Phil's friend Garrett is quitting Urban Exploration Montreal, but wants to go on one last expedition. They infiltrate the McTavish Reservoir, where they stumble upon a gruesome discovery...
Garrett Slade is losing an argument on the Internet when Phil Michel walks into the Java U. Phil can tell he’s losing by the way his lips are pursed together, one side of his tanned face scrunched up in the beginnings of a scowl. He’s bent over his MacBook, fingers flying furiously over the keyboard. Garrett hasn’t spiked his hair today, so black bangs fall across his forehead, making him look softer and younger—the perfect image of the bedraggled university student. It’s quite cute, actually.
Phil shakes his head, leaving Garrett to the battle while he orders. The Java U near Concordia is notoriously tiny, with barely enough room for someone to change their mind, let alone anything more complicated. Despite the Starbucks and Tim Hortons right across the street, this cafe is next to the metro, so Phil ends up in a long line while trying not to inconvenience anyone with his backpack. He orders two large hot chocolates and weaves his way back to Garrett’s table.
“Salut, mon cher,” he says when he drops into the opposite chair. “Working on the next great American novel?” he adds, flashing a grin when Garrett gives him a look. “You know writing in public only counts at Starbucks.”
“Shut up,” Garrett says mildly. He accepts the hot chocolate, peering at Phil over his laptop with piercing green eyes. “How was the interview? That new head shop, right?”
Phil rolls his eyes. “If I do get it, it’ll be because the owner thought I was Jamaican.”
Garrett chokes out a laugh. “Never met a French Jamaican.”
“Seriously, though: it was a bust. Shop’s just starting out, he got flooded with applications before me, you know the deal.” He turns his cup in his hands. “I’ve had no luck. I can’t even find a telemarketing place that’s currently hiring. No one wants to hire extra employees these days, never mind students.” He slouches, his long, wiry body pooling out of the tiny chair.
Garrett gives him a sympathetic wince. “I’m sorry, man. So you’re out of work until winter break?”
“Looks that way.” Phil starts picking at a dent in the Formica. “I haven’t had any luck since they got rid of everyone from the restaurant in August. It’s already October; I don’t want my parents to have to keep fronting me, not with my grandparents staying with us.”
Garrett closes the MacBook partway, giving Phil his full attention. “How do they like Saint-Michel?”
Phil shrugs one shoulder. “They’ve been to Montreal before, but they’ve never had to stay this long.” He feels bad complaining like this, but he needs to vent. “It’s just… there isn’t enough room in our house for everyone. It’s going to take my uncle and cousins weeks, months—crisse, maybe years—to rebuild. It’s healthier for my grandparents to stay here, but I think they still believed they’d be back in Haiti in a month. That’s not going to happen, and they’re starting to realize it. Things are just… tense.”
When Phil looks up, Garrett drops his gaze to his cup. “You could always stay with me,” he offers. “I have a comfortable couch.”
Phil rubs his head, smooth and freshly-shaved for his interview. “Cher, that’s amazing of you, but I’m unemployed. Besides, where would you put your soccer gear?”
“I’d make room,” Garrett replies, and then clears his throat before Phil can answer. “Guess what I’ve been doing.”
“Not writing the next great American novel? Hmm, then I would say: writing a paper on your hatred of Charles Dickens.”
“Close—that was for Victorian Lit, and it’s already done. I’ve been arguing on the UEM boards.” Garrett opens his laptop again and turns it around so Phil can see. Phil peers at the message board and immediately rolls his eyes. The comments directed at Garrett are typical flame war fare, but it’s the topic of the debate that gets Phil’s attention.
The original post details an urban exploration of the Wellington Tunnel downtown. This isn’t so unusual; it’s a popular place for urban explorers to infiltrate. What catches Phil’s eye is the photograph of fresh graffiti and accompanying declaration.
“Seigneur. They went down there and disturbed the site?”
“It gets worse, but I’ll spare you.” Garrett closes his computer with a soft thump. “They’re getting out of control, Phil.” He rubs his face. “It was supposed to be a fun, non-invasive hobby. Go in, explore, take pictures, leave. No damage, no forced entry, no defacing. I don’t know what to do with them.” He takes a gulp of hot chocolate before fixing Phil with a tired gaze. “Maybe it’s time for me to just quit UEM.”
“You’ve got a lot on your plate,” Phil says softly, because he can’t think of anything else at the moment. Garrett has always been a quirky sort of geek, more apt to spending weekends reading or playing video games than partying into the night. He’d taken to urban exploration like a fish to water, however. After his first expedition, he’d been hooked, heading out either alone or with small groups every other weekend. Garrett’s schedule was already packed between class, work, and soccer, but he still made time to infiltrate Montreal’s seedy underbelly.
It hadn’t been long before Phil had gotten into it, too. After Garrett had blown off their D&D group for the third time, Phil had insisted on seeing what the big deal was. They’d gone to the Malt Plant, a massive, decayed structure in St-Henri. Sneaking into the abandoned building had been exhilarating. Phil had taken point, creeping forward with his cheap flashlight and marveling at the history. Phil has gone on several expeditions since then, though he doesn’t have the same passion for the pastime as Garrett.
One of the golden rules in urban exploration was not to disturb the sites explored. If a door couldn’t be opened, another route had to be found. Everything was to be left as it was; urban explorers weren’t vandals. As interest spiked in the Montreal area and more enthusiasts joined the boards, this rule was frequently ignored. Though Garrett and other old hands continue to protest, they are gradually becoming outnumbered.
Garrett closes the laptop again. “Guess I’ll have to find a new hobby.”
“Hey.” Phil levels a finger at him. “Don’t let them drive you away. You should stop only if you want to stop.”
“I do want to,” Garrett says. “Sort of. I’m just tired of fighting on the message boards. How am I supposed to moderate them if I’m the one everybody hates?” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know. I’m sick of it. The politics, not the exploring.”
Phil reaches over and claps him on the shoulder. “If you feel that way, maybe it’s time.” Garrett looks at him then, trying to hide the defeat and failing, and that makes Phil want to fix it. “Say, maybe we should do a farewell tour? One last exploration.”
Garrett gives him a hint of a smile. “Did you still want to visit the McTavish Reservoir?”
“You don’t mind going again?”
Garrett shakes his head. “I didn’t get very far in. There were some maintenance workers there the night we went, and we didn’t want to get caught.”
“Then sure,” Phil says. “Let’s do that. Is this Friday night good for you?”
“Sounds fine.” Garrett smiles again, and then starts packing up. “Meet me at my place after your class?”
“Cool.” Phil watches Garrett get his things together. “See you later.”
Garrett waves, and then pushes and excuses his way out of the Java U. Phil doesn’t have a class for another two hours, so he leans back in his chair and enjoys the rest of his hot chocolate.