Read 5 Original Horror Stories Set in the Twin Cities Skyways
We asked for brand-new, locally angled spooky fiction, and y’all delivered in a major way.
8:25 AM CDT on October 31, 2023
Hey, sorry about that jump scare but 'tis the season...
In that spirit, welcome to our first-ever Spooktacular Flash Fiction Contest. For a theme, we lifted the premise from Cait McGowan's recent viral tweet: horror in the skyways!
We asked entrants to follow that prompt as loosely or tightly as they liked, but to please incorporate either Twin Cities skyway system into their terrifying, bone-chilling, creepy, spoof-tastic, ghostly, darkly comedic, bloodbath-y, and/or campy piece of original, horror-themed flash fiction storytelling.
And folks? We received a downright scary number of submissions from a group of readers with serious writing chops, as you’ll see below.
Prize-wise, the four runners-up will each receive a 5-Hitter Baja Box of THC edibles from our buddies at Baja Ontario and a limited-edition Racket beanie—that's a $175 value! And our grand-prize winner, Dan Suitor of Minneapolis? He’s getting all that plus a Racket T-shirt, Racket koozies, Racket stickers, and a lifetime subscription to (you guessed it) Racket.
Please enjoy these wonderful pieces of localized horror writing, though be warned: You may never walk goosebumpless through the skyway again—wa-ha-ha-ha!
Grand Prize Winner:
Skyway Hungers by Dan Suitor
Mer looked at the crumpled flier in her hand. It proclaimed the pleasures to be had at “Skyway Jam! Tonight!,” but all she saw was a few haphazard signs directing her deeper into the darkened tunnel. Her roommates had seen posters promising a pop-up food hall, an interactive art installation, and two free drink tickets. All they had to do was come Downtown on a Friday night. They hadn’t gone out much since their landlord raised the rent again, and it seemed like a budget way to have fun. Or at least a way to eat some gummy potstickers and get half a buzz off cheap white wine.
But then Greg found a date on the apps, so off he went to Uptown. And at the last second Poplar decided to stay in and play a board game solo. Mer didn’t even remember deciding to go, but here she stood, feeling drawn into the Skyway. “Screw it, she sighed. “The Korean barbeque ribs looked good on the website.”
Mer felt like she’d been walking for so long. Or had she? She thought she was in the right place. But the far-off light and dull sound of Top 40 hits never seemed to draw closer, while the Skyway around her grew ever more inky and claustrophobic.
Suddenly a wisp of cloth brushed by her hand. Then another, past her shoulder. “Hello?” Mer asked, to no reply. But her next step carried her directly into someone. Stumbling back, she said “Oh, sorry, didn’t see you there.”
“WELCOME,” proclaimed the figure.
“Um, is this the way to–”
“BeHOLD,” boomed another shape, roiling up to Mer’s right, “Skyway Jam! ToNIGHT!”
“Right, ah, it seems like maybe I’m supposed to keep going? Or is this part of the art installation?”
“Oh, you’re in the right place,” a woman’s voice said from behind Mer, with a haughty chuckle.
More figures surrounded her, and she was no longer just uneasy. “Well, that’s great, my roommate is right behind me. We’re really looking forward to it. I should actually sneak back and grab them so–”
“THAT won’t be NECessary,” the man to her right said.
“You’re all we need, dear,” said the woman, drawing close enough to speak into Mer’s ear.
Mer recoiled and turned around. She tried to walk away, but more person-like shapes rose out of the darkness.
“Okay, what do you want? You can have my phone. You can have my wallet, but there’s no cash in there, I forgot to stop at the ATM for tip money, and…” Mer trailed off. She saw that the figures surrounding her were clad in silken robes of the darkest purple.
“I meant it,” the woman said, almost kindly. “All we need is you, here, Downtown.”
The first shape drew next to Mer, a tuft of curly hair peeking out from beneath his hood. “It’s so important that you’ve come. People like you are a vital resource in keeping Downtown strong.”
If she could yell loud enough, Mer thought, someone at the Skyway Jam would hear her.
“Please,” the ingratiating man at her side said, putting his hand on her shoulder with poorly practiced empathy. “It’s Skyway Jam! Tonight! The branding is very important. Mike is quite proud of it.”
“It’s REally going to draw people IN!”
“How did you—”
“Read your thoughts? You’d be surprised what’s possible in the Skyways.”
“Okay, that’s great, but I think I have to go,” Mer dissembled. If she could just keep them all talking, she could find a way out. “I was really just going to pop through, people are expecting me at Palmer’s.”
“Cedar-Riverside doesn’t need you... Downtown needs you.”
“What? I don’t really spend any time here. There’s just not—.”
“Precisely,” the man said. “We need as many people Downtown as possible to keep ＴＨＥＭ at bay.”
The voices started floating in from all around her, as if coming from everyone and no one all at once.
“We must fill the vacant commercial real estate orＴＨＥＹ will fill it for us.”
“If we allow the property tax base to erode, so too will the barrier between ＴＨＥＩＲ world and ours.”
“If no one is working Downtown, who will want to spend $18 on a salad for lunch?”
“The restaurants are our last line of defense. First the fast casual concepts fell. Now the dinner spots are fading.”
“If they go, all is lost.”
“So you’re some kind of Shadowy Downtown Cabal?” Mer asked, hoping to buy time.
A voice chimed in excitedly, “Exactly! Yo, all these cultists! Operation Sacrifice!”
“This was just supposed to be a lame festival, with wristbands and cheap Pinot Grigio in a plastic cup,” Mer pleaded.
The curly-haired man laughed softly. “Unfortunately, language became more casual around ‘Skyway Jam! Tonight!,’ including my own. That said, you must feed the Skyway. Because the Skyway hungers, and only the blood of young professionals will sate it.”
“We hoped the fences and concrete barriers we put up would guide people to ＴＨＥＭ, but for some reason no one wants to follow the path.”
“The suburbanites pounding overpriced domestic macrobrews at sporting events won’t do. After all the public money spent on stadiums, the F-350 Commuter crowd doesn’t bring enough value for ＴＨＥＩＲ needs.”
Mer started to tremble, but then steadied herself. “I don’t believe you. There’s nothing lurking beneath Downtown.”
“Not beneath,” corrected a small, smug man. “More like ‘behind the gossamer-thin veil of reality.’”
Mer continued. “But what makes you think something bad will happen if people don’t go Downtown?”
The laugh dropped out of the robed woman’s voice. “What are you talking about? It’s Downtown! Of course it’s important! Because… It’s Downtown!”
Mer heard the note of panic in the cultist’s voice and saw her way out. “Nobody comes Downtown because it’s not a fun place to be!”
It was like a shockwave slammed into the rows of silk-clad creeps. Mer pressed her advantage.
“Hostile architecture, the systematic removal of basic amenities like seating, and the lack of green space make Downtown an unappealing neighborhood!”
The cult hissed and recoiled from Mer. She took another step towards the exit.
“The pandemic has fundamentally reordered the lives of white-collar workers! In-person work is never coming back, the office towers will never be full!”
Cries of anguish rose up. As Mer took another step forward, the cultists retreated like a wave washing back from the shore. She took her chance and ran. One lone hand reached out and grabbed her ankle. She looked back and saw the curly-haired man, a desperate look in his eyes. “You MUST feed the Skyway! It hungers! ＴＨＥＹ hunger!”
Mer shouted out one last rejoinder. “Prioritizing the whims and sensitivities of suburban visitors will always make Downtown a subpar place to live!” The hand recoiled, as if burned, a pathetic wail chasing her down the Skyway as she sprinted to the escalator down to the street.
Mer burst through the glass doors. She looked back, but everything was still in the lobby. Walking toward the bus stop, she let her gaze flit over the buildings, some glass and steel, some old stone, each of them full of people or at least the promise of people, all the life they could have in those structures. I should be scared, Mer thought. But she couldn’t help but feel reassured. Downtown really wasn’t so bad, if not for the people obsessed with it.
A Divine Judgment by Margaret Stanwood
Tara stumbled forward, toes dragging against the carpeted floor with each step. Her vision swam, worse than when her teacher had her wear drunk goggles during the sixth grade D.A.R.E. presentation. Where was she? She put her hand against the glass to steady herself, cold seeping into her skin. Glass, all around. A tunnel.
The skyway. Why was she in the skyway?
Her father had paid for a luxury apartment when she was a law student at the University of St. Thomas, one that connected to the school’s downtown Minneapolis campus via the 9.5-mile skyway system—but she hadn’t set foot in a skyway since she graduated nine years ago and joined her personal injury firm in Edina.
Her head drooped, eyes taking a few moments to focus on the purple carpet. Yes, the University of St. Thomas. Was she on drugs? She preferred uppers, stimulants to help her cope with her high-stress workload, not… whatever this was.
The four walls of the skyway spun around her. She hobbled along the floor, the wall, the ceiling, the wall, the floor—an M.C. Escher drawing, she thought, giggling. She kicked off her heels, which weren’t helping with the unsteadiness. Even so, her knees wiggled like a newborn horse.
She reached a set of double doors which hadn’t been there a moment before. Pushing the crash bar, she entered the sunlit second floor of the law school campus, blinking slowly, the floor-to-ceiling windows across from her revealing nothing but a gray slate. An overcast day. Not unusual for Minneapolis.
Tara lurched down the stairs to the first floor, hand gripping the wooden railing to keep from tumbling down the steps. She wasn’t sure where she was going, but she moved forward regardless. She felt not entirely in control of her body, a jerky marionette on frayed strings.
She fell to her knees in front of the white statue of Thomas More at the bottom of the stairs. She had Googled More when she was a student, a small tactic to procrastinate studying for Civil Procedure. More had studied law in the 1500s. He was a devout Catholic, which in those days consisted of wearing a hair shirt (whatever that meant) and self-flagellating. A strange choice for a statue, Tara had thought.
The statue blinked and stepped down from the pedestal, his stone feet cracking the marble floor. Good God, what was she on? Tara scrambled back, her sweaty hands slipping uselessly against the smooth floor.
“Tara,” the statue spoke, voice gravely and resonant. He tilted his head down to focus his sightless eyes on her, stone breaking as he moved. The chips bounced off the ground. “Prepare for your judgment.”
“Excuse me?” Tara squeaked, choked by fear. She cleared her throat and chastised herself, breathing deeply to slow her racing heart. It was a hallucination, that was all. She was having a particularly bad trip, one she would laugh about later with her coworkers.
The statue reached behind him, pulling a colossal equal-arm balance scale from the folds of his cloak—a scale of justice. The scale was made from the same white stone as the statue, while the basins held a feather in electric hues of blue, green and gold on one side, and a veiny, purple-red heart on the other. The heart beat, pumping blood into the bowl around it. Her heart.
She inhaled through her nose and exhaled through her mouth. She would laugh about this later.
The statue held the scales aloft. The sides wobbled, but the scales were balanced.
“What would you say to the divine judges?” The statue asked.
“The divine… what?”
“For your wrongdoings. How shall you explain yourself to the divine judges?”
“I have no ‘wrongdoings,’” Tara pulled herself to her feet. Hallucination or no, she wasn’t about to be bullied by a statue. Thankfully, her legs were steadier, her head clearer.
“Then we may commence with the judgment.” The scales in the statue’s hands tilted, the heart drooping downward. Her stomach sank with the basin. She had heard of this before. Where had she heard of this? The memories were foggy, but she knew it wasn’t good if the heart outweighed the feather.
“Wait!” Tara held her hands in front of her. She closed her eyes for a moment of focused breathing, as she did before all her court cases or mediations. In, two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four. She was a winner. She opened her eyes and grinned at the statue.
“My wrongdoings, you say?” She paced in front of the stone man like a character on a legal drama, her bare feet pressing against the cold floor. “Of course I have wrongdoings. Don’t we all? I’ve lied to spare the feelings of another. I’ve cheated on tests to not waste the money my parents were spending on my education. I stole as a protest against large corporations and their wage theft."
The basin with the feather dipped, the heart climbing higher. Tara beamed. She was a winner. She tried to continue her defense, but her jaw was stuck, her expression frozen in a morbid grin. Tara pawed at her exposed teeth, her immobile lips. Her mouth moved of its own accord, her voice clawing its way out of her throat—the puppeteer had returned.
“I drove drunk and ran a car off the road. I left it there without checking if the people inside were alright. I cheated on my boyfriend of four years and gave him chlamydia. When he accused me, I blamed it on him until he cried and begged me for forgiveness. I spent my career bankrupting people with lawsuit after lawsuit.”
Tara clamped her hand over her mouth but her admissions continued through the intercom system, words scratchy and echoing.
“I abandoned my dog in a cornfield because I didn’t want to take care of him anymore. I put cocaine in my coworker’s desk to get him fired. I mocked my mother’s mental breakdown in a voice memo to my friends.”
On and on it went, a waterfall of endless sins pouring from Tara’s lips. With each one, the basin with the heart descended.
At last, the intercom switched off with one last crackle. Tara collapsed to the ground, hair hanging over her face. She was spent from the confessions and overwhelmed with guilt, which sat like a weight on her back. She had made so many poor choices, so many selfish decisions.
The basin with the heart scraped the ground, while the one with the feather swung in the air.
The statue shook his head in disappointment. His face stretched into a scaled snout, jagged teeth sprouting from reptilian gums. A coarse mane grew from his cloak, shaggy and wild. His eyes glowed red, the iris becoming a slit in the middle.
“The judgment is complete,” the beast growled, focusing its gaze on Tara.
Then he opened his maw and tore her heart to shreds.
Running Towards Her Past by John Maddening
Kim had no idea the skyways went as far as the Vikings stadium—she worked on the other end of downtown, and didn’t really like them anyway. She spent as much time outdoors as possible in those warm Minnesota months.
Would have been useful after the concert, she half-thought to herself, remembering back to June and the torrential downpour after the last strains of “Karma” faded along with the screams.
The promise of checking out a new lunch spot had brought Kim to the skyways above Downtown East, or “EaTo”, or whatever ridiculous nickname some overpaid BA in Marketing had come up with. She was a little lost and looking down at the map on her phone, when the shimmering started, like the heat mirage in a desert or around jet engines on a cold day at the airport. It was just the skyway, though—the door to the building behind her was solid, so she made a snap decision to make a break for it.
As she crossed the threshold, she looked over her shoulder and it had completely disappeared, leaving a floor-to-ceiling hole in the side of the building, the few people remaining on the span… gone. She stared into nothingness and everything went away except for the screams.
The screams brought her instantly back to reality and the chaos surrounding her. People running every which way, confused and terrified.
She continued west, crossing over the next street in a slow trot, when it too started to shimmer, her feet sluggish, as if she was in thick mud. She fought into the next building and checked behind her again, only to find the same fate had befallen the span she had just been on.
She made it to the parking ramp kitty-corner from City Hall and bolted downstairs, only to find that the exit doors were somehow sealed. She continued down more stairs and into the tunnel, where she was able to continue moving west and back up into the system.
Crossing over another street, looking over to the next block, another bridge fizzled and popped into nothing, the tiny figures she saw inside disappearing along with it.
A teenage boy fell to the ground yelping in pain after trying to kick open an emergency exit door. The last thing Kim saw before turning the corner was him holding his leg, with his badly-broken ankle unable to hold up his foot.
Left. Right. Straight?
For some reason, a route came to her, but she wasn’t sure, she just knew to get away from the newest spans.
She didn’t know exactly when she had figured out her destination, but she gave a silent thanks for those bad dates with a string of weird boys who’s common attribute was that they all knew abnormal amounts of facts about the history of the skyway system.
The nearly empty Gaviidae Commons weirded her out. She was used to more people than open stores these days, but the shimmering she noticed before each skyway bridge disappeared was hitting the retail spaces now. She didn’t want to slow down, not even for a second, but she could swear that she saw something in some of the closed stores… people? She shook it off, thinking it was a trick of the light, and crossed Seventh, into the IDS Center’s Crystal Court.
It was changing even faster now, with sights she had never seen in person—a fountain? No, a waterfall coming from the ceiling, but the water was soaring upwards. Store signs changing as she ran past each shop. A… Woolworth’s on the main floor? A sign for a movie theater in the basement? She looked up, expecting to see Mary Tyler Moore laughing at her salad.
She barely noticed she was crossing Marquette until she was halfway across the skyway, when she looked to her left and saw something that gave her pause. A block north, her favorite building downtown, the Art Deco-styled Wells Fargo Center, was gone, replaced with a smaller granite and marble building with a green glowing ball on the roof, and… a brand new skyway… appearing?
Kim kept going, her route taking her into a tighter spiral as she took another left through the Roanoke Building, crossing back north over Seventh, from where she looked west and saw the span she had crossed two minutes ago fading into oblivion, more silhouetted people disappearing along with it.
Here she was, the place those boys had all told her was the original. The first glass and steel bit of the human habitrail that covers… covered… the whole of downtown. Staring back west, the massive glass IDS Center shimmered and blinked out of existence, leaving a massive hole of a construction site, and giving Kim an unobstructed view of a (reopened?) Dayton’s, with oblivious people gazing at… intricate street-level window displays?
She got a funny feeling in her stomach and looked up only to notice the same heat mirage-like shimmering that foretold each skyway’s fate was in her own skyway now. Looking over, she saw the span between the Northstar Center to her right and the smaller building across the street was still solid. Should she make a break for it? This was where she would be safe, this was the oldest…
She made it to the final remaining crossing, and inside the new/old building with the glowing orb, which had changed to red, were… people! A baker’s dozen at most, they were pleading with her to complete her crossing and exit the only remaining skyway. She hesitated, thinking that she would be safe in this first (last?) example of Midwest ingenuity.
She looked back, and got queasy, as she saw the telltale signs of this span’s imminent demise. The floor started to fade as she made a desperate jump and—
“Miss, are you okay?” A small crowd surrounded her, but none were those who had tried to get her through the final doors and into a… bank? She looked back the way she had come, but the glass doors were now a wall.
She jumped to her feet, wheezing, trying to get the words to form in her mouth.
“Air, she needs air!” yelled a security guard, who helped her down the steps and through a door… outside.
She barely made it three steps out the door when she was almost run over by the throngs of people on the bustling street. She looked up in all directions, but the glass labyrinth she had just spent the most terrifying twenty minutes of her life sprinting through was nowhere to be seen.
“Where… where are the…” she started, but then the words got lost in her head.
“Where’s what, lady?”
“Nothing, I think. I’m not sure,” Kim replied. “I thought… I should get back to work.”
A shake of a head and a door closing in her face was the guard’s final response.
Walking back up seventh toward Nicollet Mall and beyond, heading back to her office after a long lunch break, Kim thought geez, I must have lost track of time, but with the sunlight hitting her face, she was happy to be outside.
Even if she needed a coat sometimes.
The Lost Skyway by John Hayes
Gaviidae is far enough. The snow is now making the prospect of walking around the block untenable. I take one last, deep hit from my vape pen and exhale a sticky cloud of artificial mango flavor. I hate this delta 8 shit, but it’s all I’ve got. I only went outside to sneak enough hits to smooth out the rest of the afternoon.
It's a journey from here to the Post Office. Outside, it’s six blocks. Maybe 15 minutes. The path through the skyway is less direct. In the before times—before COVID, before remote work, before the skyways started to dry up (less like a plucked flower and more like the carcass of an animal by the side of the road)–I had refined a route from work to the Post Office using only the skyways. My Northwest Passage. It was no longer an intuitive trip, but I can still make it there and back in my lunch hour.
The first leg is all instinct. Well within my lunch destination radius. I settle into a confident multitask, doom scrolling Twitter with music playing on random in my earbuds. A sixth sense keeps me aware of those around me, like a shark’s lateral line, only for bumbling Midwesterners in business casual.
The automatic doors slide open with a swish as I pass over another street. Despite their remarkable similarity, each skyway has its own personality. That’s the one with the sad ghost-like impressions of birds who thunked into the glass. That’s the one that’s always too cold, no matter the season. And, at least in the before times, that’s the one where the guy sings songs and asks for money.
This isn’t familiar, though. The air is close and warm, but that’s not the sensation that grabs me. It’s like a hum, but not one you can hear or even feel. I taste it in the back of my throat and it hangs on my tongue. My ears feel closed as my brain conjures the memory of how it used to feel to put my hands on the screen of our family’s old CRT television, its strange bubble of static hovering just over the screen like a portent. I realize I’m walking more slowly, my legs shuffling heavily. Fucking delta 8.
I stumble over the threshold into the next island in the skyway archipelago. Each hub of easy lunch joints, ATMs, skyway bodegas, and chain stores serves the nearby businesses. Despite their aching sameness, as you get outside your familiar radius, you start to think things are weird. That store sells the same combination of lottery tickets, beverages, snacks, and individually wrapped ibuprofen. But only the bodega in your skyway neighborhood is normal. The rest are weird.
But it’s not just the bodega that’s weird. I don’t recognize anything anymore. I’ve eaten noodles at that place over several years, even as the owners and the name changed. But it never looked like that. How long has it been?
It looks empty. I mean, it feels empty, so I look up from my phone and glance around. There is no one. But that’s not even that strange anymore. Half of the stores and restaurants in the skyway are closed now. Probably more? Empty storefronts with holes where the signage used to be. You can trace the holes in a mental connect-the-dots to eke out a name. Creepier still were the restaurants that obviously closed during COVID and never returned. Preserved in a perpetual state of “we’ll be open tomorrow,” a watch that stopped ticking the moment we stopped being able to contemplate tomorrows.
I look around. It’s December 22nd, the Friday before the holiday weekend, and it’s snowing. Of course it’s empty. Anyway, isn’t that someone over there? Their shadow–
I wince as my phone buzzes. Teams message. In the seconds it takes me to summon the courage to open the message, I contemplate the risk. I’m the on-site supervisor. If someone needs something, I have to abandon the plan and go back.
“Cookies in the break room.” Oh thank god. I punch back a Cookie Monster GIF and push past the weird stores and restaurants to the next skyway.
The snow clinks against the windows, blowing from every direction at once. I look out to see what I’m avoiding. Amazingly, about a half-dozen people are braving the weather, their bodies shadows in the swirling snow. It obscures their legs so that they’re all hovering. I recall someone once telling me that George Lucas smeared Vaseline over the wheels of the hovercraft in Star Wars to create the effect of it hovering on a cushion of air. I can’t tell if they’re moving or still. Dynamic or–
I stomp through a hallway with vacant storefronts on both sides. At the end, a sign. Ahead, IDS. To the left, Target Center. Right, US Bank Plaza. Wait, is that even possible? Admittedly, I never took the time to learn the names of the buildings. All these years, running through the skyways on intuition. I had to use restaurant names as reference points. That doesn’t work anymore.
When I first started working downtown, I deliberately spent my lunch breaks getting lost in the skyway. Meander for 15 minutes, then turn back and retrace my steps. Over and over, testing new nooks and crannies, figuring out six ways to get to the same place. If I ever got too lost, I could always head to street level, go outside, and navigate my way back.
That’s the solution, then. Go outside and hover in the snow for a block or two and reorient myself. I can get another hit, too. No, that’s a bad idea. I already feel spacey. I take out my earbuds, but it feels like my ears are still in noise canceling mode. The quiet is artificial, a high staticky hum.
I look around. There are no elevators or escalators. No stairs. No matter. You’re never more than a block away from a street exit. It doesn’t matter which direction I’m going at this point. I stride ahead and take a turn toward Target Center. Crossing over the street, the glass is too foggy to catch a reference point. The icy snow is pinging against the windows so hard and so frequently, it sounds like an endless whisper, the sound of leaving the TV on overnight when I was a kid.
The skyway opens into another empty, open space. Nothing feels familiar. It’s as if someone had to draw the entire skyway map from memory, but this is a part they never visited, so everything is blank. There’s no exit to street level. I put my phone in my back pocket and push further, undeterred. This chore is my victory. My Christmas miracle.
Over the street, I look out the window. More shadows are hovering, hunched in the snow. Is that even snow? A glitchy static coats everything. Am I really going out there?
There’s no next hallway. No restaurants or bodegas. No business corner with round, brightly colored furniture. A warehouse of a room, with the icy glow of a skyway casting an ominous shadow by each corner. No elevators or stairs, no broken escalator. No signs or directions. There is only skyway. The next skyway, and the skyway after that. The faint suggestion of a humanity I will never rejoin glimmering just beyond the tiny pixels of snow.
I keep walking.
The Lost Mother by Ana O
“Excuse me, have you seen my mother? She looks like this…”
A little girl was standing in the middle of the indoor courtyard, drowning in a red jacket twice the size of her and gripping tightly to a stack of flyers. Susan looked down at her from the railing and watched as people shook their heads quickly and walked away.
“She’s been there since this morning,” said Gina.
“Is it just her?” asked Susan.
“As far as I could tell. There wasn’t anyone sitting near her or anything.”
“Did you talk to her at all? See who’s on the flier?”
“No, I mean, what if it’s some kind of scam? Come on, let’s go grab our sushi, we have that meeting in half an hour and the line can get long sometimes.”
Susan hesitated for a moment, but Gina started walking ahead. She quickly followed to catch up.
It was the day before the holiday weekend. Her meeting after lunch gave Susan plenty of things to keep her mind off the little girl, as a client had requested completely new changes. Gina had long since deserted her to go home, so she sat in a sea of cubicles alone. It was nearing five, and she knew that her kids were expecting her to bring home takeout. She sighed, wishing that she could finish up the last bit of work but knowing it would probably take her another hour. Making up her mind, she shut her laptop and headed out.
She made her way across the skyway to the IDS center, stopping at the top of the escalator as she caught sight of the little girl again. The girl was standing in the same spot as before, although the lunch crowd had disappeared so she was just staring out at the sidewalk.
It wasn’t completely out of her way to talk to the girl. The Mediterranean place was on the ground floor anyway, although it probably would be closing soon. Susan strode down the stairs, determined to at least offer to help.
“Hi there,” she said and the girl turned to her.
“Hello,” said the girl. “Have you seen my mother?”
She handed a flier out to Susan.
“She looks like this.”
There was a photo of a tired woman in a big blue coat, taken against a nondescript wall. She looked like she was trying to smile, but the corners of her mouth were barely upturned.
“Do you know her name?” asked Susan.
“Margaret Fletcher,” replied the girl.
“And what’s your name?”
“Is your father with you? Grandfather?”
“My father’s picking me up soon. But he had to work, and I wanted to help find my mother.”
“Has anyone said they’ve seen her today?”
Amy shook her head.
Susan glanced at her watch and saw that she had five minutes until the Mediterranean place closed.
“Did you have dinner? Or lunch? How about you come with me…”
Amy followed her to the restaurant where Susan got her some pita. She was going to offer to stay with Amy until her father arrived, when Amy suddenly leapt up.
“Thank you, I have to go.”
She ran out of the restaurant as Susan tried to gather all the other food she had ordered for her family. When she got back to the courtyard, Amy had disappeared.
Shaking her head, Susan headed towards the underground parking garage. She wondered if anyone had bought the girl lunch. As she was about to get on the elevator, she saw someone dart past with a blue coat. She jumped out before the doors closed to see the person disappear behind the door to the stairs.
It could be just a coincidence, but she had to know if it was the same woman. What if she needed help? Susan followed the person down the stairs quickly, and heard them open the door to the garage three levels down.
She followed suit, maybe only 15 seconds behind. As she pushed open the door, she hesitated as her eyes got adjusted to the dim lighting. One of the overhead lights was out, so it was darker than normal. She could make out the figure in the blue coat hurrying along the row of cars.
“Sorry to bother you, but are you Margaret Fletcher?”
The figure looked back.
“Do you have a daughter, Amy?”
There was silence.
“She thinks you’re missing,” said Susan.
The figure took a few steps back.
“Are you okay?”
Susan came closer, and as she did, she noticed that something wasn’t quite right. She saw that the coat the figure was wearing had vicious, deep cuts slashed through. She hesitated, freezing.
The figure crept backwards, closer to the darkness.
“Tell her I love her,” said the figure. “And I hope she never finds me.”
Susan was the one stepping back now. There was a panic that had taken root in her body. She kept her eyes on the figure, which was now shadowed in darkness, until she reached the door to the stairs.
“Will you ever come back?” asked Susan.
A soft chuckle.
“I don’t think I can come back. Not after what he did to me. You better head home now. And be careful.”
Susan never told her husband what happened that day. She came home shaken, and when her kids complained that the food was cold, she said that there had been a lot of traffic on the way home. Instead, she had sat in her car wondering if she had the courage to go back down and confront the woman about who he was. She did not.
When her husband asked later why she was so jumpy, she said she had nearly been in an accident. Which, as she learned later, might have been true.
It was during work the following Tuesday that there was a swarm of extra security and people in shiny badges asking questions.
“Apparently three bodies were found early this morning in one of the dumpsters, all had been cut apart by someone,” said Gina. “They had been rotting there for days, but no one found them because of the holiday.”
Not being able to concentrate after that, Susan said she felt ill and was going to go home early. As she headed out of work, one of the men in badges stopped her.
“Did you see anything strange last Friday?”
For a brief moment, she considered telling him about the figure in the garage.
Instead, she said, “No. Just a girl looking for her mother.”
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