November 3rd, 9:51 PM;
Martin ‘Marty’ Biddle got home from visiting his parents to find the front door of the apartment he shared with his two roommates wide open. Since he didn’t live in the best of neighborhoods the wisest course of action would have been to call the police, but Marty didn’t do that. Instead he grabbed his phone and started filming. He would explain later that he had only wanted to make a video record for insurance purposes, but let’s all be honest here, Marty went in there trying to catch what we all want these days- an image so amazing or amusing or awful that it will set the internet buzzing and tweeting. A post modern money shot.
The only light in the parlor was the pale blue illumination from an overturned TV. Everything that could have been smashed had been smashed, everything that could have been torn apart had been torn apart. Marty called out for his roommates but there was no answer.
He made his way past the kitchen to find the bathroom door had been pulled off its hinges. The toilet had been shattered and the sink pulled from the wall. All the chips and shards of porcelain had been heaped together and every single grooming supply had been reverently emptied onto them. It should be noted that Marty’s roommate Brett was a model, his other roommate Sergio was a hairdresser and between them there had been enough gel, shampoo, body wash and mousse to cover the entire pile debris. The smell was more powerful than you could imagine. Sweet and cloying it took Marty’s breath away, it made his head swim. It kept him from noticing the shaggy figure slouching out of the shadows towards him until it was too late.
Marty Biddle was about to go viral.
Luckily for Marty someone nearby heard the sound of his near-disemboweling and called 911.
The authorities immediately started downplaying the attack, calling it an ‘isolated incident of drug-related violence’. That explanation seemed plausible enough, so long as you didn’t look too closely or think too hard about it. I don’t know how things are in your town but in Albany drug related crimes aren’t nearly as ‘bitey’ as what had happened that night. The poor guy had been gnawed on in dozens of places.
Then the video from Marty’s phone, the video the authorities had been trying so hard to keep under wraps, leaked. Those few minutes of footage started flying around the Deep Web like an ear infection moving through a daycare. The two sites that really fixated on the video were 4Chan and the ‘Fear and Truth’ message board. All the gang at 4Chan did with the video was add cartoon sound effects and racism but my friends and conspirators on ‘Fear and Truth’ enhanced the Sweet Holy Hell out of that footage and broke it down frame by frame.
What that revealed provoked a long and ugly online argument, with some forum users insisting that Marty Biddle had been attacked by a Sasquatch and others declaring that they damn well knew a rabid hippie when they saw one. My opinion was firmly in the rabid hippie category and I decided to prove it.
The best way to skulk around a hospital unchallenged is to dress in scrubs and look like you know what you’re doing. So at the very least I dressed in scrubs and showed up at Albany Med during evening shift changeover.
There were two uniformed police officers stationed in front of room 357; both were older men, desk jockeys working overtime. They seemed more interested in bullshitting with each other than their surroundings, which was fine by me. I kept watch on the room for almost an hour, the doctors and nurses that entered the room all wore surgical masks and latex gloves. The two police officers stepped far away from the door whenever they passed.
It was around quarter to eight when I put on a surgical mask of my own and started walking towards the room.
I punctuated my every footstep with the thought I’m supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be here. and prayed that the middle aged boys in blue caught the vibe. The officers barely acknowledged me as I approached
Then the radios on their shoulders crackled to life. They had a brief confused conversation with their superiors and then walked away from the door they had been so lackadaisically guarding. They brushed past me as they headed for the elevators.
Still nailing it. I thought as I entered Marty Biddle’s room.
And immediately thought I was in the wrong place.
The man strapped to the hospital bed didn’t look anything like the pictures I’d dug up online. His arms, face and neck were covered with tufts of hair, his eyes were crazed with inhuman fury and his jaw was distended. He had been chewing at his upper lip and his teeth were smeared with blood. This was no rabid hippie.
“Marty?” I whispered, “Marty Biddle?”
His only answer was a growl. So much for the interview section of my story. I whipped out my smartphone and started taking pictures- HIPPA be damned.
The door clicked open behind me. Moving with the speed of a true coward I dove into the darkened bathroom and closed the door almost but not quite all the way shut.
A trio of figures walked into the room, one woman, two men. They wore whimsical cat masks and serious gray suits.
Not something I expected to see but there are precedents.
They surrounded the bed. “Great scott!” the man in the white cat mask said.
“I thought you’d remember,” the woman in the black cat mask said.
The man in the orange cat mask spluttered “How is this possible?”
“Nobody is sure yet.” the white cat shook his head, “It can’t be Valhalla all over again. It just can’t.”
The orange cat asked, “Has anyone reached out to Dr. Fredrickson?”
“Isn’t he dead?”
“No,” the black cat said with a sigh, “just in France.”
I was texting all this information back to myself when I heard the hospital windows shatter.
That sound was followed by the crash of toppling furniture, animalistic grunts and all-too human cries. It sounded like a war had broken out in a monkey house. There was no mistaking the voice of the man in the black cat mask and the serious suit, his outraged cry dwindling to a death rattle.
Part of me wanted to get out there and see what was going on but the rational part of me, the part that mostly knows better, convinced me to close the bathroom door and put my shoulder against it.
I listened as the two cops burst into the hospital room. They were shouting orders but it only took a heartbeat for those bellowed orders to become high-pitched screams.
The authorities took my statement into evidence, then my iPhone and then finally my scrubs and clothes. They sent me home from a long night of interrogations with nothing more than a preposterous story and a second hand tracksuit.
I was never so glad to have left my hat at home.
I stopped by Cousin Roy’s place to have a drink and unwind. He didn’t even ask why I was dressed like a low rung mobster, he was too excited. He told me his new plan to become financially secure. It involved him getting declared mentally incompetent and then waiting for the public assistance to roll in.
Maybe I should have reacted with outrage or at least told him to not have Fox News playing in the background but I had too many questions and too little bourbon sloshing around in my head.
Who where those people in cat masks? What did they mean by “Valhalla all over again?” What had come crashing through the sixth floor hospital window to liberate Marty Biddle after reducing those cat mask wearing individuals into something bloody and unrecognizable?
I knew my first step to finding an answer would be to track down that Dr. Fredrickson they mentioned.
After the events of the hospital things moved quickly. Albany’s Chief of Police went on TV and declared a city-wide manhunt for the ‘drug crazed hooligans’ that had killed at least five people. I am sure that little soundbite was a great comfort to the citizenry as was the show of force that took place the next day. At high noon on November 5th the forces of law and order went marching through the poorer neighborhoods of Albany in all their army surplus enhanced glory. The whole scene was the very model of a post 9/11 dystopia. The final results of the brouhaha in body armor was twelve arrests on unrelated charges and outstanding warrants, a neighborhood dog being shot and not one ‘drug crazed hooligan’ being taken into custody.
While all this was going on I was busy learning all I could about Dr. Fredrickson. I assumed the good doctor was some kind of mad scientist but it turns out that this doctor had a degree in criminology. He taught for a while at a downstate college before opening up his own private detective agency. That was when Dr. Fredrickson’s story got weird- I mean really weird.
I’m talking Swan Lake being performed by mimes with Tourette’s syndrome in a running car wash weird. You see Dr. Fredrickson’s cases weren’t of the standard ‘act as a bodyguard’ or ‘find out of my spouse is cheating’ variety. His life was spent investigating all kinds of grisly murders, as well mysterious disappearances and the occasional ninja.
Yes, you read that right. Actual ninjas!
While I did my research things kept getting more and more complicated. There were almost a dozen sightings of what I will ironically describe as ‘man-animals’ in Troy but they were all dismissed as hysteria and lies by the powers that be. Some unlucky citizens were attacked but those attacks were blamed on rabid dogs. By the third chewed up jogger the local newspapers began to get suspicious but their investigations went nowhere because both the survivors and the dead were kept under a strict quarantine.
It took some doing but on the Novemeber sixth I struck pay dirt.
My investigations revealed that in 2006 Dr. Fredrickson moved to France to act as a consultant for Interpol and never came back. In fact he moved his whole damn family across the ocean with him. I found his Interpol email address and sent him a guarded message.
I got an answer almost immediately. God bless you social media.
The place: Troy, New York.
The time: high noon.
Going to secluded locations at the behest of people you've met on the Internet is only slightly dumber than climbing into the back of a van offering free vasectomies. But I went anyway.
To the secluded location, not the vasectomy.
I parked my car across the street from a flower shop and made my way to a long-abandoned textile mill. Abandoned buildings are nothing new in Troy; the town is an urban explorer's dream but the mill was unique in that after the Volsung Company shut down operations and moved production to Taiwan they held on to the property- and let it rot.
At least until the Volsung Corporation went belly up in 1985. The city took the property over and came up with one idea after another of what to do with it. None were ever acted on.
The mill was an ugly rectangle of red brick with tiny windows and a pair of chimneys. It looked like an orphanage out of a Dickens novel. Dr. Fredrickson had told me he was booking a flight to New York right away and planned to meet me there. Personally I would have preferred to meet the man at the airport or a nice restaurant but if this was how he wanted to play it I didn’t have much choice.
I wanted answers.
Like most creepy, long-abandoned buildings the mill was surrounded by a chain link fence that was crawling with tetanus. There is no way to casually climb a chain link fence in broad daylight so I just got it over with as quickly as I could. My bum knee screamed in protest when I landed.
There was a brief, angry moment when realize there had been a man-sized hole in the fence just a few yards to my right but I got over it. Trash and weeds ringed the building, one of the loading dock doors was wide open, it gaped hungrily, waiting for me to enter.
And enter I did, my iPhone filming every second. The loading dock looked like… well, a loading dock. Truck bays, ramps and offices. A double door led to the interior of the building, I nudged it open with my foot. The mill was empty, no walls, no machines. The afternoon sun was level with glassless windows, I passed from shadow to light to shadow. Somewhere an owl hooted and flew away.
The only thing worse than the stink of a building gone to rot is the odor of death and lucky me, I was smelling both. I hated myself for not asking for more answers from Dr. Fredrickson but he’d insisted that he no longer trusted the security of any email system.
The message had told me to come with an open mind and a length of rope.
Just in case this whole thing was a trap I decided against bringing a rope. I had no intention of being trussed up by someone as deadly as they were thrifty.
The light from smartphone found footprints on the dirty floor; dozens of them, all barefoot and all walking on the balls of their feet. I followed the trail deeper into the building. Half-eaten animal corpses were strewn everywhere. I’m not 100% sure what kind they were but I imagined there were a lot of folks in Troy missing their cats and dogs.
“Stop right there!” a voice called from the shadows. It was soft, heavily accented in French, and deadly serious.
“Look down,” the voice said.
There was a hole in the floor right in front of me. I exhaled heavily, “I should have brought that rope.”
“Nice to finally meet you,” A trench coated woman stepped into view. She was beautiful with refined features and ghostly white skin. She was an albino. “I like the hat.”
The stranger was wearing a chapeau of her own, a dark blue trilby that anchored down her white dreadlocks. “Back at ya” I said, “And you are?”
“My name is Chloe Tree, you’ve been emailing my Uncle.” There was a rucksack over her shoulder, she pulled a slender object from it. There was a muffled crack followed by a hiss, the road flare she was holding burst to life.
“He sent you?”
Chloe Tree walked over to the edge of the hole and dropped the flare. The stick of reddish flame fell for eight seconds before hitting bottom. She nodded sagely and shouldered out of her rucksack. “Good, I brought enough,” she handed me one end of the rope, “please tie it around something solid.”
There was a free-standing support column about six feet to our left. “So,” I started looping rope around it, “Dr. Fredrickson is your Uncle?”
“When I was four years old my parents were killed by a man that thought my skin and organs could give him great power. The Fredrickson brothers rescued me.”
“And then Dr. Fredrickson’s brother adopted you?”
“His brother Garth and his wife Mary.”
I stared at the knot I had tied for a moment or two. I’d never been a Boy Scout and I couldn’t be sure the ugly tangle of rope would hold, but it would have to do. “Ready!”
She dropped the rope down into the pit, “The Volsung Company presented itself to the world as an agricultural research company but they had other interests.”
“Bio-weapons?” I asked.
She flashed me a smile, “How did you know?”
“What can I say?” I shrugged, “I’m a good guesser.”
“Indeed.” After one last look around she hefted the rucksack and began lowering herself into the hole in the floor, “Climb carefully now.”
Climb down into a pit in an abandoned factory? That’s how I roll.
This was my first time rappelling so I took it slowly. How far down were we going? I thought eighty feet was a good estimate but that begged the question- what the Hell was down here? What had this company been doing on the side? “So,” I panted, “I guess Volsung was making some kind of killer virus…”
“Worse, a morphic impacting pathogen.”
“I have no idea what that means but it makes me want to wash my hands.”
She gave a little laugh and she dropped from the rope to land on the floor below, “You’ve seen the results of it on Martin Biddle, a complete re-writing of DNA to the point where a physical transformation is triggered. The transformation is mental too, millions of years of evolution are wiped away. Their minds become primitive and malleable.”
“Are you telling me,” I dropped down after her, “that this thing turns people into cavemen?”
“To put it simply yes. But the damage done is so profound that the children of any surviving victims will be pseudo-neanderthals.”
What she was saying was impossible, it was insane, it was the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey in reverse but I’d seen it. I’d seen what that poor bastard Marty Biddle had become.
She produced a flashlight from her backpack of tricks and swept a beam of light around the chamber. The place was at least three hundred feet across in every direction. It was populated with long, flat buildings, obelisks and statues rose up to brush the roof of the chamber. It was positively cathedral-like, “Why would anyone do this?”
“They called it the Valhalla Project,” she walked over to one of the statues, it was covered with an ugly, foul smelling fungus that grew in streaks and lumps along what must have once been a seventy foot tall effigy of some saint or wise man. The coating of fungus left the face and inscription impossible to make sense of, “The plan was to let the virus do its work while a chosen few survivors waited in a dozen places like this around the globe. Then once the human race had been fully regressed they would emerge and guide mankind into a less warlike state of being. A kinder, gentler human race.”
“That’s… that’s…” I boggled, “You’re not kidding are you?”
“No,” she started walking then paused and glanced back at me before continuing on. It seemed like her too-pale face lingered in the shadows after her. Chesire-like.
I used my phone to snap a few pictures along the way but I knew I would never post them, not when everything looked like a seventies album cover. “It would be nice if you could tell me what we’re looking for.”
“Some clue as to who blasted that hole up above. Everyone that experienced the Valhalla Project firsthand should be dead.”
“Everyone except for my father and those curious cats,” the entrance to one of the buildings was open, we took a moment to peer inside. There were four rows of TRS-80 era looking computers, a skeleton was slumped over one of the keyboards. It was covered with fungus, everything was.
“What is this… gunk?” I ran my fingers along the wall, scooping up a handful of the stuff, it was moist and clammy.
“It was supposed to be a food source, I guess after the place was abandoned it got ambitious.”
“Ichhhhh!” Now I really wanted to wash my hands.
Up ahead was something that must have been a town square, a gathering place for discussions of great importance and possibly the occasional biome hoedown. There was a gathering taking place there, or maybe ceremony is a better way to describe what I saw.
There was a toppled obelisk nearby, Chloe and I took cover behind it and observed the ugly troglodyte figures as they danced about a flaming pile of bones.
Somewhere an amplifier was playing a speech that sounded like it had been recorded long ago, “Let every man remind their descendants that they also are soldiers who must not desert the ranks of their ancestors, or from cowardice fall behind…”
It boomed and echoed, the acoustics of the place were amazing.
“There are more than I expected,” Chloe said.
“...strive to be the bravest of men. And I think that I ought now to repeat what your fathers desired to have said to you who are their survivors…”
I have never been so out of my depth in my life. I asked, “What do we do now?”
“We retreat,” Chloe said, “We contact the authorities and we hope.”
“Love it.” I said, “Best plan ever.”
There was a pause in the recording. We turned to go. I stepped on a bone. The sound of it snapping resounded like a gunshot.
Of course the man-animals heard it.
Of course we ran.
Of course they caught up with us easily.
The moment one reached us, Chloe clocked it with her rucksack. Then her hand was in the rucksack, grabbing two more flares.
There was a crack and a hiss. The road flare burned to life. The man-animals backed away in panic but surrounded us just the same.
We weren’t going anywhere.
“How long do those things last?” I asked her.
“Here,” she threw the other one to me and I almost caught it.
When I bent down to retrieve it one of the man-animals pounced. We tumbled along the slimy, moldy ground. Teeth brushed my throat. I fought to push it away but only managed to keep the creature from biting into my neck.
My scream was half-pain, half-terror. Chloe was shouting something in French. I begged the creature nuzzling into the meat of my clavicle for mercy.
The man-animals would have killed us both then and there if not for the timely arrival of a robed, red-haired man. He ordered them to stop in a voice that was patient and gentle. The man-animals immediately forgot about us, they fawned and groveled at the man’s feet.
“Chloe…” I panted. “Are you Ok?”
Dirt and bruises contrasted with her pale, albino skin, “Morceau de merde stole my bag…”
I was clutching at the wound on my shoulder. There was so much blood. My hand looked like I was wearing a single red glove. Direct pressure. I told myself, Apply direct pressure.
The stranger sent the man-animals scurrying with a snap of his fingers. He had a tall forehead, frizzy hair and an almost nonexistent chin, “We meet again Ms. Tree.”
“Mr. Volsung,” Chloe said his name like a curse.
“‘We meet again?’” I said woozily, “Who the Hell says that in real life?”
He glared at me, “I just did.”
It was at that moment I realized I was on my knees, I tried to stand up but my legs weren’t having it, “Are you really going to release a killer virus and destroy the world?”
Mr. Volsung turned his attention back to Chloe, “Who is this idiot?”
“He’s a fellow investigator.”
“Is this fellow investigator aware that he will soon be reborn as a Beast of Valhalla?”
“Is that bad?” I asked, “Because it sounds bad.”
Mr. Volsung’s reaction was a roll of the eyes, Chloe’s expression became pained. In other words it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, it was worse. I was infected, I was on a one way trip to Troglodyte Town.
“Come,” Mr. Volsung gestured to Chloe Tree, “we have matters to discuss that are not for lesser ears.”
“Oh no.” I said, “I’m a part of this, I want some answers.”
Mr. Volsung snapped his fingers and the man-animals swarmed me. They lifted me up and carried me away…
My name is Chloe Tree and it has fallen upon me to tell this part of the story. Please understand that this is not the whole story, there are facts that must be obscured for the sake of humanity but I respect Brian Foster and what he has tried to accomplish.
Know then that the man called Volsung is the last and least of a bloodline as arrogant as it is ugly. Let it be known however that Volsung labors alone like in the financial and scientific ruins of his betters. The mighty had fallen, I just didn’t know how far.
“Come,” he said to me, “we have matters to discuss that are not for lesser ears.”
“Oh no.” Brian’s voice was desperate, “I’m a part of this, I want some answers.”
All it took was a snap of Volsung’s fingers for the pseudo-neanderthals, the creatures some called the Beasts of Valhalla, to fall upon Brian. There was a moment of terror when I was certain they would tear him limb from limb, but why would the beasts do that when he would be one of them soon enough?
They lifted him up and carried him away deep into the heart of this fungus choked monument to one man’s hubris. “How?” I asked, “How do you make them obey you like that?”
“All in good time,” there was a tremor in his voice that seemed to spread through his entire body. He began to walk away knowing I would follow.
Brian’s straw fedora had fallen to the ground, I tossed my own hat off my head and put his on in its stead. Even now I am not sure what my motivation was for doing so. You might think it was so he could be with me in spirit, but I don’t believe in spirits, or monsters or gods. There are only mysteries that have yet to be solved.
It was sentiment I suppose.
“Does your adoptive father know you’re here?” Volsung asked.
“He’s none of your business.”
The path he led me along sloped downward. The white fungus became thicker and thicker as we progressed, it popped and hissed underfoot like a carpet of bubble paper. The air it released was foul and choked with spores.
“What is this?” I asked.
“It was the only thing to survive when the facility descended into chaos. It spread from hydroponics to contaminate everything.” He ran a hand along the veins of soft, whiteness, “From foodstuff to conquerer in less than a generation. Impressive no?”
This was getting nowhere, I changed the subject, “What about Brian?”
“What about him?”
“There must be some kind of cure, some way to help him.”
“No. The infection is incurable and for all but 2% of the population."
“2%? Which 2%?”
“For some reason it does not impact individuals with a mutation of the MC1R protein. Speaking of mutations,” Volsung paused in mid stride and glanced back at me, “I was sorry to hear about your 'uncle' but I suppose he lived longer than someone with his genetic setbacks should have.”
I said nothing.
“Did he ever consider,” he began walking again, “That perhaps his encounter with the Valhalla virus was the source of his prolonged lifespan?”
“He…” I took a moment to compose myself. This is the curse of an atheist; a religious person finds solace in the knowledge they will be reunited with their loved ones in an afterlife. Atheists know better, dead is dead and gone is gone- we only live on in memory and even that is fleeting. “He would have wanted me to try and appeal to your sense of reason.”
Volsung chuckled, “My sense of reason doesn’t come into it.”
“This strain of the virus is flawed, it could never do what you want because it is only passed through bodily fluids. All you’re going to do is create human misery.”
“Look around you Ms. Tree, we’re already in a world of human misery. Better to begin again or never to have been at all.” The door to hydroponics had fallen from it’s hinges, the ultraviolet lights dangled by half rotted fixtures and wires. The fungus was everywhere, it surrounded us on all sides, a thick mound of it festered in the center of the room. “If it is to survive Humanity must stop warring with itself. It must become one mind, one soul.”
That brought a question to mind, “Is that how are you able to control the beasts?”
“One mind,” His robes and voice trembled again. He approached the mound and caressed it, “One soul.”
An ugly suspicion took hold of my thoughts, “Whose mind?” I asked, “Whose soul?”
His expression became sly, he undid the belt of his robe and let it fall open to reveal corruption. The same fungus that had run riot over the complex had grown fat on his flesh. It pulsed in time with his heartbeat. “It has such tranquility to share,” he said, “It will forgive your trespasses.”
I dropped to my knees, he liked that. I asked, “What does this have to do with saving humanity?”
“Livestock survives. Livestock endures.”
“You’re insane!” I reached down “Think what you’re saying.”
“Don’t you see?” Volsung spread his arms wide in a gesture of welcome, “Every flock needs shepherds. We. Have. Been. Chosen.”
One of my father’s old friends had given me the pistol and the ankle holster I drew it from. I fired twice, both shots hitting him in the face. There was less blood than I expected. Thick tendrils quivered and lashed at the air before becoming still. He didn’t fall, he just stood there like a toy with batteries that had run down.
The mound of fungus in the center of the room began to quiver, I imagined it erupting like a boil and filling the room with spores and tendrils. It was time to get away, but first I had to find Brian.
Aside from a few disconnected images I can’t really remember what happened.
I know the man-animals carried me away to what might have an auditorium. There were TV screens on every wall, some hissed static others played old newsreel footage from World War II. The man-animals sat me down in the first row of seats. Just before I blacked out I realized one of the man-animals had stolen my pants.
Then gunfire. Chloe Tree came charging into the room like, if you’ll pardon a bit of alliteration, an albino avenging angel. She dragged me to my feet and pulled me out of the room. The man-animals started to give chase but a few shots over their heads scattered them.
She practically carried me through the complex. All around us the white fungus was pulsing angrily.
Somehow we got back to where we had come in. How the Hell did she get me back up that rope? Men and women in cat masks and Brooks Brothers suits waited for us at the top of the shaft. They must have had something to do with it. There was construction equipment everywhere, cement mixers mostly. They had knocked out the east wall of the mill to get them in there.
A man in a calico cat mask approached Chloe. It didn’t take long for them to start arguing about me, something about me not leaving here alive. I wish I could remember exactly.
At that point I wanted to say something but I was too busy blacking out again.
Days later I woke up in the most sterile-looking hospital room I had ever seen. There were no windows, the bed was standard prison issue; the door was locked and there was no TV. My shoulder had been patched up and there were needle and IV tracks up and down my arms. Either I was being held prisoner by a shadowy government agency, or Albany Med had a terrifying new way of dealing with uninsured patients.
Thankfully it was the former and after a few more days of observation and tests they let me go with a warning never to tell my story to anyone.
But come on, what did they think I was gonna do?
By the time I got out Chloe Tree had already gone back to France but she had kindly emailed me the file I posted above so you could know what I missed.
Item: If you recall Volsung mentioned that people with a mutation of the MC1R protein are immune to the virus. The protein in question is the one that makes you a ginger. You don’t actually have to be a ginger to have that genetic marker, it’s recessive but just having it is enough to save you.
Item: I only have one picture of my absentee grandpa but if you haven’t guessed already he had bright red hair.
Item: In the two weeks I was gone Mrs. Vinchenzo and Cousin Roy went out of their minds with worry, now that I’m back they’re out of their minds with anger.
Item: At least I got my straw fedora back.
Item: You won’t find anything beneath the textile mill anymore, nothing but eighty-plus feet of fresh concrete, and pretty soon you won’t even find the mill itself. The city of Troy has decided to knock it all down and build a community playground.I wonder if there’ll be monkey bars.