Oily Secrets by Megan Koch
Saoirse whisked through the tediously long hallway, covered head to toe in dreary uniform greens and yellows. She had been chosen! Chosen to escape the prison cell named classroom and meander to the foreboding closet for paper towels. The young girl could taste the excitement on her small, pink tongue. An ancient bronze key dangled from the fraying, faded navy blue lanyard like sweet green apples hanging from an orchard tree. The power rested in her hands.
Looming in front of young Saoirse, the cracked wooden door waited. Her hands trembled as she forced the key into the keyhole. The rusty hinges shrieked as the door fell open. Musty bleach attacked her nose immediately as Saoirse timidly inched closer and closer until her hand found the light switch it sought. A weak light radiated from the foggy light fixture on the ceiling. She glanced over the room quickly, but her eyes were drawn to the floor. More specifically, the drain that was swallowing a trickle of grey water flowing from the overflowing sink in the corner of the closet. Shuddering, she noticed shelves. There were so many shelves. Shelves over populated by innumerable spray bottles and cleaners. Shelves crammed with unlabeled brown U-Haul boxes. What surprised her the most was the barren top shelf. Pulling herself onto her toes, her eyes widened upon seeing the monstrosity lining the seemingly empty shelf. There were five rows of ten batteries. Or were they charging ports? Or both? Definitely both.
Fifty industrial batteries were docked on chargers, neatly labeled with a name and room number. Stumbling backwards, Saoirse’s foot sunk into the drain. The unsuspecting mops and brooms lounging against the opposite wall caught her as she fell. Together they clattered to the ground. Pain tingled across her body, causing her hair to stand on end. What needed those batteries? Who needed those batteries? She braced her hands against the ground only to jerk them away when they landed in an oily, pitch black substance. In pure disgust and shock, she staggered to her feet. The light flickered like lightning, illuminating the water in the sink. The night sky was captive in the antique sink. Oil cascaded over canisters that mirrored the Tinman’s oil can from The Wizard of Oz.
Saoirse’s heartbeat was like a drummer striking a timpani: rapid and deafening. Where were the Bounty paper towels? Eyes scanning like computer sensors, the green packaging peeked out from one of the unlabeled boxes. There. Lurching forward, her calloused, sticky, and now black hands gripped the shelf as if her life depended on it. Using one oily hand, she grasped at the box and tried to pull the crate onto the floor. The container weighed almost more than her. After countless heartbeats, the young female managed to drag the box to the edge of the shelf. Throwing all 90 pounds of herself against the box, the sturdy cardboard hit the ground with a thud which echoed in the compact room. The contents scattered, some rolled into the oil while others stayed dry in the box. Her delicate hands flitted over the metal pieces. One fragment curved gracefully into five finger-like claws. Fear radiated through Saoirse’s body.
“Hey!”, a guttural voice cried. “You shouldn’t be here.” The fluorescent light from the hallway was suddenly cut off. Saoirse slowly raised her eyes from the metal hand she held. Small feet were connected to short legs and a long torso was home to a spherical head. Beady eyes stared straight through her skin, piercing her soul. “You cannot be here,” the disproportionate man repeated. Then he caught sight of the dismembered body around her. “You already know too much.” Saoirse clambered to her feet, stuttering: “I-I-I’m s-s-sorry.” Forgetting the paper towels, she sprinted past him. Ice cold fingers curled around her upper arm. “You aren’t going anywhere. You know too much.”