This is the February entry for Jeffrey Ricker’s flash fiction challenge. Enjoy!
The genre: Thriller, The object: A suitcase, The setting: A sewer
You can also read this story on Archive of Our Own (AO3).
With a grunt and a splash, the oversized rubber boots he wore hit the water lined concrete ensconced in darkness.
He sighed, adjusting his ecto-goggles in frustration, his tan jumpsuit with the tell-tale logo on his right arm giving away his profession in an instant by the city dwellers above. What he would give to be like them tonight, safe in their beds asleep.
“I should’ve retired a long time ago,” he growled before answering the hissing static of his Walkie-Talkie, attached to his gray utility belt. He pressed the button, then, matter-of-factly: “Stantz!”
“Ray!” Winston answered, urgency in his voice. Janine was at her old desk, fidgeting, trying not to let the tears come to her eyes again. “You’ve got to find that suitcase. Egon’s last research report is in there, and it’s the key to bringing back our old operation again!”
“Yeah, I hear ya,” Ray mumbled as he stomped around in the brick-and-mortar sewer system that stretched for thousands of miles beneath New York city. Ray waved his PKE meter now and then, but it barely budged, and his flashlight began to flicker as he trudged along. The silence and the cold were what got to him more than the ceaseless drips of water and the echoes of his boots on the concrete floor.
Ray paused, his goggles resembling an optometrist’s gear rather than that of a paranormal psychologist. He whirled around, startled by a cold draft that chilled the back of his neck, making its hairs stand on end.
“This place gives me the creeps!” Ray hissed into the Walkie. “Tell me why I’m down here, again!”
“Egon’s last report was on the pink slime from Vigo,” Winston rolled his eyes, grinning, not realizing Ray’s plight. “You’ve got thirty minutes to find his suitcase, and then get the hell outta there, before the cops start questioning you and us again!”
“Right…” Ray scanned the pipes and the bricks above him, noting the large archways. “It’s a shame we don’t study these sewers more…lots of legends here! And…hauntings?” He paused. The flashlight went out.
Ray instantly swung his PKE meter toward the source of the cold and soft, raspy breathing in front of him. Its lights burned green, then ochre…then…red.
Nothing appeared. No specter, out to absorb his energy, no psychological torment to wreak on his mind. Nothing but silence, and the cold.
Ray stood there, gasping for breath. He jumped up, startled, as the static from his Walkie crackled loudly.
“Ray?” came a soft, sad voice, the Brooklyn accent lessened with time and grief. “Are you alright?”
Ray pressed the button, his hand shaking more than what it should. Get a hold of yourself, Ray! It’s nothing, the PKE meter can be faulty sometimes! he thought. Then, he whispered, “Hey, Janine. I…I’ve been better, let’s put it that way!”
“Egon told me the suitcase was in the sewer by the subway…where you and Winston fell in the slime…in a letter before he…” Janine couldn’t finish the sentence. Winston took over the Walkie as she got up and left for the bathroom in the Firehouse, overcome.
“We’re running out of time, Ray,” Winston answered.
“Got it…” Ray took in a deep breath, steeled his courage, and kept walking, the PKE meter still glowing red, its antennae waving like a moth’s in seeking the light.
He followed the path he vaguely remembered from decades ago, and paused near the subway tracks, his heart hammering in his chest. I hope the subway doesn’t come down this way tonight!
“Ray,” came another voice, clear as a bell, and familiar…one he hadn’t heard in a long time. A flash of light, and Ray jumped back, his ecto-goggles whirring and pinging. Ray’s head was spinning as the green glare reduced into a small orb, making his eyes widen in pure shock. This is someone I know!
The orb hovered at his eye level for a moment, bobbed around his chest and back, then moved quickly into a dark corridor across from the subway tracks. “I left this here for you, in case I didn’t come back.”
Ray was dumbfounded. He gently removed the ecto-goggles.
Egon Spengler stood before him, in the dark corridor, holding the suitcase in his right hand. He wore a brown tweed suit, with a navy-blue vest and a white button-down undershirt, his red tie in stark contrast to the drab colors the scientist so often preferred. His eyes were no longer brown, but a pale blue, like the mists of the Atlantic at sunrise. He squeezed the handle of the suitcase firmly, and set it down against the wall of the corridor. He gave Ray a knowing, crooked grin.
Tears filled Ray’s eyes. He was too in shock to speak, but he knew his jaw had slacked open.
Egon became an orb once more, fading into the darkness gradually. “Tell Janine I love her,” he whispered before winking out of existence again.
The light began to shift into a distant light that filled the tunnel. Ray’s paralysis ended the moment he heard a rattling along the tracks.
The subway! His brain screamed as he bolted across the tracks and lurched up onto the brick platform just in time to miss being flattened by the oncoming subway cars.
“Ray!” Winston yelled, terrified.
“I’m…I’m here,” he gasped into the Walkie, rolled onto his back. He struggled to catch his breath. I gotta stop getting those hoagies! he swore to himself as he finally managed to stand, his head still spinning from everything he saw.
“You’ve got two minutes—you got the suitcase?!” Winston hissed.
“Yeah…but it looks like I just missed the subway,” Ray managed as he grabbed the suitcase from the corridor and headed to the platform, waiting for the next one to arrive.