The Sept submission had the prompt ‘Behind Closed Doors’ and I received this amazing submission (via email of course) from Chris, who happens to be the lucky, lucky husband of [ahem]… me, and in all honesty, I had no idea he could write like this. Frankly, I’m a wee bit jealous, I thought this writing caper was my deal in our partnership! (Shut up Simonne, this isn’t about you.) Chris said that this is the first chapter of a sci fi short story or novella. Enjoy!
The room still smelled of the blast and a thin layer of smoke hung high, close to the ceiling. Held aloft, too, were the finest of the particles of blood: dried but airborne; a blood-dust. With the early morning sun heating up the air through the blinds (still drawn) they would stay aloft for many hours yet, riding the gentle updrafts of the convection currents, the roll and exchange of warm and cool air. Down below, around the remains of the body, the pooled blood soaked into the carpet.
The room was now sealed. The first officers sent to the apartment had pushed a filament camera probe under the door, found no signs of life, and called in the Scan Crew. Then they sealed the room with spray-tape. The tape sprayed on bright yellow; as it dried over the gap between the door and its frame, between the door and the floor, the words “POLICE SCENE OF INTEREST: DO NOT BREAK SEAL!” appeared in heavy black type all along its length.
The Scan Crew technicians arrived twenty minutes after the call. Two men walked up the stairs; the first was older, hefting a large case made of black textured plastic. Behind him, the other carried a smaller bag slung over his shoulder. Setting both the case and the bag down outside the sealed door, they pulled clear plastic booties from the bag and snapped them over their shoes.
The second tech removed two things from his jacket pocket. The first was a long white tube, pointed at one end and sealed in plastic wrapping. He removed the wrapping and attached it to the end of the second object, square and flat. He pushed the point of the tube into the yellow-black tape at the foot of the door, passing it through the gap between the door and the floor, then tapped the screen of the box. Thirty seconds later it emitted a soft beep. He pressed the screen again and stuffed the box back into his pocket; the tube fell to the floor. He took a retractable knife from the bag and traced the outline of the door through the tape.
Meanwhile, the first tech had opened the black case flat on the landing floor. Sitting in the centre of the case’s foam padding was a large egg-shaped object in dull polished aluminium, one end filleted with many thin slices cut into its body. To the side of the metal egg was a gimbal ring; he attached this to the bulky tripod legs he pulled from a compartment in the case’s lid, then eased the metal egg from its padding and sat it in the gimbal. His partner put the knife away and opened the door to Room 247.
Holding the assembled scanner out in front of him, and being careful not to knock it against the door frame, the first tech stepped through. He moved to what he judged was about the room’s centre and set it down. The scanner head, the size of his own and looking duller still in the muted light, sat at waist height above the floor. One foot of its tripod rested close to the dark stain in the carpet. He moved back to the hallway and uncoiled a length of heavy yellow cord from the case, trailed it back into the room, and connected it to the base of the gimbal. He took two steps back and said over his shoulder, “Yeah – start it up.” The second tech flicked a switch and tapped at a screen set into the lid of the black case. The heavy metal head of the Tetsuon Spatial Scanner began to spin, and as it spun it hummed.
The spinning accelerated; the hum grew to a whine. While he waited for it to complete its scan of the room, the first tech stared at what lay on the floor in the middle of the dark, drying stain. Were it not for the remains of the clothes, he would not have guessed it was a human torso, missing its head and all its limbs. A shotgun blast had scorched the shirt and flayed the flesh of the chest; it was impossible to know if he was looking at the remains of a man or a woman. While the scanner head, spinning fast, slowly lifted up on a piston rising from the tripod’s centre, the whine shifted pitch to a shrill, near-unbearable note. He closed his eyes and waited for the noise to die.