XXXXX

by DarkStuff

rating: +15+x

Rachael stood up, and turned on her flashlight. She found her self in a small, square room with no ceiling, holding a desk and multiple piles of blank paper. A cubicle, she thought. Wiping her eyes, she tried to remain still, and just listen.

The keyboard clacking was coming from her left. She used one leg on the desk to push herself high enough to see over the cubicle's walls. The flashlight revealed a sea of offices, extending as far as the light reached. Pointing the flashlight upwards revealed only black, an endless void of black.

Only one of the cubicles was noteworthy. About twenty entryways down, Rachael could make out a glow, like from a computer. That must have been where the clacking was coming from. Rachael slowly walked out into a walkway between them, from which she could make out the entrance to the clacking, clicking, typing glow. Feeling unsteady on her feet, she leaned onto the walls while making her way slowly, and she hoped relatively silently, towards the cubicle.

"Don't worry, I'm not mean." A measured, polite voice caught her off guard.

"How can I know that for sure?"

"You're a funny one, Dr. Davidson. You're just going to have to take my word for it."

She rounded the corner and saw the back of a malnourished man's head. The computer's screen was blank blue, and his hand's on the keyboards were absolutely skeletal. The hair on his head was missing in several places, but still retained a nice deep black color.

"Who are you? How do you know my name?"

"Shhhh," he said, dropping to a whisper. "Don't be so loud. You'll wake up the baby, and he's a fussy one." His right hand fell from the keyboard and made a rocking motion on something under the desk, too covered in darkness to see. "I am a certain LaFerrier. I believe we've met before."

"Agent LaFerrier?"

"No, no. Just LaFerrier. Vernon Auburn LaFerrier. But you can call me Vernon."

"What are you doing here?"

"I work here, you see? Day in and day out. I sit at this computer, and I work."

Rachael stayed in the doorway of the cubicle, afraid of whatever was under the desk.

"What is your work?"

"A nosy one, aren't you? But, ah, I'll tell you. It's not very often I get company." His right hand went back under the desk to rock something. "I'm the censor, you see. I'm the one that makes sure no one ever knows too much about the company. I'm everywhere, all at once, but I don't usually know it. All I know is that the screen tells me when I need to censor something. Then, I go in and do it, whether it be from speech, on paper. Anything like that. I'm in charge of the company's name, really. That, and making sure people don't notice me. I'm self sufficient, you see? Eheheh. Heh. Now you're about to ask why, aren't you?"

Rachael held her tongue.

"I can tell that you like knowing things. I'd say it would get you in trouble one day, but that day won't ever come." He turned his head to her, just slightly. "That's not a threat, by the way." He turned back to the computer. "Well, let me tell you a story. You'd pull it out of me eventually, if I just allowed you to ask questions. So instead, I'll help you. I'll cut to the chase." Vernon cleared his throat.

"Every good story starts with 'once upon a time', so I'll start this the same way. Once upon a time, a man named Victor Adams LaFerrier — or does it matter? His initials were V-A-L — died. He was an old man, and he passed away, peacefully, in his sleep. Before he knew he was dead, he saw the arms. Long, gorgeous arms. The arms of angels come to take him to heaven, he thought. He saw the waves of the ocean stuck in place, showers of seafoam stuck in the air. People frolicking about, but not moving, each with a hand on their bright, lightbulb heads. Without realizing it, he had woken up, and was screaming and crying. Crying from the beauty of the image he had seen. But the doctors didn't know that. They just thought he was any other baby."

Vernon's left hand reached for a mug that was hidden in the darkness, but peering into it, he found it empty. He placed it back.

"But, now a Vernon Auburn LaFerrier, he remembered everything from his past life. Every last detail. He believed himself to be reincarnated, for a purpose perhaps. But once he asked, no one he met ever seemed to know about the arms and frozen world. There weren't even myths about it. No religion described such an image." Vernon sighed. "He had a wife, Tamara. Vernon did. She was the only person who fully understood him. He knew what he wanted to do. He always had dreams of being a business owner.

"Tamara helped him draft plans. Plans to make a business. They knew, vaguely, the power of names. Mr. LaFerrier had the same initials through both incarnations. Don't you think that's strange, Robert Maximus Dorer?" The air was still. "Oh, right. I get you two confused, sometimes. They decided to make a company. It was their baby. They named it after its future CEO. They didn't know exactly what they were doing, but that's how all sciences start, don't they? On hunches."

Vernon took a deep breath.

"Well. Flash forward some years, and we have Howard. He was the one. The stars had aligned. We knew this was a window. It was when great coincidences happened that Vernon felt the closest to the arms. Name coincidences. That in all likelihood were never coincidences at all. We started experiments. We wanted to make a woman pregnant, and name the baby something… strategic. We needed Howard to die at the same moment the child was born. Tamara volunteered. We had no clue if it would work."

Vernon turned around in his swivel chair, and Rachael could now see that he was dead. His eye sockets had nothing in them, his lips were missing, his gums had receded, and his nose was just two nostrils. "It did. But we still don't know if that was because we did everything right, or if we truly, truly believed it would work. Maybe we were just the right amount of crazy. It gets hard to tell, when you reach my age." Vernon began a dry, spiritless laugh, and turned back towards his computer.

"We learned the truth. The earth is a dream, and the better a dreamer you are, the better you can traverse it. The next step was to remove all evidence that we had ever existed. But…" Vernon stopped typing. "Well… there's a reason I had to stay behind. I felt like it was my responsibility. To become the censor."

"Why couldn't you remove the company, if you are so powerful?"

"What did I tell you? Don't speak so harshly. You might wake the baby…"

Rachael stepped into the cubicle. "What… what is it, what is the baby?"

"Is it not obvious? It's Scott."

A long, hairy, muscular arm reached out from under the desk.

"It's Howard Scott. CEO of Scott Industrial."

Suddenly, everything fell away, and Rachael was falling through a yawning, wheezing abyss, weightless and scared. Her flashlight had been jolted out of her hand, and she saw its small pinprick of light veer off into the distance. In every direction she looked, all she saw was the darkness. As black as the ink that had covered Scott's name in her mind. She struggled to assume an upright position, but she had no idea which direction was up.

In a fit of weakness, Rachael heard herself yell.

"Help!" She was yelling. She had never needed anyone's help before.

But then she remembered Dorer's corpse, laying on the stairs, spine shattered and bleeding out.

She had needed someone's help.

She had needed his help.

But she killed him.

The wind got knocked out of her once she collided with a plain white floor. In the moments it took to regain her breath, she could only look into one corner of a room — but that was just it. She was in a room. She propped herself up on her arms, and looked around. She found no doors, but she did find a table with two chairs. One was already occupied.

"Hello, ma'am," said Howard. "Welcome to my office."



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