Another Day At The Job

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It was a day like any other at Housekeeping. Not a calm day, of course, but not stressful either. I had finally closed my last case, which meant I could finally relax some more. While it wasn't a thrilling investigation, it wasn’t too tiring either, which is always welcome in a world like the Backrooms. When you deal with incomprehensible mysteries in a paranormal universe, it was nice to have some normality from time to time. At last, I thought I could get some well-earned rest. But fate decided otherwise.

I suddenly got interrupted in my thoughts by a call from my superior, Jonathan Langellier, calling me in the office immediately. I wanted to postpone it, at first, as I was trying to make the most of the rest I was finally worthy of. But I knew the staff intelligence supervisor wasn't the kind of guy to take "no" for an acceptable answer. So I reluctantly went to his office, wondering what kind of nonsensical duty he was going to assign me to this time. But I didn't have to guess for long, as as soon as I arrived there, he immediately started to pitch me what was going on. He first reminded me about the latest incident, as if I could forget about it.

I remembered what he was speaking about far too well. Housekeeping truly lost a talented operative that week. The Beast was truly capable of the worst when it came down to tormenting people, recruiting them for his own unspeakable goals.
Then, at last, he pitched me what I had to do for the outpost this time. Spying on the Terror Hotel staff. I laughed, at first.

"But sir, I hope you realize nobody who meets the Beast comes back alive to tell the tale", I responded to this whole nonsense.

He quickly reassured me with his usual naive tone of someone who never ventured into the outside "No, Miss Kaya, not the Beast, obviously. As I told you, the entire staff has been acting rather suspiciously in the last few days, not by their presence, but by their lack of presence. The people from Homely Hotel told us something fishy seems to be going on right now. If we don't do anything now, this will end up like last time, and that is absolutely out of the question."

I immediately grasped the importance of the mission he aimed to give me. The information on how the Terror Hotel seeks new employees would give Housekeeping the upper edge, tilting the everlasting cold war in our favor.. But that didn't mean I was happy to work on this nonetheless. I never tell people I've seen it all, precisely because I don't want to see it all. Sometimes, you need to stay away from the most obscure and eldritch parts of the Backrooms. Not all mysteries are worth investigating. Not all cases can be resolved.

But yet again, I knew Langellier wasn't going to accept my stance here. After all, he was the kind of disconnected underseer I always had difficulties working with. So it was time to perform my duty, as always. Just another day at the job.

The red wallpaper surrounding me and the elegant portraits in the corridors were the only companions I had on this unfortunate journey. Yet, they weren’t helping me feel better about it. The coziness of the hotel was something I couldn’t bring myself to appreciate anymore. All those years ago, when I asked to be transferred from the Habitable Zone to here, I thought the old-fashioned and welcoming aspect of the Terror Hotel would be better for my health than the infinite grey walls of the first level. Unsurprisingly, I was wrong again. The hotel pressures you with everything it has. The paintings following you with their eyes, the chandeliers flickering at irregular intervals… Everything here was meticulously crafted to make you doubt, stress you, and push your mind further into paranoia. But of course, the M.E.G. doesn’t tell you that. They are all too happy to send the surplus of their employees to the most dangerous outposts, even if they don’t seem that harmful to the exterior eye.

As I continued to venture into the old-fashioned liminal corridors of the Terror Hotel, the limits I gave myself long ago started to emerge back from my memories. I knew my younger self would have started this case excitedly, with the joy of participating in something so crucial for a place she cared about. The adrenaline coming from the danger would have fueled her with delight, as she would have put her life in danger without a thought about what the hotel could do to a human mind. When you’re inexperienced, you always wish to live plenty of adventures, putting your life on the line at every step, ignoring how dangerous and mind-breaking the Backrooms really are. I wouldn’t blame this younger self, of course. It was a common error amongst younglings. And I was no different, back in the day.

In all those years investigating the mysteries of this world, I got to hear and read plenty of logs from reckless operatives, joking about the dangers they were subjecting themselves to. Ironically, all those people would have done a far better job than I on this case. Motivation is an important factor, after all. Yet I was chosen instead. Was it because of my experience? My confidence? I couldn’t say. All that I knew was that unlike them, I was fairly unhappy with the mission he gave me, knowing about the consequences of tempting forces beyond human understanding. Again, I thought about the boundaries I set myself years ago, as I did during the meeting. You do not survive the Backrooms for as long as I did by tempting the devil, taunting the all-powerful forces of those dimensions. I had a bad feeling about all of this.

Luckily for me, I still had the experience necessary to survive in such a disheartening environment, while other operatives of my age didn’t. Knowing when to stop was something important in those unfamiliar territories. As soon as I entered this homelike realm, it was obvious in my eyes. Yet it seems that it wasn’t the same story for the others. The memory of Louie Sulphur came back to my mind, almost as if it was linked to the idea of young operatives I created in my mind during all those years. A promising and talented member, but a reckless one. In my case, I have been around long enough to resist not only the liminal grasp of the warm nostalgic environment but also its bizarre phenomena. No doubt that a youngster would get terrified by the painting following all of their moves with their eyes, or by the absence of their reflection in the mirrors of the metallic elevators. But when you lived as long as I did, nothing scared you anymore. As long as you remain within the boundaries you set yourself for, that is.

As I was walking to an intersection, I was suddenly ripped out of my thoughts by a voice echoing in the distance. My first reaction was to quickly press myself onto the wall, just in case. In the Backrooms, you act first, then you think. There is no time for plans when you are exploring. The thinking is reserved for my office room.

Realizing the voice was coming far to the right of the intersection, I allowed myself to sigh in relief. This optimistic reaction was short, however, as I suddenly realized who was the source of the talking. With all the logs I analyzed during my time in the Terror Hotel, I could recognize this voice from a mile away. The Bellhopper, seemingly talking to himself. Now was the time to act, but I needed to remain as sneaky as possible. It wasn’t any staff member. It was the right-hand man of the monster who owned this place. I slowly walked towards the passage on my right, still close to the wall, then turned my head to peek at the scene. There, I saw the Bellhopper, sitting in the center of a Beverly Room, seemingly discussing with a shadowy figure next to him.

To my horror, I gasped, realizing who this person was sitting with the owl-headed bell boy. It was the Beast, in all his terrifying splendor. The clash between the wealthy and gentle look of his suit clashed with his ominous, monstrous octopus head, a detail that was disheartening in a photo, but truly horrifying in real life. My heart started to beat harder and harder in my chest. That wasn't supposed to happen, I wasn't supposed to stumble upon the big boss of hell itself. This sighting alone made me long for the coziness of my office room. There were things I didn't want to see in my life, and the Beast of Level 5 was one of these things.

The nature of their discussion slipped right through my ears, as I went into hiding past the wall once more. It wasn't the time to spy. By my sheer presence here, that close to the monster that reigned supreme in this realm, I was inviting death to fulfill its job on me. You don't survive in the Backrooms for as long as I did by pretending as you were in control of everything. There are moments when you shouldn’t let confidence or naivety get the best of you. As soon as I saw the Beast, I knew I had to flee, no matter how it would affect the case. You can't investigate anything when you're dead. And my boss will have to understand that.

I had to think fast, as I was already hearing footsteps coming closer and closer to me. I couldn't say if the duo was simply exiting the room, or if they realized I was here. I faced the corridor I had just gone through some minutes earlier, ready to run for my life. But to my horror, I realized it morphed into a wall, blocking the way back as if it never existed. They knew I was there.

My only salvation was the corridor on the left, on the opposite of the Beverly Room. The footsteps were coming faster and faster; he was calmly walking toward me, as if he wasn’t worried or even remotely bothered by the chase. I quickly ran toward the corridor, desperately trying to find anything that could allow me to flee. An Elevator, free from the omnipotent grasp of the Beast. Maybe a no-clipping point that would allow me to escape in a blink of an eye. But to my despair, I found nothing but another dead-end. Whether it was an unfortunate turn of luck or yet another product of the Beast's powers, I could not know. All I had to do now was face my slow yet certain demise. By the very action of spying on the most powerful being of the Terror Hotel, I had sealed my fate. I now felt like a rabbit that was being hunted, blocked, and forced to watch its demise. I wondered for a moment if Langellier knew the risks he was exposing me to, or if it was his incompetence that doomed me. But that didn't matter. The footsteps of the monster were getting closer and closer every second. I took a deep breath and turned around, ready to face my fate with the dignity of a veteran.

As I thought, the Beast wasn't rushing to me. He knew he already won, so why waste his stamina here? However, it was his facial expression that unsettled me. He didn't look relieved, or even satisfied. He won an easy battle, yet he was only showing a frown, an expression of someone who wasn't truly happy with the outcome. But I didn’t care about the emotions of my deathbringer. I tried my best to remain calm, or at least to give him the illusion I was.

As he arrived near me, he started to glance over my body. He stopped, with only two meters separating us now, and mumbled something I couldn’t hear, as only the vague sound of the word "unworthy" penetrated my mind. Then thirty seconds of deep, painful silence went by. I looked him in the eyes, as if I could challenge him. His irises penetrated my sight, and I was overcome by his confidence. He was the man that seen it all. Whatever my experience was, it couldn't save me, and he knew it. We both knew it.

Kaya Watson! Pleasure to be meeting you, quite a pleasure! he started with his usual welcoming yet unnerving voice.

I tried to hold my surprise. How did he know my name? Frankly, I shouldn’t be that flabbergasted. He was the true master of the level, after all.

"The pleasure isn’t shared, Beast." I responded in a defying tone.

I always thought that, in such an encounter, I wouldn’t act recklessly like the inexperienced agents I listened to a lot while doing my job. they were naive and childish youngsters who taunted the force instead of playing it safe. But playing safe didn't matter here. If you have to die, you might as well do it courageously. Mankind may not be in its element here, but I could show him that we weren’t afraid of him. Or at least make that a facade.

Oh, please, just call me Gentleman. Let’s not debut this conversation on such a bad start, shall we? he comfortably replied.

"What does this change? You will murder me nonetheless. Nobody who saw you lived to tell the tale."

There was no need to plead, no need to beg. My unfortunate destiny was sealed. Giving myself false hope would only make it harder. I surprised myself with my acceptance. For someone who avoided so many deadly encounters throughout their life, someone who made sure not to deal with the unthinkable to preserve themselves, I accepted my death quite easily. Maybe I knew all along that this would not last forever.

The Beast seemed to sigh.

Your lack of politeness disappoints me. Your kind is quick to judge, yet I expected better from you. he responded, without actually answering my question.

His gentle and respectful tone only made my situation worse. I didn’t know if he was taunting me or if he was genuinely disgusted by my attitude. frankly, I didn’t care at all.

Nonetheless, you present yourself here, uninvited, spying on the very staff that is working so, so hard for you people. It’s a little… bad-mannered, don’t you think? He continued.

I couldn’t bring myself to talk here. Seeing my silence, he continued.

For that, you owe me a favor. I’m sure you understand that, don’t you?

"By that you mean my death, I assume? You are so predictable." I finally managed to add, still with my defying tone masking my discomfort.

Heavens, no! he added, seemingly disappointed. Just a little favor. Let’s see… You’re a detective right?

I didn’t respond, this time trying to hide my surprise. What kind of twisted game was he playing with me? I didn’t have time for that. Death was waiting, and I wanted it to be as quick as possible. A rather ironic request, given the reputation of the Beast.

Let’s make a deal. Not something too difficult for any of us, of course. You help me with something, and I will let you live another day. What do you think? I’m not asking for a lot, and I’m sure your abilities will be of much help to my cause.

He was too cryptic for my liking. Yet, what other option did I have? While I couldn’t trust him, I could do nothing but accept. What else? If he offered me a chance, even if it was the smallest chance of being genuine, how could I refuse?

"What do you want from me? Show me," I added, trying to talk through the discomfort I was still feeling. I always hated not being in control of things, and this situation was exactly what I feared. A detective facing the most incomprehensible being of the entire Backrooms, not being able to read between the lines and unmask the true meaning of all of this. Yet another irony in this situation.

Gladly so. He turned and proceeded to open the door on his right. I gasped, as I realized this room wasn’t here before. My discomfort was growing, yet I had no choice but to follow him inside.

No amount of experience could have prepared me for what was lying beyond the door. The two of us were now in a Beverly Room. However, I quickly understood it wasn’t the same as the one I ran from just some minutes earlier. At least stress wasn’t completely hindering my perception skills.

But the focus of my attention, the source of my sudden surprise, was a corpse lying on the floor, facing the wall before our eyes. And not just any corpse: it was the dead body of the Comedian. A member of the Terror Hotel Staff, dead, lying down before my eyes.

While I couldn’t see his face, as he seemed to have collapsed forward, I was able to see his wounds. Several slashes through his suit, seemingly from a sharp object. He had blood all around him, which seemed to indicate it happened fairly recently.

Many questions flowed into my mind. Did that mean they could be killed? But who, who could do that? Rhetorical question of course, as I quickly understood only someone of his own kind could have been powerful and crazy enough to attempt murder, but to succeed in doing so as well. I turned over to face the Beast, who was harboring a rather neutral face, which was surprising, given the situation. Was he hiding his emotions just as I did earlier? I couldn’t tell, much to my despair. He could see right past my facades, yet the contrary wasn’t true. What a situation.

We found him on the floor some hours ago. He was alone, and we found nothing of help to uncover this mystery.

Once more, he stopped for a moment.

This is where you come in handy, detective. This situation displeases me, and I need you to find the culprit. My knowledge, as vast as it is, isn’t enough for me to understand what happened, I’m afraid.

The Beast fell silent, long enough for me to feel surprised by this revelation. He, the master of the Terror Hotel, couldn’t figure out the culprit. That made me wonder the actual level of control he had over his employees. I, however, didn’t get the time to think about this further, as he yet again continued:

I require your assistance here, detective, so pick your poison. Either you die now, or you solve the case I am giving you.

The questions continued to flow over my mind. If he, the all-powerful being of this realm, couldn’t find out what happened, what were the chances of me succeeding?

Only one amongst my staff could be powerful and foolish enough to perform such a disrespectful act. He added, confirming my thoughts.

You better find who did this, detective, a Gentleman’s patience is limited. He finally concluded, with a rather obvious menace.

I approached the body a little more, trying to understand what was going on. A lot occurred in the past ten minutes. I started my day trying to discover more about the Terror Hotel employees, and now I had to investigate a murder for the Beast. Not something I thought I would do in my life. Nor would I have liked to. I turned again to ask something to him, only to discover he completely vanished.

I was alone, with my thoughts, my suppositions, and the fallen corpse of one of the staff members I was told to spy on this morning.

Just another day at the job.

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