The next morning Gus the supervisor stuck his key in the side door only to find it unlocked.
“Dammit Gord, how many times I gotta tell you,” he muttered to himself.
He walked into the break room and his irritation bubbled over to anger as he saw all the lights had been left on.
Gus slammed his metal lunchbox on the nearest table and let out a sigh. “Seriously?”
A glint of metal caught his eye and he turned to see the door to the locker room ajar. His gritted teeth muffled a string of expletives as he stormed through the open door. He switched on the lights and waited a few moments as his eyes focused on the flickering of the bright fluorescent tubes overhead.
His voice echoed through the empty room and an otherworldly silence rolled in, tickling the hairs on his forearms. Through the silence, something lingered and gave Gus the impression that he wasn’t alone.
“Gord?” he called out with a twisting sensation in his stomach.
Gus walked through the locker room and inspected the area with a careful eye. It was empty. Next was the shower room. Empty. Then back into the lunch room where he checked out the maintenance closet. All seemed normal.
He peered through the metal wire-braced window in the lunch room leading out to the factory floor, but could only make out the dark shapes of the machines. All the lights were off in the factory. Even the exit signs. This wasn’t normal.
Something is wrong, Gus thought. The twisting in his stomach had formed a tight knot and he broke out in a cold sweat. He started to pull on the door to the factory entrance but his instincts told him to run. But he couldn’t run. It was his job to make sure things went as they were supposed to. It was his duty.
“Ah, hell!” he blurted out as he yanked open the door.
A blast of cold air rushed past him—hitting the beads of sweat on his face and sending a chill through his entire body. Sometime during the night, the heat must’ve shut off in the factory. The lunch room was much warmer and sucked in the cold air like a fireplace. It didn’t make sense that the heat would only stop working in the factory and not the rest of the building.
Despite his brain nagging him to turn back, Gus took a step onto the factory floor and looked around. He couldn’t see much beyond the outlines of machines and the stacks of paint cans, but he knew the layout of the factory by heart. There was a breaker box a few feet to his right. All he needed was a flashlight from the maintenance room and—
Gus nearly cracked his head off the wall as he whipped around to see Marvin, the lead supervisor of distribution, standing behind him with an innocent smile plastered across his face.
“Hey, man, you okay? You look like you just saw a ghost.” Marvin’s smile sunk down into a worried frown.
“Oh. Yeah, I just—” Gus struggled to find the words. “Something weird is going on here.”
“What do ya mean?”
Gus stepped back into the breakroom and rubbed the stubble on his chin. “You didn’t happen to hear from Gord this morning, did ya?”
Marvin replied with a curious “No” and Gus explained what was going on. The two talked for a few minutes until the other workers began to pile in; all just as oblivious as Marvin was. Instead of going over everything again, Gus waited until everyone showed up. Everyone except Gord.
“Dammit,” he muttered to himself. “Anyone see Gord this morning.”
A group of blank faces stared back at him.
“Something weird is going on,” Gus said. Then he proceeded to inform everyone on the conditions he walked into. Everyone knew Gord wasn’t the type to forget how to close up properly. He was simple-minded but always followed instructions carefully. And he was never late for work. The consensus among the men was that something bad must’ve happened. Perhaps some sort of accident or medical emergency. One of the paint mixers even joked that maybe Gord finally got a girlfriend. It was a lame attempt to break up the tension and was met with a gloomy silence.
Rather than start work business as usual, Gus had the guys split into groups and search the building for anything out of the ordinary: four to look around the factory floor, two to check the upstairs office area, two to search the parking lot, and the rest to look around the remaining rooms. As for Gus, he made his way to the computer room to check the security tapes from the night before.
The security system was like something from a shopping mall in the 90s. The owner of the factory had planned on updating it years ago, but with Eckley being such a small town where everyone knew everyone, he put it off on the grounds that it was an unneeded expense.
The last time Gus had to watch the security footage was a few years earlier when a batch of paint went missing and nobody knew where it had gone. It turned out Gord had loaded the wrong order onto a truck during an extra busy week. Fortunately, that was an easy fix. Gus only hoped the case of the missing Gord would turn out much the same. Perhaps the goofball had loaded himself onto a truck this time instead of the paint. He might be halfway to Oklahoma for all Gus knew.
It took some time and a few hefty smacks to get the monitors to boot up. It took even longer to get the footage from the night before. Gus vowed to have a long talk with the owner, Jonah Quint, about updating the security system the next time he saw him. In a world of HD flat screen monitors, there was no reason to use this Mesozoic era dino turd of a system any longer.
After finally setting the footage to the correct timestamp—right after he’d left Gord the day before—he watched his lunkhead employee go about his cleaning duties on the tiny black-and-white monitor. Unfortunately, this terrible system didn’t have the capability of enlarging any of the six cameras, which meant Gus had to watch all six security zones with squinted eyes.
The bottom left zone was the camera that covered “Gord’s Spot” on the factory floor. The camera angle stretched across a good portion of the factory but didn’t reach the machines. The second security zone had a camera placed by the machines and covered the second half of the factory, but that one had gotten wet from rain dripping through a hole in the roof. It still worked technically, but the footage wavered and was prone to bouts of going completely dark for seconds, or even minutes at a time. The rest of the security zones covered both ends of the parking lot, dock area, and the hallway leading to the offices. This was another pain in the ass for Gus. The factory didn’t have nearly enough cameras to cover the whole building. There were far too many “hidden” zones (areas out of camera reach). If there was an accident on the factory floor, there was a 50-50 chance they’d catch it on camera to show the insurance company.
Gus watched and chuckled to himself as Gord knocked over the empty paint cans and scrambled to catch them all. This was something he’d seen in person too many times, but it went to a whole different level of hilarity watching this Three Stooges act unfold on the small monitor.
A brief commotion echoed from the factory and Gus turned his attention in that direction. He figured it was just some of the guys screwing around because the commotion died down almost immediately after it had begun. When he turned back to the monitor he saw Gord standing at the edge of the yellow line. He appeared to be speaking, or rather, yelling at something off-screen. Then, without warning, he flew backward, sprawling back first onto the ground like he was hit with a cannonball. Gus watched in astonishment as Gord grabbed an empty paint can, lifted it over his head, and began shouting at some unseen entity. Gus chewed the inside of his lip nervously.