This story is based on the Key Series/863 series by Matthias on YouTube, and was written for the flash fiction challenge by Jeffrey Ricker for March 2021. I hope you enjoy! :3
The Motorola text sound startled Matthias as he sat at his beloved Megadesk. Begrudgingly, he looked at the message.
Woods and Sam looked at him from the opposite sides of the office. Woods was leaned over to the left on one of the chairs with the cupholders, while Sam stood while holding the camera in the doorway. Sam’s breath caught when the ringtone hit, and Woods just rolled his eyes in frustration.
“Dude, what did he say now?” Woods grumbled, impatient.
Matthias read the text: “I can’t wait much longer. I need the life’s blood.”
At the same time, the undercover detective pinged Matthias on the computer: “Send me the drop coordinates.”
Woods redirected Matt to the message. Matt sighed deeply, rubbed his eyes in frustration and annoyance, then pulled his fingers along his cheeks. His eyes had dark circles under them—he hadn’t been sleeping well, what with everything going on at the studio. First, the key buried in the attic of one of the units. Then, everything had spiraled from there into a hellish nightmare, involving a defunct scientific laboratory called Syntec.
Syntec. The organization that had once called the studio home, that had supposedly tested on people in unspeakably cruel ways in a project code named Pegasus. The unexplained screaming through a cassette tape they found had haunted all of the trio’s dreams as of late. What were they doing to people here? Why? Why are we wrapped up in all of this? Matt thought, in a daze at the computer screen.
Everyone jumped. A loud crash and shatter meant something had fallen.
“What was that!” Sam cried, trying to pivot toward the sound. It was coming from the other side of the hallway—the side that led toward the stairwell with the Apple ][.
“I hope it’s not one of the vials…” Woods muttered, running a hand through his hair.
“Guys, we can’t worry about that now. What should I say to them? What do we do?” Matt ignored the sound, immersed in the messages from the undercover officer, and from Nelson Syphus, the founder of Syntec. I know we planned a stakeout…but Syphus is getting more impatient with us by the second. I don’t know what we should do, I mean, what if we run into him…?
Help me, came a soft sad whimper from the office doorway. Matt froze. The voice of a small child, no older than his own little ones. His heart nearly stopped on hearing it.
“Sam, come on, don’t play us like that,” he tried to laugh it off, turning around to face her. She looked confused.
“What?” she asked, raising an eyebrow and looking at Woods for confirmation. Woods looked at both of them, also confused. He blinked a few times, shook his head.
“Help me? You just said, help me,” Matt insisted. Woods and Sam looked at each other, then at Matt. Matt sighed, rubbed his face in frustration again. “Maybe I need some air.” He got up, taking the Motorola with him.
“We’re going to Descanso Gardens, right?” Sam hustled after Woods and Matt as they walked briskly toward the storage area where they kept the Mercury Mountaineer. Strike 1…Matt thought. I wonder if what we’re planning to do will be strike 2.
Matt looked at the phone. He handed it to Woods. “You read it.”
Woods read the text aloud as Matt made sure the small leather suitcase once full of vials—replaced with several sets of keys—was stowed safely on the floor of the car. He was glad he got a rental to hitch to the Mountaineer—maybe getting rid of this thing will help, he thought, desperate to escape the chaos they had been unwittingly thrust into. “Tip toe, through the window…by the window, that’s where I’ll be…”
“What?” Sam laughed nervously, glancing around at the storage area, the doorways.
“Isn’t that a song?” Matt laughed in return, thinking.
“Like from SpongeBob?” Woods smirked. Matt sighed dolefully, and grinned.
“No, it’s a song about tulips, from Tiny Tim,” Matt huffed, folding his arms and pacing outside the open door of the Mountaineer. Tanner pulled up in the rental, backing it up so that they could hitch the Mountaineer to it. “…wait. How does he know the drop location?”
I want to go home, wept the small voice that only Matt could hear. I don’t like this place.
“Did you guys hear that?” Matt mumbled, more to himself than Sam, Woods or Tanner.
“You seriously need a vacation after this!” Tanner teased as he walked past them to the studio and his newly converted office with cheesy motivational posters. “You’ve been talking to yourself again!”
“Thanks for your help, Tanner,” he grunted, while he and Woods hitched the Mountaineer to the rental.
“No problem!” Tanner grinned cheerfully as he sashayed back to his tiny lair.
“Maybe once we do the drop off they will all leave us alone?” Sam suggested. Matt laughed sardonically at that.
“Doubt it,” he gruffed. “Highly doubt it.”
“I don’t know if this is gonna work,” Woods cautiously grunted under his mask as they drove toward the Descanso Gardens.
“It’s all we’ve got right now,” Matt replied. “We’re giving John Doe the evidence, and Syphus gets his stuff back…”
“Including that horrible car with that terrifying cassette tape,” Sam agreed.
They pulled into the entrance to the gardens nearly two hours later. Matt and Woods unhitched the Mountaineer and suddenly, Matt saw her.
A small child, holding a stuffed Pegasus toy, looking as sad as could be, stood in the middle of a massive tulip field in the gardens.
She’s coming to get me, the child cried, shaking in fear.
“Who?!” Matt rushed toward the child. Sam and Woods ran toward him, startled.
“Matt! What the hell!” Woods growled, and Sam hustled as best she could after them.
“There’s a little girl!” Matt huffed, looking around in the tulips, in a daze.
“What?!” Woods nearly ran into him on stopping in the gardens.
“A girl, holding—holding a Pegasus–!” Matt felt the tears spring to his eyes.
“Matt…you okay, bro?” Woods looked at him, concerned. Sam finally caught up to them.
“What’s going on?” Sam demanded to know.
“Matt saw a ghost,” Woods explained.
“What!” Sam laughed, nervous and frightened. “Look…it’s bad enough we have to drop this stuff off for someone we don’t think we can trust, let alone deal with a ghost right now!”
My dad is here, the girl had run off toward a lone shadowy figure in the distance. A figure in a burned white lab coat, looking solemnly at the three of them.
“My life’s blood. Where is it?”