On The Failure Of The "Open Sky" Accords
rating: +71+x

The first time we met your Agent Salisbury was 'round this time last year. Big broad government man, suit and button-up, big chunky rock of a watch on his wrist. That was the thing I remember best about him, I'll be honest: the way he'd keep checkin' his watch when he was talkin' to you, like he was afraid you'd run like a deer if you locked eyes too long.

Didn't make him look like any less of a weirdo when he asked us rangers to time how long he'd spent in the park.

Well, no offense, but y'all tend to ask a lot of us. So when he started makin' these kinds of requests to our staff, I figured we'd treat him just the same as all the other weirdo Feds we see round these parts. Ask no questions, expect no answers. The usual.

He did this right up until, today, I s'pose. Started becoming a bit of an inside joke among us; the ones who didn't have to deal with him in person, anyway, if you had to shake hands with him you stopped findin' him funny pretty damn quick. The stench after one of his little trips was god fuckin' awful, pardon my French. Like pigs rottin' in the sun.

'Course we knew it was odd, we ain't stupid. He never went into the woods smellin' like that, so the question was how the hell he got that way. We could guess, sure, but nothin' we could cook up explained that stench.

Then he went missin'.

See, maybe under any other circumstance we figured he'd be able to take care of himself, but we'd been under the pump for a few months; people were disappearin' all across the county, and could you blame us for gettin' antsy about it? We'd always tried to stay out of Fed business, but he was out for almost seven somethin' hours. He'd never been out that long before, so we figured we could spare a little time to look for him. I figured, worst that happens if we do somethin' is we get yelled at for intrudin' on federal matters. Worst that happens if we don't is y'all come down on us for not doin' our jobs as park staff.

So I took Joan and Hall and I set off.

Didn't know where he went, sure, but we had a general idea. What headin' he was goin', that kinda thing, and besides, we've found people with way less information. Spent about half an hour walking before we came across this, uh, this formation.

No, sir, it's not on the, uh, the official books. Wasn't even on our unofficial ones, neither, so don't you start thinkin' it's the left hand not tellin' the right what it's doin'.

Big limestone protrusion. Odd formation given the geology of the rest of the area, so that already had my dander up. I saw what looked like either some crusted blood or some discoloured moss at the lip and, well, that gave me a hunch about where he was.

I told my buds to wait out the front when I went to check out the cave. Figured all I needed was a quick in-and-out to check if he was inside, wasn't planning to embark on a cavin' trip while I was down there.

Didn't notice much wrong for the first few feet. Moss the wrong colour, sure, but was that somethin' you really wanted to turn tail and run for? No, nothin' seemed too off 'til I'd gone round the first corner. That was when I started seein' the—they weren't remains, per se, no bones or anythin', but there were—there were leftovers. Wedding rings, plastic buttons, spectacles…

But I still kept goin', all the way up 'til I saw the watch. You probably know the one: big silver thing, beautiful band.

Cracked face. Blood-stained.

So I had a choice, right then and there. I could pick up the watch and run, tell the crew at base he'd been, I guess mugged somehow. Or I could keep goin', see if I could find anythin' else about how he'd lost it, see if maybe he was still breathin'.

Don't know how long I spent thinkin' about that choice, but I made up my mind right quick when I heard the noise comin' from down the cave walls.

Like Thanksgivin' dinner, sir. Snappin' a wishbone.

Now this changes things a little. Makes me think there's an animal in there, somehow, and that's why he's not comin' out. Might explain the rest of the missing persons, too, judgin' by the size of the haul. So I figure I'd be best served tryin' to find out what exactly'd, erm. Sent them to their maker, not to be crass.

I found it. Don't know if I can really say what it was, but I found it, alright.

I saw the suit first. Small mercy, I guess. Still looked like a person could be wearin' it up 'til the rest of it stepped out from round the corner.

Tall, tall, yeah. Not pale, more like the skin was—like it was all stretched out over the bones—kinda sausage-y, you get me? Arms didn't bend right in the sleeves, legs neither, big fist-sized eyes that looked like a fly's. Thought it had sunglasses on at first til the, uh, the lenses fluttered.

If it cared about the dark at all, I didn't notice, it just snapped round, fixed me right in the eyes like it was about to pounce on me.

Gimme a moment to remember the exact wordin' and I'll have it.

"Our agreement is ended."

It was one of those moments where you're too scared to do the smart thing, where you're so afraid you can't even run for it. I was running on autopilot, I guess, 'cause I didn't even realise I had my gun out 'til it went off.

Made a hell of a mess, alright.

Two shots, center mass. Works on most anything man-sized at that range, though I wouldn't exactly say what I ran into falls under that umbrella.

Yes, sir.

I'd appreciate the drink somethin' fierce, sir.

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