Charades, Truths – Ch. 24

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Aria gathered the trailing neon threads around her and stumbled ahead, dragging her injured leg. The hallway here looked like the other hallway that had brought her to the lab—barren, sterile, white. Pale ceiling lamps illuminated her way.

Bold and Stravinsky screamed behind her. They and their Black Suits were making the hole larger, hammering away the tiles with their machine fists and guns.

Aria let out a burst of faint laughter. Finally, being smaller and shorter than average had paid off!

Once she’d tucked the threads in her jeans, she put the cube-shaped laptop on the floor and quickly redid her ponytail. Then she picked up the laptop and ran as fast as she could.

She’d have to find another way into the lab that held Vera and the mockup. Since breaking one wall had been more than manageable, it was reasonable to assume that another wall could be as easily broken. Or a ceiling. Or a floor. Maybe there was a way up or down. She thought that coming down from the ceiling or coming up from the floor would have more of a surprise effect on the Black Suits, who, no doubt, by now had been granted permission to surround Aria the way they’d surrounded Natasha Stravinsky to stop her from fleeing.

Aria couldn’t get caught. That was the big priority. If she did get caught and they did surround her, time was on Bold’s side. She could tear the thread network apart to stop him from getting anything out of it, but then he’d be justified in shooting her dead then and there.

She stumbled forward.

The hallway turned left, right, left, right, possibly around tree roots, possibly around more labs. Aria tried to remember how many lefts she’d taken after how many rights. But…

Was that a left just now, back there? Or a right? Or…

Damn it, there had to be a way these people were getting around without destroying walls all the time. And there had to be rooms. Otherwise, why make the design so complicated, especially since they were people who hadn’t bothered to make the walls thicker? Why take so many detours to get from point A to point B?

Hollers came from behind her.

Aria kept going. She brushed one side of the hallway with her fingers. She examined the ceiling and the floor.

Was there a door here somewhere? A button to be pushed? A trapdoor?

The yells behind her grew louder. The footsteps multiplied.

Then, to her horror, Aria realized that the yells and footsteps in front of her were growing louder too.

They were coming from both sides.

There had to be a door.

An exit.

A tile gave in. Aria stopped. She pushed harder.

The tile clicked. A portion of the wall suddenly revealed its true identity: it was a door that pretended to be a wall.

Abruptly, sirens wailed.

“Shit,” Aria whispered.

“There!” Stravinsky said from somewhere.

Aria slipped in through the open door. She shut it.

© 2022 Ithaka O.

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This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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