Section 3

📅 Published on June 8, 2021

“Section 3”

Written by Heath Pfaff
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Kraken class meteor miners were top of the line one hundred and twenty years ago when they were first launched into space.  The tech was good enough that all of them were still in service.  They’d had upgrades over the years and all of the standard maintenance, but they were working relics.  Each mining machine was composed of four separate three-mile-long platforms with a set of angry, rock-grinding teeth running all along their edges.  Narrow walkways ran between the sections to allow passage and to keep the platforms aligned.  The Kraken would home-in on viable targets and use massive tentacle-like arms to draw debris into its teeth to be torn apart and separated into useful elements that were then spat out into massive storage canisters and then picked up once a year by interstellar haulers.

The entire process was automated.  The only crew around were the keepers – one man per platform – whose job was to watch the dials and numbers to make sure nothing unusual was happening and immediately shut things down if something went wrong with the machinery.  We were two light hours from the nearest entangled message relay and three light hours from the nearest interstellar ship relay.  If there was a problem, we threw the power switch and called for a repair crew.  That was it.  That was the job.

Becoming a keeper on a Kraken wasn’t exactly a high-demand job.  You were alone for up to two years at a time.  For some people, it was a terrifying prospect, but for me, it sounded like the peaceful solidarity that I’d dreamed of.  I’d been on the list for a station position for five years before I was called.

My platform was Section 3.  I’d taken over from another man who had taken his life a few months prior.  Some people didn’t hold up to the loneliness, and Dormant Energies – the mining group who owned the station – didn’t bother to vet the people it sent out to the fringes of known space.  Why would they?  It was always possible to find another employee.

I hadn’t asked for details on the last keeper, but as I crawled into bed for my first down-cycle, I did find myself questioning if I was lying in the same place the other man had finished himself.  It was an unsettling thought.  I closed my eyes to try and sleep.

The mining ship was loud.  The grinding teeth of the Kraken were separated from me by powerful sound dampening systems, but there were still other noises.  There were creaks and groans, and the sound of the heating ducts flexing sent clatters up and down the corridors all night long.  The timing was random enough that I had difficulty ignoring it.

When “morning” came around, I was still dead tired, but I got up and did my first day of rounds.  I walked the full length of my station, checking various readings that I could have also checked from the control panel in my room if I’d been so inclined.  It felt good to be up and moving, and the long, nearly straight corridors were great for running.  They were narrow, with pipes lining both walls, and only about a foot of headspace, but I knew I wouldn’t have to slow down for anyone else.

I made it down to the end of the hall with the final door into the hopper overlook, the only working one, and paused in my run.  The door was open, which was strange since when I’d been shown around the day before I’d been certain that everything had been locked down as we left.  Of course, I hadn’t sealed it myself.  Perhaps I should have.

The hopper overlook was especially important to lock because it was one of the few places where there was a chance of suffering a breach should something dangerous get through the teeth of the crusher and gouge into the windows within the hoppers.  They were, of course, almost impossible to penetrate, but “almost” wasn’t a thing to play with in deep space.  I stepped through the door and looked down the viewing deck, which ran three miles back the other way.  The window in front of me looked out over a metal bin that was large enough to swallow several complete buildings. It was about half full of what seemed like plain rock to me.  The ceiling of the overlook was much higher than the hall, and the walkway was wider as well.  It would have made an even better place to run, but watching the ground-up rock debris being dragged into the bins was somewhat unsettling.  The perspective was vertigo-inducing.

I shrugged and popped back into the hallway, grabbing the door handle and drawing it closed.

I turned the circular crank, the grating of the metal locking mechanism sounding like two large, rusty objects rolling over one another.  It was a process that required a fair effort.  After it was closed, I tested the locking wheel, and it wasn’t budging without someone putting some sweat into the process.  There was no mechanical assist on the door, and it was meant to withstand explosive decompression.

I turned around and started back along the main walkway.  I was nearly a hundred yards down the cramped hall when I heard the unmistakable sound of the door behind me opening.  The grating of metal on metal was accompanied by a dull, metallic thud that traveled down the hall in a wave.  I could feel it in my bones as it passed me by.

I froze in place, waiting.  If the door had opened, then someone had opened it.  If someone had opened it, then they had to be just past that portal, out of sight in the dark.

“If you think this is funny, it’s not.  I get it, I’m new, and you’ve gotta find something to do, but I had a rough night of sleep, and I am in no mood for any of this.  Let’s cut the shit, alright?  Come on out, and I’ll pour us both a few shots of vodka, and we can discuss why we were stupid enough to take a job like this.”  I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with anyone, but I didn’t have the patience for games.  I really just wanted to be left alone, even if that meant getting through whatever hazing bullshit this was.

Some thirty seconds passed, and no one came out to fess up.  I sighed and started back down the corridor.  There were three doors into the overlook, but only this one was unlocked and functional.  If they wanted to play around, then I’d play back.  I stormed my way down to the door and peered back into the overlook.

I couldn’t see anyone, so I leaned my head in and called out.  “I’m locking this door.  If you want out, you can contact me from a terminal.”  I grabbed the door and pulled it back into place.  I firmly drew it shut and then set the gears to grinding again.  This time, when I had it all the way sealed, I ran my palm over the security lock and sealed the door with the ship’s computer.  Now it wouldn’t open until I went back to my room and released the security lock and then came back out here and used my palm scan to open it.  It was an old-school way of keeping people from making any hasty decisions in the event of some kind of breach, back when there were four-man crews per section.  Only an admin could open the door directly, and they’d stopped making admin accounts some time ago.

The other two doors were broken.  They wouldn’t free up in the system.  I was told this would be fixed eventually.  This door they’d recommended that I leave unlocked because “There is nothing worse than walking one and a half miles and realizing you forgot to release the security lock.”  Well, I wasn’t going to play some stupid game.  If whoever they were wanted out, they’d have to call me and ask for it.

I waited a few minutes, and then I turned my back on the door and started the run back to my room.  I’d expected someone to jump on the com line with one of the terminals and tell me it was a joke and that they wanted out, but there was nothing.  That was fine.  I could be patient.  I wasn’t the one locked away from the food and water.

Inside my room again, I did a quick check of all the gauges and then brought up the security system for the section.  There were all of six cameras over the full three-mile station: one at the ends of each of the two walkways and one at each of the midpoints (the one in this hall being just outside my room).  These were in place mostly to do visual checks of the passages to make sure everything looked safe.  The clarity was good, but the station’s natural curvature made it difficult to see too far in any direction.  There needed to be four times as many cameras to get everything into view, but I had what I had.

I scanned through the three video feeds from the overlook.  I used the lens control to zoom as far as I could see down the long hall, but the whole place was draped in shadows.   I switched to infrared and discovered that only one of the cameras had a working infrared sensor, and that didn’t seem to be working right.  It was the middle camera, and it kept showing heat flares, some that covered the entire view at times.  I switched back to the normal mode and could only see an empty walkway.

Wherever they were, they knew how to avoid the cameras, which made sense if they worked here.  I leaned back and massaged my temples.  It was the first full day, and I was already feeling stressed.

I got up and moved into the kitchen to get a drink.  The room I was staying in had once been a small block of four units for four people, but they had long ago been retrofitted into a single space.  There was a kitchen, a bathroom, a living area, and a workroom.  None of the rooms were that large, but having separate rooms made it feel like I had more space than I did.

I grabbed the bottle of vodka from the shelf where I’d stowed it the day before and then poured myself a glass that was far too full.  I really should be careful.  There were no rules about drinking, but I only had two bottles to get me through until the next restock, which was a long, long time away.

After that first day, things seemed to settle down.  I wasn’t sure what had happened to the overlook, but it didn’t open again, and I never received a message.  I left it locked and stopped thinking about it, and for the next few weeks, things were peaceful.

I woke up one morning after a particularly fitful night of sleep.  The pounding reverberation of the cooling ducts had seemed worse that night.  I realized that I should have brought earplugs, but I had been assured that the sound dampening would make certain I wouldn’t need them.

I looked over all the camera feeds.  I’d taken to doing so, though nothing ever showed on them.  That done, I set out on my rounds.

I wasn’t certain why, but I felt a rising trepidation as I approached the end of the one-and-a-half-mile walk to the Section 4 passage.  There was no reason to be worried.  I had just checked the security cams before leaving my room, and yet I felt an unsettling chill as I drew closer.  I could see the door leading to the long walkway that stretched between section 3 and section 4 before I was close enough to see the overlook door, but when I did get within range I almost tripped over my own feet.  The door was open again.

There was no security lock active.  If you’ve ever seen something that you knew wasn’t supposed to be where it was or felt the chill of the unknown, you’d understand the feeling that crept into my gut.  The door being open wasn’t possible.

I caught myself chewing my lip, staring into the darkness at an angle.  I couldn’t actually see out onto the overlook.  I took another step in that direction.

“Hello?”  I called, and was happy my voice sounded braver than I felt.  There was no answer, so I crept forward again, almost at the door.

“Hello?  How’d you open the door?  That is a security violation.”  Like that meant anything.  I took another step forward.

A loud thump sounded from the darkness beyond the open portal, and suddenly I was running.  There was no logical thought, just pure terror feeding adrenaline to my system.  I ran hard, and I knew – I knew – something was chasing me. I was in good enough shape that I could run for the full 1.5 miles of the corridor without being spent if I was careful, but the pace that I sat on the way back down the hall was not at all careful.  I must have covered at least a few hundred yards before I risked looking back over my shoulder at what I was certain was following after me.

The hall was empty, of course.  There was no one behind me, no sound of pursuit, and I was all by myself, breathing hard and trying to get a hold of the panic threatening to shake me apart.  Panic gave way to a moment of euphoria triggered by relief.  That euphoric moment turned into me feeling stupid for jumping at the sound of what might have been a damned duct banging or someone playing a joke on me, and then that turned into anger.

I got increasingly angry as I continued back to my room.  I knew I should go back and shut that door, but I wasn’t giving anyone else a chance to mess with me.  I’d had enough.  If they wouldn’t talk to me, I sure as hell was going to talk to them.

I entered my room and went directly to my terminal.  I opened the Kraken message system and called the other three platforms.  The main display split into three sections, all black, while it waited for an answer.  Within fifteen seconds, two of the windows popped up a message saying that the link-through was denied.  After another forty seconds the third one connected, but there was no picture on the other line.  It was an audio-only connection.

“Hello?”  I half expected for this third line to be nothing but silence.

“What do you want, Section 3?”  A gruff voice startled me.

It took me a moment to collect myself so as not to berate the one man who’d actually answered.  It was Section 4.

“Do you know who is opening the overlook deck in my section and playing with the locks?”  I decided not to accuse the man of anything, though it was conspicuous that he answered without a screen and that he was also the platform closest to that side of my own platform.

The man on the other end sighed.  “No one is playing with your locks.  They are coded so that only the person running the section can use them.  Even if someone wanted to mess with you, they couldn’t open the door to get onto your platform unless there was a failure on the connecting walkway.”

“I know how the security is supposed to work, but clearly someone has been doing something they shouldn’t be, because I locked the overlook door and it was open when I got up today.  That doesn’t happen on its own.”  My frayed patience came through a bit in my voice.  While I was on a rant, I decided to go all out.  “Why did the other two hang up on my call, and why don’t you have video?”

There was silence for a bit, and the only way I knew the call was still connected was that the monitor registered the line as still open.  “Listen, this happens every time we get a new person in Section 3, though it usually takes longer.  The other guys think the platform is cursed, that talking to you is a waste of time.  I just about agree with them, but I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.”

His phrasing gave me the chills, and a cold sweat began to form on my brow.  “What do you mean ‘every time?’”

“Did they tell you what happened to the last guy?  Suicide, right?” the man on the other platform said.

I nodded, realized I wasn’t sure if he could see me, and then said.  “Yeah.  So?  This place can be kind of bleak.  I get it.”

“In the last two years, that is the fourth suicide in section 3.”  His words entered my ears, but it took my brain a moment to put them all in order.

“There have been four suicides in this section in two years?”  I repeated that information as though speaking aloud would make it register in a way that made sense.  “How does that happen?”

“How am I supposed to know?  Maybe it’s just a string of bad luck, but what I do know is that each time, before it happens, the guy in Section 3 starts calling and complaining about locked doors opening, and footsteps in the halls.  What I can tell you is that the first guy, he was here for twenty years before he died.  They asked us to go check on him when he didn’t make a report, and there wasn’t much left of him.  It was. . . “  His voice went quiet.  “We don’t know what’s wrong with Section 3, but there isn’t a thing we can do about it.  We file our reports, and the corporation sends in a cleanup team and says everything is fine, and then a few months later, they bring in someone new.”

I was indignant.  “You’re shitting me?  This is some kind of sick joke.  You fucks are messed up.”  Footsteps in the halls.  I’d thought it was the vents, but suddenly it seemed so clear to me.  The vents, if they made noise, would do so all the time, not just when I was trying to sleep.  It was space, the heat was always running, but I only ever heard it after I laid down.  That implied intent.

“Yeah, that’s about what I expected.  Why do you think the others don’t bother answering anymore?”  I could hear the acknowledgment of futility in his voice.

“Are you telling me you think this place has. . .what, a killer on the loose?  A murderous ghost, maybe?”  I laughed a bit, the idea sounding insane.  “This mining platform is haunted?”

I heard what sounded like someone rubbing stubble on their face.  “I don’t know, but you can check your own door logs and see who opened what.  The logs are hardcoded to the physical operation of the door.  Every time one is unlocked and opened, someone’s tracking key has to be attached.  My personal recommendation, though?  Get the fuck out of Section 3.  Request a transport pick up and get out of here as soon as you can.  Never look back.  Good luck.”

The call cut out on that channel.  I punched up all the other sections and tried again.  This time every single section came back as blocked.

I sat back in my chair and tried to shake off the cold fear settling into my bones.  It had to be some kind of elaborate joke.  I got up and ran over to the door to my room and locked it.  I suddenly felt like I had to, and then I went back to the computer and brought up the door logs.

There was a huge list of my movements, each having scanned my subdermal tracking chip, but while I was looking over the list I found some anomalies.  Keith Childs, listed as a Section 3 Administrator, had accessed the overlook deck.

“I got you, you son of a bitch.”  I muttered under my breath.  I brought up the station staff list.  It was short.

Ellen Yipler

Billy Weer

Isah Clerk

The last name on the list was mine.  Conner Shepard.  I read through the list three times, as though I had somehow missed a name on the list of four, one of which was my own.   How could the name not be here?  Who was Keith Childs, and why did he have administrative lock access?  I searched all of the systems I had access to, but I couldn’t find anything.  In frustration, I brought up the call center again and tried to place calls to the other sections.  Of course, they came back as blocked right away.

I got up and paced my room for a moment, thinking, trying to figure out what I needed to do next.  Someone else was in my section, and they could get through any door lock.  Shit.  I went back to the computer logs and looked through them again.  This time I set a search for Keith Childs.

Every hair stood up on my arms.  He’d been here.  He’d been in my room.  While I was asleep.  He’d accessed my door.

I got up and went for my door, unlocking it and passing out into the hall, barely taking the time to slap the lock closed as I moved.  I looked both ways and then started running down the hall towards Section 4.  My feet carried me faster than normal, but not so fast that I was exhausted when I hit the doors at the end of the hall.  The damned overlook passage was open, but I barreled past it quickly and unlocked the connecting passageway door.

I checked over my shoulder as the lock disengaged.  I felt like someone was following me.  The seal popped, and the door opened.  I ran through quickly, pulling it shut behind me.  The walkways were much shorter than the actual working sections, though they seemed like hair-like strands that stretched through open space between the station segments.  I could see the protective wall that covered the working area of the Kraken through the windows, but I wasn’t stopping to marvel at its size.  I was far too busy running to the next door.


I reached the door to section 4 and put my hand on the pad.  A message popped on the screen.  “Do you wish to request entry permission?”  I clicked yes, and the system chimed.  I turned back to look down the way I’d come.  I didn’t know how long it would take for someone to reach the door, and I would have to wait there until they arrived.  In the meantime, I had to stand there in this narrow stretch of hall and hope nothing came up behind me.

Time seemed to crawl, and then a voice at my back scared me so badly that I thought I might lose control of my bladder.  I turned around and saw an older man with a scraggly beard and dark eyes.

He pressed the com button.  “What do you want?  I’m not letting you in here.”  He said the last part firmly.

“Who is Keith Childs?”  I asked, looking back over my shoulder at the hall as I spoke to him.

“Keith Childs?”  The man looked surprised.  “Who told you that name?”

“He has been opening doors in my section.  Who is he?”  I pressed on, the illusion of calm a bit beyond my grasp now.

“Keith is gone.  He was the first suicide.”  The other man answered.  “He was one of the old caretakers, from just after the shift to single keepers.  There is no way he’s walking around your section; trust me, I saw what was left of him.  He’s dead.”

I laughed in an almost manic way before I caught a hold of myself.  “Then Section 3 really is haunted.”

The man on the other side of the door sighed.  “Go back to your room and get yourself out of here.  I wasn’t joking about that.”

I looked back over my shoulder.  A sense of dread settled on me, and I suddenly absolutely didn’t want to go back the way I’d come.  I turned back to Section 4.  “Can I come in there and make the call?  I don’t want to go back.”

“No!”  He answered quickly.  “I don’t know you, and I certainly don’t trust you.”  I could see the fear in his eyes.  This had nothing to do with me.  He was afraid of letting whatever was in here with me out into his platform section.

I thought about arguing, begging, screaming and pounding on the door separating us, but I knew it would be futile.  I could already see the other man withdrawing, stepping back slowly from the window.

“I’m going to die in here, and it’s not going to be suicide,” I told him, but then he turned and walked away.

With no other choices left to me, I began the walk back to my quarters.  The hallway had long lines of sight, and if anything came for me, I had no doubt that I would see it before it reached me.  What comfort was that, however, when there was nowhere to go?  There were two walkways, and a few rooms that made up my quarters.  There was no place for me to hide and no locks that I could put in place to stop whoever or whatever was in there with me.

I reached the door back into the platform and checked through the window before unlocking it and entering my own section again.  The hatch to the overlook still hung open like a dark window into some unknowable horror.  Some part of me wanted to enter that dark place and examine the entire walkway.  This was the same part of me that needed to know the answer to every mystery I encountered, but this time it was easy enough to hold in check.  Fear was a much stronger motivator.

I fled the darkness and made my way back to my room.  Nothing stopped me.  When I reached the room, the door was locked, as it had been on my departure.  I hit the button and nearly jumped inside before turning and locking the door in my wake.  I ran from room to room, checking each to make sure they were empty.  They were.

Finally, convinced I was momentarily safe, I brought up the terminal and began looking at all of the information I could gather from the station documents.  Records of the past station keepers were gone.  I couldn’t access any of their logs or personal information, but what I could access were the reported station checkups.  I rolled them back until I reached near the end of Keith’s timeframe, using the long gaps in records to figure out when the section was unmanned.

The strange reports began three months prior to Keith’s death.

– Incident Report –


– Inspection Result –


Two weeks later.

– Incident Report –


– Inspection Result –


One month after that.

– Incident Report –


– Inspection Result –


The next day.

– Incident Report –


– Inspection Result –


I closed the incident reports and opened up the exterior communication channel.  It was time to get out of this place.  I didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t need to.  I couldn’t believe that company investigations hadn’t turned up anything.  The communications back to the entangled relay were all form letters.  I sent the one marked as “Request for Removal from Station.”  I’d tell them what was happening after I was safe.  Then I just had to wait.  It might take a day, or it might take a week.  I had no way of knowing.

Alright, I just had to wait this out now.  I could stay in my room until the ship arrived, and then I just had to make my way to the airlock, which was across the hall from where I was.

I grabbed my bottle of vodka and sat down in the kitchen, pouring myself a glass to calm my nerves.  I’d been here for two weeks.  Things had been strange, but I would be out of here soon enough.  I took a long sip off my glass and let the liquid burn its way down my throat.

From the other room, my com system chirped.  I hopped up so fast I almost dropped my glass on the ground.  I practically ran to the terminal and brought it up.  I could have answered with voice from anywhere, but I wanted to see who I was talking to.  The friendly face of someone on their way to pick me up would be welcome.  Had I been thinking clearly, I would have known that it wasn’t possible for this call to be anyone coming to pick me up.  It had only been minutes since I’d sent my message.

The screen was dark.  There was no video signal, but the audio channel was open.  Next to the open channel were the words Overlook Terminal 2.

“Who’s there?”  I asked.  The words came out as a little more than a whisper, and I had to repeat them.  “Who’s there?  What do you want?”

Something moved, the sound a dull thump followed by the hiss of something being dragged across a wall.  On impulse, I punched in the surveillance system and turned it to the middle camera on the overlook.  That was right above Terminal 2.  It was hard to see what I was looking at.  The whole area was cast in shadows.

“I can hear you.  What do you want?!”  I repeated again, more heatedly this time.  Why weren’t these security feeds recorded?  What was wrong with this place?

Something moved on the screen.  Something dark and misshapen passed in front of one of the walkway lights and then vanished into the dark.  The motion was accompanied by a sound that was something like rock striking metal, and then a dull thump.  It sounded a bit like ducts shifting due to temperature change.

The line cut out.

Terminal 2 was close to where I was, but a broken door stood between me and that terminal.  Whatever was there would have to move up to the working door and then come all the way down the hall to get where I was.

However, nothing was stopping it from doing that.  What had I even seen?  It had seemed big, ungainly.  I wanted to tell myself that it had to be a person, someone who was hacking the systems and using Section 3 as their own playground, but how did that make sense?  None of this made sense.

I heard a massive sound, and a red light flashed over the control console.  A message popped up onscreen.


That sound I’d been hearing every night as I laid down started in the hallway.  The clattering bang of something moving down the corridor beyond my door.  I got up and went into the kitchen, looking for anything that I might use as a weapon.  There were no sharp knives because those were a hazard.  Finally, I grabbed my second bottle of vodka by the drinking end and held it defensively.

The movement stopped.  It was outside my room.  The moment stretched on, and I was just beginning to wonder if whatever it was had left, and then the light by my door turned green, and it began to open.

The hall lights were partially obscured, and I didn’t know what I was looking at, but it moved into the room with some kind of maddening locomotion.  It was like a web of flesh and bone, gristle and nerve, given thought and malicious intent.  It didn’t have limbs, so much as protuberances that shot out and stuck to the ground with horrifying thunks.  There were eyes in it, some human-looking, others black and awful, too round and too empty.

I screamed because it was the only thing my mind would allow me to do as it came forward.  The worst part.  The thing that sparked the deepest fear within me was that there were human pieces mixed into it.  Hands, bits of spine and fragments of faces; it all warped together into a nightmare, and I knew that I was about to become a part of that hellish dream.

I raised the bottle, knowing it would never be enough.


Officially the cause of death for Mr. Shepard will be listed as suicide, and we will begin placement of a new keeper in two months.  Reports from Section 4 in regards to interactions with Mr. Shepard, as well as physical evidence collected at the scene, lead us to believe that the entity aboard Section 3 has become increasingly adept at utilizing the ship’s systems and is showing heightened aggression.  Attempts to directly communicate with the entity have failed.  

We have advised Section 1, Section 2, and Section 4 to not interact with Section 3 any further as we continue to study and understand this phenomenon. 

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Heath Pfaff
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Heath Pfaff

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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