Rumor was, the only place the escaped subject could have gone was into the water. It seemed to take the authorities a little while to conclude that they wanted to search the city’s noxious waterways, but this was a city that never did anything by half measures.
The search teams were out on the water the next day, from sunrise to sunset and into the darkness, peering down into the murky water with lamps and prodding the depths with poles. The deep traffic waterways and shallow canals alike were dragged, bringing up everything from rusting refuse to discarded limbs to human remains. 156 active missing persons cases were solved in one night.
The searchers wore tactical wetsuits, rebreathers, and body armor under their life vests. They searched in groups of four or more, bristling with more weapons than the city’s residents had seen since the Claiborne Riots. They looked terrified of what they might find.
The subject was located less than thirty hours later, or so the newscasters announced. It was captured, in the words of the Corporate Commissioner of Safety, “without incident.”
“You’re safe now,” the news streams announced. “The escaped subject has been apprehended. No sign of any other GM creatures were found during our survey.”
Grainy photos of a patrol boat dragging a waterlogged corpse out of the river were circulated as proof. The subject was little more than a dark lump. Was that fur? Fabric? Had it– had it stolen human clothing? And why did its head look suspiciously like the smooth black surface of a patrolman’s helmet?
Despite the soothing tones of the state-sponsored newscasters, rumors ran rampant. The subject had killed a boatload of armed searchers. Their corpses were never found. The subject was not humanoid at all, but something so horrific it defied description. People swore they had seen it. Others swore it was no creature, but a man– or something that had once been one.
Down in the waterfront slums, the rumors ran darker. The subject had been one of them once. Arrests and abductions were common, the hapless suspects and abductees never to return. The subject was a son of the slum, taken by the Corporation, escaped to avenge his fallen brothers.
Regardless what the people of the city and its sprawling slums said, the dark water remained reluctant to give up its secrets. It whispered around rotting wood and corroding metal like a living thing, taunting those on the shore. And in Old Market district, beneath a collapsed quay, a pair of wide brown eyes blinked up at the smoggy world of “outside” in horrified wonder.
This flash fiction was inspired by two particular works of art: Searching on Sunset by Rotislav Datem and Slum by Jan Dolezalek, aka Hunterkiller. These are both incredibly talented artists and you should absolutely check out their work!
The next installment of Escaped will be available Friday, February 1, 2019. If you enjoy my flash fiction, you can get more of my writing by picking up a copy of Necrotic City from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, or Kobo.