The first call came in around midnight. The dispatcher, initially unbelieving and wanting with all her might to be dismissive, nevertheless, listened carefully as the caller told her, in graphic detail how he’d found a video online which showed a man and dog being devoured by fog, just like in the movies.
“Sir, before I process your call, I would like to remind you that wasting police time is a serious offence. With that in mind is there any part of your statement you’d like to change?” she asked, trying hard to keep the judgement from her tone. The phone went dead and she breathed a sigh of relief.
However, within the next ten minutes, dispatch received a further 15 calls, all detailing the same thing. Sunita had no choice but to start taking this seriously, she would have to pass it on. She checked on the computer, all the reports had quoted the same website as the root, even if they had been made aware of it via social media, and four of them had thought they recognised the street the video was filmed in. Simon was going to love this, she thought as she realised it fell under her friend’s jurisdiction. She pressed the button and asked to be put through to him.
Simon had watched the clip twice now, once when Sunita had first called him and, now, as he showed it to Bik. It was grotesque and, he hoped, a pretty clever hoax too. He clicked onto the root address of the clip and realised something that made his ‘spider senses’ tingle.
“This camera’s still live.” he said aloud.
“Is it?” Bik Chai was one of his best detectives and Simon knew she would have picked up on the significance of the fact straight away. “Any idea on location?”
“Four reports of the same street,” he gave Bik the address, “exercise caution, Bik, this guy is smart,” Simon warned.
“Always do boss.” She smiled as she left.
On the ride over to Rankin Road, Detective Chai had not been idle. She’d let the constable she’d taken drive and she had busied herself scouring the internet for any other references to the property and, as they arrived, she instructed Constable Ransom to cordon off the perimeter of the property, taking care not to touch the fence.
The man smiled at the instruction, and, not for the first time, Bik cursed her sarcastic sense of humour. “No, Ransom, I’m serious. While I don’t believe in killer fog any more than you do, don’t you think it would be better to treat this as a real threat, rather than die by the hand of a misty assassin? Think of the paperwork man. How would you write that one up?”
She’d kept her face so straight he had finally understood she was serious and gave her the customary “Yes ma’am” as he set about his task.
“Then keep the public away.” She called after him, and, taking out her torch, she set about making a wide perimeter inspection of the house. She wanted to find the camera and the best way she knew of doing that was to figure out where it had been shooting from. As she walked around to the side of 109 she recognised the scene from the video, she swung her torch round 180 degrees. She saw the clump of trees immediately and realised that would be the most likely position for the camera, given the angle of the scene in the video. She scoured the branches with her torch and it wasn’t long before the beam caught a reflection in the lens. Bik tracked the sight line with her torch and was able to pinpoint the location they had watched the unidentified man in the blue jeans, t-shirt and jacket apparently be eaten by the fog. She ducked under the yellow and black tape Constable Ransom had deployed and moved closer to the spot, being careful not to touch the fence. As she scrutinised the area she was vaguely aware that Ransom was having a fairly heated discussion with a member of the public, but he was an experienced man, he could handle it she knew. The beam of her flashlight caught something on the grass, just inside the fence and she swung it back to get a closer look. It was phone, sitting tantalisingly close to her on the grass just inside the garden. She wondered if she could just reach between the fence posts and grab it…
Sudden shouts and yells from the front of the house caught her attention. Ransom needed help.
She pushed herself up and ran towards the noise, calling for back up as she moved.
As she rounded the corner, the first thing she saw was three, well-built men, whose dress brought the word ‘nerd’ screaming into her mind. Two of them were holding up their phones, filming something whilst the third, who was standing a little forward of them, just stood staring in shock at something she still couldn’t see. She ran on and saw what that ‘something’ was. Ransom had fallen against the front gate of the property and was now eerily silent, enveloped in a broiling sea of thick white mist. She sped up, trying to reach him but before she’d even made it to the first man the mist was dissipating and Ransom was gone.
She grabbed her radio, already hearing the sirens approaching from her earlier call, “Officer down. Urgent assistance required.”
She turned on the men. The man closest to where Ransom had been looked at her, his eyes full of disbelief and shock, “I only pushed him,” he whispered, “he fell. A push, it was just a push. Not my fault…” he mumbled on and on. Detective Chai turned her attention to the men with the cameras. She didn’t want to stray from the mumbling man but she needed those phones and the footage they contained. The sirens were almost upon them now, she realised, but so, she noticed with horror, were more people. The neighbours, roused by the shouting, were coming out of their homes to see what was going on. She’d have to act fast if she was going to stop anyone else becoming a victim. She grabbed her own phone and took a photo of the men who were still filming, then took one of the mumbling man.
“Don’t move,” She ordered all three of them, “and stay away from the fence.”
She hoped they had heard her as she moved towards the tape Ransom had set up.
“Keep back,” she yelled to the advancing crowd, “there’s been a gas leak. I need you all to return to your homes and await further instruction. Please, go back to your homes, you are not safe outside.
“I can’t smell no gas!” a belligerent man in jeans and a t-shirt complained.
“Nevertheless, Sir, I need you to stay behind the tape.”
“You got to do what she says,” one of the filming men had stopped filming and come to her aid.
“And who are you to tell me what to do?” the angry man poked the filming hard in the chest with one, thick index finger.
“You don’t understand, this gas is weird, it eats people!” the filming man was pleading.
At that point Detective Chai was distracted by a commotion further along the line, as a teenage boy strode over the tape, “Oi, you, get back!” she called as she made her way over to him.
“Wait!” she heard the filming man plead, then the crowd erupted in horrified shouts. She turned to see that the belligerent man had actually made it into the front garden of 109. She could see immediately there was nothing she could do for him. The gas engulfed him and, unlike, PC Ransom, he didn’t even get the opportunity to scream. He was simply gone. Him and his clothes, like he’d never even existed.
The sirens finally reached them and police poured out of the four newly arrived cars. Chai directed them to hold the perimeter and noticed that the youth who’d been making his way towards the garden fence meekly allowed himself to be led back behind the tape.
Then other vehicles started arriving, less welcome ones. The press. Television cameras, lights and noise all converged on the crowd, probing, asking questions, fueling the sensationalism of the night. Riling up the crowd and making her job more difficult than ever.
She was calling for the coroner (because there wasn’t a procedure for when the whole body disappeared in front of your eyes) and the SOCOs, though she didn’t envy them their job tonight, when the stones started to whizz above her head.
The crowd, weren’t aiming at her, she knew, it was the house. Her officers were struggling to hold them back and she could see the situation getting quickly out of hand. No doubt that was just what the journalists had been hoping would happen.
The house is under attack. The large warm collections are massed outside, attacking the house. We must protect the house. We were to remain hidden but they make this impossible. We will make use of the large warm collections and replicate a seeking arm. We will move out into the wider environment. We must find John. We must get new orders.
Bik Chai happened to be facing the house as the mist began its attack. It appeared to pour from the every brick of the house and every blade of grass in the garden. It was moving fast and it was heading straight for the crowd.
She turned, screaming, “Everybody back!” just once before the gas consumed her.
The crowd panicked, falling over themselves in their hurry to escape, cursing the media vans that now blocked their escape. Reporters and camera men were easy prey for the gas, weighed down as they were with equipment. They, and the policemen who stood their ground to the end, were the first victims, but, in the end, none of the crowd escaped and neither did those who had waited patiently in their homes for the police to sort the whole thing out. The police helicopter Simon had ordered to assist Detective Chai saw a huge circle of white gas, centred on 109 and covering the entire street. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the gas was gone. It appeared simply to vanish into the ground, taking every living thing with it.
Simon hadn’t been able to process what he had seen. Nothing in his training could prepare him for a white mist that ate people. Heck, it didn’t even sound like a good b-movie plot. His brain had switched to automatic. He’d called in the scenes of crime officers and sent another team of officers down to the scene to try and secure the perimeter, keep the public safe and figure out what on earth was going on. His intention had been to go straight down there himself but, given the massive, world-wide press coverage the event was now receiving, thanks, in part, to the television cameras which had kept transmitting long after their operators had perished, he had to deal with raging politicians first. His call with the Home Secretary was interrupted as he watched in horror as the silent television screen in his office showed the men and women he had just deployed meeting the same fate as Detective Bik Chai. He couldn’t help feeling personally responsible for the human tragedies unfolding before him. None of those men and women would have been there tonight if he hadn’t sent them in.
The Home Secretary had broken into his thoughts simply to tell him he was handing the matter over to the army, having clearly decided this was some new form of terrorist weapon. Simon wasn’t so sure.