I guess I’ve always been a weird guy.
This happened on New Year’s Eve 2016. Most kids at school had planned to go to a party at some popular kid’s house. His parents were out of town celebrating. But I wasn’t a normal high schooler looking to get drunk. I wanted a thrill to start off the new year, as part of a larger New Year’s resolution I had made to start doing things that pushed the limits. More danger, more excitement, more daring. I guess this was my rebellious stage of sorts. There was only one place I knew of that could provide the kind of adrenaline I was looking for.
At the edge of my town (a mid-sized city in Oregon), there is an old abandoned meat-packing plant, for pork I think it was. It hasn’t been in use for over fifty years, and though you would expect it to be a hotspot for urban explorers or teens wanting to hangout, for some reason people seemed to make an effort to avoid the plant. The few people who would dare to enter refused to say much about it, normally deflecting and changing the subject. But me being the lunatic I am, I saw it as the perfect New Year’s destination. I would even go alone, just to make it that more surreal.
I left in my old green sedan about 10:30 p.m., and it took about half an hour to get to the other side of town from my house. The street lights started growing far and few between, with only an occasional house on the old farm road leading to it. I could see the silhouette of a towering, dark red-brick building on the horizon, and yet I felt oddly calm driving up to it. No fear at all. Pretty soon, I turned off on the gravelly road through the trees that led to the plant, confidence growing as I got closer. But the serenity I had been enjoying disappeared the moment my headlights hit the entrance.
Open. The double doors at the front were wide open, and my heart immediately started racing, looking into the dark abyss ahead of me. I grinned through my fear though, thinking to myself, “Good, even scarier.” So I parked parallel to the front steps, then turned off my car (this will become important later). I slowly got out, trying to be brave, but my legs were shaking with each cautious step. Enough of the suspense, I decided to just close my eyes and run up the steps until I got in. So I did, and yes, I tripped.
I fell into the entrance, and slowly opened my eyes once again. I looked in shock at what I saw around me. I had assumed the building was tall because it housed multiple stories, but there was only the ground floor with a huge atrium, moonlight pouring in from narrow windows that seemed to reach up a hundred feet in the air. There was almost no equipment left on the floor itself. Just plain hard concrete, layered in dust. Surprisingly, there was no graffiti. I couldn’t even see the opposite end of the structure, the building just seemed to go on forever. I got up and started walking, looking up in awe of the 19th century plant, and I could almost feel the presence of workers from days gone by with each step. It was surreal alright, it seemed like I was actually walking back in time. I was just starting to see the brick wall at the end of the building when I instinctively thought to look behind me, and as my head turned I nearly yelled in horror.
I was about halfway through, but I could see that those double doors at the entrance had now been shut, and I sure as hell hadn’t closed them. Before I could even come up with an explanation, I heard a young woman’s voice. As if she had been watching me, the voice said, “Over here, silly.” I jumped about three feet in the air. A figure walked from out of the shadows into the moonlight of a window. There, standing to my right, was a girl. She was dressed in what looked to be a dark robe. I couldn’t see her face or any of her features, because a hood covered her head. She slowly strode towards me before saying in a softer tone, “Sorry I scared you.” The strange girl got within touching distance before pulling back her hood. She was, well, gorgeous actually. She had long, flowing jet-black hair, with grayish-blue eyes that seemed to glow in the surrounding darkness. She had nearly paper-white skin, but with dark lips that curled up in a smile. Her robe totally covered her hands and feet, which struck me as unusual. “What brings you here, stranger?” she said in an almost sing-song voice.
“Uh… just… hangin’ around, you know,” I stammered like a startled idiot.
“Why would you hang around here on New Year’s Eve?” she chimed while tilting her head like a curious child. “It’s cold, and awful lonely in here.”
I was slowly starting to grow more comfortable with my new “friend.” I answered, “Just looking for adventure, something a little different to start the year off with.”
Her smile grew even bigger, and now her teeth showed, porcelain white like her skin. “Would you like someone a little different to start the year off with?”
I nearly feinted, girls never paid attention to me. “Sure,” I said.
We walked to the far wall together, without a word being spoken. I caught her glance a couple times on the way there, the brightness of her eyes giving way to a big smile each time. I had forgotten about the robe. When we got there, we leaned against the wall and started talking. We talked about everything. Our families, our hobbies, our favorite foods. I found out that her name was Joan, and she came from a family of nine siblings where she was the youngest. She liked singing and painting. I asked her why she had come to the plant, considering how scared most people were of it.
She told me, “I’ve always loved this old building, I haven’t left here since…”
I must have looked very confused at this point. She changed the subject quickly.
“So, what time is it?” she asked me.
“Wow, great timing, it’s midnight,” I said, looking at my phone. “Happy New Year.”
She gave me the widest smile yet. “You know, I was hoping for a New Year’s kiss with a cute boy, but I guess you’ll have to do,” she said playfully.
Once again, I nearly feinted. Girls never wanted to touch, let alone kiss me.
“Sounds nice,” I said. Now I was as nervous as I was walking into the plant, but in a good way this time.
She said, “Close your eyes, and pucker up!”
She pulled me in close, and grabbed my right hand with her left. I was leaning in, just about to kiss her when I noticed something wasn’t right. I grasped her hand even harder in disbelief of what I was feeling. She tried to pull herself away when I brought her hand up to my eyes.
“Stop it! NOW!” she screamed.
It was still fully enveloped in the robe, but I peeled back the sleeve before she could yank her hand back. I stood there, mouth agape, tears beginning to stream down my face. I was too scared to even make a sound. There, in my now shivering hand, was hers. It had no skin, nails, or muscles. Just a bony, dead skeleton hand, white as her skin and teeth.
I dropped it, and it fell back to her side. She quickly tried to hide it behind her back.
She mumbled quietly and desperately, “Please, don’t…”
But I was already running at full speed towards the entrance. I ran through the building, each of my steps gaining distance away from her, or so I thought. I began to panic, tears blurring my view of the doors, which were somehow open once again. I could hear her footsteps just behind me, no matter how fast I ran, there she was. I could feel breathing on the back of my neck. I tried zigzagging, but it was no use. All the way, I heard her voice, repeated shouts of, “Please! Stop! I don’t want… Please don’t go!”
I bolted straight through the entrance, down the steps, and leaped towards my car. I scrambled through the passenger door, not bothering to close it, and crawled into the driver’s seat, about to have a heart attack. I took one last look at the building, and I saw a dark, robed figure standing in the door place, its head hung low. She was crying now, between sobs I heard a painful, “Please… come back. I… I love you.”
I started the car and through it in gear. I must have gone a hundred miles an hour down the gravel driveway back onto the farm road as a plume of dust trailed the car. I zoomed back into town at lightning pace. I glanced at my car’s clock, which read 4:00 am. How could this be? Just minutes ago, inside the plant, my phone read midnight, the beginning of New Year’s Day.
When I reached home, I pulled crookedly into my driveway before running inside, bursting into my room, locking all the doors and closing the blinds. I didn’t sleep for what seemed like a week. I had nightmares about the event for about a month. So much for my New Year’s resolution.
Now, it’s been nearly two years. But my encounter has not left my mind for one day since it happened. I find myself thinking about the strange, pale girl nearly all the time.
This New Year’s Eve, I’m going back to the meat-packing plant.
Because I think I love her too.