Contributed by Lucas A. Fisher
Trapped. The claw rose with a chain and weight system. To Clementine’s astonishment, the roof was only a few wooden boards full of gaping holes. When the weight clanked the claw against the pulley at the top of a dark atmosphere, she couldn’t see any opponent. Was that truly her last meal?
Then a flicker of light: a match. It revealed a metal vent and an impossible sight. Another survivor. Both Clem and the new girl were Stalker; miniscule to just above a rat’s height. The other wore a purple jacket with recognizable red shoes. Clementine clutched to the stale roll until her warden fell to her knees weakly. The claw was to obtain food, not a person. The new girl unlatched Clementine’s prison in exchange for nourishment; her vision flickered, all she could see was a smudge in the color of rags.
Clem watched as the roll vanished into crumbs at the other’s gaping jaw; the two pushed on in the vent with newfound strength. Her sudden accomplice displayed a worn fabric bearing the human queen’s insignia. Legend claims that the queen was the first to have broken natural law and utilize magic, becoming immortal and all-powerful. For curious and strange reasons though, she bore a painted mask which disguised her face, never revealing it. The queen hunted and collected items of power or mystery in fear of it being used against her, even in the Cloud.
Both girls paced through the vent to a room drowned in clothing. All children’s clothing and a familiar umbrella from the past. From shirts to shoes and even socks, the room reeked of lost memories. In their nimble and light stature, it proved little difficulty to traverse over the articles.
In the unseen and dark layer beneath the clothes, a figure detected the ruffling and shuffling of newcomers. Another meal! Clem and company heard the rumbling of the thing manipulating through to them. Both frantically rushed to the end opposite the vent. Behind them, a hill of clothes raced in chase behind. They clawed at the dresser, scaling it, seconds away from becoming another set of clothes.
With only the other girl’s match for light, they proceeded into another vent a few inches below the ceiling. Their ears heard the tumbling of a child down a metal slide behind them. It finished in the thing’s room, in the blinding dark, and there was no light for him. Clementine could hear his yelp before being dragged down, and she kept on.
Her new companion had an estranged glare in the eyes. Clementine only wanted to escape. She, on the other hand, had anger. Her objective was to take out the mistress who revels in queen status. Both paused at a spot where the vent opened straight down. In a leap, they staggered on the oaken floor from the height of their fall.
It was a slow trudge to reach the elevator, a cube of wood that had little to no walls that provided “safe” passage while escalating floors; inside were open cages. Clem had to stand on her friends shoulders to reach the elevator button, made for human height of course.
At the highest level, the doors began to open. Clementine dragged her resisting companion into a cage with herself. In hiding, the two could spot and hear heavy boots walk across the platform to the opposite entrance. At the button in the wood, he stopped to listen. Their breathing slowed. His sizeable person left. No apologies were needed as both creeped along the passage where the sentry came from. Clementine’s companion limped from the fall, through corridors at the highest floor of the Cloud.
This time however, the halls were decorated in the nicest of luxuries and most likely by an immaculate thing. The red wallpaper had a soothing pattern of flowers. Their narrow floor had no guards or any sign of life. It seemed homely. It was a facade.