Gary saw her first and yelled at Tom to stop the bulldozer. The dozer ground to a halt just before knocking into the first support column of the horse barn before us. It wasn’t like any kind of barn I had seen before at least. Owners said it was a breeding barn. 86 stalls where they would try and breed race horses. A lot different than the barns you see on TV. Not painted red wood or anything like that, but made of sheet metal.
When we did the initial walk-through we found all sorts of weird shit. Things like blood sample kits from the 70’s, or these weird tube things the owners said were for inseminating the horses. It was an acre under roof, and the owner said that he wanted us to clear it out to make way for a smaller, but much more modern, facility.
I can’t blame him. The whole place reeked of bat shit. When I reached in through a broken window to open one of the office doors my arm came out with the biggest wolf spider I’ve ever seen hitching a ride.
Anyways, Gary yelled to stop the dozer and Tom was able to just in time. The foreman, a hard-ass named Simpson, began cussing and yelling about wasting time on the job. But Gary said he saw a little girl run inside through the side doors.
We all put down our equipment and picked up our flashlights. The power to the old building had been off for weeks, and the dirtied skylights offered barely any sunlight.
We searched for an hour before it was time for lunch, so Simpson volunteered that I stay behind and continue the search. I was the FNG, so it made sense I guess.
“Little girl?” I asked. My voice echoed through the cavernous building. Walking along and shining my flashlight into every stall I passed, I came up with nothing.
A quiet giggle echoed from the other side of the building. Breaking into a jog, I ran towards the source of the laughter. For all I knew it was the owner’s granddaughter not realizing the danger she was getting into.
Turning the corner I found that several of the stalls were blocked by old farming implements, left to rust and rot for decades in this dilapidated old barn.
I heard the giggle again, this time closer and from behind the old machinery. Getting a good purchase on a tractor that had to be twice as old as I was, I hopped over and tripped into the horse stall behind it.
There was a hole in the ground. I pointed the flashlight and saw that it went downwards a bit and turned. Looked big enough for a man to crawl through if necessary. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that.
“Little girl, please come out, it’s not safe anymore, we’re going to tear the building down.”
“Help! I’m stuck!” came the frightened reply. Something wasn’t sticking with me, but I ended up in that hole quicker than I thought about it. Scrabbling down the rocky dirt tunnel, I reached the bend and found a soft glow of candlelight coming from around the corner.
The tunnel opened into a small space, probably about six feet wide and four feet tall. A few candles decorated the space, surrounded by the old skulls of horse and cattle.
The little girl had her back to me and her leg stuck in the pile of bones.
The hair on my arm stood up as she tried to pull her leg out of the skulls. The bones shifted as though she was completely free.
“Why don’t you just crawl to me?” I asked. I suddenly felt like a cornered animal. I stared as though I were a deer in headlights and just waited, trying to be as quiet as possible even though she knew I was there.
“I need help!” she screamed as she tore her foot out of the pile of skulls. I started scooting backwards through the tunnel as quickly as I could as my light caught her eyes.
I’ll never forget staring into those pitch black eyes and realizing I was staring down some kind of predator. Something in the back of my mind kicked into gear. It’s like when you feel someone’s watching you and you turn out you’re right. Your brain just knows what to do.
I threw my flashlight at her and it smacked her in the skull.
I saw an overfed tick once pulled of a dog. It was so big its outer shell had burst, leaving a soft sac just bursting with blood.
As soon as it was off the dog blood started leaking from its mouth and the skin began deflating like a sickening balloon.
When I hit the girl with the flashlight, her skull crumpled inwards like a balloon, taking one eye with it. No blood, nothing. She screamed in anger and scrabbled faster after me. I finally kicked free of the hole and slammed the horse stall shut.
Having no idea if that would stop her, I practically hurdled over the tractor as I heard something slam into the splintering wooden stall door.
I don’t know how I escaped, but next thing I know I’m outside with a bottle of water in my hands. Simpson was yelling at me for not staying hydrated and saying I was sick with heat stroke, babbling about all sorts of weird shit.
I quietly sipped from the water bottle as the adrenaline drained from my body, leaving me exhausted and emotional.
I don’t know what I saw in there, but when it came time to bulldoze the place, I was the one in the driver’s seat.
One time when I was alone with the owner I asked him if he had lost any cattle. He said that was one of the reasons he was bulldozing the building. He’d lose a cow or horse here and there and find the blood trail leading to the building. His dogs wouldn’t go in, so he knew there must have been a coyote den hidden in there somewhere.
I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t tell him about the girl, the hole, any of it. I didn’t tell him that when I finally bulldozed new soil over the hole that I swore I could hear an angry scream, just over the sound of the dozer’s engine.