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Programmer, Writer, Whatever Else

Roaming the Halls

Arbor made their way into the hallway, leaving Garov in the lobby behind them. No sounds gave life around them. Only the rain kept them company as they roamed in search of someone in the building. Opening doors that lined the hall to peer inside, they found nobody. Empty offices and storage rooms were all that Arbor saw. At the end of the hall they came to a choice. They could go left or right. With no clear end to either one, they only cornered to continue into the depths of the coroner’s office.

Arbor reached out their dominant hand, brushing the corner as they followed it to the left. More rooms with only the generic furniture they’ve seen before. Each one had a dark leather chair with a brown desk, topped with two monitors for its computer. Down the hall, they came to another junction. Like the one before, Arbor searched to the left.

More and more offices, only empty rooms that they’ve seen for the past ten minutes. Ten minutes, they pondered, could it have really been that long already. Arbor pushed on, with each minute of nobody in sight their worries grew.

“Arbor,” called from a distance. They turned to find the origin. They thought it sounded like Garov. Their jackal partner must’ve found someone in the lobby. They started to return to him. Still no sign of anyone in the halls. They probably wasted so much time, time that could’ve been used in confirming the body and getting on with the day. Arbor kept their hand on the wall, following the right side as their mind wandered. They could probably give the other side a quick check. They thought it couldn’t hurt just going to the next corner. Their hand turned the corner as they turned right. No, they wanted to check ahead. Ahead wasn’t there though. Where Arbor came from, they could only go left or right.

Did they make a wrong turn, did they get turned around while in their thoughts. The building was only a small one, there was no way they could be lost for long. Lost in the halls they spent so much time in already. The pieces formed in Arbor’s head, but none of them fit. They should’ve encountered at least another window. Only doors populated the walls around the human.

The pit in their stomach grew into something they didn’t know they could feel. Again, they could hear Garov calling out to them. They ran to where it came from, more and more doors with none leading to the lobby. They had to be turned around by now, there was nothing else they could think of. Arbor pulled their knife from their pocket and flicked the blade out. Pressing it against a nearby door, they etched onto it. A simple X to know they were there. As they shoved it back into their pocket, they called out for their partner, “Garov!”

“Arbor,” they heard in reply. They started a sprint, down the hallway and around corners, their eyes darting around for a sign of Garov’s black and gold fur. Right, left, left, straight, and right their followed the tiled floor to no end. Their throat strained as they called out to him once more, only for their legs to give out from underneath.

Arbor shifted to their knees, forcing themself to catch their breath. Something gnawed at their mind, something they had to check. They looked up at the doors around them, many that looked the same. And one different, one with a unique X marked on it. They left their knees on the tile floor as they forced their breathing to steady, forcing their thoughts to slow.

Nodding, they rose back to their feet and pushed past the door. Arbor threw everything off the desk, shoving it away from the back wall. Tools clattered and the monitors shattered on the floor. With ample room, they threw the chair against the wall. It was only a dent, but Arbor knew it was progress. Thud after thud, they beat the chair against the same spot. Dust fell to their feet and covered their front.

Light peered onto Arbor through the new hole. They stuck their head through to find it in an unfamiliar room. Shelves of tools and bottles lines the walls, but Arbor went right for the door. In the new hall, they could hear voices past a door. At the far end, above the door, was a label for the morgue. None of them sounded like Garov, but they didn’t want to waste more time to go back to check for him. They paced toward the door, slamming themself through.

In the morgue, Arbor found a body on a table in the center. Surrounding it was a group of three figures, two of which stared at the human while the last stood at the corpse’s head. Arbor watched as the one that stood out, who looked like a panther, held his hands with a mystical green energy.

Arbor pulled their gun from her hip to direct it toward the unknown people. “Step away and put your hands where I can see them,” they ordered. Only the two people on the sides acknowledged them, starting to approach. Arbor took a step back, raising their firearm to point directly at the closer wolf figure. They raised their voice another time, “Stop right there and show me your hands!” The only one that seemed to listen was the woman that Arbor’s gun was not pointed at. When she showed her hands to Arbor, they had the same green glow that the panther did. It surrounded her hands, flowing and pulsing gently.

Suddenly, she threw her hand out, casting the energy toward Arbor. Dodging out of the way, they tossed themself to the floor. They lifted themself back up, catching both of the assailants in their view. The one who attacked seemed to be getting ready for another, but the wolf was stepping back. The woman would be ready to defend, that’s what Arbor would do at least, so they raised their gun to the wolf. As soon as the sight was lined up, they fired at him. The shot rang through the room, probably the whole city block. It must’ve hit, he was clenching his shoulder as a green light flowed from outside the room into him.

The woman growled at Arbor. She launched another strike of energy at them, knocking them to their back. The gun slid across the tile floor before hitting the wall. Arbor fumbled to get up. They ducked behind a gurney they found, buying themself time to fish their knife out of their pocket.

Arbor flicked the blade out and squeezed their fingers around the handle, but that didn’t help them. They felt a tight grip around their wrist, the knife held away from their body as an arm wrapped around their neck. They were pulled from the gurney and held on their feet. The furred arm of the wolf was tight around their neck, their arm held out by the green energy that seemed controlled by him. Next to their head, they could feel his hand. Getting warmer, like a stove quickly heating, it wasn’t stopping.

“Finish up with ‘em,” they heard the panther say, “Then get the halls back under control.” The energy against their head was still getting stronger, it was even faster now. Arbor shut their eyes and gulped deep. They didn’t understand what was going on, but they could assume what was going to happen to them.