Industrial

by DarkStuff

rating: +11+x

"Davidson, I think your name is?" Rachael only stared, and regained her breath. "Here, Rachael. Come here and take a seat."

Her breathing became more regular, and she sat herself up on the floor.

"At the table, like a lady, please."

It took another twenty seconds for her to reclaim her composure, and full control of her lungs. In that time, she studied Howard's complexion. Now, the problem wasn't that the light was too low. In fact, this was the best lit room that she had been in (the staircase had been bright, but the brightness had been sheer; here the light was warm and inviting). It wasn't that he was faceless either — yet again, he had everything everyone else had. He had two eyes, a head of hair — or, if it was bald, it wasn't unnaturally so — a nose, a mouth, two ears… it was only that the dimensions and colors of all of the above were difficult to discern. Were they hazel? Blue? Grey, green? Were the whites yellow? Despite prolonged and deliberate eye contact, no information came to light. It was as if the air between them had thickened into fog.

Rachael finally stood up, and slowly walked towards the seat he had been motioning to. Out of her element, and so shaken from before, she struggled to put on her usual: slight glare, straight back, tall, intimidating stance. It usually came so naturally. But she was feeling unnaturally small.

She tried her best and settled for halfway. When she was confident she could keep the face, she sat down. Next, she needed her voice back. There was unfortunately no way to know when she had regained that, except by speaking. It needed to be dark, terse, and biting. She tried to focus on calming herself.

Now. "Why did you bring me here?" That sounded alright. Not as assertive as usual, but workable.

"Why did you come here? I feel like that is a better question. You're a guest in my house, or am I wrong?"

Rachael stone-faced.

"Ah, ah right. That's what I expected. Well, I know you weren't sent here. You're not nearly prepared enough." Rachael didn't budge. "Well, I can't let you leave. And I can't let you keep exploring. As you can imagine with my house, I need my privacy. So." Howard looked off towards his left.

The nondescript room went silent.

Rachael looked to where Howard was looking. No, nothing interesting. For a moment, their eyes met, but Howard looked away immediately. Rachael's eyebrows raised.

"So," Howard repeated.

After another few seconds of feigning a respect for Howard's authority, Rachael turned in her chair to look behind her. When she returned to a front facing position, Howard was gone. "What?" Rachael said under her breath.

Rachael still wasn't fully convinced that she had avoided the battle she'd expected. She waited, invisibly poised to strike if provoked, but no such provocation came. For a whole minute, no such provocation. Slightly more sure of her ability to search undeterred, she stood from her chair. Doubt slowed her movements, but she had nothing else to do.

Rachael strode to the wall on her left, and pressed her hands against it. It was uncomfortably cold, and felt far smoother than it looked. She tried to search for a wire in the wall, or an electrical outlet of some sort, but even the light in the middle of the room seemed to be entirely isolated, powered from an untraceable source. Sidling along the walls, she began to knock. According to her memory, you could tell when there was an open space behind a surface if you knocked, though she'd never tried it herself. Unfortunately, her untrained ear didn't pick up any difference along the walls. After five minutes she stopped trying. Either everywhere was solid, or everywhere was hollow. This included the ceiling, which she stood on her chair to reach, and the floor.

Her movements became sudden and jerky. Her breathing became harder, and a scowl set upon her face. She had been trapped. Was this to torture her? Someone as powerful as him, she had to wonder why he didn't kill her himself. Was he too cowardly? Too cowardly to look someone in the eye and murder them? Did he not understand that this way to die was longer and more painful, or was he just that malevolent? That wasn't the impression she got of him. She got the impression of someone who didn't know what to do. Perhaps he was keeping her here until he figured out his next move.

How long that would take, Rachael had no idea. She didn't know his abilities, she didn't know his motives. She only knew that she couldn't assume that he was coming back. The longer she waited, the less energy she would have as she starved to death.

She sat at the chair once more, and tried to summon him. "Mr. Scott? I wish to negotiate with you."

Though she'd dehydrate first. She had lacked the foresight to pack food and water. When entering an unknown place? How could she have been so shortsighted? Her nose and mouth started to twitch.

"Howard! What do you want from me?"

She thought of just how unprepared she was for this mission. She had brought with her someone who was only a liability. Why? Why had she done that? She didn't know the answer herself. What had overcome her?

She tried not to think about it.

What else was there to think about? Was she strong enough to punch through the walls? No, they were like marble, not drywall. If she couldn't get Howard's attention, she was going to die here. That's what it was. That's what there was to think about. When did she last eat? When did she last drink?

When did she last drink?

Rachael grabbed at her throat. When was the last time she ate? She searched her mind for a hint of hunger. Just then, but only then, did her stomach growl. But hunger sneaks up on you, it doesn't care about whether you're aware of it. Neither does thirst. The truth was, she wasn't hungry, and she wasn't thirsty. She was just scared. With time, she could make that go away too.

Rachael's tension relieved. Her scowl disappeared. Her back straightened, her fists opened. She looked for an opportunity to test her knew knowledge. She sat in her chair, and tried a mind exercise.

She imagined that she had just ended an interview. She'd made peace with another URA-1902 instance. The room's walls were white, the table was iron, there was a chair on her side and a chair on the other. When she got up, she would turn around, and be greeted with a door, where it would usually be, because that's what happened after interviews. You left.

Rachael opened her eyes. Rachael pushed the chair back. Rachael stood up. Rachael drew a breath. Rachael turned around.

No door.

The walls were just as textured as they were before. Grey, not white. The table was still wooden. The room's dimensions hadn't changed. Nothing had changed.

Was she wrong?

Her throat started to hurt.

No, she thought. I can't be wrong.

The ache went away as soon as it came.

Rachael sat back down. It wasn't that she had finished an interview. She simply had to convince herself that every room had a door. There was no room that Rachael had ever been in that didn't have a door. How was she supposed to have gotten here? There had to have been a door. She opened it, stepped inside, and talked to Howard. How did Howard leave? Simple, he had walked through the same door. There was a door. A room does not function without a door. A room's function necessitates an entrance and exit. It didn't even have to look like a typical door. Some rooms had a ladder that led upwards, or downwards, into a portal to another room. Or outside. Some had airlocks. But none, not a single room, didn't have a way in and out.

She thought back on every room she had ever been in. Every room she'd entered and exited. What the fuck would this room be if she couldn't leave it? She'd be an idiot to believe there was no door.

And Rachael wasn't a god damn idiot.

Rachael pushed her chair back.

Rachael stood up.

Rachael drew a breath.

Rachael turned around.

And then.

Rachael walked.

Out the door.

Rachael stood in the very same void that she had come from — of course she would, this was where she walked in the door — when she had fallen (no, walked) into the room. The yawning, wheezing abyss, weightless… but she wasn't scared. Not this time. Of course, a door has to lead into another room. Another room, or a hallway, which is a type of room, she supposed. She hadn't stepped out into an abyss. That would be a ridiculous place for a door to lead to. She'd clearly stepped out into a hallway.

With this in mind, Rachael began walking down the hallway. Like most hallways she had walked down, it was lit with somewhat cheap annoyingly fluorescent lights. And also like most hallways she had walked down, it had doors peppered along the walls. Doors that, of course, must have led to other rooms. She only had to pick the right door.

Right door for what?

She opened one, and saw a room exactly like the one she had left. No, not that. What rooms would be here? She opened another one, and saw the same room room she had met Vernon in. No, she didn't want that one either. Where did she want to go?

Well.

The only place a door can lead that's not a room is to the outside. Of course. Every building — and she was most certainly in a building — had an exit. It was the way she came in! She just needed a frame of reference. Somewhere she had been before.

So of course she came upon the elevators. Was she on the first floor? No, she'd gone up plenty of stairs. How many, she wasn't sure. But all she had to do was get in an elevator and press for the first floor. Unfortunately, the elevator shaft was empty. Just like she remembered.

Rachael slowly walked to its edge, and peered up and down. An elevator shaft? Without an elevator?

That would be absolutely ridiculous.

She pressed the button to summon the elevator, and found that it wasn't lighting. Like a normal elevator button would. She creased her brow, and pressed it again. The phenomenon repeated, and no noises came from the elevator shaft. Were these elevators an exception to —?

No. That would be stupid. Maybe, the elevator button was broken, but that was it. She could fix that. She closed her eyes, and reached her mind into the mechanism. Of course, she noted, she only had to remember how elevator buttons worked. How elevator buttons worked… how elevator buttons worked…

Had she never explored an elevator button? No, she must have. She had explored many, many things. To think she had never engaged with an elevator button, now that would be unheard of. She knew how they worked. Of course she did.

So she fixed the problem, and pressed the button again.

It lit up.

And a horrible screeching noise rose out of the elevator. Of course, it would make that noise, because there wasn't an elevator door. It was just a natural consequence of the door being broken. Of course.

An elevator rose into the door frame, and opened. Rachael took another deep breath, and stepped into the elevator. The button panel… only had one button. "G". For "Ground Floor", Rachael assumed. Assumed? Knew. She pressed the button, and the doors closed.

The elevator was still. Unmoving. Was this button broken, too? She tried to press it again. Nothing. This place… must have faulty wiring, she thought. Nothing to be afraid of. That doesn't affect the mechanics of the… no, it must have? Rachael struck the doubt of not knowing how elevators worked out of her mind. If she could fix the button, of course it would work.

She was going to need to fix it again. She closed her eyes.

And Rachael felt her stomach elevate into her chest. The screeching came back, stronger than before, and the light in the elevator flickered on and off. Rachael pressed herself against the side of the elevator. The button was not the problem at that very moment. Her eyes darted from one side of the elevator to the other, and she noticed the floor beginning to lean. Elevators weren't supposed to lean. It couldn't have been leaning! That would be…

It wasn't working. Despite her best efforts, the elevator's dimensions continued to be. Was there an exit on the roof of the elevator? Most elevators had that. She looked up, and found a red square outline and the words "exit" printed in one corner. Alright, next problem, how to get up to it.

She looked around for

/ / /

S e a e o i h u h r p n
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Rachael gasped awake, before noticing that she hadn't intook any air. She was once again in the yawning, wheezing abyss. How had she gotten back here? Where could she have been? Her head hurt, but only by hurting had she gained a head. Slowly, the rest of her body came into existence, just as she remembered it. What had happened? Last she remembered, she had been in an elevator, which… fell? She wasn't entirely sure what happened.

She thought she had figured it out, why hadn't the elevator worked? Perhaps this place was more solid than she knew. In any case, the elevators were clearly out of the question. What was another landmark she knew, one that could go down? Oh, of course.

A loud, echoing clang met her ears as she suddenly stood in a brightly lit, white, metal stairway, with a strange lack of doorways on each level. She winced as she… "landed"… but it was even worse than she had feared.

It was not only the clang that met her ears, though she had to wait for the echoing to cease before she noticed the second sound. Somewhere, deep below her rose a low, howling sound, animal-like yet unmistakably human. Stuck in place, she listened closely. Could it really have been…?

The nasal tone, the almost feminine pitch. It was. Rachael squeezed her eyes closed. There was no other way down. Not to her knowledge. To descend, the descent had to make sense, and an elevator was out of the question. She had to go down the stairs.

Rachael breathed deeply through her teeth, and didn't hesitate a second longer. She began to rush down the stairs, hoping to get through the nightmare as fast as possible. As expected, the further she descended, the louder and louder the howling, screaming, tearing voice became. Rachael tried to keep to the wall, and look only at the very next step. Maybe she could avoid looking.

Was it her imagination, or was there a wind coming from below? A wind, like a draft through a cave, whistled in waves with the stream of agony. No, it was real. As real as anything else in here. She had to raise her head, to keep the wind out of her eyes as it crawled around the steps in the stairs and forced itself into her face. Rachael's nose curled. It was warm, and smelled like breath.

She breathed deeply through her mouth and continued her journey, now leading only with touch. Her hands followed the walls, and each stair was carefully found by her foot. As her elevation lowered, and as the moans became louder, and as the winds became stronger, the walls became rougher. Almost sharp, in places. Squinting her eyes open, Rachael tried to make sense of what she felt. All she saw were more white walls… but as she scanned around herself she saw, though blurred by watery eyes, that the stairwell was round. No longer the square, hard-angled well with landings it was before, it had become a full spiral. The clangs had ceased to come with her footsteps, as the material had transformed away from metal, and into… something else.

Where was she? This couldn't have been the stairwell she was in before. Was continuing down worth it? Did this lead where she thought it led?

She remembered the rules she thought she knew. It had to go where she thought it went. It definitely went there. It wouldn't make sense for a stairwell not to lead to the ground floor. Of course it led to the ground floor.

That's when the pain came.

Deep in her lower back, and all throughout her guts, an explosion of pain threw her off her feet — except she couldn't feel her feet. In fact, she couldn't feel anything below her waist.

She hurled forward, hitting her elbows, head, and neck on crooks in the stairs. Her own screams of pain joined the now overwhelming winds and howls. She tumbled down the spirals, hitting ribs, her jaw — everything under the sun, including her legs, which despite her struggles she could not feel nor control. The tumbling combined with the salty, iron-smelling winds created an environment in which it was nigh impossible to see, let alone grab at anything. All her attempts ended in bumping her wrist, or more pain to her arms. With panic, she realized that the stairs were getting smaller and smaller.

The steps seemed to be receding into the walls, slowly taking away the room on which she fell. Finally, the worst had happened. With a new lack of railing, Rachael rolled over the side, but she had found a handhold just in time.

Her hand bled on the sharp, pointed edge of the stair, sticking out of the wall like a knife. Finally stable in some inevitably temporary way, she was able to look above her. The staircase wasn't completely circular, but had strange ridges and drops along the side. The inside curved strangely, like a… like a…

Spine.

Fighting against the pain, Rachael tried to form words.

"Dorer!!" she screamed.

The howling, the winds, subsided. "Dorer, listen to me! You're not dead, I can save you! You just have to let me!"

The hair on the back of her neck rose up, as if by some electric air.

"Dorer?"

Looking up, a wave of flashing lights came to

/ / /




ROABCEHRATEL MAXRIMAUS DOARVEIRDSON

woke up and vomited blood into a yawning, wheezing abyss.

"You're not deaAaAAAAA AAAAAA" they interrupted themselves by screaming.

Rachael Davidson tried to stand up on the stairs.

Robert Dorer fell back down due to having no control in his legs.

"Our — your body's not real, you KILLED ME"

Their mind replayed the pain of an explosion in their back, and they were sitting back down on the stairs, right where Rachael killed them

"Rach— Robert! Listen to me! You're alive, you're get out of my HEADeheheehhhheheheh"

Robert(?)'s idiot grin took over Rachael's face, and shehethey couldn't stop themselves from laughing in pain. Rachael tried to scan their body, and only found a torso. Her eyes flashed unceasingly between the black void and the bright, cold stairwell, on which Dorer laid bleeding.

And dying.

Forever

"DORER!" The howling, screaming winds came back. "Dorer, you're alive! You're alive! Can't you hear me? Isn't that proof enough!?" Rachael lost her form once more into the fat, unwieldy body of Dorer, the legs of which were entirely functionless fully functional, because Rachael never would have killed Dorer.

And the evidence was right here.

"Look at your hands, Robert!"

But strands of pain shot out of and through them like strings. The nigh unbearable suffering made reality impossible to make out. But all Rachael needed to do was make him look at his hands. "Dorer, listen to me you insufferable oaf!" Anger began to overpower the sensations of pain, and Rachael found herself taking form. Her own arms, her own face — but they came in and out of existence as strobingly as the stairwell did. She pushed, she pushed, to be able to have her own form, her own body — she tried to connect to everything that made her her. Her shaved head, her unapproachable demeanor, her dark skin, her white shirt, her Honduran heritage, her black pants…

Slowly, things came into frame, but…

Why was she resisting?

Rachael lost herself in the sea of Dorer's consciousness.



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