Billy forced his shovel into the bottom of the pit and let go. The shovel stood upright. Billy followed suit as he tried to rub an ache out of his back. He turned around and saw a pair of feet. They were filthy, bloody and level with his face. He looked up at their owner. She was a woman in her twenties in a long white dress which had seen cleaner days with sandy blonde hair resting on her shoulders. She stared at him. He stared at her.
"Annabelle?" he said to break the silence.
"Yes", said Annabelle.
"I don't know why I said that. I knew you were coming."
"You did?" said Annabelle.
He moved to the ladder and climbed out of the hole. Annabelle stared down into it.
"What is it?" she asked, not taking her eyes off the bottom of the trench.
Billy was wiping his hands on a rag and watching her as it started to rain. He threw the rag on the grass and said "It's a grave".
"A grave what?" she said without taking her eyes of it.
Billy turned and began to walk away. "Come on, sis."
Annabelle looked over her shoulder and ran after him.
The hut was dry, but there was a funny smell that Annabelle didn't recognise. Billy dusted off a chair and gestured to it. Annabelle looked at the chair and back at her brother blankly. He sighed and steered her into the chair. He sat down opposite her on a crate and reached into a bag. He pulled out a flask and a plastic box before setting them down on a larger crate that served as a table. Annabelle hadn't realised how hungry she was until she read the words Vanilla Ice Cream written across the lid. She remembered having ice cream at the facility. She reached across and tore the top off, but was disappointed to see a collection of other foods but no frozen dessert. She picked up the lid again and studied the image very carefully. She put it down as Billy unscrewed the top of the flask and poured out a brown liquid. She pulled the box toward her and began to eat.
"Oi, that's my lunch” said Billy, which he instantly regretted "but I suppose you probably should have it." He watched as she polished off sandwiches, crisps and an apple at speed. He smiled as she struggled a little with the yoghurt, but she triumphed in the end.
They didn't speak again until the box was empty.
"When did they let you out?"
"It's been two days."
"Two days! No wonder you're hungry."
Annabelle peered down at the box more than once in the hope there was more food. There wasn't. They sat in silence again. Billy felt the need to end it.
"I never thought they'd let you go."
"Because you were the justification for what they did, without you it was all pointless."
Billy could see that his sister took this as a compliment. He didn't want to point out that wasn't quite how he meant it.
"What changed their mind?" asked Billy.
"I don't think they did. I think someone changed it for them." Annabelle replied.
"How do you mean?"
"I was told to leave because it was closing."
"The facility is closing? I never thought I'd see the day."
"Have you seen the others?"
"A few. I've been here four or five years and when people were released they all came this way."
"It was strange. I knew you were here even though I didn't know where here was."
"Well Leonard and Michelle got out together and then Ivy came by about a year after them, but I haven't kept in touch with any of them."
Another silence. Annabelle looked through the window. It was raining quite heavily now.
"Why are they closing the facility?"
"Men with guns came."
"Guns? What are you going to do?"
"I don't know."
"Well you can't stay here!"
There was another silence, but this time it would be Annabelle that broke it. She sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. She pictured herself back at the facility in the corridor. Doors ran the length of the corridor. There were thirteen on each side all bearing names. She closed her own door and then Billy's. Annabelle looked to her neighbour's room. The name upon the door took a while to come into focus. She opened her eyes and announced, louder than she probably needed to "I'm going to see Charlotte."
A door opened in the side of a mountain and a woman dressed from head to toe in black peered out. She rolled out a corpse in a bloodied white coat with her foot. She looked out at the sky, over the forest and then down at the dead man. Another black-clad man appeared behind her in the doorway. He awkwardly manoeuvred his pen and clipboard into one hand before saluting with the other and barking "No sign of the girl, sir."
"He wouldn't tell me anything. Even when I said I'd let him live."
"I don't think he believed you, sir."
"What is the world coming to when two government employees can't bring themselves to trust each other?”
"I think your sincerity was in doubt when you put the first bullet in him".
She glared at him and he added a "sir" a little too late.
She looked out at the view again and gave her orders without looking at him. "I want a complete inventory of this place. I want someone to check the air vents, rip up the floors if you have to. I want that girl found, sergeant.”
The Sergeant moved to go, before turning back and asking "And if they find her?"
"The new policy is simple. This place never existed. There is to be no evidence."
He stood with his hovering over his clipboard and asked "Could you be a little more specific, sir?”
"Thank you, sir. It's good to have clarification. Otherwise-"
Thanks again for reading. I'll be back tomorrow.