Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Trent sat in the small office cradling the cup of hours-old coffee until the clock showed twelve. He then unfolded himself from his chair, collected his flashlight and his hat and started his rounds.

Every hour, on the hour. Up the east stairwell on the even hours to the second floor, clockwise around the perimeter before midnight, counterclockwise after. Back down the same stairs, around the ground floor then to the basement, then back to the office to sip crappy coffee. On the odd hours, he’d go down the east stairwell and work from the basement up.

There wasn’t anything to see, there wasn’t ever anything to see. The complex had three-meter perimeter fencing iced with razorwire, and there were guards with guns at the corners and the gate. His position was largely ceremonial.

Trent had cleared the second and the ground floors and had just rounded the corner at the west stairwell when something moved.

He blinked, then shone his flashlight directly towards the source of the motion, but there wasn’t anything there.

He blinked again, checked quickly behind him and switched the flashlight to his left hand, then loosened his Glock in its holster.

He swung the light back and forth along the empty hallway. Nothing. No, wait, there was something. A line on the wall from the floor two-thirds of the way to the ceiling that he’d not noticed before. He put his back to the far wall and moved forward. Someone had clearly drawn a stick figure on the wall, a long body with a head that was just the line bent at an angle, where he would have drawn a circle. The legs bent in a slight crouch, and arms akimbo.

This wasn’t here an hour earlier, of that he was positive. Someone was in the building or had been. His gun was out now, barrel held parallel to the flashlight as he moved slowly down the hallway, shining the light back and forth. The doors were flush to the wall, so there were no shadows in which someone might hide, and he crisscrossed the hall carefully trying each door to make sure they were all locked.

None opened, and none appeared to have been tampered with.

He walked a full revolution of the basement hall, stopping at the east stairwell and listening for any sound, then back to the west stairwell.

He couldn’t hear anyone.

The stick figure just stood there, arms crossed. Silent.

He should radio this in, but he didn’t relish the thought of explaining how someone managed to slip into the building and graffiti the walls on his wa…

Arms crossed?

Trent turned and brought the flashlight and gun back to chest level.

The stick figure was crouched, but its arms now were extended out from the wall.

“What the f…”

There was a sound, like a wet towel snapping in a locker room and the line bridged the distance from the wall and hit Trent hard in the face, knocking him off his feet to land with a wheeze on the concrete floor. The flashlight and gun landed somewhere out of reach, and as he blinked to get his wind and his bearings back he saw the line elongate from the floor and hang in the air above him. It bent slightly where its waist might have been, as though regarding him, before raising one thin line above his head and stomping down, knocking Trent unconscious.

Anyone watching would have squirmed at the sight of the stick figure stretching out on the floor and inserting its stick legs into Trent’s tipped back head, through his gaping mouth and down his throat. The shadowy stick creature pulled Trent on like a suit, and then stood him up and lumbered up and down the hall for a few minutes, until it had a feel for him.

Stick Trent retrieved the gun and the flashlight, perched his hat back on his head and wandered back upstairs.

When Lewis relieved him at six am, he said nothing, he just watched him start his rounds from his position in the doorway of the office, slightly crouched, arms akimbo with his head bent at a slight angle.