My absence since Wednesday was not by choice. As I had mentioned, my plan for yesterday involved sneaking into a facility to procure information. I was hoping that this would go without a hitch, but that would have been too simple I suppose.
First, let me state that my target was the mill. I intended to start big in my new found bravado, though maybe that was foolish. The idea was simple: I'd wait until the mill workers were on their lunch break and then sneak in. I would have waited until the damn place closed, but as we've discussed before, they seem to run all night.
I arrived at the mill at about noon, not sure of then they would take their break. When one-thirty came, I was feeling pretty restless. The thought that they might not ever take a true lunch had at this point crossed my mind. Still, with the small crew they now have operating the facility, it seemed logical that at least most of them would eventually stop to eat. Eventually, however, I gave up on this being the case.
Now I had a decision. Leaving seemed the wisest idea; with them all there and working, the odds of being seen were pretty high. Despite the prudent nature of this option, my pride wouldn't allow it. I had come with the goal of getting inside the mill, and I would do just that regardless of the risk.
I spent the next half hour looking for a reasonable place to enter. Obviously the main gate wasn't going to work. Eventually I made my way around the back and found an outcropping that went up slightly higher than the wall surrounding the mill. I am no athlete, so shambling up the rocks wasn't easy but I did make it after several exhausting minutes. This still left me with the problem of getting back down on the other side. Thankfully this prospect had occurred to me and I had brought rope. I made very certain there was no one in the immediate vicinity before I repelled down the opposite side of the wall.
Once inside, I admit I felt a rush of adrenalin. I'd never done anything like this, after all, and perhaps I was making it into too much of an adventure in my mind. This probably led me to be less guarded than I should have been.
Anyway, I now set about the task of seeing just what was going on inside the mill. The production of paper does not need to be done 24/7. Keeping low (I'm not sure this really helps-- guards are probably just as likely to see a bent-over intruder), I made my way around the back of the facility. Pale Forest's mill consists of several buildings, as I've pointed out before, and I knew the majority of the workers would be in the main one in the center of the compound. Hopefully the others would thus be left to me.
The first structure I came to appeared to be a storage facility. This, unfortunately, was confirmed when I managed to force the door. There was only a couple of rooms, one filled with vats of foul smelling chemicals (presumably for bleaching/creating the paper), and the other housing many empty boxes. There was little of interest.
Leaving, I next made my way to a silo type building. It was also locked, but thankfully I looked through the window before attempting to break inside. There was a man in the front room, sleeping at his desk! I couldn't quite see what the silo contained from my vantage point, but there was only one entrance and no other windows. This was my first frustration.
The second came soon after as I darted from the silo towards the main building. Right as I was no more than twenty yards away, the front gate opened, and a car began making its way towards me! Quickly ducking behind a dumpster, I was confident I'd avoided detection.
As I watched, the car, a long, brown sedan, came to a rolling stop out in front of the main building. By now, a couple of men had emerged from the mill to greet the visitors. I recognized one of them as Stanley Fouts, the mill foreman. He's a large man, but quite old. He was with the mill back when my father started, though he wasn't yet in any position of power. It wasn't strange to see him there, though-- he is the foreman. I was far more interested in the person driving the sedan: Pale Forest mayor, Jack Huntley. Why he would come to the mill in the middle of the day was confounding.
I wish they had said more than their greetings there in the open. They soon disappeared into the mill leaving me to crawl out from my hiding place, confused. For a moment I contemplated following them inside, but I didn't get the chance to act on that instinct. Behind me a grinding sound had started, startling in its sudden emergence. Though it had begun as a low hum, within a few moments it had grown to almost unbearable levels! It was, of course, the one I had heard previously at the mill-- similar to the one from my youth, yet less organic. I grabbed my ears to try and block it out, but it must have been coming from someplace very close and I couldn't even think. I began to feel sick and my head pounded, but I knew I had to get out. Breaking into a sprint, I ran full speed towards the rope I had left attached to the top of the wall. In my haste, however, I must have hit an uneven patch of ground. I vaguely remember falling and then rolling, but the grinding had become a maelstrom in my head and I think I must have blacked out.
I came to with a ring of what appeared to be aliens surrounding me. I started to scream, but my mind began clearing and I recognized the beings as human. They were wearing odd suits that covered their features and made them quite frightening. The entire experience was rather surreal to say the least.
Fouts was not at all pleased with my trespassing. His men (I was later told they were wearing hazmat suits to protect against a chemical spill) dragged me to him and then detained me while the police came. I then spent the rest of Wednesday in lockup before I was able to post bail. I will eventually have to answer for the changes, but for now I am free to do as I please.
Despite what appears at surface level to be a failure, I am not disheartened. The trip, though ultimately doomed, did give me what I consider valuable leads to pursue.
- What was inside the silo?
- Why was Jack Huntley there in the middle of the day?
- What is the purpose of the grinding sound?
- Were the worker's suits really to protect against chemicals?
These are all parts of the larger picture, and though I don't yet have answers, they present paths to pursue that I wasn't previously aware of. This will certainly give me plenty to look into over the next few weeks. As long as I don't wind up in jail for any of this.
Hopefully the cost of their discovery doesn't wind up outweighing the importance.
Until next time...