|Note: This story is a part of a larger series of short stories and flash fiction. You can find these stories on the Oubliette home page.|
Somewhere on the interstate highway in West Virginia, Owen sat in a black sedan that cruised towards Charleston. They passed through Morgantown and were heading south. It would be a couple more hours before they reached Charleston and then another hour or more to Spartan Hills. His partner, Agent Mara Rodriguez, sat next to him in the driver’s seat. Music played on the radio from a local station. It was an old country song about someone who had gone psycho. At the end of the song, the host read the news.
“Rescuers continue their search of a West Bend exchange student who fell in the Green Springs river. Sheriff Monroe told reporters that there was little hope of finding him alive.”
Owen turned off the radio and pulled his work department issued tablet from his pack. He joined the Department of Forgotten Affairs last week and was having doubts. When he received the offer for a field agent position within the FBI, he did not think much of the secrecy. The CIA dismissed him days before the offer for something he is sure he did not do. He was at a low point, he needed something on which to hold.
He spent last week sitting at a secure facility in Washington DC watching videos on spirits, vampires, shape shifters, and paranormal phenomenon. The training continued in St. Louis for what they called Basic Field Agent Defense Training next week. His job was to observe and assist Agent Rodriguez this week.
Owen studied the MyVid video for the fifth time posted by their person of interest, Griswold Wilson. The video was a shot of an empty room. For about 10 seconds, the faint outline of a child appeared. Judging by the comments, many arguments gave convincing arguments that it was fake. Owen had to agree with them but Mara assured him they were Oubliette agents and it was legitimate.
“This video that you wanted me to study. How do we know it is not photo-manipulation or pareidolia? Am I over thinking this?”
“No, you’re not. The lines of the background do not flow cleanly into the child. With pareidolia, there is a clean flow. Unfortunately, we need forensics to make the determination of photo manipulation. Though with experience, you start seeing some common traits.”
“Is there a process before it gets to us?”
“Yes. We don’t verify evidence.”
Owen tapped the power button of the tablet and sat it on his lap. He rubbed the sides of his head with his fingers and looked at the ceiling.
“Are you okay, Agent Holt?”
“This is crazy.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“Being told what I thought was imaginary is actually real.”
Mara nodded, “It overwhelmed me when I started. You go your whole life believing something and then learn it is all an illusion. Several recruits don’t even make it past the first week. That is why you are observing this week.”
“I can see the logic in that.”
“Are you having second thoughts about the job?”
“No… not yet at least. I just need to accept that Big Foot exists.”
“Big Foot isn’t real.”
Owen’s cocked his head and gave a puzzled look at Mara.
“The Big Foot sightings are really feral werewolves.”
“Of course, that was obvious,” said Owen with sarcasm in his voice.
“Are spirits really color-coded for our convenience?”
Mara threw her head back slightly and chuckled, “It does seem that way but It’s not that simple.”
“How about the Man of Metal?”
“Him? He is known to exist.”
“It means there is proof but we don’t know anything. He’s not our jurisdiction though. I’m surprised you heard of him.”
“I heard about him at the Academy.”
“Oh yes, I almost forgot you went to school in Maryland.”
“Sounds like you know more about me than I know about you.”
Mara smiled, “I’ll tell you more after your probationary period. I promise.”
Owen lifted the tablet from his lap and turned it back on. He swiped his finger a few times and stopped at the icon for the next topic.
“I’ll hold you to that. For now, I’ll be reading up on shapeshifters.”
“Oh, that gets crazy. You’ll have to read that three or four times.”
Owen rolled his eyes and smirked, “I guess I’ll just have to keep an open mind.”
Mara grinned at him, “Not too open… you don’t want your brain to fall out.”