Chapter 14.5: Warden

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He lit the first of the flares and tossed it into the darkness, where it rolled to a stop between walls of shifting black. The white flicker of light licked at the shadows who betrayed nothing of the boundaries it hid within its depths. The darkness felt like a living thing, watching, waiting for the opportune moment to attack.

After striking a second flare to life, Seth stood over the first flare while preparing to retreat to the security booth should the shadows prove to be more than his paranoia playing tricks on him. He strained his ears, desperate to hear nothing, while preparing for the slightest sound. Nothing.

It was now or never. Standing there baiting a foe that he was sure he could sense was unwise. What would baiting it do? Prove that he was right in thinking something was lurking in the darkness. Little comfort that would be when it ravaged his body.

He focused his gaze on the red door bathed in light. He pushed the presence of the encroaching dark from his mind and stepped forward, flare out and above him as a symbol of his resolve, then took another tentative step, followed by another quicker step, until he was running toward his destination.

Each step sent shocks of panic up his legs and jolted his spirit as the door drew no closer. He'd been through this farce before. Seth feet pounded against pavement, the only other sound was the hallow inhale and exhale of his breath. He stopped, catching his breath and swallowing his frustration.

Think this through.

Seth looked back to his first flare, whose dying flicker was succumbing to the dark haze that lingered around it. Learning that he was creating distance between himself and his starting point offered little in terms of confidence. He'd have nothing but the flare in his hand in a few desperate moments, and the three unlit ones that remained in the case in his other hand.

The security station was hidden behind the thick haze that dampened the light, confirming Seth's suspicions that the darkness was more than shadows.

So far, the demons he had faced had shied away from the light. This demon, the living darkness, reacted like an animal, dashing away from the unknown element, then returning to inspect the strange new element introduced to its environment.

If I can't move toward my destination...

Seth took a step backward, then another, watching as a flick of a dark wisp turned solid and rolled the dying flare toward him. Keep moving backwards.

The shadow jerked its mass upward, like a wild animal catching the scent of its prey.

He'd seen this before during the finals. Another step backwards.

It lunged toward him, the darkness swirling around it like a soft linen being pulled from the surface.

Seth's hand searched behind him for the comfort of cold steel. Another hurried step back, followed by another. He fought the urge to turn and run, knowing that he'd never reach the exit. Finally his hands found the aged metal surface.

He gripped the door handle and pushed against the resisting frame until he had enough room to squeeze through. Once on the other side, Seth slammed his shoulder into the door, forcing it shut just as the demon collided with the exit. The force of the impact shook Seth's body.

There was no roar to exhibit frustration. No growling to announce its threat. The only sound of its existents was the scratching of claws against concrete and steel and the occasional dull thud when it beat against the door.

Then nothing.

He dared not breathe as he strained to hear the assailant beyond the door. The silence that greeted him, held no comfort.

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