Chapter 22:

20 stories, 220 doors, 467 liters of blood

The Sequence of Kai

We gave Paul a ring to confirm what we’d found. Apparently, this isn’t strictly speaking a new phenomenon. ‘Dread reapers’ as they’re aptly called, have been reported sporadically dating back to World War Two. Bookmark here

The most extensively documented case was during the siege of Leningrad, when it was theorized that a massive Dread Reaper was responsible for numerous instances of cannibalism. There are also files on other Reapers that formed in Warsaw and Berlin throughout the course of the war, though details on those are naturally scarce.Bookmark here

Even nowadays, Dread Reaper formations still occur in areas beset by war. But for one to form in the middle of London? That’s bizarre, even by our standards.Bookmark here

Aaron hangs up when Paul stops responding to him. He looks like he’s about to throw his phone off the wall. It probably isn’t the time to suggest levelling the building and calling it a day.Bookmark here

“So, what’s the plan of action?”Bookmark here

“We need to save those people in there, nothing less.”Bookmark here

“Aaron, you’ve got to calm down and think for a second.”Bookmark here

“I am thinking! There has to be a way to get those people out…”Bookmark here

He’s certainly passionate about human lives, I can respect that passion. But he lets it blind him from reality, that’s the part about him I really hate.Bookmark here

“You need to be realistic, there’s no getting out of this without some lives lost.”Bookmark here

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and minimize casualties…”Bookmark here

He bites down on his knuckle so hard that he starts drawing blood.Bookmark here

“Then come up with some damn ideas. Waste enough time thinking about how to save these people and we’ll be lucky to drag out breathing husks. They’ve been trapped for weeks, I’d be surprised if any of them are still sane.”Bookmark here

“I know that, and I told you I’m thinking.”Bookmark here

He grabs his hair with both hands and starts kneading it. It looks like he would pull lumps out of it if he was any more forceful. Using this method to keep himself calm, he thinks in silence for a number of minutes. Just as I’m about to leave him and sort this myself, he speaks up.Bookmark here

“OK, I think I have something…”Bookmark here

He seems hesitant to tell me what he’s come up with.Bookmark here

“What’s the issue?”Bookmark here

“It hinges on you.”Bookmark here

“And that’s the issue?”Bookmark here

No answer, he’s moved onto the knuckles of his other hand now. I think for once I’ll go with a softer approach.Bookmark here

“We’re meant to be partners on this mission, right? If you can’t trust me to do something as simple as carrying out a plan, why did you bother asking me to come with you.”Bookmark here

He considered this for a moment and finally, he relents. I doubt my words had any effect on this, they just pushed him to make a decision quicker than he otherwise would have.Bookmark here

“Asking you to do this wouldn’t be fair. I promised Trish I wouldn’t let you near the reaper under any circumstances.”Bookmark here

“Well, it’s a good thing you couldn’t stop me if you tried. Just tell me your plan, I’ll decide if I want to go along with it.”Bookmark here

“If you can get to the reaper and kill it… I can unhook the building.”Bookmark here

I knew his powers were extensive, but the ability to do that is on another level. Just how deep does it go?Bookmark here

“People are going to die if I go in there, that’s not something I can help.”Bookmark here

“I know. Just try and not die as much as you can.”Bookmark here

“I’ll see what I can do.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Inside the building, the air tastes like gas, and everything smells foul. The door wasn’t locked, so I just walked right in. Of course, there’d be no reason to lock it. There’s a party going on inside, the more the merrier.Bookmark here

As soon as the door closed over, everything went pitch black. I can’t see a single thing. There’s a pressure weighing on every part of my body. It feels like it could crush me at any moment if it were willing to.Bookmark here

As I take my first step forward, I feel the unmistakable crunch of bone under my boot. The floor is sticky when I lean down to touch it. Tastes like blood. I’m willing to bet all of those agents died right here, crushed as soon as the door slammed shut behind them.Bookmark here

My first order of business is to find that girl we saw earlier. She seemed to be able to move freely or at the very least, has been designated to carry out tasks for the reaper. This place has 20 floors, it’s going to be difficult to traverse that in the dark.Bookmark here

I feel my way along the wall, squelching through whatever is underneath me until I find the stairs. The stairs are different, there’s nothing solid scattered on them for me to step on, but they are very slick. A couple of times I nearly fall, only steadying myself on the handrail. Bookmark here

Because of this, my footsteps begin to echo up the stairwell. People trapped in the apartments start calling out in reaction.Bookmark here

“Is someone there?!”Bookmark here

“Hello?!”Bookmark here

“If anyone is out there, please help us!”Bookmark here

As I reach the first floor, I hear one woman’s voice call out in particular desperation. Bookmark here

“If there’s somebody there, help me! My son has stopped breathing!”Bookmark here

“I’ll help you now, hang on!” Bookmark here

I wasn’t in a rush to help any of these people, but there’s always been something about children that’s gotten to me. There’s an innocence about them, no real intent behind their actions. The death of someone so undeserving seems wrong when they stand beside those much more worthy.Bookmark here

“Please hurry!”Bookmark here

I kick in the lock of the door and go to open it. I know some basic CPR I can at least-Bookmark here

“Aghhhhh-“Bookmark here

The woman’s scream is cut off by a popping noise and then a splash of blood on my face. Even though I had only managed to open the door a sliver, the darkness had snuck in ahead of me and killed her. I don’t hear a second pop though, her son must’ve already been dead.Bookmark here

“You stupid bitch!”Bookmark here

A man in one of the other apartments berates me and soon his neighbours follow.Bookmark here

“I can’t believe you fell for that!”Bookmark here

“How come she got to die first?”Bookmark here

“Alisson never had a son! Who would have a child with her.Bookmark here

“This is unfair!”Bookmark here

“Open my door next!”Bookmark here

“No mine, please! Open mine!”Bookmark here

“Let me be the next one to die!”Bookmark here

The voices start to blend together in a chorus of pleas and slurs. Some are bargaining for an end to their lives, some are threatening me for the same thing. They’re all delirious, their minds are long gone. A lot of their voices sound dry, as if they haven’t spoken in days. In a twisted way, the sound of me coming up the stairs must’ve given them hope for an end to this.Bookmark here

“Kill me!”Bookmark here

“Open the door!”Bookmark here

The chants become overwhelming so I put my earbuds in to block them out. When I take out my phone, I can’t see the screen even though my earbuds beep to let me know they’ve connected. I press around at random until something, anything starts playing.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

The progress up the stairwell is slow. Every floor has significantly more rotten debris and liquid blocking my path. The pressure on my body has also been increasing. I must be getting closer, it can sense what I am. It can tell there’d be no point in killing me, I’m not scared of that.Bookmark here

I’m coming to the tenth floor now, halfway there if this thing is on the top floor. Bookmark here

Someone grabs me by the neck and twists it all the way around no sooner than I step one foot off the stairwell. My body tumbles down the stairs and slams into the wall on the half point between floors before I regain control of it.Bookmark here

That might’ve been that woman from earlier or someone like her, a person allowed to roam freely in this space. Whoever it is they’ve got to be dead now.Bookmark here

I reach up to my ears. Thank god, the earbuds are still there. The music starts again when I readjust them but I notice that the screaming seems to have subsided at this level.Bookmark here

There’s another hand on my neck as soon as I try to ascend to the tenth floor again. This time though, I’m equal to it and grab my assaulter by the wrist, crushing it in my grasp.Bookmark here

“Didn’t you see what happened to the last guy?”Bookmark here

I go for a gut punch with my left hand but there’s nothing there. It’s not that I missed my target, there’s just no target to hit. The hand around my neck isn’t attached to anything.Bookmark here

I rip the disembodied hand off my neck and charge into the hallway of the tenth floor. I feel dozens of hands clamp down all over my body. I reach out and grab a door handle with my right hand.Bookmark here

Both ankles, my left wrist, both hips, an arm around the waist to hold me still. One in my right ear, one grabs me by the hair, another one finds its hold inside my left eye socket. Bookmark here

The hands keep grabbing until there isn’t a piece of my body bound other than my right hand. They try to push and drag me back down the stairs, but I’m held in place by the door. It feels like my shoulder will pop before the lock does.Bookmark here

Suddenly they stop trying to push me. For a second I think they might’ve given up but then I feel my body being torn in all directions. Bookmark here

My windpipe is crushed, all four of my limbs are ripped from their sockets. My skull cracks and then rips in two before I’m thrown down the stairs again. When I regain control of my body, I’m lying in a pool of blood. I’m not entirely sure what floor I’m on anymore. Everything is still dark.Bookmark here

Except for one thing. Down the hallway from where I sit, a single door is open, and the lights are on. Bookmark here

“Hahaha!”Bookmark here

My own laughter echoes back to me in the silence. This is so suspicious it’s hilarious. Miles told us there’s no power running to this place, it’s obviously a trap.Bookmark here

But what trap can hold me? What do I have to be afraid of?Bookmark here

I haul myself off the ground and head for the doorway. I notice that my earbuds have run out of power because I can hear my footsteps. I put them back in their case as I reach the strange apartment.Bookmark here

What is inside surprises even my lack of expectations. Bookmark here

Further, into the apartment, obscured by lit incense, the woman we saw earlier is setting out placemats.Bookmark here

She notices me without even looking up.Bookmark here

“You’ve finally made it.”Bookmark here

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