You tear into the hall too fast to take the left corner cleanly. You slam into the wall, roll off, and keep running. Blood splotches, brown from age, cover every surface. A rancid odor lingers in the stagnant air and it only gets worse the farther you go.
You pass several doors on both sides, smashed and splintered and dangling from rusted hinges. Debris is strewn into the hall from every room and you have to jump over the piles. Out of the corner of your eye, you see that the rooms comprise small offices, a laundry room, and a kitchenette, all ransacked.
There are two doors at the end of the hall. To the right are the destroyed remnants of a modest bathroom. To the left is a dimly lit apartment.
You take a hard left into the apartment, slamming your shoulder against the door frame. As you race into the room, you hear stomping and a loud crash. The demon has entered the hallway.
You slam the door shut and stand behind it. You raise the hammer. The paper clip swings noiselessly from the rusty hammer head. Amongst the religious emblems, you identify the symbol of a faith you abandoned after the invasion, after you lost friends and family. As the heavy footsteps in the hallway near, you find yourself doing something you have not done since humanity retreated underground: you pray.
The floor creaks and trembles beneath the demon’s weight. As it nears the door, its footsteps slow. You wonder if it’s listening for you. The crack under the door darkens. You lift the hammer above your head. Your eyes focus on the doorknob, straining to see if it’s twisting in the dark. Your pounding heart is barely being contained inside your ribcage. Your raised arm begins to ache.
You hear a creak. The doorknob twists and the door slowly opens. Pale, elongated fingers slip through the crack. Your heart skips a beat. You reinforce your grip on the hammer, glancing up to make sure the claw is facing outward.
The slender wrist passes through the doorway. You throw your weight into the door, slamming the wood on the demon’s arm. You swing the claw at its hand but it doesn’t even break the skin. As you pull the hammer back, you drag the dangling emblem across the demon’s skin, leaving gray, flaky ash in its wake. Smoke wafts from the dead gray patch. The demon howls and tries to jerk its hand back. You put even more weight on the door, trapping the demon’s hand. This time, you aim for the gray spot and the claw pierces it easily. Black liquid sprays from the wound, coating your hand and the hammer. The demon screams and yanks out its crippled limb. You kick the door shut.
You act on instinct. You draw the protection symbol on the door with the demon’s own blood. You step back.
Everything goes silent. You count the seconds in heartbeats. They’re the longest ten seconds of your life.
The silence is broken by an abrupt shuffle of wings and fast, heavy footsteps that shake the floor, heading away from you. The light returns beneath the door.
The demon will not give up. You’re sure it’s looking for another way in.
You step away from the door and whirl around. Once upon a time, these priest’s quarters were simple and pleasant. Now it’s a disaster. You aren’t the only person who came through here looking for a relic. Tables are smashed and couches are torn apart with their stuffing ripped out. Drawers are upended and lying on the floor with their contents sifted through and scattered. The debris continues down a dark hall. You wonder if there’s another door to the outside.
You take a step toward the hall but indecision brings you to a stop. The demon is fast and it knows its way around. There’s a chance you will not have the time or enough blood to seal the apartment with wards. On the other hand, you’re certain the relic is in this apartment, though you may not find it before the demon returns.
What do you do?
A: Try to get symbols up before the demon finds its way in. Look for the relic later.
B: Don’t waste time with more symbols. Look for the relic.
Vote in the comments or on Twitter. If voting via Twitter, be sure to add #therelic so I don’t miss it! Voting ends Tuesday night. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted every Friday.
Image courtesy of seriykotik1970.
UPDATE: Voting is now closed. This Friday, you will search for the relic. Thanks to all who participated!