In 1964, NASA trained four young monkeys to survive in a hostile environment and sent them to the planet Mars. Their mission was to create an ecosystem for themselves underground and to create a colony of future chimps.
The mission failed!
The spacecraft disappeared off the radar as soon as it entered the exosphere, 6750 miles above the Earth. NASA had no idea what happened to the ship or its four occupants. It was a devastating time for NASA.
Fifty-five years later, NASA was still unable to explain what had happened to the monkeys.
But Adelaide, South Australia, held the secret.
Bang, bang, bang!
The knock on the front door made Keah jolt awake. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes she stretched and yawned.
“Who is it?” she shouted as she stretched again.
“Pizza!” The voice from the other side of the door shouted back.
“I didn’t order any pizza,” Keah replied.
Walking over to the front door, she picked up a small stool and placed it by the entrance before stepping on it. She pushed her eye up to the spy hole. Her dad had assumed that everyone was going to grow six foot tall when he had the spy hole fitted, but for Keah, who was struggling to reach five foot two, a stool was the only option.
Keah could see a mass of curly black hair with a red cap perched on top. A boy about her age, sixteen, moved away from the door and turned to face Keah's front door. He stood awkwardly, holding a stack of pizza boxes.
“Someone at this address did, Miss. Someone has to pay for all these pizzas. My boss is gonna be livid if I take them back.”
“I didn’t order any pizzas. Go away. I’m calling the police.” Keah stepped away from the door.
That’s when she heard that noise. The sound that grated through every bone in her body. It was the noise that made her spine tingle like fingernails running down a blackboard. A thought rushed through her head: Is that two pieces of metal scraping together? She shuddered and took a deep breath.
Looking back through the spy hole, she watched the boy look around quickly, then turn and head back down the hallway, shaking his head. She heard him talking loudly and cursing to himself as he shoved the boxes back into the pizza warmers. His boss was going to be so annoyed. He had just walked past Mrs. Joy’s front door—Mrs. Joy was Keah’s neighbor—when he stopped and turned. Walking back to Mrs. Joy’s front door, the pizza delivery boy spoke to someone, but Keah couldn’t quite see who.
Keah thought she saw dark shadows enter the hallway and move around the pizza delivery boy. But she couldn’t quite see who it was before the hall light switched off. Keah desperately wanted to go out into the hallway and turn on the light just to see who the boy was speaking to, but instead, she stepped off the stool and slid down the door onto the floor.
Taking a deep breath, she crawled over to the coffee table, grabbed her iPhone and then edged her way back to the door. Even with her ear pressed against the door, she heard nothing but silence. Pressing her phone to wake, she opened her keypad. Slowly she pressed the button 000. She then placed her phone on the carpet next to her. What if Mrs. Joy had visitors, and they had ordered the pizzas? How stupid would I look? She thought to herself as she rested her head against the door and yawned. What a weird smell. I feel so tired. Keah thought before she finally closed her eyes.
Bang, bang, bang!
The vibrations from the banging on the door awoke her with a start. The light was now streaming in through the window, and the traffic sounded noisy. She felt the door vibrate against her back as the knock came again. Realizing she must have fallen asleep by the front door, Keah crawled into her bedroom, crouched at the side of her bed and listened. She heard people outside in the hallway. Someone banged on her neighbor’s door. Mrs. Joy is getting a lot of visitors lately, she thought.
She showered quickly and got ready for school. Slightly hesitant, she opened the front door and stepped out into the hallway. A tall policeman stepped in front of her.
“Oh,” she announced, quite startled. “What’s going on?”
“Morning, Miss. Do you live in this apartment?” The policeman had a broad Australian accent. Keah stepped back. She turned and glanced at the door before nodding dumbly.
“Why didn’t you answer your door when I knocked earlier?” The policeman leered at Keah, making her stomach turn.
“Got ID?” Keah said, avoiding eye contact.
The policeman fumbled inside his tunic and eventually pulled out a wallet and showed her his identification card. By now, he had been joined by another man. This one was not in uniform but in a dark grey suit.
“Morning, Miss. Got a name? I’m Detective Sergeant Paul Grimes.” He whipped out his ID before she could even think of asking.
“Keah. Keah Madelia.”
Keah had stepped back again and was now squished up tight against her own front door.
“Where are your parents, Keah? You don't live here alone, do you? You off to school?” The DS bombarded her with questions, and all she could do was shake her head.
“Well?” DS Paul Grimes said.
The uniformed policeman started to look around the hallway as if he was losing interest in Keah.
“My-my parents are cruising around New Zealand, somewhere. I’m on my own till they get back. I am old enough. I’m sixteen—well, I’ll be sixteen in a few weeks!”
“Are you off to school?” DS Grimes asked again. “Which one?”
“Yeah. St. Luke’s, at the corner of Holden Street,” Keah replied. Looking up at the DS, she asked him what all the police were doing in her building.
“Don’t suppose you’d let my young officer here just poke his nose inside, would you? Only a pizza delivery boy went missing last night, and we believe this was his last delivery before he disappeared.”
Keah’s eyes widened, and her heart quickened. I saw him—I saw him talking to someone at Mrs. Joy’s front door. Keah wanted to scream at the detective, but instead she looked at her front door again then back at DS Grimes.
“I’m late for school, and I didn’t order any pizza, perhaps Mrs. Joy did,” she declared boldly, pushing her key in the lock and letting the door swing wide open. “Knock ya self out.”
Keah watched two policemen step out of Mr. & Mrs. Guey’s flat before she stepped back inside hers.
She saw the uniformed policeman pull a pair of white disposable gloves from his pocket and watched as he rummaged around in the kitchen bin. Satisfied nothing was exciting in the waste bin, the policeman walked into Keah’s room, emerging a few moments later. Glad I tidied up after showering this morning. That could have been embarrassing, Keah thought. DS Grimes emerged from her parent’s bedroom. Her sister’s door was wide open. Mia would not be happy if she found out they’d touched her doll collection, which sat the whole length of one wall.
“Did you hear anything last night, Keah? About 9 o’clock?” DS Grimes enquired softly.
Keah was already shaking her head from side to side and looking toward the window.
“No, nothing, sorry. I-I um, I fell asleep quite early last night.”
The DS reached into his inside pocket and pulled out what looked like a business card. He held it out to Keah.
“Well, if you do recall anything, please call me. No matter how silly or small you may think it is, I would still like to hear about it. Okay?”
DS Paul Grimes pushed the card into Keah’s hand and left. The other policeman quietly followed, not even looking at Keah as he walked past her. Keah studied the card. Her older sister was around his age and single.
And he is cute for a cop. Maybe a bit grumpy for Erin, Keah reasoned with herself.
She slipped the card into her school bag before throwing it over her shoulder.
Slamming the door behind her, Keah rushed past the policemen in the hall and skipped down the stairs into the street. She didn't look back or slow down until she’d reached her school three kilometers away.
Her best friend Abby was waiting for her at the gate as usual. A total contrast to Keah’s fair complexion and strawberry blonde hair, Abby had olive skin and dark hair that matched her equally dark eyes.
Keah turned and scoured the street before entering the school. She linked her arm through Abby's as they walked the long driveway to the school building.
“Did you hear what happened last night?” Abby asked.
Keah shook her head from side to side as if she hadn’t heard and glanced at Abby.
“Another pizza boy disappeared. That’s four now,” Abby said, quite anxious.
“Oh yeah, that—apparently it happened in our building. The boy delivered pizza to someone in our building then vanished,” Keah tried to act nonchalant but didn’t dare look at Abby again, in case she saw the guilt in her eyes.
Keah knew she had been acting strange since her parents left for the cruise and that she should have gone to help that boy last night, but she hadn’t.
“Oh, Keah! Did you see him? Did you order pizza? No—you wouldn’t—I know that, but Keah, how dreadful,” Abby cried as she let go of Keah’s arm and swung around to face her. “Have you told the police? Are you alright?”
Keah nodded. She looked fine, but her stomach was knotted, and she felt shaky.
No one had been there when Keah was woken up at 2am by the dreadful screams. She felt as if she was going mad with the scratching from the inside of her wardrobe. It came from the ceiling, from under the floor. She felt tired but didn’t want to tell anyone in case they thought it was because she was on her own and couldn't cope. Although she often spoke to her neighbors, neither had commented on the noises to Keah. The sounds started two days after her parents left with her six-year-old sister Mia. She now wished she had gone with them, but it was too late. At the time her exams were more important. Plus, the excitement of staying home all on her own for three weeks was more than she dared wish for.
Keah had planned get-togethers at her place and even a massive party. She had run the party idea through her mum because she knew someone would tell her parents. So, she told her it would be very low key and if her mum had wanted her oldest sister Erin, who lived way over at Happy Valley, to come and supervise, that was cool. At the time Keah had felt that she was old enough to cope with a few friends on her own. Now, she was not so sure.