Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
“Do we really have to go in there?”
“Absolutely! I want to see more.”
“Harry, it’s pitch black.”
Sam disagreed with the fat photographer, but what kind of input did he, the assistant, get to have after all? All he knew was that they shouldn’t be in this old, forgotten place. They shouldn’t be in this part of the world, long abandoned, and for a good reason. Yet here they were, stumbling around in the darkness of an old military factory, looking for the shot that would catapult Harry into stardom.
The pictures looked awesome, Sam had to admit that. Prize-winning, in his opinion. On their way they had already snapped a large, poisonous green indoor lake, ancient control panels and an eerie office corridor. Sam kept hearing noises though, far away, as if they were coming from beneath. It sounded like something heavy dragged itself across the floor, following the intruders wherever they went, probably hoping for a piece of rusty metal or heavy concrete to give way. When Sam had voiced his concern, Harry had shrieked in enthusiasm. Something living had sounded like something prize-winning. So now they were hovering over a hatch.
“After you,” Harry said, using one of the grand gestures Sam hated.
“You’re not paying me enough, asshole,” Sam muttered under his breath, as he took hold of the ladder. It felt slippery, slimy. He prayed to all the gods he could think of, as he descended into nothingness. He felt like at any point, the ladder would stop and send him falling to a certain death, right into the jaws of whatever waited. But his feet hit a metal surface, sending a soft, hollow clang through the vast blackness. It was the only sound. It was silent. Too silent.
“Did you make it?” came a shout from up above. It startled Sam.
“Yes,” he said, dropping his voice to an urgent whisper. Harry did not register the hint in that.
“Alright!” he shouted. “I’m coming down!”
Sam was unsure of how he managed, but moments later the fat man stood beside him, bulging belly and all, camera at the ready. It was all he could make out in the darkness. He opened his backpack and took out a small strobe. That’s when he heard the sound again. It was close. Too close. And there was no more ceiling to protect them.
“Turn that baby on,” Harry said, flashing a shark-like smile. “Let’s see what we’ve got.”
For a split second, the place lit up. Sam froze in place. In that instant of a second, he hadn’t seen hell. He’d seen the jaws that would take him there.
“Harry,” he whispered, “don’t move.”
“Oh shit!” Harry shouted. In delight, that was.
Sam wasn’t delighted. He dropped the strobe. He ran. He climbed. He heard the rapid sound of the shutter, the recycle of the strobe, the excited shrieks of the photographer. And then, finally, as he leaped into the cold night, he heard the screams.
It wasn’t until after the adrenaline rush that the assistant noticed he still had the backpack. The backpack that no longer held the strobe, but that did hold the used memory cards. Memory cards full of prize-winning poisonous green lakes, ancient control panels and eerie office corridors.
Sam didn’t feel sorry for the photographer. He didn’t feel bad about stealing the man’s work. After all, a deceased man couldn’t pay salary.
And it was pay day.