where everything ends

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It might have been more complicated, with the trash piled up everywhere, but with everything so tidy, and with the images of Jexxica's maps imprinted in her mind, it's like she can see the city for the first time. The paths that our data trace as we move through our lives.

She follows the trail on her screen. It's a quick Modosendo from Jexxica's to the Intentional Lifestyle District. Inside, through the Forgivance Courtyard, past the Genuine Nourishment halls, and then up the stairs and across the walkway to the Sycopramazole building.

There it is, between the TGreXt and the SuperZyme. TopSlash - the store that used to be a 21Endurance when the [(void)] was here - isn't for someone with Qynka's number of followers. Not that she isn't allowed, but associating with a brand that low could be construed as an insult to the brands she's supposed to be interacting with now. The tweens who work there know this, and look like they're considering saying something, but they recognize her, and they don't do sh*t except stare. She's Qynka, she's unstoppable.

She follows the map through the store and back to the changing area, the 2nd to last room on the right. She enters and shuts and locks the door behind her. It's just an empty changing room, her and a mirror and the reflection of her -BByWing- dress and Paape shoes. Ordinarily she would have thought of this as a dead end, but now she's stopped thinking of stories as having endings. Now she knows this is just where the [(void)]'s story took a turn. So if it didn't end here, where did it go?

She looks up behind her at the zonny staring down at her. Its metallic legs clinging to the ceiling, staring down at her with 3 unreadable eyes. She takes a step towards the mirror and the zonny takes a step closer to her.

So.

The mirror slides easily off the wall, once she gets her fingers around it. And it's not a wall at all, it's a doorway, leading into the walls of the building, leading somewhere dark.

Behind her, the zonny flips down and lands on top of the changing room door, flexing its wings, waiting.

Qynka steps through without hesitation. Inside the wall there's a narrow hallway that leads to a circular staircase. Using her screen to light the way, she follows the stairs down, farther down that it seems like anything should go. She barely notices how dirty and dusty and gross everything is back here. She can hear the clicking of the zonny's feet as it descends the stairs above her. At the bottom of the stairs there's a door and she gets through it and shuts it behind her before the zonny can follow.

She finds herself in a wide, sweeping hallway, brightly-lit, and gently curving in a way that feels more like an indoor road than a hallway in a building. There are people walking here and there, and occasional motorized carts whining by with no discernible branding or logos, carrying people or containers of things. She has the feeling of being deep underground and also a slightly freaked-out sense that this has been below her feet her entire life and she never even imagined it.

Qynka picks one direction and starts walking, looking for signs, anything interesting or familiar, but it's all interesting and none of it is familiar. The other people in the hallway are mostly older; she sees a few Daddys, some Grandparents, some what she guesses would be Tower employees? A few of them eye her suspiciously as they pass but no one says anything or acknowledges her directly.

There are doors every so often along the hallway, marked with symbols she doesn't understand. She sees people waving their screens in front of the readers to unlock the doors and go inside.

She keeps walking and up ahead the hallway splits and she's going to have to make a decision about which way to go, but then she notices the zonnys in her way. There are 3 on the ceiling and 2 on the floor, almost forming a barrier. The only zonnys she's seen down here. She stops and a thought comes blinking into her brain: they're waiting for me.

The zonnys start crawling towards her, so she reverses back, walking as fast as she can without looking like she's running. She's past where she entered the hallway now? Maybe? All the doors look the same and all the symbols on the doors mean nothing to her and she realizes, for the first time in her entire life, what it means to be lost. There has always been a map, always instructions for where to go and what to do. The sudden loss of her sense of place on the map of her life is dizzying. She is cut off from her entire life now, with no idea how to get back to it.

The zonnys are getting closer. She starts to run, pushing past other people and not caring how it looks or what they think. The hallway branches off and she goes to the right and finds 3 more zonnys waiting for her up ahead, already moving towards her. There are 2 men with them, dressed all in white, skin-tight outfits from head to toe, hooded and masked, walking carefully behind the zonnys.

They're cornering her. Whatever is about to happen is bad. She quickly runs down the left branch of the hallway and tries the nearest door, which opens. She enters and pulls it shut behind her and runs. She's in a smaller hallway now. It's narrow and lined on both sides with empty offices and operating rooms. Just like the ones on HEV; bright white rooms with metal tables and all kinds of wires and screens and instruments along the walls.

Qynka turns a corner and sees someone standing at the far end of the hall, hands clasped, waiting for her. It's somehow both an incredible relief and a terrible, horrifying problem.

She slows down, taking her time, trying to control her breathing. As she passes more of the operating rooms she notices that they're not empty in this hallway. There are bodies lying on the tables in each room. Bodies draped in sheets, with wires running into them. The empty human shells of the dead and dying.

Finally she can't go any farther. This is where the map was leading. This is where everything ends.

"Hi Daddy," Qynka says.

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