Chasing the Chicken

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We aren't done being creeped out by the meat chute making noises, still the bell rings. Today I wouldn't go to the catering for a million dollars: who says they wouldn't eat me alive?

Dave said they probably weren't conscious when they attacked us, which can be reassuring under a certain light. They probably won't recognize me, but I have no way to say when they're gonna attack next. If it wasn't for Domenica's job and Nathan's friends at school, I'd be tempted to get away as fast as I can too.

As we drop our stuff in the locker, I hear footsteps in front of the building, lots of them. I look at Dave: he seems to be just as freaked out as I do. Is now the time where they chop us into nuggets? Feeling stupidly brave, I venture outside.

They seem to have come crawling from every part of the factory: a dozen or more workers, staring at us like we're about to start a show. Not that Dave has pointed it out, yes, they're clearly out of their minds, I mean not in control. Their standing bodies are positioned in ways that, without being entirely unnatural, make them look like puppets with literal strings. It's not incredibly obvious, just small things: a hand hanging loose here and there, an asymmetrical slouch, some guy staring at us directly but with his face turned towards his shoulder. All in all, this makes for a pretty creepy scene and the only thing I can think of is 'Should I run right now?'.

Because yes, that's the question. They seem to be waiting for something, given the extra time I've had to mill all of this in my head. Did the come commanded by a higher entity? Do they know I am affiliated with the girl they wanted scared, or is it Dave that they came to confront because he says he wants to leave the factory?

I'm ready to call them out on that question, but Dave grabs me by the arm and pulls me away. They keep staring, but don't give chase. I'll let the veteran ghost-tamer lead the way for now. He always gets so edgy when the factory puppets are involved.

"I could have talked to them," I say. "How are you so sure they wouldn't have reacted?"

Dave lets go of my arm. "No, Deb, I'm afraid they would have. I've seen people in that kind of state before. You don't want to piss them off."

I think back on yesterday's attack. I might have to agree with him on that one. "So, do you think they heard us?" I say.

"I don't think they have that kind of awareness right now. The entity that controls them, well, let's imagine they're his fingers. It can't be focused all the time on what they're feeling. Plus, it's likely new feelings for it. Maybe it can react when they're injured, stressed or bored, but I'd say understanding human speech is on another level entirely. Anyway, whether it can understand us or not, I think we're screwed now."

I turn around, but there's no one here. The weather is turning stormy again, which is no surprise. Is that thunder I hear? Great. We're almost at the entrance of the factory, nobody has followed us as far as I can see.

"What do you mean, we're screwed? Aren't we just going out for lunch?"

"Mm-mm," says Dave, shaking his head. "I'm not going back there."

"Just because they've crowded us?" I say. "Isn't that a bit of an overreaction?"

Dave stops at the fence and scratches his head. "See, I don't know for sure why they were there waiting for us, but the only thing that makes sense gives me chills. I think they finally noticed that we're special. I don't like the idea of being thought of as a bump in the road by a potentially very powerful entity."

"Again with that special talk," I say. "I'm sorry, Dave, I don't know about you, but I have no magical power whatsoever. No one gave me my Hogwarts letter and I sure as hell haven't been bitten by a radioactive spider, OK?"

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