Conflicting desires warred in my brain. On the one hand, my friend’s life hung in the balance. On the other hand, an innocent’s life did the same. Jason had told me point blank that he was questioning his own sanity, so why couldn’t I bring myself to do the same?
My options were limited, but I quickly came to a decision. Perhaps it was crazy, but Jason had seemed so sure someone needed help. Without further consideration, I headed my car towards North Vegas. I’d pick up directions to Lompoc High on the way there. Hopefully Jason would be okay.
A quick stop at a Union 76 landed me directions, as well as a few odd looks from the gas station attendant. Despite the three thick inches of bullet proof glass, the attendant looked nervous. I wrote it off to the battered state of my vehicle (and, come to think of it, myself) and sped off.
I reached Lompoc High School about ten minutes later and parked my car across the street. Glancing into my back seat I saw that Jason was still unconscious, his breathing labored. His face was pale and sweat trickled quietly down his brow and onto my battered upholstery. He was hanging on, but barely. “Stay here, buddy.” I said, mostly to myself. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Cursing myself as superstitious, I exited the car and jogged through the rain across the street to the school front doors. What the hell was I doing here? I didn’t know who (or what) I was supposed to be looking for. Shit, I’d probably find the doors locked and chained shut and that’d be the end of it.
I was wrong.
When I got a few feet from the doors, I noticed that one of them was cracked a few inches. I pulled my gun and kicked the door open with my foot. Hearing nothing, I advanced into the hallway, my gun at arm’s length.
Something seemed wrong. There was nothing in the appearance of the hallway that indicated it, but I knew it to be true nonetheless. There was a scent in the stillness of the darkened corridor that I couldn’t quite place — something that registered at a level deeper than reason and much more primal.
A few wet spots further down confirmed my suspicions — someone had dripped their way down this hallway recently.
The hallway was lit only by emergency lighting. I attempted to turn the normal lights on, but discovered that without a key I was shit out of luck in that regard. Fucking things must be on a timer.
Cursing my bad luck, I quickly advanced down the corridor — peering into classrooms as I passed them on the left and right. The drips ahead of me told me I wouldn’t find anything, but I had to be sure.
Before long I came to the end of the hallway. The drips led into a room to the left marked “Library”, and I followed them. Without making a sound, I opened the door and ghosted into the room, keeping my back to a row of shelves behind me. For a moment I held still and listened.
At first I was pretty sure I was alone in the room, but before long I heard a sound coming from the far end of the library, about a hundred feet away. It sounded like someone was whispering.
When I heard a muffled sob, I sprung into action.
Moving as quickly and quietly as possible, I moved past the lines of shelves towards the back of the library. The situation was a nightmare. All the shelves were perpendicular to my line of approach. It meant that anyone could be hiding in one of the aisles and I’d never know it until I was right on top of him. I tried to make the best of it, peering between books and looking for shadows, but the lighting in here was worse than it was in the hallway — a few sparse emergency lights supplemented by residual moonlight and streetlight coming in through the frosty glass windows that lined two of the four walls.
I tried to equalize my breathing, but my nervousness made it hard. I was reminded of it every time I saw a breath steam from my mouth, and it only increased my frustration.
Nevertheless, I hurried on.
Near the back there was a small circulation desk, behind which was a room marked “Non-Fiction,” which had its own peculiar arrangement of shelves — all at odd angles to each other. The whispers seemed to be coming from that room.
I couldn’t take it anymore and charged in — thumbing the Glock’s safety off in the process. A floorboard creaked under my foot and I heard a sharp intake of breath from the Non-Fiction room, followed by the pattering of quick footsteps.
Carefully now, I picked my way towards the origin of the original sound. Between letters E and F, I found my quarry.
A small, scared little girl — she couldn’t have been more than thirteen years old — sat there, her back against the wooden shelves. Her hands were bound with rope and she had a piece of duct tape over her mouth. Tears sparkled under her eyes, visible even in the dim lighting.
Jesus Christ, how had Jason known?
I looked purposely in her directions and put a finger to my lips. She looked up and me and nodded, and then flicked her head in the direction opposite the way I’d come. Her thought was as clear to me as if she’d shouted. He went that way.
Closing the distance, I grabbed her left arm and hoisted her up. She winced as I brought out my pocket knife, but stayed quiet as I cut her restraints. Then I nodded back the way I came and started moving. I heard a quiet ripping sound come from behind me as she removed the duct tape, and then her quiet footsteps following my own.
We made it out to the circulation desk without incident and then started back along the rows of perpendicular shelving. We were almost in sight of the door when it happened.
A wiry man, his features cloaked in shadows, leaped out from between two shelves and took a slash at me with the biggest damn knife I’d ever seen. Unprepared, I reached up to block it with my right hand and the knife slashed through my trench coat, cutting deep into the meat of my arm. My gun fell from my suddenly lifeless fingers and hit the ground with a thud. He went for it, and I kicked it away, driving my left fist into his floating rib with all my strength. I heard a snap, smiled, and then my world exploded in pain.
The mother fucker had a taser.
I fell to the ground in a quivering heap next to the little girl. All the fight had gone out of me, My assailant leaned in close and I could smell the stink of his breath as it washed over me.
“My, my.” He whispered. His voice had a hushed, almost awed tone to it. “It would seem the spider has caught two bugs in his web.” He had a slight speech impediment, and managed to slur his “s” sounds, ever so slightly.
He leaned in even closer and I could see light blue eyes. His stench was overpowering. “This spider’s never eaten a hero before, no he hasn’t.” He paused and delicately licked his lips. “But I’ll try anything once.”
“How does this taste, Spider?” The voice came from behind my assailant, and he turned in response, still crouched on his haunches like a crazed beast.
The first bullet took him in the leg. The next few missed entirely as he scampered away.
Goddamn it Jason, you magnificent bastard, you were supposed to stay in the car.
I think I lost consciousness at that point because the next thing I remember I was sitting in a chair near the circulation desk next to the frightened little girl. Jason was slapping my face from across the table. His face was still pale,and he still looked like hell… but there was something else there. Something that both frightened and reassured me.
“He went out the damned window. Crawled out like a fucking…” Jason coughed into his hand, and I saw blood when he pulled it away. “We gotta… we gotta get…” He trailed off…
As a note of explanation for the choices:
The first one is obvious, do you split up or stay together.
The second one dictates what Charlie is going to do. If you choose to stick together, both you and Jason will do that. If you choose to split up, Jason will do the other one.
If you choose to stick together and go after the spider, you will leave the little girl behind.
You and Jason are both in pretty bad shape, but Jason’s in much worse shape than you are. He’s been passing in and out of consciousness, so you’re not sure of his ability to stay alert much longer.