Ted (merovingian) wrote,

If You Close Your Eyes, You Can Hear The World Breathing Hungrily

Out in Redwood City, California, up alongside 101, you can till see the old Excite@Home building complex, all majestic and mirror-shaded, with lofty futuristic-looking red sky-bridges connecting the towers, high above the streets below.

Everyone says it's empty now, alone and vacant, like the ghost of the Tech Boom Bubble Economy that built it up in the first place. The property's too expensive now, they say. No business needs that kind of office space these days, they say. Well, I heard that, but I heard another story, too.

The story I've heard says that the landowners would rather get a little rent than none at all, so they've been leasing out little corners and pockets of the building, one at a time. At least, they used to do that. Soon enough, it was clear how wrong an idea that was.

A little start-up leased the space. An online insurance broker, I hear. Twelve employees or so. Things seemed to be going well for a month or so, and then the whole office disappeareed. The landlord found the space empty one day. No people. No computers. No cafe. No cube toys, and no cubes to put them in anyway. Empty.

Well, the owners figured it was a fluke, or a delinquent bankruptcy, or something, so the renting continued. A different building. Top story; you could see the bay from it. It was little software house - I forget the name - that made games for the Palm. Just six employees. Once more, they all disappeared without a goodbye.

The landlords chalked it up to coincidence, and rented the place out again. In moved an RFID company, but not for long. Thirty-one employees, all missing in action. A storage area network company was going to move in, but backed out at the last minute. Lucky them. Then an online marketing research firm, twenty-nine employees, well funded. Gone overnight.

The owners hired a detective to find out what was happening. The detective, an old friend of mine, looked through all the standard databases - nothing. The tenants all disappeared off the face of the earth. So she went on-site one night, with a card key from the owners and a big high-wattage flashlight.

She looked up and down the whole dark, lonely, quiet building, digging for clues, and turned up dry until about ninety minutes later. She follweed a hunch and climbed onto a break-room countertop, and pushed up the ceiling tiles. Up there, in the dusty plenum, she found a nest scrapped together from leading industry publications and RJ-45 cable, way too big for any bird. She took a picture or two, then noticed the eggs inside the nest, each big as a volleyball, all rough and grey like granite.

She was just about to take some pictures, but then she was surprised by a loud raspy hiss behind her. She turned around and a leaping creature dove at her, faster than lightning, knocking the flashlight and camera away. It was stronger than anything, with skin like rock. She didn't get more than glimpse of it, but she swears she saw a flash of grey, and a fast-moving figure, almost human. A hint of a wing. Broad sharp granite claws. Glowering red eyes, smouldering with anger.

"I can't blame that thing," she admitted to me in retrospect, months later, after she'd recovered her sensibilities, "The thing must have been protecting its young."

She ran straight out of the building, her feet made fast and light from instinctive fear, with the constant ound of hissing and the sound of wings behind her. The owners didn't believe her story, and the camera was gone the next day. Still, they haven't rented the building out since. They make nervous jokes about the story of my detective friend...

...but sometimes, on a night very much like this, as you drive past those buildings on 101, you might notice something out of the corner of your vision - a dark figure, a hulking humanoid shape, on broad wings, dark against the night sky, slipping furtively between the towers.

Sometimes, you may even catch a glimpse of a distant pair of red glowing eyes, as it watches you drive on.
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