rating: +51+x

Ping. Pong. Ping. Pong.

Or, more like it…

Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit.

Left, right, left, right. Back, forth, back, forth. Hit, return, hit, return.

Two paddles, one on the left and one on the right. The ball, bouncing from one side to the other, over a dotted line that marked the middle. All of it, white on a black background. That was one monitor.

The others were a camera feed and a data stream. The subject and her vitals. Someone had to be watching at all times, and tonight, it was Trevor. Well, Dr. Smart. Yes, that was his real name. Trevor Smart. And on a graveyard shift, he was going to be making sure Dana Alcorn didn't suddenly up and die.

Oh, and that her game was going well.

Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit.

He couldn't believe this was actually his job. The words he uttered when he first learned he would be watching a video game play out for the rest of his foreseeable life suddenly sounded so hollow upon remembering — "dream come true". Of all the games in the world, it had to be Pong.

Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit.

Against procedure, he muted the game. No headway had been made in decades. No wins, no losses. Neither side. Pong was not a hard game. Dana had engendered a stalemate. And it was his job to make sure of two things. One, it was still a stalemate, and two, the machines were still taking care of all her bodily functions. Making sure she didn't get bed sores, making sure water was being fed into her stomach, as well as the daily streams of nutrients. Make sure her heartrate was normal (seems she hadn't been excited in years), her breathing was steady (she inhaled when her opponent hit the ball, and exhaled when she did), and that she blinked enough that her eyes didn't crack (could they not have ever upgraded to plugging the game directly into her brain?). And wouldn't you guess it…

None of this had been a problem. Not ever. Things were so stable, that there had been passing mention of allowing less than 24/7 surveillance. Give her some breathing room, so to speak. It was allowed for a good bit, too. Before Trevor was here, of course. But he's heard about it. The "glory days". That, of course, was before it was realized that people here had passed four days in the span of six hours.

He glanced at the clock. 6:59 in the morning. Half an hour before his shift ended. Just needed to keep his eyes open until then. He sipped his decaf coffee.

Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit.

Even with the mute, he could hear it in his head. The worst earworm in all of existence.

Trevor spun in the chair. The room was tiny. Awful. Dark. No windows, one desk, three monitors. There was barely space enough to doodle on the available post-it notes. It's like it was designed to torture.

So much professionalism erodes when everyone essentially believes their job is useless, and moreover, finds themselves in a position where no one is checking in on them. So Trevor, finally breaking near the end of his shift, pulled out his phone; his buddy Thain was known to wake up around this time.

Trevor: you awake

Thain: Literally just woke up.

Trevor: im watching the girl

Thain: Damn that was tonight?

Trevor: uuuggggh

Thain: This morning*?

Trevor: ye

Thain: Sucks.

Trevor: ye

Thain: I imagine you're waiting for me to occupy you somehow.

Trevor: yes please

Thain: Nothing interesting has happened in the past 12 hours.

Thain: So I got no new material

Trevor: fucking tell me about it

Thain: So I'm not sure what there is to say.

Trevor: i cant believe i got decaf today

Thain: Hold up taking a shower

Trevor: ok

Fuck. There went that. Thain took, like, 20 minute showers. This was hell. Trevor did another couple spins. He envied people for whom books could hold their attention. That would be an easy fix to this awful situation. But he wasn't into that, there was no data to be had and the wifi blocked all websites of potential interest, they'd kill him if they found him playing some sort of mobile game. Shit. He felt like a teenager again. Problems like this should not affect 30-year-olds.

Hold up. Hold. Up.

The clock, one of the only things creating light other than his monitor and his phone, was red, bright, and wrong. 6:61, it said.

Suddenly, Trevor wasn't bored. Oh god. Why did this have to happen while he was on duty?

Trevor: Thain, I need your help

Trevor: !!!

Trevor: Thain

Trevor: Thain

Fuck. He was going to have to call him. Which he did, and it of course went to voicemail.

Back to the clock.


"Fuck!" he yelled. He and Thain were the only people he could expect to be awake right now. Anyone who wasn't already likely wouldn't be for a good, long time. If, of course, time even allowed for that statement to make sense.

Trevor started running over what he remembered. The first thing, of course, was to get into Dana's cell, and begin negotiations. For that matter —

Dit. Dit. Dit.

No, the game was going fine. Not an issue. Never had been. Stupid thought. Trevor opened the door and stepped out. He finally got to leave, and yet he wasn't happy about the circumstances that allowed it. Out of this door was more work. Trevor had to wonder; what was going to be new this time? They had become more calculated, recently — if you can call it "recent". A time dilation hadn't happened in years.

Oh my god, Trevor thought. They picked me because I'm lazy. Clever bastards. Mostly just bastards though.

He pulled on his coat that hung on the coat rack outside the door, and proceeded down the hallway.

Then turned around, because that was the wrong direction.

Clever. Bastards.

He checked his phone. 6:64. Yup, it was still happening. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Then he got a call.

"Trev, what's wrong?"

"Look at the clock, man."

There was a pause.



"Damn it, I'm at least thirty minutes from the Site, dude. Stayed at my girlfriend's place last night, she lives a bit farther out. Speaking of, gonna have to make up an excuse to leave. Also speaking of, I'm in range of the time dilation? How big is this area of effect?"

"No clue dude."

"If anyone else is awake right now and snaps a picture…"

"God damn it man, covering up containment breaches is not my job. I'm just the surveillance guy, and I need your help, because last time I fucking learned this procedure I was a newhire! Now get in your car and drive!"


Thain hung up.

Then he got a call.

"Trevor, I gotta drive."

"I'm alone in a building where the only other people awake are a nigh-comatose girl playing pong and literal demons. Keep me some company?"

Thain sighed. "Fine."

"Thank you."

Trevor was flying down the stairs, his shoulder-length wavy brown hair flopping on his neck. Once or twice his foot didn't quite stick the landing, and his back tensed to the point of pain as he tried to keep his balance and avoid tumbling down the stairs. He must have made a noise to go with it, because each time Thain would chuckle over the phone, and Trevor would have to remind him to shut up.

Then, he was at the lowest basement level, the only place in this entire Site to house even one anomaly. Yeah. It was that important. Trevor wished it felt as important as it was. Because as it was, the door to the big, important thing wasn't locked. It couldn't be — because if it was locked to Level 4 access or above, and only a Level 2 like Trevor was awake when they started getting fucked with? Well. That's one of a few reasons that they passed through six days in four hours once. Wait, other way around, four hours in six — no! Four days, six hours. God damn it.

Trevor laughed.

"Shut it!"

"Bro, you called me!"

Trevor grumbled as he fumbled his keycard out of his pocket. Just about the only reason this keycard lock was here was because they wanted a record of who went in and out. Trevor had only ever seen the room from the surveillance screen — they wanted as few people as possible to actually enter the room — so he wasn't truly prepared for the stench.

"Holy mackerel, dude…"

So this was what happened when you lock someone in a room for their whole life. Trevor knew she was cleaned sometimes, but the extent to which they could clean her was limited. The entire operation was rushed, and now she couldn't be moved for fear that she, you know, loses. And they didn't install a bath at first… so the best option was to spray her with water.

So Trevor did just that.

He picked up the hose, already fitted with the appropriate nozzle, and spritzed Dana.

"Hey!" He spritzed her thrice more. "Hey! You're breaking the contract and you know it! Fucking, come out!" This time, he held it down, and began to soak her. Then, a drop got in her eye, and her emotionless face had to squint.

"Shit, got some in her eye."

"You," noise from Thain's side told Trevor that he had dropped the phone. "You what?"

"It's fine, man."

"You didn't put the goggles on her!? Dude!"

"Okay, I get it! I'll put some on her or someshit, it's fine."

"It's not fine!"

"Well it will be, get off my back!"

Trevor jogged to the Close Observation Deck, a room coming off of Dana's that had a one-way mirror looking in on her, controls of the devices keeping her alive, desks, and drawers in each of them. These, Trevor pillaged.

"Goggles, goggles, goggles…"

Trevor passed over notes, stress balls, a magic eight ball (why was that here?), an original gameboy (that made more sense), oodles of pencils and pens, tools(?), and some other more disturbing items (why do they need a baton in here, or a taser for that matter, would she really perform better by being temporarily incapacitated with a tazer?). But he found what he was looking for. Goggles!

"Got 'em. Where are you?"

"I'm still 20, 25 minutes away my man, but I'm noticing something. All the other cars are moving… really, really slowly. And they're not reacting to me. Had to get out of a lane because this dude was trying to tailgate the guy in front of me."

"And you didn't even make a noise about it until now?"

"I concentrate better with silence, needed it silent."

"Okay, makes sense."

With the goggles affixed, Trevor resumed the spraying, yelling even louder this time.

"Hey, bitches!! You've broken the contract! Speak up, assholes!"

"Trev, I just said I focus better with silence, if you could keep it down —"

"Woah woah woah, shut it for a second."

Trevor felt the building shake, saw the lights flicker.

"They're responding," Trevor whispered.

He saw Dana's face begin to scrunch up, saw her begin to twist and struggle, and then she opened her mouth, and a low muddy growl came out. "Fuck," Trevor said under his breath. It's really easy to forget they can't actually do anything to you. Suddenly, he understood the presence of the taser.

"Y-yeah, fuckheads, stop playing stupid and answer me!"

The growling grew louder, the room darker, and Trevor smaller. Suddenly, looking at Dana was like looking at a landmark, somewhere off in the distance, as tall as buildings, her seat a plateau. Trevor started shaking, and wondered if that was natural or induced. From what he'd heard, they were likely capable of it, and were total drama queens to boot. In any case, induced or not, he felt it. Fear.

"Talk to me. Thain, talk to me, talk to me Thain, c'mon dude please, talk to me, talk to me man."

No response over the phone. But Dana's face started seizing, her cheeks twitching, lips pulling in strange directions. The growling started to fuse with other noises — squealing, grunting, screeching, coughing, all happening at once, ingredients in a cauldron, stewing and boiling, bubbling, twisting, some of this and some of that, so abrasive and strange that Trevor felt queasy. It reached its most unbearable crescendo just as it started forming… words.

"You dare accuse us, mortal!?"

The voice gurgled like it was full of water, popped and crackled as if from flame, snarled like a lion's roar, all of this at once and more.

"Y-you're —" Trevor broke off to compose himself. "You're breaking the contract!"

The voice-menagerie cackled. "What line, exactly?"

Fuck. He hadn't brought the contract with him. Furthermore, he didn't know where it was.

"You know there is no line!" Trevor yelled. "You're cheating around the system!"

The laugh came again, and the feeling it sent through Trevor could be described as a fresh layer of dried clay and dirt, caking his skeleton and all the rest of his insides. "The system is ours to cheat, mortal! If it isn't in the contract, it is by your oversight that the loophole exists — and that contract is inviolable until its expiry. There is nothing you can do."

"Then what the fuck did the guys before me do? This is supposed to work."

The demons remained silent.

"Ah right. And this, this is why you chose now to do this. Fuck me. Uhhh…"

"I'll call your boss?"

The demons cackled once more. "And how would you do that?"

"Well… fuck. Fuck!" Trevor tried to turn around and head towards the door, but all he found was an abyss. "I should have got more stuff before I came down here. Uhh…" He looked all around, but only found black. They wouldn't let him go now that they had him in their trap. This was a stupid move. An utterly idiotic play on Trevor's part. If only he had searched around more, he had access to the file in which it describes in detail what to do. Because of him, it was gonna be those six days all over again. Or was it four days? Fuck!

"Umm…" Trevor squinted. "Ummm!" He scrunched his face up, tensed his arms, as if physical exertion would force an idea out of his brain. "Ummm!!"

Woah, wait, it worked.

Well, it got an idea into his head. He didn't know if it worked yet.

"Alright, uhhh… well." Trevor swallowed. "Ever heard the saying 'speak of the devil'?"

A single grunt responded.

"Hmm. Well, here goes." Trevor cleared his throat.


Trevor thought he heard an echo, thought he might have seen Dana's possessed face flinch. Okay, he thought to himself, there are people who take a bit to respond, I'll just do it again. And he did. Over and over, a whooping holler of the devil's name, summoning him (or a representative) to this place, here and now.

"Hey," the demons mumbled. But Trevor didn't hear them, and started to spin variations.

"Lucifer, Lucy, six six six, three sixes, Lord of Darkness, King of the Underworld, Master of the Unholy Below, Punisher of the Damned, Satan, should I say Satan again…"

"Stop that," a little louder this time.

"Yo my boy the Devil, I got some bitches here think they can just up and break contracts!"

"We're not breaking anything!"

"Golly gee whiz, this soul I have is suuuch a burden! If only someone could come and take it off my hands, I would be eternally grateful! Woohoo!"

"Stop invoking the Dark Lord!"

"Heya, Satan, I'd like to strike a —"


Trevor felt, for just a moment, petrifying terror. His eyes went wide, his knees went weak, his brain went numb, and he wanted to die, then and there. It stopped him mid-sentence — his voice vanished from his throat. But it only lasted an instant, and then he was fine. And after he was fine, then he was smug.

"Ahh, so that's what it is. Striking a —"

It happened again.

"Jesus, stop that!"

"You stop trying to make… make…"


"Don't speak that word!"

Trevor chuckled. "Okay, then I want to make a deal with you!"

The demons were silent.

"You stop dilating time, I don't call up your boss. Got it?"

"We can stop you each time."

"Alright, so be it. I'd like to strike a —"

"We have terms!"

"What terms?"

"We get to count the extra time here. It doesn't get completely reversed. And you bathe her more often — by the unholy moats, she stinks! We are not filth demons, we demand a cleaner work environment!"

"Fine. Keep the time."

"Good. Do you know how long 3,000 years is?"

"I'm not gonna live even an eighth of that. So yeah, it's long. But that's your fault."

"'3,000 years or until Dana dies, whichever comes first.'" The gurgling voice echoed unnaturally with the quotation of the contract.

"Bro, I'm not about to empathize with literal demons."

A groan of anger grew from Dana's mouth. "How much time did we get?"

"Uhh," Trevor checked his watch. "18ish minutes."

"Only 18!? How did you notice so soon?"

"Digital clocks. They don't just keep spinning."

"Ahh fuck."

"Yeah. Better luck next time. Except there won't be a next time. So stop trying. And for that matter, actually stop the time dilation please."


"Alright then," Trevor cleared his throat. "Satan, I'd like to strike a —"

And then the darkness was gone, the room back to normal, Dana just as small as she usually was. The game was still a stalemate. The place still stank. The tubes were still feeding her everything she needed. And, Trevor noticed, the cameras on the ceiling were still running.

God damn it, he thought. They're going to notice I didn't know procedure. I just improvised. Fuuuck.

And then he checked his watch.

7:00 am.

"Phew," he breathed. Then, he sauntered up the stairs, meandered back to the office, and sat wearily at the desk, viewing the three cameras again. Another thirty minutes. Trevor let his head hit the desk. He hated this job.

Oh, and Thain died in a car crash once all the cars sped back up.

What? That's what happened.

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