August 20, 2016 by Lyn
an Inventrix Guest Story, Part the Second
Addergoole, Year 25
Hell Night Saturday
Sigruko frowned out into the dimly red-lit hallway. From the look of it, the school had lost power and was on emergency back-ups, but… She glanced back into her room. Her lights all were working as normal, so they did still have electricity. It was possible the school turned off the hall lights at night, but looking at her clock, it was definitely morning. They would’ve turned them on again by then.
As she stood in her doorway puzzling over the situation, a distant shriek echoed through the halls. Sigruko hesitated a brief moment longer before stepping back into her room and closing the door. She couldn’t stay in here all day, but something strange was obviously going on. Her father’s advice… well, he’d probably just charge in, or remind her to bring a weapon. Aunt Cya, on the other hand: she would have a plan. Several plans, even. And having a plan was always a good idea, so Sigruko sat down and thought.
When she finally stepped out of her room, it was with two concealed knives, a mental map of the halls and a confident attitude. The route she was going to try might not be the shortest, but it had the least opportunities for surprise ambushes from one of the dozens of unnecessary alcoves.
The one thing she wasn’t sure about was the stairs. She’d opted to go for the farthest from the cafeteria instead of the closest; if she was going to place a random ambush in a stairwell, she’d pick the one most people would take. Hopefully if anyone was planning ambushes, they did too.
As a last resort, if something looked like it was going to be a problem, she could backtrack and take a different hall. Assuming she managed to avoid getting lost.
The plan (if you could really call it one) seemed to be working. Sigruko managed to avoid a sort of vine-trap when another student got herself caught in it first, struggling against the plants as someone – male, from the sound of it – chuckled eerily from behind them.
It was bad taste, she decided as she slipped past, having a haunted house in September.
Then the hallway went pitch-black.
Sigruko tugged at the blindfold, frowning. “How am I supposed to hit you if I can’t see?”
Her father chuckled. “That’s the easy part; you just listen.”
“Listen?” She tracked his voice as he walked around her, holding her practice sword at the ready.
“Footsteps. Your opponent’s breathing. See? You can already tell where I am.”
She kept frowning, unconvinced. “Then what’s the hard part?”
“The hard part…” Something thwacked her lightly on top of her head. “…is not getting hit.”
Sigruko froze, quieting her breathing and keeping herself calm as she listened intently to the near-silence. The carpeting in the halls was enough to deaden all but the heaviest of footsteps so she had to rely on subtler cues. Fortunately, being indoors meant she could use the air currents (or at least try – it hadn’t worked yet). Thankful for short sleeved shirts, she stood quietly and listened.
There; she could just hear someone breathing off to the right. About five feet away, if she was guessing accurately – which meant she was still out of reach. Moving cautiously, she started down the hall through the darkness.
And stop short again, startled, at the sound of footsteps to her left. There shouldn’t be any footsteps – the carpets were too thick. But before Sigruko could even track the source of the sound, the footsteps had faded away. She waited, suspicious of the silence now, and was shortly vindicated by the faint sound of something skittering across the walls.
She was just about to write the sounds off as something to ignore when something soft brushed against the side of her neck. Biting back a yelp, she spun around and swung out in what she thought was the right direction, her arm hitting nothing but empty air.
Another skittering noise zig-zagged overhead across the ceiling as something else gently brushed her other hand. Sigruko gritted her teeth and exhaled slowly, ignoring the weird sounds, ignoring the footsteps-that-couldn’t-be-footsteps, and waited.
She almost didn’t notice the faint whispering noise to her right – but she could feel someone moving. Falling into a crouch, she slipped the knife from her boot and slashed out in what she hoped was the right direction.
Sigruko was rewarded by the sound of someone stumbling backwards – and a surprisingly familiar voice. “What– Cory?!”
“Sigruko? Sh– I, uh, mean–”
“You didn’t recognize your girlfriend?” The amused voice from further down the hall sounded a lot like Corentin’s brother, Raven.
“She’s not– I can’t see that well!”
“What,” Sigruko interrupted, “is going on.” She slipped her knife back into its sheathe and slowly stood.
“Hell Night.” Raven – if that’s who it was – still sounded amused.
“It’s the middle of the day.”
“Here, Sigruko, are you getting breakfast? I’ll walk you there, explain things?”
“You already ate,” Raven grumbled. “And you said you’d help.”
“I am.” Sigruko ignored the complaint, replying instead in the direction of Corentin’s voice. “Explaining things would be nice.”
“Okay, this way. I’ll be back later, Ray.” A hand gently took hold of her wrist and she quickly squashed the reflex to lash out; darkness and teasing aside, Corentin wasn’t a bad guy. A few meters down the hall and the darkness vanished, leaving them back in the dim red emergency lighting.
Sigruko glanced over and was a little relieved to see that it really was Corentin standing there (and currently letting go of her arm). “So what is this, some sort of magic haunted house?”
“Let’s get to the cafeteria first, okay?” Corentin smiled, but there was an edge of nervousness to it.
Sigruko frowned back at him. It was starting to seem like every time she decided there was nothing to worry about, someone had to go and look nervous. “Fine, let’s go.”