Despite her intent to spare her friends with her self-sacrifice, all three were now being trailed in rabid pursuit. The students led the prowler through the maze and to their set booby trap, not knowing exactly how they would avoid being caught either by the monster or by the gas as collateral damage.
Yi was caught off guard by the spectacle of the fast-paced advancement. He was chilled by the expressions of pure dread marked upon his companions’ faces, but even more so by the sight of a looming mass in the near-distant backdrop.
“Yi!” whaled Casey. “He’s here! Get it ready!”
Standing on the opposing side of the air-locked cleanroom barriers, safely within the cryo-electronics laboratory, Yi could not decipher what exactly Casey was crying out. Yet he knew exactly what was expected of him.
Just as the stalker launched from the ground for his pounce, Lucia preemptively tripped up Casey and Amogh with a well-practiced slide-tackle. Unwittingly, Amogh and Casey tumbled to the hard marble flooring just before being nabbed. Just as Lucia had hoped, the monster’s headhunting takedown resulted in a high aiming leap and an empty-handed somersaulted landing.
Suddenly the tables were flipped, and the trio of leftover students were now at the backside of the beast who was calmly pushing off the ground to take back to his feet and to his task.
After a shout of self-encouragement, Yi hotwired the first-stage entry doors to release. Suddenly a plume of a low-lying fog emerged. The panting breaths of the beast quickly sucked up the odorless, tasteless gas. There was a single gravelly cough discharged at first. Then a sudden grab was made at the veiled neckline. The plan was working. The respiratory system within the beast was faltering. The outburst of coughs and gasps increased before the creature realized that it needed to clear the immediate space to regain its breath.
Just as a step was taken forward by the beast, Amogh made his own.
“We have to force him inside!”
Without a further word exchanged, the students morphed into a pack intent on an offensive.
Even with emptied lungs and taken aback by the direct assault, the shape absorbed Amogh’s desperate self-catapult. Casey was next, landing a torpedoing bump of his shoulder. Lucia, with abandon, took to a jerking tug-of-war for Amogh.
A giant foot stumbled in a backward placement, only fueling the troop of students all the more. Yet now the trio was subject to the same vacuuming of their airways. They now felt the bitter bite of cold upon their bare skin.
Amogh slipped free with one last yank made by Lucia. Casey was tiring in his attempt to drive the lumbering mass further back, but the added impelling lunges of Amogh and Lucia finally tipped the balance of the struggle. The creature’s upright orientation was compromised and several steps falling backward for recovery were necessary.
Yi’s tinkering rushed the sliding door into an attempted locking seal. But the timing of the calculation was made with error. Instead of closing the beast securely inside the space between Yi and the cryo-electronics lab on the one side, and Casey, Lucia, and Amogh in the hallway on the other side, the creature had yet to fully trip into the intermediary chamber. Instead of air-locking, the barriers of the cleanroom were brought to a tight clamp around the extended arm of the wild being. The creature was momentarily pinned by the acting vice grip.
The free arm was thrust out in a series of frantic swipes, but the reeling students were just out of range from being clutched. The loose hand was then redirected into fervent prying maneuvers made at the edges of the conjoining doors. Frustration then led to a pounding of the fist upon the reinforced glass barrier.
Yi from the opposite side of the chamber turned spigots in an effort to crank up the flow of nitrogen gas. The beast roared out. The caught arm began to slow in its floundering.
The students could only pray that the pressing of the cleanroom door would remain in place. Thanks to Yi’s earlier tampering, the sliding door sensors and the emergency release failsafe were disabled. Yet, by the look through the two walls of glass, Yi appeared leery of his fragile hold on the villain.
The fourth clobber from the sledgehammer of a fist finally caused a concaved fracturing at the glass.
“He’s getting loose!”
“What do we do?”
Seemingly booming from the heavens, a voice answered, “Those inside the building, please come out…with your hands up in the air. This is the Lakeview P.D. We have the building surrounded. Comply with our directives and nobody else gets hurt tonight.”
“They’ve come for us at last!” hooted Amogh.
“Thank God!” celebrated Casey.
Eager to lead the cops to the cornered perpetrator and to finally put an end to their ordeal, the three students turned their backs on the figure and darted to the building’s exit. Amogh and Lucia were the first to burst their way out into the stormy night.
The sudden movements and feverish excitement raised every officer’s gun in ready, yet less-than-steady, aim.
A voice amplified by a distorting bullhorn, reprimanded, “Freeze where you are this instant! Do not take a single step further!”
“The killer is inside!” Lucia yelled back. “Our friend is in there too. You must come. We’ll show you the way!”
“Don’t move little missy! This is your last warning! We’re here to put a swift end to this heinous act!”
“Sir,” implored Amogh, “your culprit is right inside!”
“We can’t rush to any conclusions! Now you best comply, boy!”
Casey braved the standoff by slowly hobbling forward to put himself between his friends and the authorities.
“Officer, we are the victims here. My mates here and I have been wounded. There is another one of us still trying to hold down the killer for you. You must hurry.”
“We don’t know yet which student or students are responsible for this campus mass murder. You just left the sight of the last confirmed location of the culprit. You are each suspects at this point.”
Lucia relented, “Guys, just very slowly put your hands up.”
Amogh pleaded, protective of his partners, “Just please don’t shoot!”
The itchy-trigger-fingered officers were first to apprehend and zip tie the wrists of Amogh and Lucia behind their backs. The three were then crammed into the back of a department-issued off-road utility police vehicle. Only then did the cops at last search the interior of the science building. The swarming agents checked each laboratory space and every square inch of the described storage facility space. Yet they could not corroborate the three detained students’ accounts. There was no towering beasty. There was no innocent Chinese exchange student. The building was completely empty.
When the officers finally allowed the three cuffed students to reenter the building and direct the search for their tormenter and their good friend, they were floored by the sight of the emptied and shattered cleanroom attach to the cryo-electronics lab. All that was left behind was a lone piece of evidence, in support of the students’ claims, a frozen limb that must have been cracked off the very shoulder of the creature.
Before being drug away by the responding officers, Amogh shouted, “That’s its arm!”
“The yeti that you keep blabbering about?” one particularly cynical officer doubted.
Casey confirmed, “It must have frozen with the overexposure to the nitrogen. You know, the trap that we told you we set for the crazed hunter?”
The police officer freshest out of the bunch from the academy was intrigued by the enigma of his first actual crime scene. Gripped by curiosity, he appeased the students and walked over to inspect the crystalized object lying on the ground of the former laboratory cleanroom.
After squatting down to get a closer look, the young officer turned to his superior, “Officer Miles, what exactly are we looking at here? Is that some kind of patch on the exterior of the upper bicep? Can you read what it says? It looks like some paramilitary—”
“Rookie!” it was scolded in an overly stern manner, “Get away from the evidence! Did you just touch the evidence?”
“Right, sir! Sorry, sir,” the shamed officer apologized.
Fully concentrated on his apparent lapse of judgment, the rookie officer was eager to remove himself from the scene. In his haste to re-erect himself and pushing off for a wide-striding retreat, the officer inadvertently kicked the ice chunk left on the floor. The only piece of evidence to ever be recovered, linking the fateful twelve campus murders to the at-large phantom, was destroyed in that very moment. So easily did the frozen arm split asunder into a million irreparable fragments of mystery.
Yi was the last living witness that night to see what was left of the homicidal specter. But neither the one-armed being nor poor Yi were ever successfully tracked down.
About The Authors
From the harmonized dichotomy of the Sandoval brothers comes a new voice. Inked to paper, this voice emerges from an invigorated blend of several subgenres of fiction to spell out the challenges that come with life in an era of transition. It is a voice that once is pulled off its pages, becomes a message that prods anybody at hand who equally dares to dream and to question.
Hailing originally from the creatively fertile grounds of Southern California, opportunities and circumstances pulled the Sandoval brothers around the country enabling them to discover and experience the nuanced culture of America.
Drawn in their advanced studies to different sides of the social and behavioral sciences spectrum, a written collaboration formed around the connections found amid the fields of history, psychology, sociology, and the political sciences.
The method and artistry behind Sandoval’s story-telling pays its respects to the literary influences of Kurt Vonnegut’s zany satire, Philip K. Dick’s dubiousness on the reliance of perceptions, and Robert Heinlein’s mastery in the use of science fiction plots to challenge the current socio-political landscape. Impact can also be seen from the unpredictable vision of M. Knight Shyamalan and the innovative imagination of the Wachowski siblings.
Often using the devices and settings of alternative science fiction realities to form parables, the Sandoval’s push the reader to view—and possibly alter—their own reality in new ways.
Maxx Sandoval, 28, has recently received a Master’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University in History, class of 2020. Two years before that in 2018, earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston (main campus) with a major in History and a minor in Political-Science. Just two years prior, received an Associate’s degree from San Jacinto College in Social and Behavioral Sciences, class of 2016. History, Political-Science, and the Liberal Arts all impact his writings and outlook on life. His favorite Horror author is Edgar Allen Poe, favorite Science-Fiction author Robert Heinlein, and favorite Poet is Walt Whitman.
J. Robert, age 31, is a current Ph.D. candidate studying in the Measurement, Quantitative Methods & Learning Sciences program at the University of Houston. His academic background includes a M.Ed. in Educational Psychology, and a double-major B.A. in Psychology and Sociology. He is a self-diagnosed bookworm and avid reader of anything Phillip K. Dick or Kurt Vonnegut. His fascination for the horror genre was sparked early on by the literary classics composed by Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
- The Ultimate Trial, published in the August and September editions of the international periodical StripLV Magazine.
- Topsy Turvey, published in the October and November editions of the international periodical StripLV Magazine.
- The Ultimate Trial, published in the December and January editions of the national periodical OneTen Magazine.
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