The Amber Brooch
I was closing up at work with a co-worker named Devon. We happened to work in a vintage drugstore, the kind from the 1950s where you could still get handmade burgers and milkshakes.
Well, we heard the bell on the door ring. Devon was restocking shelves so I went to tell the would-be client that we were closed. We had a sign that said we were closed but some people tend to ignore it, so that wasn't unusual to me. The first thing I noticed was the smell of smoke. Not like cigarette smoke, but like burnt wood. Devon must've noticed the smell because he asked, "Is everything alright over there?"
"Yeah," I said. I couldn't see any fire or smoke and the very-much-working fire alarm wasn't going off. Ignoring it, I still chimed in, "I'm sorry, we're-" I stopped myself short upon seeing him.
He was tall. Really tall. He could easily tower over Devon, and Devon was 6'4.
He wore a long dark grey overcoat and a burgundy scarf wrapped around his head and neck. He narrowed his grey eyes at me. Chills raced along my skin.
"Closed'," I finished. He flatly told me, "I won't take but a moment." The man waved me off as I still protested. Overhearing my attempts to get him to leave, Devon stepped up. "What's going on over he-?" Likewise, Devon's voice trailed off. Devon was very athletic and fit, and the man was super thin, but Devon also seemed to be unnerved by him. I don't know what it was, but Devon stiffened uncomfortably under the man's gaze. "S-sir, you need to leave," he mustered.
The man raised a brow at Devon, almost as though he were amused. "I'd like to make a purchase," he replied nonchalantly. I glanced at Devon and he nodded. After all, it was better to give the man what he wanted than risk him getting violent. So, I awkwardly said, "Okay."
The man prowled through the aisles. He ignored me when I offered to help him look for whatever he was searching for. Devon hovered nearby. As unsettled as he was, he didn't dare leave me alone with this stranger. Finally, the man came to a complete stop at the glass counter. The counter contained some antiques and novelty items we sold. They were some of our most expensive items.
"What can you tell me about this brooch?" he inquired
"Which one?" I asked.
"The one with the dried amber," he answered. I frowned, puzzled. That was a golf ball-sized black metal brooch. It was shaped to look like a thin gnarled hand was clutching the amber. And in that amber was a tiny skeleton of some animal. I never found out what kind of animal it was but I was told it likely got trapped in there. "Well, we don't know much about this honestly. The owner said it was hand-crafted, hence the price. He said it was given to him a long time ago," I explained.
The man asked, "And the skeleton inside?"
I shrugged, "We don't really know."
"How much?" he asked.
Despite the price, the man still pulled out the exact amount, in cash. I frowned after checking all of the bills with my pen. They were real. As I packed the brooch into a box and a paper bag, I asked, "Will that be all?"
The man nodded before saying, "Stay sharp, you never know what you might bump into at night."
I stared at him, confused and in disbelief. Devon shot me a quizzical look. The man swiftly pivoted and in long gliding strokes, slinked away with his purchase.
As soon as the man was out of sight, Devon exclaimed, "What the hell was that about?" I shrugged, "Don't know. That guy gives me the creeps," I admitted.
Devon shook his head. "I'll go ahead and lock the door. Clearly, the sign wasn't obvious enough."
I began to mop after Devon was done with the inventory and the shelves. Neither of us spoke as we continued cleaning. Devon grabbed the drink he'd gotten from the soda fountain earlier. After a sip or two, Devon asked, "Did we miss anything?"
I shook my head. "No, I think that's all," I answered. We glanced around the store one last time as though some overlooked detail would magically present itself.
"I think we can go ho-" I was immediately cut off by a series of taps on the windows. Startled, I yelped with a jump. Devon also jolted at the unexpected noise. "Jeez!" I exclaimed in disbelief. I took a step to confront the tapper but Devon stopped me with his arm. "I'll deal with it," he volunteered. He strode towards the doorway. "Sorry, we're clo-" he stopped mid-sentence in front of the glass door. "What the hell?!" he exclaimed as he peered behind the glass.
"What is it?" I asked cautiously. Despite my unease, I joined Devon at the window. Devon quickly answered, "There's no one there."
He turned to glance at me, "I could've sworn someone was still tapping just right before I looked out," he told me.
"How so?" I asked.
"I don't get how they left that quickly," he said.
I frowned. With uncertainty, I suggested, "Maybe you scared them off?"
Devon shrugged. "I guess. Now might be a good idea to get goi-"
Then a bang rattled the windows. Alarmed, we both cried out. Our jaws dropped as a dark shape loomed over the now-cracked glass door. Another slamming echoed throughout the store. Something was reaching down from the roof and slamming what seemed like a jagged palm against the window. A long thin nail dug into the bottom border of a different window. The creature in front of the glass door bent down. Two glowing orange eyes peered at us.
Grabbing my arm, Devon shouted, "Run!" He half-dragged and half-guided me into the drugstore's basement. I stumbled after him with my heart pounding furiously.
I heard a loud crash followed by several roars as Devon slammed the cellar door shut. Now the owner had installed a metal door to prevent robbers from coming after the storage area. I wondered if the door would last with all the banging that was going on.
Devon sighed. "Come on, let's see if we can use the back door," he suggested. We made our way towards the emergency exit. I gasped. "Devon!" I called, pulling him back.
Devon looked up towards the small circular windows, just a few feet from the door. A gnarled claw was curling in front of the glass. The clawed finger knocked rhythmically on the glass. With a start, Devon leaped back. "I don't think we can make it out," I whispered.
Devon bit his lip. "We're stuck here!" he whispered back. We listened for a few minutes. Snarls, growls, scratches, and bangs echoed throughout the basement. Uneased by the orange eyes, Devon yanked his apron off and shakily stuffed it over the window. I gave him mine to cover the other window. At least, we didn't have to see the leering orange glow of those eyes. I fished around for the light switch and flipped it on.
Devon motioned me towards a wall away from the windows and doors. I obliged, not wanting to be near those things. "We need to find a way out," he said in a hushed tone.
Keeping his voice low, he added, "Let's just see if we can call for help or something." Devon reached into his pocket.
The color drained from his face. Cursing under his breath, he cried, "I don't have my phone with me. I think I left it back out there!" Devon trembled. I inhaled sharply to calm my own nerves, in vain. "We can use mine," I offered. I reached into my pocket. "What the-?!" I gasped. "I had it right here!" I cried. Frantically looking around, I froze.
At the bottom of the stairs was my phone.
I raced over towards it. Devon followed me. I snatched my phone up. The screen was completely busted. The cracks seemed to stretch all over the screen like little veins. I tried turning it on but it wouldn't power on, and I had it charged before this madness. It was my turn to curse. "It's broken," I told him.
"Dammit!," he exclaimed. I felt my lip quivering. "Now what?" I asked shakily.
We both sat down on some boxes with our backs to the wall. "We need to think of something," he said.
I hugged my knees to my chest. "What do you suppose are those things?" I asked. Devon frowned. "I don't know. But whatever they are, they're not human."
I shook my head, "They certainly don't seem any animal I've ever seen or heard about."
The ungodly growls and snarls continued. There were still a few bangs and scratches but they seemed to have calmed down a bit. I couldn't tell how many there were outside. But judging from the sounds coming from behind both doors, it didn't take me long to realize they certainly outnumbered us.
After a while, the noises faded until they stopped altogether. "Do you think they're gone?" Devon asked cautiously. I shook my head. "I don't know. I'll try to see if I can hear anything," I offered. Crouching down, I gradually crept towards the doors. Now, it was eerily silent. I couldn't quite bring myself to trust they were gone.
I felt the hairs on my body stick up as my heart pounded. Really, that seemed to be all I could hear. I halted a few inches from the door.
The same rhythmic knocking we'd heard erupted from the other side of the door. The sudden tapping shocked me so much I sprawled away with a gasp. That knocking was so quiet and so deliberate, I clapped my hands over my mouth. I felt Devon pull me away from the door.
"I guess that's a no," he grumbled.
When I finally caught my breath, Devon grabbed a box near the walk-in freezer where we kept the ingredients for the drugstore's menu.
"Come on, let's see if we can find anything useful," he said firmly. I grabbed my keys and likewise began ripping into the boxes with them. I didn't care about what our boss would say if he knew we were rifling through the inventory. If anything, I was convinced that would be the least of his concerns.
We came across the typical items we sold like over-the-counter medication, snacks, some small children's toys, and some office supplies. We also did have some cooking supplies that we used on the food we served
"We could maybe use these" I muttered, pointing to the carving knives. Devon stared at the rest of the scattered items in dismay. "I don't know if we could take them on," he admitted. Before I could react, Devon grabbed a now empty box and heaved into it.
As soon as he finished, he sheepishly slid the box away from himself. "Sorry about that," he whispered. I shook my head, "Don't worry about it." Gesturing to the doors, I continued, "We've got bigger problems."
We couldn't quite tell how much time had gone by, which frustrated us. I estimated it had been roughly thirty, maybe forty minutes, since we ran into the basement. But I had no way of knowing for sure. We each clutched a knife, expecting the doors to come bursting off any minute. So far, nothing happened.
"Why do I feel like they're toying with us?" he asked bitterly. "I don't know why they're lingering outside but I'm pretty sure that's intentional," I explained.
Our knuckles grew white as every occasional tap would echo throughout the drugstore basement.
Finally, in another hushed voice, Devon blurted out, "We have to do something!" He clenched his fist, angrily. Startled by his outburst, I nervously watched him. "Yeah, but we're surrounded and my phone's completely busted. The hell can we do in here?" I hissed back.
He shut his mouth in defeat for a few seconds. After which, he finally spoke up, "Well, either way we're gonna die whether or not we stay in here. We can at least try to survive! We just need to think of something."
I shook my head. "What you mean is we need to think of something smart!" I whispered.
I paused completely. Devon shot me a puzzled look. "What is it?" he asked. I placed a finger to my lips and motioned for him to come closer. He drew near me and listened as I whispered in his ear. His eyes widened. "It's worth a shot," he mused softly.
I hesitated, my hands lingering on the switches. Devon nodded before gesturing on an axe-like motion. I shut my eyes as I switched the flip on.
🎵 I heard strange noises coming from a house on the hill
I winced at the 1950s song but held my breath on hearing the alarmed shrieks and grunts of those things outside.
I heard some scrapes that grew distant as though they were moving away. Devon motioned for me to raise the volume on the stereo system. I nodded and pushed the lever up.
I heard a few confused shrieks and howls. I joined Devon at his side. He threw the door open and dashed outside. Some of those creatures began to swarm him.
An explosion of white powder hit them in the faces. They wailed piercingly and pawed at their faces as Devon continued spraying them with the fire extinguisher.
I immediately barricaded the door again. I heard a series of bangs and crashings as well as some more of those damned sounds the creatures made. I uneasily gripped the handle of the door. I don't know how long I waited there before finally hearing Devon cry, "QUICK, OPEN THE DOOR!"
I flung the door open enough for Devon to squeeze through. However, as Devon reached the landing, the door began to pry open. I yelped as I clutched tightly onto the handle. "DEVON!!!" I screamed. To our terror, long dark claws were worming their way into the now ajar door. I was met with an angry orange eye through the crack. The light glowed so furiously, it blocked out any features I could've made out from this horror.
Devon grabbed a knife we had picked up earlier and stabbed at the gnarled appendage. The piercing inhuman scream of pain rattled in my head as the creature withdrew its claws.
Devon and I slammed the door shut. We hurried down the stairs as the monstrous banging and scratching began again. This time, there was no rhythmic quality to it. This seemed to be an enraged, monstrous attempt to get in.
I gasped as the circular windows were broken and long, thin yet powerful arms crashed through. "Call 911!" Devon shouted.
I fumbled with the phone but we both screamed in panic as the emergency exit door began to rattle.
Suddenly, the door shot forward. "Run!" Devon cried. I picked up the knife Devon used to stab the creature earlier.
Hoards of black fur and glowing orange eyes swarmed into the room from both doors. I backed away as Devon tried fending them off with the fire extinguisher.
I heard several claws tapping rhythmically against the floor, walls, and even the ceiling in startlingly perfect unison. "Get away from us!" I yelled. Their leer just seemed to brighten tenfold from my outcry. They inched towards us.
I could finally see them now. They all had coarse black fur, except their forearms and faces. Their front claws were little more than long, dark grey, bony talons. Their faces struck me with the most horror. They had flat grey faces, prominent noses and thin blue lips now widened into distorted sneers. Their teeth weren't so much sharp as they were flat, yet so crooked they resembled jagged little grey rocks. Nausea rushed over me at these uncanny things.
One lunged at Devon with a loud excited screech. Devon cried out as he sprayed at it. But more soon began to swarm him. I screamed as they ambushed him. Soon, they began to charge towards me. I yelped as a claw sank into my ankle. I flung the knife down and the creature, howlimg in pain let go. A series of orange eyes glowed furiously at me. The other creatures withdrew, their eyes on the knife in my hand. Their lips curled into a snarl. Devon was still pleading under a pile of dark fur. Without thinking, I hurriedly limped to the walk-in freezer, unlocked it, and jammed it shut from the inside. The door rattled as one of them presumably crashed into it.
I heard a piercing blood-curdling shriek. This time, it wasn't from those...monsters. I cupped a hand to my mouth as my breath came out in fast jagged little gasps. Clutching the knife with white knuckles, I once again fumbled with Devon's phone.
"Shit!" I hissed. Devon's phone was almost out of power. I pressed the emergency call button. I heard a man's voice on the other end.
"911, what's your emerge-"
"PLEASEJUSTGETSOMEONEHERETHERE'SABUNCHOFMONSTERSANDITHINKTHEYJUSTKILLEDMYCOWORKERANDIDONTKNOWIFICANMAKEIT!" I interrupted loudly.
"Stay calm, what's your location?" the operator asked.
A tapping began on the outside of the walk-in freezer. "Oh god," I moaned in horror.
"What was that? Can you explain where you are?" the operator asked. Several more bangings echoed around the walk-in freezer.
"Nonononononono! NOOOOooo!" I shrieked hysterically at the jammed door. "Stay calm, help is on the-" his voice cut off. I froze and with increasing dread, I looked at Devon's phone. It just died.
"Shit!" I whispered in distraught. I stared helplessly at the door. It wasn't going to hold. I dragged myself away from the door, my back against the freezing wall. I glanced over the frozen meat and ice cream. I couldn't tell if my heat-beat was louder or if the banging of those things were.
I winced in pain, instantly reminded of my injury. Trembling, I shakily held the knife out in front of me and gripped the handle with white knuckles.
The man watched as sirens echoed loudly in the streets. He calmly surveyed the flashing lights of red, white, blue, and black automobiles. People in uniforms were buzzing in and out of a building with shattered windows. A small crowd had gathered around the aftermath, with thin yellow lines and people in dark blue clothes that warned them away. He spied a few men with the same dark blue clothing talking to an older man with thick glasses and short gray hair. The man in the grey coat glared at the bespectacled man. Especially when said man's eyes widened as he stared in shock at the two policemen.
The man raised a brow from across the street at the owner.
After a while, he was sorry to hear the blaring music suddenly shut off. He adjusted his red scarf.
The grey-eyed man turned swiftly on his heel. He fished around in the deep pockets of his grey coat. He pulled out a little chunk of amber with a curious little skeleton inside.
With a smile, he murmured, "Glad to have you back at last."
Placing it back in his pocket, the man gazed at the dimly lit road ahead. He slinked onto the pavement and continued walking.
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