, yeah. Seriously, Yanis, you couldn’t have just used a regular fucking hammer?”
Kihri looked at her like she was stupid. “Uh, Yanis, dude. Yanis Metzin? The lady who made the hammer? Do I have… to… explain…” The realisation of what she’d just said seemed to sink in, and her eyes went wide. “Zarah?” she asked slowly.
“What the fuck is going on?!”
Instinctively, Zarah took a step backwards, but Kihri didn’t even seem to notice. She was holding her hands up in front of her face, turning them back and forth.
“…are you sure you are okay?” Zarah asked tentatively.
“<…I don’t know,>” she replied in Pashtari, sounding genuinely scared for the first time Zarah could remember. “<It was just… there. Like the colour of the sky, or the day of the week.>”
“<Do you… do you know anything else?>”
“<I don’t know,>” she repeated. “<Maybe try asking me something else?>”
“<Okay… where does Yanis live?>”
“How the fuck should I know?!” Kihri snapped back immediately. “…shit. I’m sorry, dude, I’m just… worked up.” She went back to Brechtin so suddenly that Zarah wasn’t even sure she realised they’d switched languages in the first place.
“It is okay,” she said softly. “Um. What is the hammer made of?”
“Solidified essence.” Again, the answer came instantly and casually.
“What? Essence of what?”
Kihri blinked. “I… wait, shit. She doesn’t know.” She hissed, clutching her hands to her head. “Get out,” she growled, “of my head.”
“…did that work?” Zarah asked after a moment.
“No, it didn’t fucking work!” Kihri yelled, spinning on her. “Some fucking creepy mass-murder ladies memories just fucking zapped themselves into my brain, but I got rid of them by yelling?!”
Zarah held up her hands in front of her, palms out. “You need to calm, Kihri.”
“Oh, really?! Because it seems to me like-”
The wall exploded inwards.