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HerculeHastings

NC-17 We Do Not Stand... A L O N E

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Adventure has always lived in my head, but never in my life. I grew up with fantasies of pirates, of jungle explorations, watching enviously as children around me actually lived them out. Bursting with stories that were not mine, I lay my thoughts to paper and wrote, but never found my tales compelling enough to publish.

I am now 23 years old, having graduated from university, and preparing to enter the dreary working world. My parents, out of mercy, perhaps, allowed me a gap year to wander the world, before I would settle into the family business of manufacturing calculators. I seized upon the opportunity like a hungry vulture. An adventure, for a year! Refusing to take even a cent of their money, but using only the meagre savings I had from part-time work, I set off with sparkling eyes and empty pockets, vowing to travel the distance that my wildest imagination would take me.

I should backtrack and say my pockets were not completely empty. I had in my possession a fairly thick notebook, sufficient to chronicle my year-long adventures…

~~~

Help.

This is the only word going through my mind right now. Help. Help. Help. My hands tremble as I struggle to pen coherent sentences. Everything around me is strange and eerie, but I fail to pinpoint just what is the cause. All I know, from my author’s instinct, is that something is most definitely up with this place, and I do not wish to stay even a moment longer to find out. I am currently in complete darkness with only a torch to see what I am doing, not even daring to feel for the light lest I touch something else far more sinister. I fear that this may be the last chapter I ever write…

But I must start from the start, so that anyone who picks up this book after me – God bless them if they too are trapped here – will understand the events that culminated up to this point…

I had barely embarked on my ambitious journey for a month. Travelling alone has brought me to great sights, as my previous entries have indicated. One sees the good and the ugly side of human nature around the world. But as expected, money was beginning to dwindle, especially after falling prey to pickpockets on my first week. I had decided early on to look for a job, temporary ones in each new locale I went to. I worked stints as a baker, a salesman, an usher and, most recently, a lifeguard by the sea. Although not always lucrative, they provided a new source of experience, and I came away from them wealthier and satisfied.

The nightmare began today with a completely innocuous mistake. Being a sufferer of colour-blindness, I had boarded the wrong bus that was supposed to take me out of town. There were a handful of passengers, the number I would expect on a bus on a rainy Tuesday. Rain turned into storm as the bus trudged along. I nodded comprehendingly. The rains in this part of the country were known to be violent. Soon enough the rain was so strong that it was pounding against the metal body of the bus, and had turned the view outside the window to a mere fog of grey. I jumped as a thunderclap rang out, my hands clutching the bus route guide tightly, for it was the only indicator for me now. I had no hope of identifying where I was based on the view outside; I could only mentally count, over and over, the number of stops I must take to reach my destination.

I soon reached the stop number on my bus guide, and rang the bell. I remember the faces of some of the other passengers as they turned toward me – incredulous expressions. The bus seemed to slow almost reluctantly, but it was only till I had stepped out of the bus and it had taken flight (indeed I did not remember it moving so quickly when I had been a passenger) that I realized I must have made a mistake somewhere and was utterly, completely lost.

I had only a poncho and an umbrella to combat the rain, and the bus-stop itself was so run-down that it barely provided shelter, and so I had no choice but to seek an alternative retreat.

The rain made it impossible for me to tell left from right, and so I stumbled like a drunkard, swept from one direction to another by the unrelenting wind. The wind took me to a house, which, judging by the sound around me, was very close to the ocean. I shielded my eyes and tried to glean its structure, but all I could see was only one fraction of what extended for possibly kilometres or even miles around. I walked up to the gate, sadly conscious of my bedraggled appearance, drenched from head to toe. Who would admit someone like me into their abode? I must have seemed either very suspicious or very pathetic.

Nonetheless, desperation drove dignity out of me. I raised my voice and shook the gate, my yells competing with the howl of the wind.

“Is anyone home?â€

Out of the corner of the eye, I thought I detected the flicker of a shadow.

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Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

 

"The hour grows late." a young female voice muttered.

 

Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

 

Long, sharp, crimson fingernails tapped against the mahogany arm of an antique armchair. Bored, yet malicious.

 

Outside rain beat down, battering the hallowed mansion, interrupted only by the occasional howl of wind. Inside the mansion should have been a cosy atmosphere, shelter from the rain. But the truth was it was even colder inside than out.

 

The dainty yet threatening hand raised a wine glass to red lips, in vain, as the glass was empty. A tongue slipped out and licked the lips, thirsty, parched. But not for wine.

 

Rosalyn Mallory's eyes were closed, her thick dark lashes contrasting against her deathly pale and yet youthful skin. Her equally dark hair was tied in twintails with elaborate bows, and her fringe hung down just above her eyeline. She wore a short yet elegant black and red dress, her arms bare but for some matching frilly cuffs at her wrists, and a ring with an immaculate ruby adorning it. Her legs were covered by black stockings with a spider web design, ending just above her knees, with garter straps reaching up the rest of the way. On her feet she wore high-heeled boots, an ornate design that managed to suit the rest of her ensemble. Around her neck was a black collar and from it dangled a pendant with another stunning ruby jewel.

 

Yet for all the effort evident in her appearance, she had no guest. The mansion was empty save for herself, and a servant toiling elsewhere, unseen. However, that was evidently about to change, Rosalyn's blood red eyes opening as her sensitive hearing detected an anomalous noise from outside. A voice. The voice of a young man. Rosalyn licked her lips once again, sat down her wine glass, and stood up.

 

--

 

Outside, the gate swung open as if by itself, but surely just blown by the strong winds. And as the poor man outside drew closer, the main doors of the mansion would also creak open, as if by themselves, for there was nobody visible inside.

 

As the traveler cautiously entered though, escaping the rain, the doors slammed shut again behind him. Inside now was warmer than it was a moment ago, candles now lit and the fireplace in the living room adjacent to the entry hall roaring with life.

 

"You must be tired, and soaked. Do come to the living room and dry off, Mr Pratt." Rosalyn said, stepping forth from the shadows with a smile on her face, gesturing toward the living room.

 

 

 

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No one came out to greet me. I would not have blamed them, for nothing would have pulled me from my comfortable armchair (ah, the memories of my warm house are flooding back; I must push them away) in this weather. As I was about to turn around and depart, I heard a creak. The gate was opening! I spun around quickly, preparing to clasp the person’s hands in deep gratitude, only to find the gates wide open, but no one to thank. Had the wind been this strong?

I gingerly touched the metal gates. No, they seemed too sturdy to be blown open. There must be some kind of automated system then. My heart lightened at the thought, for it meant that somebody had been kind enough to admit me, for I would not have liked to trespass. To confirm my suspicions, the door of the house opened as well, probably controlled by the same automated system. I made a mental note to inquire about it once I had dried myself, for I do have some interest in mechanics.

I trudged hurriedly into the house, conscious that the water on my body was dripping onto a well-kept carpet. I was about to produce an exclamation of thanks, so overwhelmed by the appealing warmth of the place, but was interrupted before I could speak.

"You must be tired, and soaked. Do come to the living room and dry off, Mr Pratt."

“Oh, thank you,†I answered, more absently than I had desired. My brows had unwittingly taken on a furrow. Had she just called me Mr Pratt when I had barely introduced myself? I decided that maybe my ears had taken to hallucination due to the loud storm.

Alas, if only I had known then! That had been an indicator for me to run away, as far as I could!

But at the time I had no instinct of danger. I looked at who was presumably the hostess of the house, frantically disguising my astonishment. She was dressed in a very sophisticated black and red dress, with very handsome ornaments. She was evidently a person of high society, who sought outfits that exemplified a certain unique yet nonetheless tasteful style.

And yet, I could not help but be taken aback at how, well, young she was.

She seemed barely thirteen, and yet there was a dignified air about her that suggested she had outgrown her youth. She looked every bit the mistress of the place, and yet with her twintails and that sweet, high-pitched, melodious voice, I could not be hard-pressed to place her age.

“I thank you for granting me entrance from the merciless rain outside, and if it is of no inconvenience, I would like to spend the night here, and be off to continue my journey tomorrow. May I speak to the master, so that I may personally thank him for this generosity and also ask his permission?†I asked hesitantly as I followed her gesture to the living-room, something telling me that that might offend her. But she could not be the sole owner of this huge house, with the amount of upkeep that was surely required. And no matter how mature her air, I was sure that I was standing before someone who could not have passed her adolescent years.

Even if she was holding what looked suspiciously to be a glass of wine.

The living-room was immaculately cosy. I sidled up to the crackling fireplace, feeling my lethargy slip away from me. I dared not sit on any of the chairs, much as I dearly wished to, embarrassed about the state of my clothing. A warm bath and some sleep would do me a world of good, for I was not mentally or physically prepared to do much else for the day.

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"The Master?" Rosalyn repeated, a glare flickering in her eyes for the briefest moment, before her hospitable facade recovered. "This mansion has known no Master for a long time, I am the Mistress and sole proprietor. And so you have my permission. I did not invite you in simply to eject you again immediately, of course you shall stay until morning."

 

Rosalyn strolled up behind her guest as he knelt by the fireplace, placing her hand on his shoulder. "You simply must get out of these wet clothes before you catch your death. We have plenty of spare linens." her hand gently moved up to his neck, and her other hand was placed on the other side of his neck, her fingernails tickling his skin. "We have many bedrooms for you to choose from, as well. You may pick any to sleep in for the night."

 

Whatever Rosalyn was getting at was interrupted, as suddenly thudding footsteps came bounding into the room. An overweight, sweaty, bespectacled hunchback entered, he too wet with the rain.

 

"Mistress, special mail delivery! It's-"

 

"Very well, Rogi." Rosalyn interrupted sharply, quite clearly hinting him to speak no further in the presence of this guest. She took the letter, which was a most unusual piece of mail. A black envelope with fine, almost invisible patterns on the paper, stamped and sealed with red wax bearing a strange symbol.

 

Rosalyn expertly cut open the end of the envelope with her nail, removing any doubt as to how sharp her nails really were, and retrieved the letter from within. The paper of the letter, too, was textured most ornately. As she read the contents, her eyes widened, and for a moment her elegant composure faltered and her face was that of a child of the age she seemed to be. Then she looked to her guest, composed herself again, and folded up the letter.

 

"Rogi, please fetch some fresh clothes then take our guest to change, and see to it he's provided a room in the main wing, and anything else he should desire. Then come find me, we have preparations to discuss." she said, all business now.

 

Rosalyn headed to her study, where she reread the letter again and again. It was clearly of great interest to her. Eventually, however, she tossed the letter onto her desk and left the room.

 

As Rogi carried out his instructions, he was hasty and very short with any questions from his charge. He perceived his Mistress was agitated by something, and was most eager to get rid of this drifter and tend to that problem. So eager he was that once he provided Noah with fresh clothes, he simply described where the bedrooms where to be found, and ushered Noah into the nearest secluded room - the study - for him to get changed in. Then he immediately scampered off to see what news there was from his Mistress, leaving Noah rather to his own devices.

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I cannot deny I jumped when I felt the light touch of the girl’s hand on my shoulder. Having come from a home where any sort of physical intimacy – even between mother and daughter – is frowned upon, I am sometimes taken aback by the friendliness shown by strangers out in public. The feeling worsened when the girl started moving one hand up my neck and tickling it with the other hand. I could not pay attention to what she was saying, for goose pimples were rising all over my body.

What happened next was a blur. I vaguely recall a man ushering me quite hurriedly, without paying heed to my nervous questions, to a set of clean clothes, and then ushering me away again to a room to change, before scurrying off again, relieved that his job was over.

And this is the room that I found myself in, what looks like a study. I have changed into what was provided, which was a rather old set of gentleman’s suit and trousers, slightly too loose for me. It would do for the night, but I have fortunately some extra clothes in my bag that just require some drying from the rain.

But that was not what had startled me, or given me this urge to run away at the nearest opportunity. I must backtrack again, to before I had changed. The room had been fairly dim, and so I had placed the clothes on the table before feeling for the lights. As I was changing, an envelope with a letter in it fell onto the floor. I was about to pick it up and return it when I chanced upon the letter’s contents. And why, my hand began shaking on its own accord!

The letter itself is very long, but I feel a duty to report the gist, or at least some parts, of its contents, for this is something that must be reported. I wish I could take this letter and report it to the police straightaway, if I only knew where they are. I shall copy down as much of this letter as I can, so that this book can be used as evidence if necessary, before anyone comes in here and catches me.

“Dear Rosalyn Mallory

You have been cordially invited to take part in the Assassination Game.

The objective of the game is simple. Enclosed in this envelope is a name, the name of the person you are tasked to kill. You will be competing with 8 other chosen participants, and the first to eliminate this target will be granted what they wish most, along with a small stipend of five million dollars.-â€

~~~

“What they wish most.â€

A curl spread over the man’s lips as he silently read out the contents of his letter.

“Would this person actually know what I want the most?â€

“Do not share any of this information with anyone else. If any outsiders hear of this, the offence is punishable by the rules of this game.â€

He lifted the letter and looked at what was affixed below it. The smirk on his face immediately vanished and he turned ghastly pale.

“So…†he murmured. “This guy’s serious, is he? But how did he know…â€

With warm regards,

The Grim Reaper

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The lights suddenly went out and the room became cold. Beyond the particular darkness that comes as one's eyes adjust after previously having being in the light, there was a more heavy darkness about the room. It was almost suffocating, almost a tangible presence against one's skin.

 

"That letter is not for you, mortal." Rosalyn whispered from right behind Noah suddenly. The young man found himself unable to move at all now, held by some unseen force. "And now you have to pay for your curiosity I'm afraid."

 

Rosalyn's fangs extended and touched to Noah's neck, but paused, and then lifted again without biting. The darkness, too, lifted, and the lights returned, though Noah was still unable to move. Rosalyn strolled around in front of Noah, wearing a peaceful and welcoming expression on her face again now.

 

"Now that you know about this letter, I should end your life. But, I'm feeling merciful tonight. Instead, you'll accompany me now until the conclusion of the game. That is the condition on which I let you live." she approached Noah closely, reaching up and touching a sharp fingernail to his cheek, "Don't even try to dishonour those terms either." she added, before scratching his cheek with her nail once, drawing a small amount of blood. "You can see how easily I can kill you if you force me to."

 

Abruptly whatever force holding Noah in place relented, and he was freed again. Rosalyn walked to the door to leave, but turned back once more. "Get some rest then, we set out tomorrow~!" she said cheerily, licking some blood off of the nail she had clawed him with, before disappearing from the room.

 

 

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How could I sleep that night? Everytime I closed my eyes, I would imagine her suddenly materialising behind me again, her icy breath sending goose bumps down my shoulder. Every sound I heard on this uncomfortably comfortable bed sent my heart scuttling. I could almost hear her cackling like a witch. The cackles would get deeper and deeper in my mind, till they were wolves howling, or demons laughing.

I touched the scratch she had made on my cheek with a shudder, trying to block out the hallucinations. She had most definitely not been human, with the way she moved like an apparition to my side. She had licked my blood off her finger too...

“You look very tired. Was the bed not to your liking?â€

The night had been long and dreary, my fearing every moment that I might be consumed either by her or by the nightmarish visions that my mind had conjured up for me. I knew not whether to be relieved or petrified further when the door to my room suddenly opened and the man from earlier, Rogi, announced in a rather bored fashion (quite the understatement to what I was feeling right then!) that the Mistress had summoned me to breakfast.

And so I had gotten dressed and traipsed to the dining-room, once again an unnecessarily enormous room that dwarfed the girl sitting before me. From the sunlight streaming in from the full-length windows, she seemed so harmless, as if last night’s events had been only a dream.

“Well? Are you going to answer me?†her voice took on the slightest hint of steeliness. I felt myself tense and murmured a forced “it was very good, ma’am†in a choked voice.

She laughed. It was not as hideous as I had imagined.

“Why would you call me ma’am? I do not look old, and we hardly live in the past era, where people have to pretend to have manners. And to my regret, you’re not my servant either, like Rogi,†she said.

The odious hunchback, who had been slouching at a corner, snapped to attention at the mention of his name.

“Well,†I said carefully, “you haven’t offered me an alternative by which to address you.â€

The girl thought for a while, her head cocked to one side.

“You may call me Rosalyn, I guess,†she mused. “But come sit down to eat, for I’m hungry and have no time to exchange silly pleasantries. We have to discuss the game.â€

I gulped at the sight of the forbidding envelope resting on the centre of the table.

“I haven’t been out into the city for a very long time, and so I need your help to find this person quickly, before the others get to him. Tell me, what is this place indicated on this map?â€

She slid a map across the table. I took a bite of my croissant, my lips turning dry.

“I-if I may say something…†I muttered like a little boy fearful of his governess. “I’m not of these parts. I came here on a trip from abroad, and so I’m far less likely than you to identify any place in this area.â€

“Oh, is that so?†said Rosalyn with a frown. “You’re useless then. I really should’ve killed you.†She did not follow through on her word, though, but shifted her attention to the map instead. “What do these blue lines on the map mean, I wonder…â€

I peered as she traced her long fingernail (the very same nail that had evoked this scar on my face!) along the crumpled piece of paper. The map was very much self-explanatory, from what I could see. There was a marketplace, indicated by a picture of a vegetable, and a church. The blue lines (which looked more like yellow to my poor colour-blind eyes) weaved along the roads, passing these landmarks and a few other buildings.

“That’s a bus route,†I said. “It passes these bus-stops. Oh!â€

I rummaged in my bag, drawing out the limp bus guide that had misled me the day before. The marketplace, and the church. Why, this was the bus route that I was supposed to take, had my route been correct! I felt a wave of misery course through me, nearly rendering me limp on the table. How my fate had changed its course, all because of a disability of mine and some bad luck!

“If you know these places, then tell me, what is this one?†Rosalyn pointed to a place circled in red. I looked at it and compared it to my bus guide, and a copy of my own map that I had used to guide me.

“If this is right, then this building can only be…†I paused.

“The City Hall.â€

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Back in the day a 'hall' was actually a 'hall'. Rosalyn found this 'city hall' of modern times to be but a glorified office building. Truly the saddest thing in the world was that her time had passed, and that contemporary times failed to live up to those halcyon days.

Rosalyn, among other things, did not know the meaning of the phrase 'smart casual', and so strode into the City Hall in her usual ostentatious gothic attire. Her high heeled boots clicked on the floor and her upheld head was oblivious to the stares she received as she entered. Even odder than her own appearance was her association with a slightly older man. Noah was not quite old enough to look like her father, at best he could be an elder brother, yet it was clear to anyone that Rosalyn was the dominant one in this pairing.


A stray cat hissed at Rosalyn on the way in, and she hissed back, sending it scampering away somewhere. Rosalyn couldn't stand pet animals. Or most animals. Far better to have a human thrall who would obey you without question, rather than the unpredictability of animals. She gave Noah a sharp prod in the back with her nail and he jumped, leaving her content with their hierarchy.

"I suppose the point in this location is the town records." Rosalyn suggested to Noah. She was really talking to herself but it almost seemed like she was soliciting his opinion. "Births and deaths. Marriages. Something to give us a starting lead on this character we're to take out."

Naturally, as soon as they ventured further than the lobby, security obstructed Rosalyn and Noah from proceeding further. But that was no real obstacle. Rosalyn simply fluttered her eyelashes and gave the guard a hypnotic stare, and instructed him that they should be allowed to pass.

Once inside the records room, Rosalyn was soon aware of... strangeness. She felt almost drunk. Her mind wasn't in its normal state. Yet she knew no gaseous substance could affect her in her undeath. This was something more magical.

"We aren't the first to arrive, it seems. We shouldn't have waited until morning to set out, bah." Rosalyn grumbled. Abruptly she pushed Noah onto a chair in the corner of the room. "Stay here. Unless you want to die, of course. This could get messy."

Without further explanation, the little vampiress headed into the center of the room, eyeing the maze-like rows of filing cabinets fiercely. "Come out then. You won't get what you want from my mind while I'm still breathing. Or pretending to breathe, rather." Shadows seemed to gather around her almost imperceptibly, and it was clear she was preparing for sudden action.

 

 

 

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Back in the day a 'hall' was actually a 'hall'. Rosalyn found this 'city hall' of modern times to be but a glorified office building. Truly the saddest thing in the world was that her time had passed, and that contemporary times failed to live up to those halcyon days.

Rosalyn, among other things, did not know the meaning of the phrase 'smart casual', and so strode into the City Hall in her usual ostentatious gothic attire. Her high heeled boots clicked on the floor and her upheld head was oblivious to the stares she received as she entered. Even odder than her own appearance was her association with a slightly older man. Noah was not quite old enough to look like her father, at best he could be an elder brother, yet it was clear to anyone that Rosalyn was the dominant one in this pairing.


A stray cat hissed at Rosalyn on the way in, and she hissed back, sending it scampering away somewhere. Rosalyn couldn't stand pet animals. Or most animals. Far better to have a human thrall who would obey you without question, rather than the unpredictability of animals. She gave Noah a sharp prod in the back with her nail and he jumped, leaving her content with their hierarchy.

"I suppose the point in this location is the town records." Rosalyn suggested to Noah. She was really talking to herself but it almost seemed like she was soliciting his opinion. "Births and deaths. Marriages. Something to give us a starting lead on this character we're to take out."

Naturally, as soon as they ventured further than the lobby, security obstructed Rosalyn and Noah from proceeding further. But that was no real obstacle. Rosalyn simply fluttered her eyelashes and gave the guard a hypnotic stare, and instructed him that they should be allowed to pass.

Once inside the records room, Rosalyn was soon aware of... strangeness. She felt almost drunk. Her mind wasn't in its normal state. Yet she knew no gaseous substance could affect her in her undeath. This was something more magical.

"We aren't the first to arrive, it seems. We shouldn't have waited until morning to set out, bah." Rosalyn grumbled. Abruptly she pushed Noah onto a chair in the corner of the room. "Stay here. Unless you want to die, of course. This could get messy."

Without further explanation, the little vampiress headed into the center of the room, eyeing the maze-like rows of filing cabinets fiercely. "Come out then. You won't get what you want from my mind while I'm still breathing. Or pretending to breathe, rather." Shadows seemed to gather around her almost imperceptibly, and it was clear she was preparing for sudden action.

 

 

 

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“We have intruders, Mr Jack,” Nixi hissed.

A man was standing at a narrow aisle between two rows of filing cabinets, his back completely straight as if he were standing to attention. He had remained in this frozen posture for the past ten minutes now, only his neck rotating as far as his human muscles would allow, mechanically scanning the titles on the shelves. He looked to be in his late thirties, an age where wrinkles had not begun to appear yet, but he had already taken on an aura of power. He turned to face his beloved now, his eyes softening as she squeezed herself nimbly through the window, which was open just a crack.

Contrary to what most humans seemed to think, snakes were not the only animals that hissed. Nixi padded up to him and rubbed her face lovingly against the leg of his trousers. His beloved cat, a priceless beauty. She might look like a common stray to the uninitiated, but this ginger cat had accompanied him through much of life’s journeys, and had eventually ended her life together with him as well…

But no matter. They were now reunited again, this time with a new objective. He knew, of course, that he would not be alone in this quest. The Grim Reaper had warned, no, promised of other participants, opponents to this game. Except to Mr Jack, it was not a game. The Grim Reaper had raised the stakes too high for that.

There was a blue orb of light that had been hovering near his head, helping to illuminate some of the darker corners. He extinguished it just as an irritating girlish voice echoed through the records room.

"Come out then. You won't get what you want from my mind while I'm still breathing. Or pretending to breathe, rather."

His eyebrow twitched in annoyance. Nixi’s voice rang out telepathically in his mind, “Yes, I had a brief spat with her outside. She is quite a bitch.”

“No worries,” he answered back telepathically. “We shall deal with her and put her in her place.”

~~~

“Oh, oof!” I grunted lamely, holding out my hands to steady myself and the chair, whose “ergonomically designed” features only succeeded in hurting my back. Rosalyn herself was on the alert, her features gradually changing, mutating, to the horror I had witnessed that night. Her eyes turned more cat-like and I could feel an aura of power and contempt radiating from her. I turned instinctively to avoid this unnatural sight, and caught sight of another figure among the shelves.

“Sir, you probably, er, shouldn’t be here,” I exclaimed. A security guard was patrolling the shelves, seemingly clueless to the mayhem that was unfolding around him. He calmly and slowly looked through every cabinet, opening, examining and closing each one methodically. A very meticulous employee, but I had the duty to keep him safe, because Rosalyn hardly struck me as a person to care about collateral damage.

“Sir, you should leave!” He did not seem to have heard me, so I left my chair and hurried fearfully to him. “Sir!” When I reached him I quickly grabbed hold of his hand, intending to get his attention, but froze in shock.

His hand was icy cold. It was as if I was gripping a non-living object.

The figure brushed my hands away with astounding strength, continuing on his quest, not even turning to look at me. That was when I noticed his skin seemed a lot paler than it should be. I stood there in shock, watching him shuffle from one filing cabinet to another.

He was already dead.

This was a trap, and I had fallen gullibly into it.

There was a much louder shuffling sound now, coming from behind me. I turned hurriedly and stumbled backward, a cry escaping from my lips. What came up to me was making no pretence of being human anymore. It was nothing but a shambling lifeless horror, a black shadow of a humanoid that could only make groaning sounds. I was sandwiched between the walking corpse – which was just as uninterested towards the new arrival – and an outright zombie. I made a run for it, with the monster following suit as expected. Also just as expected, I turned the corner and found more of these shambling horrors emerging from the aisles.

I let out a suffocated yell as the horrors – some of them not even humanoid anymore – closed in on me and grabbed me with their cold, smelly appendages

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