rating: +15+x


The doorhandle stuck.

It’s what she hated most about working in the last office to move to the new campus block – the university had long stopped bothering with routine maintenance. That, and the unbelievable lengths she had to walk in order to get around the various boarded-up corridors.

Putting her shoulder against the door, she forced it open. Stepping through, she eyed the latch, poking at it a couple of times. It didn’t seem like it stuck out far enough to offer that level of resistance. When she let the door go, it shut without protest, leaving her staring at the peeling sticker pasted above the strike plate. SMOKE STOP DOOR. PLEASE KEEP CLOSED.

She shrugged, moved the file box she was carrying to her other hip, and began to walk down the corridor.

Click-click, click-click

Her boots echoed against the floor, a noise reminiscent of detention room clocks and her mother’s high heels. Unlike her mother, she never wore heels, but these boots had a couple of inches to them – enough height to make the clicks. This was the only place she noticed it, everywhere else there was enough other noise to mask the sound. She had a brief notion that something was off about the sound, then put it down to the clicks bouncing off the concrete walls of the long corridor.

Click-click, click-click

There was no point in hurrying because taking old journals from the professor’s office to the recycling bins was better than dealing with student emails. Even with the long, roundabout route she had to follow to get there.

“Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime, that’s why I shit, on company time,” she sang the tune aloud, knowing there was nobody to overhear.
Not that she was taking a shit, or got paid in dimes – but it was hard to find a good rhyme for ‘ten euro cents’.

Click-click, click-click

She could swear this corridor got longer every time she had to go down it. Or maybe she only noticed it when the box she was carrying was full. She shifted it to the other hip, looking to the corner she had to turn down, determined not to speed up. Those emails would still be there when she got back.

The odd feeling that the sound of her boots wasn't right crept up on her again. The noise seemed a fraction out of time, not quite in synch with her steps.

Click-click, click-click

Rounding the corner, she looked for the green glow of the exit sign over the flight of steps that led down to the bins. The glow wasn’t there. Typical – the university probably hadn’t replaced the bulb since they’d started moving people out almost a year ago. She was amazed it had lasted this long, half the lights in this part of the building were either burned out or missing completely.

She let out a frustrated sigh, shifted the box again, and kept walking. There was still just enough light to see the sign that hung from the ceiling. It depicted a swirl of firehose, an arrow pointing to the stairwell, and a little stick figure fleeing from a fire.

Click-click, click-click

That noise was irritating her now, it was wrong, though she didn't understand how it could be wrong. Lost in abstraction, she didn't notice the stairwell she'd been expecting wasn't there until she'd already turned – and found herself staring at a featureless concrete wall. She reached out with her free hand, touching it, pushing at it. It was solid.

She looked farther along the corridor, seeing nothing but solid wall, and then up towards the sign. But that was wrong too – the image didn't show a swirl of firehose. It was the arrow that looped in a circle. And the little stick figure was running into the fire.

“What the fuck?” she set the box down and ran her hands up the wall, certain that this wasn’t possible.

Click-click, click-click

That sound didn’t come from her boots. It echoed out from just beyond the edge of her vision. She turned, feeling as though she was moving underwater, and saw the thing that was making the clicking sound.

It reminded her of the cancer that had eaten her mother from the inside. And although she noted, mechanically, that the thing was soft and bloated from top to bottom, it still ticked like the detention-room clock.

Click-click, click-click

That’s when she turned to run, whirling on her heel, and found there was nothing behind her. Not an impenetrable wall, not a featureless void, but nothing. There was no use trying to run because wherever she might have run was gone as though it had never been there.

“You can’t go back,” said the thing from where it stood behind yet in front of her, “No one can. Things only go one way. Onwards.” Its voice was serene and had a definite familiarity to it.

She turned around to face the thing and felt the nothingness pressing at her back.
"What are you?" she whispered – although she very much wanted to scream. "Where am I?"

"I am that which has gone," it said, still clicking, "And you are where you have always been. The present moment."

The thing spoke with a Northern lilt like her mother had. She shook her head, still feeling as though she moved in slow motion.

"So little time," it continued in that serene, lilting voice, despite the abomination having no mouth that she could see.
"And so much of it wasted."

She felt tears well up, though they did not fall – she wasn't sure if she was crying because this thing was surely about to kill her, or because what it said was true.

"Poor lamb," the lilt was now more pronounced, "You have to keep going. You cannot go back."

"Aren't you going to…" she couldn't bring herself to finish the question.

"Of course not. I consume all that you leave behind – those moments you do not value, because you assume there will always be more of them.
"Now, you really must keep walking."

She didn't need to turn to see the nothing of her devoured past, because she could feel it, pushing against her, forcing her forward. The box of journals was gone. The old university building was gone. Her mother was gone, those seemingly endless minutes wasted in detention were gone, her whole life was gone. The only thing left was this corridor, stretching on forever.

She began to walk.

Click-click, click-click

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