They found the house in twilight. It was always twilight. They peered through the little basement window. Row after row, stack after stack of nothing but jars of pickles barely visible in the dim turquoise tinged light. The house was inexplicably reinforced. Ordinary looking, yet the windows were unbreakable, the doors were especially fortified. No one was around, but someone had turned a mid sized home into a safe for pickles. Jagar looked around. His crew were hungry. If they saw a trap, they didn’t much care.
Someone found a long 2 by 4. Leverage to get the oddly fortified front door open. Lobbing bricks and rocks at the windows and watching them bounce should have scared them off. You couldn’t see the fortifications. It was as if a secure fortress had been disguised as a pleasant little house in an idyllic, economically mixed neighborhood. Jagar let them ram the lever into the door jam, but he stood back, watching.
There was a crack. The door was breached at the hinges. 7 men leaning on a lever did the job.
“Quietly” hissed Jagar. The men, some covered in not much more than sack cloth, others in stolen military garb, and a few obviously scarred and mutated from the chemicals that had been spilled into the clouds, all pulled the door away and entered the house, activating small flash lights, careful to keep them aimed at the floor.
“There’s the kitchen. Where did you see the pickles?”
“In the basement. Stacks of them. Just pickles. Weird”, said Jagar.
“Probably all kinds of stored stuff somewhere if you look”, offered Marnak.
The stairs to the basement creaked. Stacks of pickle jars covered nearly the entire floor. On the walls, however, were cans. Some of the men had can openers. Their mouths were already watering. Why would someone have so many pickles? Who cares?
“Watch our backs” Jagar motioned to Birk. Birk dutifully bounded up the stairs and into the house.
They began to work at the pickle jars, trying to open them. Suddenly the basement door slammed shut.
“Birk”, Jagar hissed.
“Jagar”, a voice hissed back. “The door won’t budge.”
The next morning the sky was clear of clouds. The sun rose and shed bright light even through the small windows of the basement. Birk found the door suddenly open as easily as any ordinary door.
No one was in the basement.
Birk peered around. Beams of sunlight illuminated dust in the air, making them bright like filaments. They were gone. No trace; nothing. But something was different. A space near the wall where there had been room to walk. There was a stack of pickle jars, slightly newer looking than the rest. It hadn’t been there, before. Birk was sure of it. It had been the only space left in the entire room. 11 pickle jars. 11 missing crew members. Birk tried to puzzle it out.
Movement in one of the corners. It was one of them. No one had seen them since… it was assumed they’d left. Birk’s blood turned to ice. It jutted out an arm, if it could be called an arm. A quick, sharp buzzing noise was the last thing Birk heard.
A 12th pickle jar glittered in the morning sunlight.