A Beautiful Dirty City

It was an old city, mostly safe, but still worn down and dark. The soot clung everywhere to the architecture, giving it all a sort of dirtied look. The city council sometimes painted it over though, called it “refreshment”, but what it actually meant was that they put this hideous off-white colour over everything, which would look the same a few years later. As I sat on my balcony watching the traffic flow past me a few floors down, I wondered how many layers of paint and soot I could have scraped off the other building before I found the actual wall inside. I smiled to myself as I found myself wondering if perhaps the building had been a bright colour once upon a time.

Oh well, city building codes were stricter now, so many things weren’t available anymore. But hey, I couldn’t complain, I had a big apartment which wasn’t too bad. On that thought, I cursed to myself as I got up and checked the clock on the wall. Damn, too late to call the landlord today about the toilet. I sighed to myself, I was gonna have to call tomorrow and I fucking hated making calls. Authorities are the worst, but even just thinking about calling people I don’t know made me break out into a cold sweat.

I sighed and found myself staring at a speck of soot stuck to the glass encasing my balcony. I looked over the bulbous shape and found at least five or six more places where the pollution had started to attach itself to the glass. Damn, one more call to order a glass scrub I thought to myself and then headed for bed, feeling like my next week had just been ruined somehow.

The day after, I woke up and took a shower and made myself some breakfast. Out of eggs again and of course I’d forgotten to preorder new ones. That meant two more weeks of waiting for transports to come in. I briefly mused over the fact of the air pollution as I ate my sandwich. Chickens couldn’t make it within the city lines, but us humans were fine provided we took the prescribed dosages of drugs and kept our masks and suits on whenever we went outside.

But we all cheated sooner or later despite knowing the risks, especially if you were already on your way to work and your mask was sitting uselessly on your living room table. But in the evening when you cleaned out the filters and you saw that black soot go down the drain, it was hard not to think of that shit also going down into your lungs. Oh well, the drugs caused it to leave your system anyway in other ways. I had a brief flashback to being younger in another city with my piss being yellow instead of black. Felt like ages ago.

I snapped out of my reverie and grabbed my mask off the table and rushed away to work again. I’d snagged a pretty good job right out of school as a translator. My runic languages teacher had recommended me to the firm after I’d had basically demolished her entire curriculum in record time. I would be eternally grateful to her for that, because the gig was just awesome. I’d sit every day together with a group of people and we’d figure out the best way to translate basically anything that they’d throw at us.

Each project was a fun challenge and at the end of the day, I’d always retire home and my head would be buzzing with all of these strange glyphs and markings. It was a damn good job and my team was some of the smartest people I’d ever met. Including of course Emma…

I’d had my eye on her almost the whole year since she’d started in a temp position first, but her incredible skills had blown everyone away including me. She’d been hired a few months ago on a permanent position and while I was sure she just saw me as just another one of the people in the office, I saw her as so much more. She was a bit taller than me, bit older too with an ashen hair that was sort of curled in places. I bet she spent a lot of time making it look that way. Her angular face would sometimes seem almost bitter when she was focusing on something, but when she smiled it’d light up like the sun in the morning.

The reality though, painful as it may be, was that she wasn’t really noticing me among the crew, and I’d mostly given up on the idea after a few attempts at asking her out that didn’t really pan out.

Late in the afternoon one day in those two hours that seem to just drag on at the end of the day, I found her in the break room which was a really drab and spartan affair. Her brow was furrowed as she stared down at a paper and was trying to figure out something while shaking her head. I took a look at her, smiled a bit to myself and went for more coffee, intending not to disturb her in her important work.

“It’s impossible, GAH!” she exclaimed and threw her pen across the table and then rubbed her eyes and looked at me and smiled. “Oh, hey Daniel, more coffee? I swear, you’re really burning the midnight oil these days aren’t you? That’s what.. your fifth cup I’ve seen you get today?”

I grinned back at her and shook my head a bit as I finished pouring my cup “Oh you know me, there’s so much to read out there that isn’t runic, I get my nose buried in a book and I’m just gone for the rest of the night.”

Inwardly of course, I was feeling a surge of emotions at the realization that not only had she noticed how many cups I’d been drinking, but that I was clearly a welcome break from her work. I knew I had to go for it, I was fucking going for it. I motioned towards her table with my cup.

“Mind if I sit down and have a look at this? I know I’m not as good as you with the ancient runics, but maybe I can see something with my dumb-dumb brain that gives you an idea.”

She smiled at me and moved some papers aside. I carefully set down my mug on the table and my ass on the chair and studied some of the papers she handed me one by one. It was certainly ancient runic, but a dialect I hadn’t seen before. The syntax and grammar made almost no sense at all. I could make out what maybe could be a word here and there. As she handed me more papers my confusion just kept growing until a pearly laughter shook me out of my haze.

“See? That look on your face, that’s exactly how I feel about this project.. this thing is so damn confusing and weird isn’t it?” she exclaimed happily as I handed her back the papers which she neatly stacked as if she was getting ready to leave. Uh oh, my chance was evaporating. ‘Shit shit shit shit fuck shit’ I thought to myself in a mild panic, trying to think of something else to say to her.

“Hey.. Daniel, I don’t know how you feel about taking your work home, but .. maybe I’ll be able to crack this in a more comfortable environment.. like .. say your place tonight at eight?”

It took me a moment to figure out that I hadn’t asked, she had.. I looked at her face to see if she was joking and her charming smile told me she’d probably been planning this thing from the start. I smiled back at her with a heart that felt like it was free flying far, far away from this sooted city.

“My place? Oh yeah, that’d be great, you just bring your notes and I’m sure we’ll crack it in no-time!”

She leaned over and murmured “I know we will, otherwise we’ll have to pull an all-nighter” and she stretched out the word all-nighter in a way that left no room for any other interpretation. I swear my heart almost jumped out of my chest as we both shared a hearty laugh over it. Oh yeah, I was in, I was IN!

The last hour and a half just whooshed by as I tried to keep my head in the game, but kept thinking nervously about what to wear, what to cook, what to do .. oh so many possible ways this could go!

I practically ran out the door and almost forgot my mask again. When I went back inside again, I saw Emma fitting hers, her piercingly blue gaze focused on me through the mask’s bulbous “eyes”. She laughed a metallic laugh and I stopped a bit and asked with some astonishment “voice filter?”

She twirled around a bit and faced me again and posed herself in a menacing way “Take me to your leader” her voice came out in short robotic bursts. We both laughed as I donned my regular mask which was basically a mould of my own face.

“You’re into those robot stories though aren’t you?” she asked me and at that moment, it dawned on me that she might be into me as well in a BIG way. As she flicked on the lights in her eyes which turned them into a neon green, I couldn’t help myself as I responded “Yeah, and I have to say, you make for one hell of an android with that!” the metallic giggle as a response told me that oh yes, she’d planned this too. To say that my heart was flying away on pink love clouds was an understatement at this point.

As we said our farewells, I could swear I practically flew to the store and got some of the meager leftovers still in the shelves. Rationing was tough again and people were leaving early from work to clean out the stores. Ugh, assholes. Not for the first time, I was briefly musing about it as I waited in line at the check-out. Was the ability to leave early a class difference, did it mean that the more well-off people had a better availability of groceries since they could easily beat the crowd? (Our firm was strict about leaving early, one of the drawbacks of it) I smiled at the guy at the cash register and we talked briefly before I got my stuff in my bags, put on the seals on them and headed for home.

After I’d cleared the airlock in the dreary apartment building lobby, I put my suit into the washing chute and headed into the elevator and pressed the button for my floor. The lights flickered but nothing happened. I sighed and got out of the elevator and started up the stairs. Fucking hell, the damn landlord still hadn’t fixed it from yesterday. Since the stairwell was narrow, I had to spend a lot of time just getting both of my bags into the right positions to make it to the next floor. Not for the first time, I found myself cursing the architect of this stairwell. Had they never had fucking groceries? “Oh they can take the elevator, no need to ever assume the landlord will be a fucking dick with repairs hehe!”

When I finally reached my floor, I was a bit winded and resolved to maybe start taking the stairs more often in the future. As I opened my door which hissed at me in a comforting way, I stepped inside and put the bags in the shower and let the water rinse off the build-up of stuff on them while I plucked out the masks filters and cleaned them in the sink.

I started cooking dinner and was mostly finished when there was a chime at the door that made my heart jump a bit with joy. The camera showed a smiling Emma standing outside of the door and I eagerly opened it and invited her inside. With her she had a strange looking box with the firm’s seals all over it. Whoa, big wig stuff. I felt momentarily nervous until Emma, having interpreted my face said “Don’t worry, the boss signed off on it. He knows I’m not gonna run off with anything. He trusts me you know?”

I was astonished by that, the boss was perhaps the most paranoid guy ever when it came to industrial espionage. Since we did contract work for the government sometimes from their digs, sometimes we’d get special stuff that wasn’t available to most researchers out there. But that also came with some stricter rules including security screenings and whatnot. It also meant that Emma was a lot higher up in the firm’s organizational ladder than I’d thought she was. To have that level of trust was really impressive, at least to me.

“Ah crap, I just realized something” Emma said with a lurid smile on her face before she continued “I forgot my spare suit.. I guess I’m going to have to spend the night here until cleaning comes up in the morning huh? I mean.. it’s alright with you isn’t it?” she asked.

The realization that she was going all in for this made my legs feel a bit weak, but outwardly I just grinned at her and said “Oh yeah, you’re more than welcome to spend the night.. I have a spare bedroom!” .. when her face momentarily revealed her disappointment, I felt bold as I got closer to her and held her tight and said “Don’t worry, I have a double sized bed if you’d rather share that with me…” as she leaned down to kiss me, all of my remaining doubts washed away in that instant. Oh yeah, it was good.. it was so good.

After our romantic dinner had passed, she led me into my living room and sat me down and told me that under no circumstances was I allowed to tell anyone about what she’d brought here tonight. “Listen, as far as you or anyone else knows, these runes all came off some papers we were sent OK? Nobody can know about this artifact alright?”

I nodded, suddenly feeling the seriousness of the situation as she opened the box. What she took out of the box looked disappointing as hell. Imagine a dodecahedron with an outline of orange plastic. Each facet had a recessed portion which was filled with some strange technological looking stuff similar to a circuit board. I tried to mentally veer away from my initial impression, but as I kept looking at it, I just resigned to the fact that this impressive artifact looked very much like a cheaply built children’s toy of some kind.

She handed me the artifact and as I got it closer, I could see that the orange parts were slightly metallic in nature with what seemed like absolutely microscopically small etchings into it with the same kind of runic symbols I’d seen transcribed onto the papers in the break room.

“Wow, this is .. it looks so weird. What is this anyway?” I said, carefully turning it around in my hands.

She shrugged “They didn’t tell us, but the dating on this came with it on a slip of paper and it’s fucking old.”

We sat there in silence for a bit and she moved closer to me and grasped my arm. As I put the artifact back in the box, she leaned over and kissed me and for a while, my world was just her smell, the feel of her body, the taste of her lips, the feeling of her tongue, it was pure magic.

We got up and I led her to the bedroom and as I opened the door to it, she pushed me up against the wall and murmured “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted this…” as she kissed me again with a passion that sent shivers down my spine. We barely made it to the bed before our clothes were off and I was inside her. In the faint light coming in from the outside neon, I could see her body which was every bit as magnificent as I’d imagined it would be. As she rode me I leaned up and grasped her breasts, easily cupping them in my hands as I felt her nipples stiffening against the palms of my hands. She moaned and grunted as she pushed down on me and I had to fight the urge to let go in that very second.

She leaned down over me and kissed me and smiled in a mischievous way and asked “So… you like it when I squeeze huh?” and at the word squeeze, her pussy practically cramped around my cock, I looked up at her and groaned “You’re gonna make me cum if you keep that up…”

She resumed riding agonizingly slowly and covered my neck and face with kisses and then pulled back and locked her eyes to mine, there was nothing in the universe except us at that moment. Yet my heart thumped even harder when she whispered “Do you love me?”

I kissed her and whispered “Yes, I always have, I want you in my life…” and as an answer to that, she clenched hard and started riding me in a way that made it clear that she was about to cum.

“Cum in me, cum in me.. oh I’m so close Daniel.. I love you, I love you I love you and I love you” she kept droning as I erupted inside of her, her pussy clamping down hard on my cock, milking it for all it was worth, it was a moment of delicious pleasure as we kissed and finally came to rest together. Time seemed to lose it’s meaning as we just laid there, content with the universe and each other. Then after a while, she grinned at me and got up and said “Sorry, although I love this, I’ve really got to clean up…” and she headed off for the bathroom while I got out a towel and wiped myself down as well.

After a while, I heard her voice going “Uh.. Daniel… could you .. get over here for a moment?” as the door to the bathroom opened a bit. I walked up to the bathroom and she was sitting on the toilet looking a bit embarrassed.

“Crap” she said and then added “Uh, I .. sort of forgot that it was close to that time of the month for me…….. you wouldn’t p o s s i b l y have something I could borrow until I can get down to the late night convenience store?”

I chuckled a bit and reached over to the cupboard and opened it and got out an old box of unopened tampons and handed it to her. She gave me a strange look and asked “… why do you have these?”

I grinned at her and said “Sometimes my little sister stays in my apartment while I go away on vacation, she loves it here she says. Thankfully she tends to forget some of her stuff every once in a while.”

She laughed and said “Oh there’s so much I don’t know about you Daniel… you mysterious sexy man you!” as I turned around to leave she took hold of my hand and looked up at me and said “Shower first darling?” and how could I resist such an invitation?

About half an hour later, we were both up in the kitchen, having a post coital snack when our conversation drifted onto the topic of the artifact again. We both ventured into the living room again and I took it out of the box again and studied it. Same stuff, runes, circuit shit and just that silly orange coloring. I shook it and it rattled loudly inside, Emma immediately took it out of my hands and snapped at me that it wasn’t a toy. I felt mortified since I knew it was a sensitive artifact, but as she reached for the box, a powerful hum came from it and almost in slow motion, I saw Emma drop it, clutch her head in her hands and faint.

I rushed forward and caught her in my arms, completely ignoring the artifact which crashed against the floor and rolled a bit. After a brief moment which felt like ages, she opened her eyes and blinked and looked at me with a momentary confusion “Wh.. who.. are you?” … but then she shook her head and I could see her recognition of me return to her eyes.

“.. is it OK?” she stammered out and feeling the intense terror one can only feel as one knows their career has reached a certain end due to a MASSIVE FUCK UP, I quickly lowered her onto the sofa and picked it up, thankfully it appeared to be undamaged.

“Oh hell, it’s .. it’s still good, it’s intact, it’s intact… ” I quickly said, putting it back into the box with a bit of trepidation while doing so.

She leaned over and looked at it, having recovered a bit. “That .. that was strange, I think we need to take this back to the office right away tomorrow” she ground out.

I nodded, only tangentially worried about the artifact now while turning my attention to her fully.

“How are you feeling, do you want me to call my doctor? I can have him here in 20 minutes if he’s on call tonight” I asked her, worry no doubt etched in my face.

“No no.. I feel OK” she said, waving her hand almost as trying to ward off the idea physically.

After a moment, she laughed and sat up and said “Yeah, I think we lucked out here, whatever it did just now, that’s very significant isn’t it? Maybe that’ll make the client happy that we actually made it do something you know? I’d love to have this with me for a few more weeks though.. ” as I looked into her eyes I saw a sort of longing, not for me, but for the artifact and the mystery surrounding it.

I was used to that look, I’d had it so many times myself when a deadline for a project was coming up and you wanted to translate ALL of it, but the client was happy with a partial result. Sometimes giving up a job was almost painful. Still, we ended up putting the box away for the evening, spending the rest of our time watching some shows on the screen while we cuddled like only new lovers do.

Eventually we headed for bed and after another amazing session of love making, I fell asleep, happy but completely exhausted. I was rudely awakened by a noise I didn’t recognize, as I blinked and noticed the shape next to me in bed beginning to move, there was a moment of confusion as to what any of it was. Then I remembered everything, myself and her and smiled as I leaned over to kiss her to wake her up.

As she woke up, she had the same moment of disorientation, but after she remembered, she gave me a smile that made my groin tighten in a most delicious way and kissed me back.

“Good morning… mmm.. I’m late… ” she said as she swung her shapely legs over the side of the bed and got up. The sight of her naked ass made my cock go from “Maybe morning boner?” to rock hard in seconds. I shuffled over and caressed her back and butt and gave her right butt-cheek a kiss and murmured “this is perfection…mmm…” she laughed her pearly laugh as she quickly got into her clothes and smiled at me.

“I’ve got an early morning meeting I’m late for, I really hope your services are better than mine!” she laughed as she headed out the hallway to check the delivery chute. For a brief moment I wished with all my might that my buildings suit cleaning services would be having a shit day and that they’d be late with say.. an hour or two… but this morning her suit and mine were washed, dried and folded neatly as she opened the space to take them out.

“Fucking services…” I muttered to myself and smiled as I got up “So.. not staying for breakfast huh? I knew it.. I was just a pump and dump for you wasn’t I?” I joked, she smiled and leaned over and gave me a kiss that told me everything I needed to know.

But she still added “Daniel, I’m going to be serious because I really don’t have a lot of time. I really do love you, that wasn’t just sex talk last night. I want you in my life and I’m hoping we can do this again tonight, at my place. This time I’m leaving work at home OK?”

I nodded in a way that felt dumbfounded and replied “I love you too Emma, I was serious about that too.. and yes, of course, whenever you want!” as she leaned over again and kissed me goodbye and left.

After I’d closed the door, I sat down in my couch and thought things over for a moment. Wow. Not only did I have the woman of my dreams, but .. I was now involved in a high tier project at work in a way. Cool.

I got back up and went through my morning routine and headed back to work. I saw Emma briefly during the day, but had a lot of trouble focusing on my work since I kept getting distracted thinking about what’d happened versus daydreaming about what would happen tonight. My spine tingled at the memory of her kisses and the way she’d felt when I’d held her in my arms.

I drew a deep breath and thought about dead puppies and pus.. nope, didn’t help. I thought about bananas and how horrible they tasted, still Mount Everest down there, I thought about the possibility of the object being damaged and yeah.. that did it. I calmed my nerves by telling myself that if there had been some damage done to it, they’d had my hide by now. I went out to get another cup of coffee which tasted like shit, my impatience was almost tangible as I got back to my desk and the day ended.

I waited until the last person in the office was heading out before I asked him if he’d seen Emma. He laughed and said “Oh man, you’re really sweet on her aren’t you? I saw her leaving a while ago looking stressed, guess her meeting didn’t go that well.” His face betrayed his utter joy at that fact. Asshole, I thought to myself.

I thanked the guy and headed home, impatiently waiting for her to call. As the evening started to come to a close, I realized that she probably wasn’t going to call. Shit, I’d done it again. Had it been the joke about a one night stand that did it? Was it the fact that I had my sisters tampons? Was it the sex? I felt like crap as I turned in for the night, faintly smelling her perfume on the other side of the bed, feeling my heart ache with a longing for her.

The day after, she didn’t come into the office at all and my heart was sinking so bad while my head was busy with a million different reasons why she wasn’t there. My anxiety got the best of me and I mustered up enough courage to ask the boss if he’d seen Emma around today, since I needed to talk to her about a project I was heading up. He grunted at me and told me he’d given her the day off today since she’d asked for it. I smiled at him while my heart felt like ice as I returned to my desk.

Damn, she WAS regretting it wasn’t she? If she’d taken the day off, that wasn’t good. Fuck fuck fuck fuck, NEVER shit where you eat I thought to myself. This was gonna be one of those shitty office romances that ends up bad. I envisioned Emma coming back and treating me coldly, I imagined a short conversation summed up in the words “I’m not into you, let’s keep it professional.” or some variant of that.

I went back home that night feeling hollowed out. I didn’t even think of calling her, the fear of her giving me “the talk” kept me paralyzed whenever I considered it.

Another day in a city that felt so much gray than before, another endless day in the office and another evening was now coming to an end. I sat up from the sofa and got my phone and angrily dialed her phone number, enough was enough. If she was gonna dump me, FINE, let her fucking dump me, I just wanted it over and done with. Two signals went through before there was a busy tone, feeling even more angry, I dialed her number again and got the generic “This customers phone is currently not connected due to a networking error” phrase which told me she’d yanked out the cord.

A string of curses came from my mouth as I realized she was probably ghosting me, I felt like shit as I put the phone down and resigned to the fact that it was over. I felt disdain for her since the very least she could have done was tell me she’d changed her mind. People. When the gray rain started to hammer against my windows, I felt alone and angry.

The day after I lurched into the office, feeling like crap. I was feeling anxiety of the prospect seeing Emma, I both wanted it and didn’t want it at the same time. My heart was a cauldron of conflicting emotions. As I sat down at my desk, my boss came over and asked me if I’d seen Emma around, I told him no and asked what was up. He told me that she hadn’t called in this morning or shown up for her early meetings.

The client wasn’t happy either as he told me she had an object of “significant value” that she’d checked out without his authorization. I could tell by his face that he was lying to me. Interesting, it meant that he was under enough pressure that he was gonna throw her under the bus. Good, that bitch deserved it for ghosting me. After he’d left though, I started thinking more and more about it. This didn’t sound at all like her. It’s one thing that she’d regretted getting with me, but .. taking a serious object like that and just vanishing for a few days without telling the boss, that was a really risky career move.

Something in my gut told me that there was more to this and after work was done, I headed over to her apartment right away. The windows outside her apartment were dark and stained in a way that told me she hadn’t ordered a cleaning cycles in a while. Not a good sign. As I took the elevator up to her apartment and knocked on her door, I felt like my heart was made out of ash.

When there was no reply, I grabbed onto the door handle and tried to open it and to my surprise it opened along with a weak puff of stale smelling air. I took a second to consider my options and then went inside with a strange mixture of anger and fear for what might have happened to her. What was going on here?

Her apartment was a complete mess, spent food packaging was strewn around the floor, one of her suits, unwashed had been thrown into a corner and that absolutely wasn’t good at all. You NEVER kept unwashed suits in your apartment, the particulates would get into the air at the slightest provocation and then you’d have that junk in your lungs even worse than before.

I searched through the rooms which had all had their furniture pushed up into weird arrangements along with lots of papers being strewn about the floors with strange characters on them. These scribbles however, looked like nothing I’d seen before, they seemed to belong to a completely different language compared to the runic ones I knew.

While I was going through her bedroom, I noticed on the side of her bed was a small black book labeled “JOURNAL” with stylized lettering on the front. I picked it up and realized it was her diary of sorts. As I read it, my heart swelled along with my fear for her as it had entries going back very far of her trying her best to get my attention. Her latest entries though mentioned her happiness at the project, her profound joy at going to my place for dinner and her plan of “forgetting” her suit and hoping to get lucky with me. Tears streamed down my face as I started looking back into the other rooms again for any clue as to where she might be.

During my second pass of the living room I realized that she had a projector system and turned that on, as the image flickered to life on the canvas, I saw an outline of a map of the city with an outskirts area marked with a small red circle. I copied the design to my handheld and asked the computer to pattern-match the part of map and give me a travel guide to the location. A few minutes later, it bleeped and showed me the travel route which was quite a ways outside the city.

Wasting no time, I hailed a cab and told the cabbie to go this location. He gave me a strange look and asked me why I was going outside to some old ruins at this time of night. I told him that I’d pay him extra if he’d get me there fast and not ask me any more questions.

Half an hour later, he dropped me off at what really did look like some old ruins, I asked him to wait for me and told him I hopefully wouldn’t be long. He begrudgingly told me that although he’d stay for about twenty more minutes, he had other plans with his evening eventually.

I profusely thanked him and headed down a set of stairs that seemed really ancient and crumbling. The carvings on the walls initially seemed like runic script, but as I got deeper they were gradually replaced with that other strange language that I hadn’t been able to decipher before.

After what felt like a long while, I reached a bigger chamber where the floor was covered in grass, on a central round platform I could see Emma lying there with her eyes closed. No mask, no suit.

Fearing the worst, I rushed over to her and tried to wake her up gently, as she opened her eyes, she smiled and reached up to kiss my mask, her lips getting stained by the soot, I got her up into a sitting position before asking her “Hey, hey .. what are you doing here? Why aren’t you wearing your mask or suit? You know how dangerous that is, we need to get you out of here… now!”

She however, looked very serene as she sat there for a moment. Then her hand went to my groin and started massaging my cock as she gave a smile that normally would have been erotic, but here was just creepy as hell.

“Come on honey.. let’s .. let’s do it here… mmm… I want you here.. … come.. . take me… “

And to my surprise she leaned back and tore her shirt, exposing her tits and started playing with her left breast while her other hand made it’s way to her groin where it started trying to unbutton her pants. The odd action along with the fact that she was smearing more soot over her body made me dart up and back away in fear, what the fuck was going on here?

“Emma.. please.. this isn’t you. There’s something very wrong here, you NEED to come back with me so we can get you to a hospital alright? You’re not thinking clearly.” I said with a quivering voice while my mind was racing with chaotic thoughts.

She immediately stopped playing with herself and sat up with her eyes closed.

“Pity” she mumbled to herself and then with a louder voice “PITY you don’t want to join with me, with all of us.” she continued as she opened her now solid orange eyes which positively glowed in the poorly lit room, her face now completely devoid of any emotion. “Please submit for system integration, touch touch touch any stone” she added. Her voice now a flat monotone.

I backed away while part of my brain made the odd connection that her eyes now had the same color as the strange object. It really didn’t seem like a kids toy anymore now as it floated up behind her and started spinning around her head slowly while the floors and the walls started glowing with lines of orange light pulsing from the center platform, tracing even more patterns of runes that I could understand.

Both walls had old runic visible now that read “CONTAINMENT CHAMBER 01 – ONLY AUTHORIZED PERSONS ADMITTED” and I backed away even further. The dirt and grass on the floor was now being lit from underneath as the whole place started to shake.

She closed her eyes and then I yelled and rushed forward as first her clothes evaporated into an orange mist and then the lower part of her body simply ceased to exist as it liquefied and merged with the metallic podium that was now starting to protrude from the ground. I was thrown back by an invisible force as she kept rising to the ceiling, babbling incoherently to herself with runic idioms that I could understand (Breaking through, freedom, multiply) and other words which I didn’t even recognize.

Eventually as the rest of her simply kept melting into an amorphous form that started to take on other nightmarish shapes, I just turned tail and ran for my life as tendrils started making their way towards me. I scrambled up the stairs and saw even more glowing runes and shapes on the walls, but at this point, I was so frenzied that I paid no attention to them. Her voice, now distorted still rang out behind me “”Current avatar degradation at 63% please submit for integration. System error imminent.” and that only made me run faster.

A series of loud explosions behind me erupted just as I got into the cab, I yelled at the cabbie to drive drive DRIVE FOR FUCKS SAKE! As he slammed the vehicle into gear and sped off towards the city. I got on the phone with the authorities and told them the whole story, they asked for directions and I sent them the map and after a brief interview they told me they’d look into it and hung up.

The day after, I called in sick and had a visit by a man that called himself Mister Wood. He told me that I had two options, either 1) Resign my job and shut up about every aspect of the project and to hand over any materials I had that might be related to it. or 2) Get arrested for essentially stealing government classified materials and for trespassing on government property.

I obviously chose the first option and after a brief search of my apartment by a team of agents that looked even more serious than he did, they left me alone and reminded me that they’d be keeping an eye on me. Then the door closed and I was alone with my confusion and agony as the rain hammered against my windows.

A few months passed and life started to do its thing again. I wasn’t really doing well though, the loss of Emma weighed on me, but so did the loss of my job. What was I going to do now? I had no idea and I was getting desperate for money when I noticed an ad in my daily morning feed promising a job with double my previous salary for a simple blood test. The only condition was that it was a long term research project and that I would have to submit for the whole set of screenings over a long period of time. My luck didn’t end there though, as my landlord finally called me about my toilet which he simply had a guy replace, the guy though was a total bore and didn’t really talk much. But hey, new toilet right?

The only fly in my ointment was the recurring nightmare of that final night when I could see Emma over and over rising up towards the floor with her monotone voice rambling things. What scared me was that every night, I started understanding more and more of what she was saying.

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