Valerie couldn’t keep her eyes off of her brightly lit cellphone screen, the numerous videos playing on an auto-play loop.
Even with her focus on the various comedic videos coming from her the screen larger than the palm of her small hands Valerie managed to navigate through the bustling city streets in the early evening hours. Every now and then, she would occasionally brush against the oversized fur coat of a passing woman, or the leather and cotton blend jacket of a businessman leaving the office, but that was normal for a heavily populated city. She’s grown accustomed to it after living in he city for seventeen years. The only thing she didn’t like was dealing with tourist who couldn’t keep up with the walking pace.
Catching the curb of the sidewalk in the corner of her eye Valerie stopped walking and looked up, her eyes noticing the red open hand signal, the common sign for pedestrians to stop and wait. It only lasted a second before it turned green and she continued her speedy pace through the streets. She only walked a few more blocks before turning around a corner to escape the crowded streets.
Unlike the last few blocks she traveled, which were covered in neon lighting and signs from the skyscrapers and entertainment buildings that surrounded the area, the next few blocks were much darker, only having a flickering, dim street lamp light the way every few steps. The street was a narrow alleyway, giving enough space between buildings for about four people to walk through if they were shoulder-to-shoulder. Large dumpsters were placed against each building, the rotten smell of old garbage that sat out in the rain coming from the open containers. The entire street was the length of a crosstown avenue block, but the other end seemed like a faint glimmering light in the distance. It was perfect for the opening scene to a horror movie.
However, Valerie often took this way getting home to help pass through crowds of people. Besides, she thought the light from her phone would act like a good flashlight if she really needed to. She began walking down the alleyway, her footsteps echoing through; rats quickly ran from in front of her and into the shadows.
Even alone in a dark alleyway, Valerie continued to keep her eyes on her screen, this time texting back and forth with her closest friends from high school. She still kept thinking about the events from just a short while ago, when all of them were hanging out at a theater to catch the latest movie release. Seeing the bloody effects and people dying left and right on the big screen had left a lingering chilly sensation down her spine, but she tried not to focus on it.
As she walked down the alley she heard something shuffling across the ground and crash into one of the dumpsters. She immediately broke her attention with her phone and tried to see what passed along her path: nothing in sight from the street lamp. She fixed that by brightening her screen settings and shining it along the streets. She found a stream of liquid pouring out from the bottom of the a dumpster. Although it came from a container used to hold trash, it didn’t have the that rotten smell or the strange brown-green color.
Coming to a single drop drip every few seconds, a bright red sticky came out from the cracked bottom of the dumpster, forming a river between the buildings. At first, Valerie wanted to deny what the liquid could possibly be, but after noticed the lingering scent of rusting iron, she knew she couldn’t deny it.
“That… That’s blood! Is there a dead body in the dumpster…?”
She aimed her makeshift flashlight at the dumpster, its green paint already began peeling and shedding off from years of use and erosion. One of the black rubber lids are down, while the other one seems to have been completely removed some time ago. Trying not to gag at the pungent smell of bloody garbage Valerie found a stable, thrown out box to stand on so she could get a look inside.
The events of her recent horror movie viewing replayed in her mind, the countless scenes of an axe-wielding murderer running lose and hacking their victims to death. Severed limbs, exposed organs and massive wounds were the highlighted every time they appeared on the screen.
Valerie hoped that she wouldn’t seem those same images in person.
Using the cuffs of her school uniform as gloves when she gripped the dumpster, she carefully leaned forward to get a look inside. Before she could get past the first later of garbage bags, a voiced called out to her.
“What are you doing here?”
Valerie almost dropped her phone in an open garbage bag when the voice caught her off guard. She spun around and kept her screen in front of her to get a clear look at who approached her. It was grown man in a tan uniform. Around his waist was an assortment of small tools in small pouches dangling from his belt. He took off his matching snapback hat to dust off the traces of dirt from his pants before question the suspicious teenage girl again.
Seeing a sudden stranger approach her put Valerie in a “fight-or-flight” mindset, but it slowly vanished when she noticed the V-shaped logo on the front of the man’s hat, “You work for the ‘Hotel Victoria?’”