Every car looked identical to every other. I’m not a car guy, no idea what make and model. Black and shiny, streamlined, almost like a hearse. They at least looked period appropriate given what I saw back in the offices.
While the two of us crept along, I took in our surroundings. Like any concrete parking structure I’ve ever been in. Damp patches of asphalt reflected light from bare bulbs dangling overhead, wiring trailing along the ceiling from one to the next. Load bearing concrete columns interrupted the vast horizontal expanse every hundred feet or so.
A distant sound startled both of us into ducking behind a nearby car. As it drew near, it resolved into the sound of scraping, dragging and the sputter of an internal combustion engine. The scraping sound was concrete and metal against asphalt it turned out. The creature which eventually entered view was made entirely of them.
A human underneath it. I think. At least it was at one time, perhaps what the rail mechanisms do with their victims. Only an upper torso, arms and a head, either made out of or armored with a convoluted mess of rusty mechanisms.
Automobile parts I think. Mufflers, oil stained rubber hose, metal pipe and exhaust vents. Integrated into the torso, possibly by surgery, was an entire car engine. The pistons oscillated, the main shaft spun imperceptibly fast and the exhaust pipes belched thick black smoke as the impossible monster dragged itself along.
It could be my imagination, but I could swear I heard it whimper over the sound of the engine, and of concrete and metal scraping against the asphalt beneath it. Like it’s in pain or something. Its arms, twisted trunks of flesh woven inextricably together with metal car parts and greasy black tubing, terminated in chunks of concrete where hands should be.
Are the hands…embedded in the concrete? Just like the shoulders by the looks of it. The head was also encased, but in an oil stained metal drum. Where the mouth should be, instead there was a slotted exhaust vent which emitted puffs of black smoke as the creature exhaled, struggling to drag itself across the rough asphalt.
“Is…that thing…a Scrogg?” I whispered. He reached over and clasped his hand firmly over my mouth, but far too late. The clamoring pile of flesh and rusty metal machine parts abruptly turned towards us, and began frantically scrambling in our direction.
“God damnit. Now you’ve fucking done it!” he shouted, seizing me by the arm. He yanked me to my feet, then took off between the rows of shiny black cars with me in tow. I didn’t have much of a say in it, but following him got me this far. I saw no reason to part ways just yet.
I didn’t see what was so threatening about the whimpering, crippled thing until more of them emerged. From between cars, from behind support columns and from every shadowed crevice, they came. Clamoring, dragging themselves, thick black exhaust billowing out of their mouth vents as they screeched.
One of them on its own is a piteous sight which provokes empathy, not fear. But hundreds of them is a different matter altogether. However we ran, there seemed to be more of them at every turn. Dragging their mangled, corrupted bodies along the damp asphalt, belching black smoke.
Level by level we descended, but on every floor there were more scroggs waiting for us. Screeching as we hurried past, lashing out in a feeble bid to grab us by the ankles or clothing. The screeches were human, but also metallic, like the sound of metal dragged across metal.
“Where are we going!?” I shouted over the din. He first admonished me for not shutting up when I was told to. “From now on, do as I fucking tell you or you’ll get us both killed!” assuming that’s even possible in this place. Nevertheless, I apologized and agreed to heed him more closely.
“We’ve got to find the Grycler” he explained. I balked at the idea. “Isn’t that worse? It has to be. That’s worse than these things, isn’t it?” He affirmed it, but with a caveat. “There’s a pecking order down here. An ecosystem. The scroggs eat anybody who tries to escape from the upper levels. But the Grycler eats the scroggs.”
Eeach thing that came out of his mouth was only crazier than the last, but he got me this far. It was clear to me that he’d been here quite some time, knew much that I didn’t, and that I’d have to stick with him if I meant to make it out of here.
“There!” I didn’t understand at first. He pointed to one of the countless identical cars. As we approached, he fished a set of keys out of his pocket. Couldn’t be. Could it? “In all my searching, this is the only one I ever found keys in.”
I didn’t like the idea of committing to it. If we stopped in one place we’d only be swarmed by the scroggs. But if that thing still has gas in the tank…The two of us yanked the doors open, slammed them shut, then locked them just in time.
Scroggs massed around us on all sides, clawing noisily at the exterior. That painful, ear splitting sound of concrete scraping on metal magnified by the twenty or so scroggs closest to us. The rest milled about just behind them, anxiously awaiting their turn.
That’s when it appeared. The scroggs were horrid enough, but I could stand the sight of them. They didn’t affect me the way you might expect your first face to face encounter with a monster to. The Grycler was on another level though.
Even now, I am at a loss to properly describe it. It’s something that has to be seen in motion. A set of jaws dominated its form, though not jaws like those of an animal. More like a densely compressed spring turned sideways, with a section cut out of it so that it forms an extruded C shape.
The pointy ends of the wire comprising the coil are the upper and lower sets of teeth, rhythmically opening and closing as it moves. But that’s the least of it. There were lengths of tangled barbed wire mixed in, as well as rusty chains. Much of it red hot, as the whole damned mass of chomping, crawling metal was on fire.
The fire raged on without ever harming the Grycler. An integral part of it if anything, heating much of the metallic coil that made up its jaws to a dull red glow. Once near enough, it bellowed angrily, then shot out several lengths of chain.
Like the extended tongue of a frog snatching dragonflies from mid air, the chains wrapped around the scroggs nearest to it, then began pulling them into its gaping maw.
Oh how they screeched. In fear this time, clawing desperately at the asphalt in search of something to hold onto. But to no avail. One by one they were drawn into the ravenous jaws, which closed upon their twisted bodies, only mangling them further.
The rest scattered, screeching and whimpering, presumably back to their darkened hiding spots. “HA!” the stranger cried as the engine roared to life. “I knew it! We’re in business now kid, hold on!” I buckled in and gripped the arm rest as he backed out of the parking space, then peeled out.
The Grycler immediately took notice, shooting out a chain which wrapped around the rear bumper. “It’s got us! There’s a-” He waved me off. “I see it kid. Don’t give up just yet.” He floored it. The tires squealed in protest as they sent up foul smelling clouds of vaporized rubber.
The Grycler started sliding towards us. Unable to hold its position, dragged by the might of our roaring engine…but that only brought it closer. Closer and closer, and closer…Finally with a resounding metallic twang, the chain broke.
We rocketed forth, only barely slowing down in time to avoid slamming into a concrete column. “This is it!” he yelled, tearing around the corner. Once more we descended, level by level, but now with the benefit of motorized transport. The few scroggs which emerged from their hiding spots as we passed quickly retreated back into them when they spotted the Grycler in hot pursuit.
“There’s no end to it!” I wailed. He ignored me, yanking the wheel left and right, narrowly avoiding collision with parked cars as he drifted around corners like a madman. The Grycler burned brightly in the rear view mirror, closer and closer every time I checked. Internal fires seething with blinding radiance, sharpened metal points gnashing against one another.
Stay Tuned for Part 11!