What makes them crave it? What makes them go insane? What takes their humanity and only leaves a shattered box? Is it the taste? Or does some sort of chemical reaction happen that changes them? That’s what I found out.” He grinned wide at a young woman. His hands reached out grabbing her shoulders. “I’ve found it!” A sort of glee formed in his eyes. She watched him unsure of why he was acting so strangely. “I want to take you back there.” She frowned as he stared at her unblinking. He wanted her to be like him. Whatever he was now. Her foot slid back as she tried to pull away but his grip was too strong. He grinned at her. His eyes wide. “Come with me.” It didn’t sound like he was asking her. She stared unable to pull away. Her mind panicked throwing ideas around searching for anything to get her away. The penetrating stare shifted to the right. She followed his gaze to see a strange man crouching to her left.
The man’s clothing was dirty as if he had crawled along the ground. Even his hands and face was covered in a blackish grime. When her eyes lifted to his, they held nothing. He held a blank expression as if looking through her eyes unfocused yet focused on her. His lips were twisted up and frozen in a permanent smile much like the man holding her. The man that had been her boss.
“You…You seek the 6?” He stuttered. “The 6? 6? 6? 6? 6? 6?” His head cocked to the side as he shambled forward using hands, feet and knees. It would have been funny had the situation been different. Her boss let her go turning to frown at the man. Whatever that had taken him seemed to dissipate.
“Get away from here. This is none of your business.” His hands motioned for the man to leave but he crouched there grinning at him as if unaware of what those motions meant. He had the innocent expression of a puppy, but the malevolence of a serial killer. The woman crept backwards while her boss was preoccupied. She disappeared passed the doorway they had been standing in. Her boss didn’t appear aware of where she had gone or even concerned by her departure. Shifting backwards, the man disappeared down the stairwell as silently as he had arrived. Which was a feat considering how he was walking, backwards staring eyes locked on the boss. The shine off his white teeth the last to fade into the darkness.
The police chief walked into the historic inn holding his clipboard. It had notes on the case along with ghastly pictures of things he’d rather not think about. He had first objected but his daughter was as strong willed as he was. She insisted on joining him even if it was one of the most dangerous cases he’d been on.
For the past few months, random people were found jabbering on about something called ‘the 6’. Whatever it was, it had a different effect on each person. They had traced each person’s travels to this location. More people talked about the ‘6’ here than elsewhere but he was no closer to finding out what it was then when he started. A noise pulled his attention from his notes. A man was crawling in a crouch down the stairs in an ambling slow fall. Yet, he caught himself each time. It was startling to watch. As soon as the man had reached the bottom of the stairs, safely surprisingly, he laid straight before rolling against the wall and grinning into the wood. The police chief stood watching him expecting something more from the crazed man, but he did nothing more. He turned to someone coming to down the opposite stair.
“Dad.” His daughter Amber came down the stairs. She didn’t smile at him, but her eyes brightened at the sight of him. Her hair was bright red like her mother. Her eyes deep blue. She was strong in form like a dancer, but not willowing. Her arm was curled around her own clipboard. “There was a man up there that talked about the 6.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but the crawling man shot from the corner bolting to his daughter. He tackled her into the stairs laying on her nose to nose staring into her eyes. “You have the 6? You have 6?” He tilted his head. Running over, the chief went to grab the man’s shoulder but his daughter already shoved him off. He dropped into his crouch knuckles on the rug. “You said 6. You talk about the 6. You have the 6?” He dodged any attempted to grab him like a boxer. “You said 6!” He shouted startling everyone. Standing up, he faced her then the police chief. “Liar for miar. Liar in the box like a fox.” He turned on his heel marching to his corner to fall on his face on the floor.
The police chief went over to his daughter slowly to not provoke the man any further. Reaching out, he took her hand and pulled her to her feet. “I don’t understand…” She murmured. “In any case,” She spoke in a near whisper. “I don’t think we should mention it around other people unless…well, we want that sort of reaction. Now that we are closer to an answer, where more people are like this, I think it’s better we don’t speak about it around people at all. THere’s no telling if someone might have a worse reaction than he did.” His daughter turned to pick up her clipboard, but the chief watched the man. He couldn’t explain it but he knew the man was somehow very aware of them despite looking at the wall.
“I think we gave them a glance at our hand.” She looked up at her father brows drawn in confusion.
“Our hand?” She asked, but her dad didn’t answer only walked to the doors. What hand they had given away was a bit lost on her. Was it the fact they knew about ‘6’ or that they were police? Her lips pressed together.
“Come on. Let’s get out of here. I don’t like this place. It feels wrong.” Coming from the police chief, his daughter knew something was amiss. It wasn’t like him to be unnerved by anything. She knew he wasn’t sharing all the information with her, but part of her was glad. From what she had seen. What lied within this mystery was a gory mess meant only for horror stories. Nevertheless, she needed to continue. She was the only one that had her father’s back in this. No one else believed anything about it.
She sat on the steps with her knees drawn up to her chest her arms wrapped around them. What had her boss been thinking? That strange look in his eyes gave her the creeps. It was almost like he wanted something from her, but what was it? He had looked crazed, driven mad. His words…Had he really found it? Why would he actually use it? He of everyone should know what it does. He’d been studying it longer than anyone.
Her eyes pulled off of the pavement to an older man and a young woman walking from the inn towards their car. It was nicer than anything they had here, which labelled them as travellers. If they travelled here, they could only be looking for it. No one ever travelled here for any other reason. Everyone seemed addicted. Her world revolved around this stupid thing and she didn’t even know what it was. Her boss had given her hints, tips, and bits of information. Enough to keep her following him, but not enough to figure it out. He strung her along all this time with promises of fame, money, glory, or anything she might want. She hadn’t been in it for that, but more…to maybe fix this. She had studied biology and chemistry for a long time. There was never any indication it would help, but after her mother. After what happened to her mother, she had vowed to find out what ‘6’ was. Ten years later she still had no idea. She had found her boss, Damen, but he didn’t lead her anywhere but in circles.
She looked back at the man and woman. They were looking around for something and looking at clipboards. Whatever they were doing, it was so unusual someone was following them down the street. He was one of the shamblers. More animal than human. They weren’t the ones to really be worried about. Not that she had found. They were erratic, unpredictable, and sometimes terrifying, but mostly harmless. Unless, they thought you had ‘6’. Why was it called ‘6’ anyway? Sighing, she stood up heading down the street rubbing her arms. With her boss gone berserk, she only had the little bit of money left to find a way back home. There was nothing left for her here. Her goal unsuccessful. So close. She thought she had almost solved it. Her mother would remain where she was it seemed.
The town was small, but it had a surprising amount of people. Most had been seeking 6, but had become trapped here. Much like she was now. She had been told the town was like a black hole. No one escaped. No one left but in a bag.
There were four types of people she had found here so far, not that she had spent much time here or around them. Shamblers, as people called them. The semi-insane, semi-sane people that were barely coherent. The Bliss. People blissfully ignorant of everyone. Ones who seek but haven’t found. Unknowing of what terrible fates remain for them. Then, the amply named Teddies. The ones driven to the point of violence. They no longer care what violent, or manipulative measures it takes to get more 6. No matter the games to play or who hurts. Her boss apparently became a Teddy. She didn’t want to stay to find out what she might become. 6 was like alcohol in a sense. There were different reactions to it as well. The fourth she had an idea of was what she called the Pawn. People unaware of their actions but performed complex tasks. If asked what they were doing, they usually had no idea. Pawn went about purposefully, which suggested someone controlling them. Which also suggest maybe a fifth type? The Mastermind?
Even with the amount of people here. She found the town in disrepair. Since she had some education, she hoped someone might want her services. Maybe with medical or constructing? After taking the 6, most people seemed to be incapable of comprehending anything, much less repair or maintenance. She walked up to a man who looked in charge.
“E-Excuse me?” She held herself, strangely cold. “I was hoping you could help me?”
“I don’t have 6.” He stated without looking at her. “Leave me. I need to finish.”
She watched him for a moment before turning. A hand clamped on her shoulder. Pain thrashed from her shoulder down her arm. Looking up, she stared at the man holding her shoulder. He wasn’t even aware he was doing it. “Please let go!” She cried trying to get his hand off. His grip was impossibly strong. “I didn’t…I didn’t do anything.” Her eyes flicked around but no one was watching or doing anything. “Help!” She cried out louder, but no one moved. Panic welled up within her. Her eyes darted from person to person. They all acted as if it were a normal day. “Help!” She yelled again flailing out as the man dragged her into the building. He was still talking. Still looking at papers. While she bit, clawed, and fought for freedom.