Another dawn cursed the city with her light, scattering the creatures disrupted from their feasts. Dark hollows glittered with eyes as red as their celestial punisher. Screeches of rage echoed through the crumbling city, and I buried my head beneath my worn pillow.

If alarm companies still existed, they could bottle this noise and make a fortune.

Groaning, I forced my legs to move. Already dressed – no teddy pyjamas for me these days, no way – I stomped into worn Doc Martens that needed replacing and plucked my day knife from the nightstand. The blade was shiny and sharp, my most treasured possession. I wouldn’t even trade it for new boots.

Out in the deserted hallway I shivered between walls not yet warmed by the sun. I traipsed their pale length to the coffee room, dug out a tin of beans from the stash and ate them cold, standing up. Getting that circulation going. Then I rinsed and stacked the tin ready for planting with seeds later, grabbed some go-bars for the day, and headed upstairs.

Three years ago this was a top research facility. Swipe cards blocked the laboratories, guards glared at visitors in the lobby. But Dad and his team had let me wander freely, checking in on the animals daily and high-fiving the grad students, peeking through the viewing windows and picnicking on the roof on sunny days. The animals were gone now, the grad students too. Sometimes I still walked the roof, but only with my M4.

I checked the hair-trap on my office: untouched. Good. Sometimes I heard footsteps in the night, whispers of ghosts and rats and other creatures. Occasionally I found a severed tail or smouldering corpse, but whatever had taken up residence here left me alone. My own personal mouser. Or something.

I left it kibble when I could.

Stretching, I twisted through the ops room dance, turning on the monitors, the radios and the things-I-didn’t-know-what-they-did-but-still-worked in a routine that came second nature by now. Screens woke from their sleep. Static hummed. A beep told me that Outside had sent an email, but I decided to wait for coffee before reading it. I swiped light fingers on the instant caffeine machine, ticking off another tally on the wall. A week and I’d have to search for new supplies. Or – God forbid – try to get some real stuff. I grimaced. I didn’t have much left to trade.

As always, a workspace in the corner caught my eye. Clean of dust beneath its poly casing, the LEDs blinked their tempting rainbows. I eyed the padlock, the chains I’ve added on top.

Dad told me never to touch it. So I haven’t.

There was one time, three years ago, when I nearly did. When I stood there at the console, listening to bullets and screams and howls and fear. Staring at the button, the one labelled Reset, attached to a dial with negative hours.

It’s still there.

But so am I.

Gray concrete building with plant growth under white clouds.
from Pikrepo, unattributed

This story was a response to Reddit community Writing Prompts‘ Theme Thursday: Consequence. Hope you enjoyed it.

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