It begins simply, a company internal training video for security officers. There are two female security officers who've come across a car improbably parked in a warehouse/factory. There are giant, almost cartoonish, cables inside representing the archetypical abandoned car with suspicious wires on it. The younger guard is gawking in the window, conjecturing about how maybe they shouldn't worry about about it and there's a plausible explanation for a car whose seat have been replaced with improbably large power lines, but the older one springs into action; walking back towards the security post, dialing the police on her cell phone, and calling after the junior one to follow her.
They arrive at the security post, which looks out into a white shell parking lot through a raised rollup industrial door. A third security agent is there and so am I, no longer a disembodied observer. The junior security agent calls out. The three of us stop and look back at her as she takes out her flashlight; she thinks she saw someone in the warehouse back the way the two of them came. She looks around the corner and for a moment we all look at her back, waiting for her to see something before realizing it's not the best use of our time.
The leader takes over the security station while the third security agent leans out of the door to check the parking lot and the road that runs from the main gate to the woods out back through the swamp. I face further back into the warehouse so we're covering all directions. I am not a security agent; I am here as an observer.
The head agent says something in a frustrated tone about the last shift leaving the gate open before four vehicles of varying makes and models come up the road at a brisk pace. Official motorcade speed. An expensive, silver sedan swings around to face us, blinding us with its headlights while the others, starting with a classic beat-up seventies pickup truck, come to a sudden stop parallel to the warehouse, just shy of a deep rut in the road. As I brace myself to take part in an inexplicable terror plot to seize a warehouse/factory of miscellany, the third agent points out that the cars are those of the locals. She hangs back while the leader and I stride into the parking lot to get some answers.
The woman who was the silver car is in her mid to late thirties. She has a nice dress on, hair that's short and well prepared, and is probably wearing heels, but she's waist deep in the water-filled rut as we approach. There's not a word of response as we call out to her, but she turns to face us with an obvious amount of—it's not anger, it's like focused, projected super-irritation—that we've interrupted her. It's almost like a silent snarl.
The two of us pivot to the man getting out of the truck. He says without prompting they have to know what's back there. It's clear that he means something in the woods past the swamp. There are a few others now who've gotten out of their cars. Like the woman, they're carrying an array of innocuous items; I can't remember one specifically for the life of me, but none of them are flashlights or weapons. You can tell that at one point, they were simply the closest thing of a certain size beside that person. The two of us can tell that they haven't spoken to one another about their trip here or their goals. They're oblivious to their similar phraseology of their intent.
I take out my phone to record them as I ask them as many questions as I can think of. The guy from the truck. A kid who looks like he works at the movies. The slender, tall, and dark guy I was (heterosexually?) rolling around naked in bed with during my last dream. In the eerie half-lights of their abandoned, still-running vehicles, they explain in that strange mixture of natural speaking cadences and shared, repeated phrases how urgently they want to do this, how it's "about time" someone solved a mystery that didn't exist at sunset, that no really they're fine because they know just where to find it now. My cell phone camera is taking video better than it has any right to under the circumstances.
I don't want to let these people go into the woods. I turn back to the head security agent, who's been either speaking with a fifth person or the first woman behind me. She looks off into the distance—it's too dark and too far to see the woods from here, not even the light-on-dark silhouette of the tree line against the sky, but she's staring anyway. At a single point I can't see. She takes out her billy club, not her flashlight, and says to me without looking, "might as well see what's back there." She's grasping the club around the middle as if she's never held it before.
My heart's beating so quickly that I wake up.