Walking by the silent corridors, Hana realized how creepy the Building could be. She moved slowly, peeking and checking every corridor before she entered. Her breath, the static sound of the lights above and the ‘zoom’ coming from the vents was everything she heard. The other sounds were probably her mind playing tricks.
Sometimes, she heard steps behind her. Doors closing behind her. Conversation behind her. It was always behind her, as if the fear that drowned her mind, laughed seeing her turning her head suddenly every other minute.
Hana didn’t like this, of course. It was like being a baby playing peek-a-boo, but your mom was never there and she would appear only at the end of the play…
…with a knife in hand ready to stab you. Hana decided to ignore the bad thoughts and sounds, but kept the knife Takeda gave her ready. She had just to focus on her mission: Reach the dorms. She couldn’t waste time stopping every time she thought she heard something.
Hana entered another corridor. By the right wall of the corridor, two doors led to the restrooms. One for each gender, naturally. It was just then that Hana noticed how much she needed a bath. The waters dried leaving her smelling like chlorine and itching her skin.
Once she and Miyu finished their mission, Hana would just let the others take care of this ‘raid’. Hana would take a bath and sleep. She wasn’t exactly tired now, but she knew that once the ‘sense of danger’ left her, the tiredness would step up to fill the place.
She ignored the restroom for now and moved to the end of the corridor. There, the path split in two corridors. Left and right. Hana peeked the right corridor, which would lead her quicker to the dorms. While she was checking the corridor, the lights went off. Curiously, that only happened to the lights on the right corridor.
Hana was surprised at first. But then thought it to be just another ‘distraction’ in her path. You’re not going to stop me, she thought as if talking to her fear. She moved into the dark corridor saying: “I’ll not be distracted anymore.”
The lights shone again, and Hana understood it as a sign that she had her first victory against her mind. Just three more corridors separated her from the dorms, as she got closer to her objective her pace quickened.
The storage corridor was a long one, going for about ¼ of a mile. Watching the end of the corridor as she approached the middle, Hana feared that someone appeared right at that moment, when it would be harder to run or even to fight.
Seven open doors distributed on the walls to her sides. Each one leading to a storage room. In these rooms, they stored whatever they needed. After all, it’s not like they can bring a useless thing from the worlds. Food, clothes, hygiene products, as well as cleaning products and other objects.
If she remembered it correctly, the memory suits were stored in the arsenal along with the guns. For a long time she asked herself why the Building allowed guns to be brought from other worlds. Now she understood why.
Clack! She heard a door close behind her. She ignored it, but quickened her steps. Clack! She passed by another door and heard it closing by her side. Clack! This time, she didn’t only hear but also saw one door closing ahead of her. Maybe, the chloride smell had gotten into her nostrils and, mixed with her lack of sleep, made her delusional.
Maybe it was the wind coming from the vents up on the walls. Maybe it was something actually dangerous. She quickened her step again, now rushing through the corridor. She reached the end of the corridor panting, but stopped.
She held her breath while observing the… ‘thing’. It was human and, at the same time, wasn’t. It was an animal and wasn’t. It was a…
… Half-human. The being was standing and looking up. He moved his long nose, sniffing something in the walls. He wore a memory suit that had perfectly cut holes so the user could pass his long and sharp nails through it without damaging the memory liquid tubes.
He had yellow skin like fish scales, but drier as if you could scrap it and get dust from it. His face was composed by large yellow eyes and a wide mouth filled with crooked teeth.
Slowly, Hana moved her feet back, but then the half-human saw her. It growled at her like an animal. Which one of them? Hana didn’t know, but it sounded angry, so she ran. She ran like she never had before, because what chased her was death. A very ugly one.
She threw her lab coat away and heard the half-human tearing the clothing behind her. She took the knife Takeda had given her and considered fighting, but her instinct told her to run. And she did that without even looking behind, fearing that if she stopped even for just a second, she would face the same destiny as her lab coat.
As the end of the corridor approached, and the ‘beast’ sound closer, one of the doors ahead swung open. As always, no one was near it. Hana wasn’t hallucinating, and that definitely wasn’t the wind. She took that as if the Building decided to help her and entered the room.
The door shuts behind her, and Hana turns just in time to watch the beast collide against it. Hana would question ‘what the hell is happening with the Building?’ if she hadn’t other things to care about at that moment.
The beast punched a hole through the door and put his eye on it. He growled seeing Hana again and began punching his way through the wood.
Hana put on a fight stance, holding her knife in front of her body. “Why don’t adjustment soldiers have guns?” The adjustment soldiers didn’t carry guns to not risk leaving one in a world where humans were still using bows. Hana knew that, but she couldn’t stop wondering how easy it would be to handle that thing with a shotgun instead of a knife.
When the beast punched a hole big enough to pass his head through it, Hana started to look around for answers. Crates and crates filled with nice looking fish and ice behind her. “The more it smells, the fresher it is.” She remembered her dad saying. Those fishes had to be the freshest in the whole Building. She could almost see the odor coming out the crates as green lines in the air.
To her left, a metal door connected the next room. The door had a valve and window. Above it was a sign that said: ‘Cold room’. Looking through the window, Hana saw the vents inside the room puffing out white clouds of cold and had an idea.
She grabbed the valve and turned it open, then pushed the thick door with ease – strength given to her by the reinforcement pills. The cold ‘breath’ of the room hit her in a shock and she grit teeth when entering the place. Inside the room, big cuts of meat still on the bones hung by sharp hooks.
Hana imagined the beast impaled in one of those hooks, but, even though the idea sound appeasing, it was a dumb one. She held the door open and hid behind it. A loud crash came as the beast entered the first room, and the following silence let Hana hear the beast sniffing around.
“What the hell is this?” The beast said, probably talking about the fish. The half-human talked through his teeth, as if he was always showing his anger and mixing words with saliva.
He can talk? Hana thought. She paid attention to every sound, or, like the humans liked to say: heard with elf ears. The ‘sniffing’ approached the door as the beast seemed to ignore the fish. The louder the noise got; The dumber Hana thought her idea to be. On the edge of her hearing, she heard what seemed an alarm sounding, but didn’t pay attention to that at the moment.
Squeezed behind the door, Hana saw a foot step inside the room. Long and sharp nails pierced the memory suit. Reacting to the cold, the beast shrank his toes and growled quietly.
C’mon, check the meat! Hana just needed the beast to move a little further into the end of the room, but, against her prayers, the beast stopped at the entrance.
Sniff. “Animal protein.” The beast said and continued.
Sniff. “Animal blood.”
Hana held her breath and her knife. A drop of cold sweat ran down on the side of her face and she feared that by the time she had to act, her body would already be frozen.
Sniff. “And this is… chloride.” A punch reached for Hana’s face and she dodged downwards. The beast claws just barely scratched Hana’s hair, and, for the first time in her life, she was thankful she was short…Unless the claws had actually cut her hair and made her bald, then she would prefer death.
She raised her knife in a vertical attack and pierced the blade in the beast’s right arm. The beast growled in pain and withdrew his arm with the knife still stuck on it. Hana took the chance and kicked the metal door against the beast that fell while taking the knife from his arm.
Hana crossed the door back to the first room in a jump. “Work with me, just one more time!” As if the Building heard her, the door swung closed and the valve spun on its own, locking the beast inside the cold room.
The creature tackled the door successive times, the metal shook but didn’t move. Hana wiped the sweat off her forehead and stood up. Through the window, she watched the beast tackling the door. “Your world has no fish, but has chloride? Really? There’s no pools in your world, what do you guys even use chloride for?”
The beast moved away from the door, and Hana saw that her bloody knife was on the ground next to the creature. Her mind flashed memories from when Takeda arrived and, just like that time, she saw that the blessing of the well had healed the wound.
Six years of study had left Hana with the feeling that she knew everything about the wells and how they worked. That feeling was now in pieces. Someone on that world Takeda came from had put a memory suit in a half-human half… whatever that was and killed him, tricking the Building into receiving the beast.
The fact that the blessing worked on non-exactly-humans also surprised Hana. Usually, the blessing lasted for fifteen minutes after the human reached the Building, but how would it work on a half-human?
“Well.” Hana approached her face to the window on the door and observed the beast passing by the meat hooks, trying to find a way out. “You’re not going to starve to death. That’s for sure. Just stay in there, I promise I’ll get you out as soon as possi-”
Hana stopped, watching the beast moving towards the vents. “Hey! Stop it! There’s absolutely nothing there, you’ll only freeze quicker.”
The beast ignored Hana and entered the vent in a jump. The manager held her head, “I’m so stupid! I should’ve known!” A metal rumbling came from the walls, interrupting Hana’s lamentations and grew louder. Watching the vent in the first room, she knew the beast was coming again – and was probably angrier this time.
She rushed out of the room, passing by the destroyed wooden door and heading back to the storage corridor. The beast exited the vent inside the room and chased the manager again, she could hear it.
I can’t defeat that thing. I’ll end up dead…
I’ll end up dead!
“HELP!” Hana screamed her lungs out. “HE’S GOING TO KILL ME. HELP!”
There was no reason anymore to keep quiet and not alert the raiders. Whatever they did with her couldn’t be worse than being on the hands of the living shredder behind her. The beast’s growls grew on her and weighted on her shoulders. The adrenaline kept Hana running, and she exited the corridor with the beast just 10ft behind her.
She turned into another corridor and, from the corner of her vision, she saw Miyu coming out of the vent to her right. The girl carried a shotgun in her hands.
The alarm I thought I heard! It was the arsenal.
Miyu threw the gun and a box of ammo to Hana. “I don’t know how to load this thing!” The girl said.
The manager got the gun, but the box hit the ground, opening and spreading shells on the floor. Hana bent down to get the shells, but the beast turned into the corridor and jumped on her.
The manager didn’t have the time to react. The beast weight fell over her and she hit the floor head first. Seconds later, she woke up and, through her blurry vision, saw the beast approaching a defenseless Miyu. Her body was still weak, recovering from the blow, but her arms moved quickly, following her instincts. She grabbed a couple of shells on the ground and loaded the gun.
Hana remembered the conversation she had with Takeda. She remembered him saying that he would become a worse person to protect something more important. She still didn’t exactly agree with him, but now understood what he meant.
She stood up and aimed at the back of the beast.
I’m sorry. She shot.
The gunshot ring in her ears as she watched the beast writhe in pain. She stepped forward, pumped the shotgun and shot again. And stepped forward and pumped the shotgun and shot. And stepped forward and pumped the shotgun and shot. Until, finally, the beast fell dead on the bloody floor. The blessing of the well had run out. The creature wasn’t going to regenerate.
Hana threw the gun to the floor and opened her arms, and Miyu ran for a hug… A tight, long and emotional one. It would take a long bath to clean the girl from all the red. This cleaning would have to wait.
Even if for just a moment, a color that was not beige painted the walls. That, somehow, filled Hana, and she felt as if grasping part of what she had forgotten in the taser accident.
Why? She asked herself. Her mind wandered, and a picture of an empty well in a dark room came to her. She saw herself walking to the well holding a bucket containing blood. This ‘other Hana’ she watched, emptied the bucket on the well.
What happens when the well is filled?
The other Hana looked at the ‘actual’ Hana and smiled. Her blue eyes glow stronger in the dark. This other Hana was different. It was a determined Hana. One who seemed to know what she had to do.
What happens when the well is filled?
“Hana! Wake up!” Takeda’s voice came as a hand that pulled her back to reality and away from the dream.