Our gang, the UFO hunters, didn’t know much about Mr. Wilkerson, who lived next door to Harry, but he was some kind of scientist for the government. Trucks full of equipment and cartons of things constantly showed up at his house, quickly unloaded into his basement. We figured he was working on secret weapons technology, but the truth may have been much darker.
The weirdness started after Harry noticed one of the trucks was refrigerated, and a whole bunch of insulated packages came out. He told us about it when we were over playing Shogi and Assassin’s Creed.
“It must be some kind of bio-material,” said Damien.
“Gotta be,” said Al.
“Agreed,” I said.
Harry just nodded as he moved his silver general.
“Is he making bio-weapons?” asked Al.
“Nah.” Harry frowned. “He wouldn’t do that in his own house, would he?”
Al worked furiously at the controller to battle some thugs on the streets of Istanbul. “Maybe he’s gone rogue.”
“We should definitely take a closer look,” said Damien.
We all agreed.
“It’s our civic duty,” I said.
There were a few windows into the basement, but the best one for spying was under the deck. About three feet high, we easily crawled in and kept in the relative dark as we looked inside. It was great, as long as his greyhound, Horace, stayed inside.
In the basement, Mr. Wilkerson busied himself unpacking the insulated boxes. Each one held a dozen or so smaller packages in white packing paper. He threw most of them in a freezer, but several he lay out on a lab table and opened.
“Flesh,” said Damien.
Mr. Wilkerson inspected the samples.
“Holy moly,” said Harry.
“He’s experimenting on tissue,” I said. “This could be bad.”
“This could be real bad,” said Al.
The muffled sound of Mrs. Wilkerson’s voice sounded and Mr. Wilkerson turned out the light and went upstairs, the flesh left on the table.
“What if he’s regenerating it into something?” asked Al.
“Or splicing DNA,” said Harry.
“Why do I feel like I’m peeking into Frankenstein’s castle?” I asked.
“We’ve got to stop this,” said Damien.
“How?” asked Harry.
“Only one way I can figure,” I said. “We sneak in and destroy his work.”
We hooked pinkies and were about to go when a bizarre creature poked its head above the table, an unnaturally long snout and alien ears that flopped sideways into points.
I gasped. “What is it?”
“Is it one of his experiments?” asked Damien.
It grabbed one of the flesh samples in its teeth and pulled it off the table, disappearing behind the table. I could vaguely see some movement in the darkness.
“Is it human flesh?” said Al. “Is it eating human flesh?”
“That’s it,” I said. “We prepare tonight. We destroy his work tomorrow.”
Mr. Wilkerson came down without the light and opened the freezer, lighting him up and the table behind him. He saw the missing flesh and screamed. A howling sound came out of the dark, like a slimy swamp creature or a monster straight out of the horror movies.
Mr. Wilkerson rewrapped and tossed the remaining specimens in the freezer, then bent low behind the table, struggling with the creature.
“Call the police before it kills Mr. Wilkerson,” said Damien.
“Wait,” I said. “He’s heading upstairs.”
The man slammed the door to the basement, then yelled to his wife, their muffled voices barely audible.
That night I started a page in my journal of strange phenomena, case number thirty-nine, ‘Mad Scientist and Experiments of the Flesh.’ I recorded our plans to take flashlights and garbage bags into the neighboring house and carry out all his specimens. Al would bring his dad’s taser, too, in case the creature attacked.
After Mr. Wilkerson left for work, we waited until Mrs. Wilkerson left for the gym. Harry said they kept the dog on the sunporch, so we went down the walk-out stairway. The door was unlocked.
One side of the basement had several computers whirring away, and the other side had the table. No sign of the beast. We turned on the light and rifled through the freezer. He wasn’t a very careful scientist—he kept food in with the specimens, including Butter Brickle ice cream and frozen vegetables.
We stuffed all the flesh into bags and tied them shut. We were about to head outside when steps echoed down the walk-out.
“Upstairs,” I hissed.
We fled up the inside stairs on tip-toes, closing the door softly behind. We headed for the living room, but I heard the front door open and grabbed Al, who was ahead of me.
“We’ve got to go through the sunroom,” whispered Harry.
“Horace,” hissed Al.
“We’ll have to chance it,” said Damien. He gave me this funny look, and I knew what he was thinking.
“We’ve got to,” I said.
“What if it turns him into the beast that was downstairs?” he asked.
“What else can we do?” I asked.
“Stop gabbing,” whispered Al. “We’ve gotta go.”
“Look,” said Harry. He picked up a flyer from the kitchen table. It said ‘The Wilkerson’s Tenth Anniversary Steak Cookout. Omaha Steaks while they last.’ He folded it carelessly and shoved it in his pocket.
Damien reached in his bag, pulled out a small package, and unwrapped the flesh. I cracked the sunroom door and he tossed it in. The dog ran after it and the four of us snuck out the back. We sprinted to the far corner out of sight from most of their windows, tossed the bags over the fence, and hopped it.
We swung by Al’s house for a couple shovels then raced into the woods. A good click or two in, we dug a four foot hole to bury the flesh in. Rest in peace. Afterward, Harry pulled out the flyer, and we all inspected it a little more closely.
“Maybe we had this wrong,” said Harry.
“Maybe,” said Damien.
Was all the flesh we buried harmless steaks for a cookout? I can’t really say. I can tell you that the behavior of Mr. Wilkerson was extremely suspicious, and he was cranky for days after his experiments were destroyed. The creature in his basement was freakish, its moaning was bone-chilling. We’ll never know for sure what the scientist’s intentions were. At the bottom of the page for case thirty-nine I wrote the word ‘unsolved.’
So far, Horace is still a greyhound.