Emilie has accepted the encounter.
Your target is abducted in their sleep, waking up alone in a locked room. They need to either escape or draw attention to them so their allies can come and provide assistance.
Emilie keeps her eyes closed, her feet thumping along the treadmill as she listens to the loud music blaring around her. She has been running for a while, her skin glistening with sweat and her breathing heavy. She's still out of shape compared to how she used to be, but her teeth are grit with determination as she pushes herself, the distance counter on the treadmill ticking past the 3k mark.
The quiet whir of the treadmill beneath you. The soft beep of the machine every so often, as you clear another hundred meters. The pop music streaming from above, and the thunderous beat of your heart in your chest. Awareness bleeds away and your world contracts -- the space of sound is all that remains left, surrounding you, enveloping you.
Emilie feels lost in the world of her own movement. The endorphines are kicking in, and the familiar burn in her chest and thighs only inspires her to keep at it, the feeling of the sweat on her skin. The impact of feet on the treadmill below, her own body heat forming an aura around her, and all worries of this horrific town fading away step after step after step. In time, even this begins to fade, the sound becoming dominant.
Seconds drag on into minutes. The latest catchy hit by Adele ends with one last throaty warble and is not replaced by another, the speakers going silent at this early morning hour. A queer quiet settles over the room, its only interruption the machin that you on and you yourself - the pant of your breath, the thud of your feet, the pounding in your chest.
It's quiet. Too quiet?
Emilie begins to slow down as the music winds down, punching the down arrow as the beeping noise cuts into the silence, more grating and sharp than it even normally is. 'It must have been too long since I've been on one of these,' she thinks, the steady beat of the run turning into a slower one of a walk as she starts to work on cooling down. She opens her eyes, looking around the room. But her heart is thumping rapidly, and she herself is making too much noise to notice that even the hum of electricity that is so easily forgotten seems hushed.
The cause of the eerie silence occurs to you when your eyes open -- you are alone in the room. Some time during your cloistered reverie, the desultory dregs of the late night gym crowd had all filed out and left, leaving behind naught but the faint scent of their sweat, of the labor and product of their workouts. At least they had the decency to leave the lights on, harsh, fluorescent things that leave the room starkly lit.
Emilie hits the stop button on the machine, and her steps slow as the motor whirs down to its final pause, the clacking of the mechanisms ceasing as she steps off. Wiping at her face with a towel she had earlier grabbed, she plucks a few of the serviettes from the machine-cleaning station, the familiar antiseptic odor seeping into the air around her. She begins the dull task of wiping the machine down, her hands gliding along the surfaces as she glances up to the lights, and working methodically and quickly, humming a few bars from Jesus Christ Superstar to fill the silence, the bright lights glaring to her tired eyes.
Even the TVs, aligned in neat rows along the eastern wall, are off, some dark, some silently showing flickering patterns of snow and white static. The silence in the room is persistent, pugnacious -- your humming's drown out by the oppressive pall of it, muffled seemingly before it even reaches your ears. A light flickers.
Emilie's skin pricks into goosebumps, the small hairs on the back of her neck pricking up as she stops humming, disturbed by the sound of her voice. With adrenaline still pumping through her blood, she glances quickly around herself, then finishes. Tossing the towels in the garbage can, she picks up her umbrella from beside the machine. She had walked here in her workout clothes, and steps into the corridor, her steps faster than usual, some innate fear of the silence telling her something is wrong as she casts rapid glances over her shoulder. "Ugh, I'm in deep shit if a good half the town finds me here alone," she thinks out loud as she makes her way to the door, pushing outside into the rain if nothing interrupts her on her way, and opening her umbrella as she steps out into the cool night air.
The door bar yields beneath your push but the portal itself remains shut. It rattles, as you shove against.
In the far corner of the room, another light flickers. A faint and irregular buzzing reaches your ears from it as the bulb struggles to stay lit.
Emilie pushes harder at the door, swearing to herself. "Fuck! Did I get locked in?!" she asks loudly, her ears catching that electric hum and her head turning to stare at it, sneering as she realizes what it is. "Great. Just great." She gives the bar one more hard push with both hands, testing her luck.
Metal slams sharply against metal and the door buckles beneath the push -- but it buckles within parameters, and it remains shut, locked. That pervasive silence once more settles over the room as the corner light gives up the ghost and flickers off.
Emilie brings out her phone, pushing buttons on it with her thumb as she rubs at her temple, her fingers pressing her sweat-slicked hair to her scalp. Finding the number for Achatius, she presses the call button and brings the device to her ear, not knowing that the number is no longer valid, a note waiting for her in her room explaining this. "Come on..." she murmurs, her eyes closing as she starts to pace, the silence keeping her on edge. "Come on, pick up your damn phone!"
Dead. Dead. Dead. The dull hiss of static that typically pervades the ether is absent, the manufactured digital white noise replaced by that same, eerie quiet that dominates the rest of the room. Another light flickers in the room, besides the dark corner.
Faintly, on the edge of your hearing: 'A reminder to all patrons, gym hours are from six A.M. to midnight. Staff will --' A muffled, indistinctness. ' -- lock the doors until morning.'
Emilie lifts her phone, ready to throw it on the floor out of frustration before she curls her fingers around the object and just snarls out a wordless cry of frustration - "Hyeeargh!" she says, bringing her hands to her hair and gripping at the roots tightly. Then she notices the flickering. Her eyes move from it to the still-dead other light, her voice dropping to a thin whisper, not even loud enough to penetrate whatever is dampening the sound. "No. That's not normal. No, god no, please," she says, begging to someone unseen.
There's a sudden buzzing, a hiss, a crackle -- and then that light too winks out of existence, leaving that corner of the room swathed in darkness.
And then another light starts flickering.
And another light.
And another light.
Again, at the cusp of audibility: 'A reminder to all patrons, gym hours are from six A.M. to midnight. Staff will --' A muffled, indistinctness. ' -- lock the doors until --' The voice abruptly cuts off.
Emilie backs away from the lights, holding her umbrella defensively across her chest as she takes a slow step backwards toward the hallway, then another, before she suddenly turns and runs, her eyes lifting up and looking for an emergency exit sign, her legs still heavy and her body still exhausted from being pushed to the limit in her workout. Panic builds quickly, her eyes wide as saucers and her head jerking each time she looks in a new direction, not moving smoothly as normal.
The only path immediately and plainly available for Emilie to take out of the room are the doors which she'd oh-so-recently tried, their sturdy metal frames locked and sealed. The first light to flicker dims, then dies with a desultory hiss. The next goes with a pop, the third, a crackle, each failure lending more and more substance to the creeping shadow that's slowly making its way over from the far end of the room to Emilie's.
The televisions' along the eastern wall abruptly flicker to life -- those not swathed in shadow, at least. In everyone: Emilie. Her figure. Her features. Her every action in the room mirrored in their screens. And from their speakers, softly:
A reminder to all patrons, gym hours are from -- Staff will -- lock the doors --
Emilie doesn't find any exits, and instead finds herself against the far wall with nowhere to go. Her back pressed against the surface, she covers her face as the television screens flicker on, her breath beginning to come out in sobs of terror as she is trapped in this room, alone. No one to help her. Just where she didn't want to ever be. Tears begin to stream down her face as a pure, primal terror sets in, the shadow approaching her at the speed of light each time a bulb flicks off. She draws her knees up, wrapping her arms around them and pulling them to her body, staring into the oncoming void and unable to even move as it seemingly comes for her.
A reminder -- staff -- lock the doors. Lock the doors. A reminder. Staff. Lock the doors. Lock the doors. Lock the doors.
Lock. Lock. Lock.
Emilie drags herself in one last state of panic, forcing herself to move, to try to get to the doors. Her hands reaching up, grabbing the bar, pushing. PUSHING. "LET ME OUT!" she screams, rocking back and forth to try to make it happen, sobs still escaping from her throat with every breath.
The room descends into darkness, each image on each television screen winking into black as the light above it dies before the oncoming tide. Soon, there's but one light left, one queerly cheerful little fluorescent bulb, beaming its harsh glare down around Emilie -- it's the one directly above her, right by the door against which now she's shoving frantically, desperately, against.
Emilie pushes against the bar one final time after the click, hoping against hope that was the sound of the lock being undone. If not, she turns her head to look into the darkness, trying to find the source as her body trembles.
The door abruptly flies open, smacking a haggard-looking but pretty young woman wearing a Club Fitness polo right in the face. Her hand flies to her nose, the one not holding a lanyard of keys. "Ow ow ow ow --!"
Emilie scrambles out the doorway, still trembling as she collapses on the floor, not looking up to apologize to the woman but instead taking deep, sobbing breaths. She tries to regain her composure, but panic is what it is, even with another person finally being there. She in fact curls up tighter, her body wracked with the occasional shudder.
The woman's expression screws up with displeasure -- probably from being smacked hard in the nose -- as she takes a knee besides Emilie, the hand filled with keys reaching out to give the other young woman a shake of her shoulder. "Hey. Hey! Are you alright?" There's a nasally quality to her queries, and one hand remains pressed against her nose, pinching.
The room is bright, the light streaming down from above warm and welcoming. The TVs on the eastern wall show an eclectic mix of programming -- sports, late night comedy and old sitcoms -- offering entertainment for those who've not brought their own. The opening bars to the latest Selena Gomez hit (Same Old Love) have begun to play.
"I heard someone banging on the door. I don't know how it got locked -- I'm sorry. It shouldn't ever be unless we're doing cleaning and renovations."
Emilie stares slackjawed at the door, then wipes at her face, the mascara she still had on having long smeared and now coming onto her hands. "I - I'm okay." She takes a sniff, looking up to the girl, taking a few deep breaths. "I'm okay. I'm - what are the gym's hours, again?" she asking, pulling herself unsteadily to her feet.
"We're open twenty-four seven - this is Haven," the woman desultorily replies, shooting Emilie a /look/, a sullen, unhappy thing. There's a nasally snort and she gingerly removes her hand, a look of relief crossing her features when it comes unstained with naught but snot.
She's definitely a 6.0. Maybe even a 6.5. Though, at the moment, she seems very uninterested in anything to do with you.
Emilie covers her eyes, her voice low, "Right. Of course you are. That's what I thought." She takes a few more breaths, looking into the room before turning toward the woman, gently reaching her own hands toward the other, before pulling them back. "I'm sorry. I'm - I didn't mean to hit your face. I can take a look, try to keep the swelling down?" she offers softly, casting her gaze down to the floor.
The girl waves Emilie's hands away. "It's fine," she assures her with another hard, nasally snort. "It's fine." She leans a bit to the side, glancing past Emilie and into the room for a couple of seconds. Then she turns and heads off, attending to whatever her chores at this late hour might be.
Emilie seems torn, looking toward the woman, then the door, before slumping her shoulders. "Damn it," she whispers, pressing her the side of her thumb to her forehead. "Damn it," she repeats, shaking her head and making her way to leave the gym. "I'll have to try to get her number another night," she resolves, looking over her shoulder to try to catch another glimpse.
There's a mirror, on the far end of the cardio room facing the doors, in plain sight of the some of the machines and permitting self-edification or self-loathing in equal measures for those using them. It's in that mirror that a shadowed figure can be seen behind Emilie when, by chance, her glance over her shoulder takes those green eyes of hers past the entrance to the room. It's tall, and its limbs are stretched and jointed in far too many places to be human.
Emilie's eyes widen and she makes a split second decision, calling out, "Hey!" trying to hide the panic in her voice and keep her composure this time, keeping one eye on the mirror while she tries to find where the other woman went. To not be alone. Doing her best to pretend not to notice it, though her gaze keeps flicking to it, and sweat breaks out at her temple.
But of course, Emilie can't quite split her vision in such a fashion, and but of course, when her vision returns to the mirror after losing sight of it for a split second, there's nothing there behind her, whether in the mirror or in reality.
The woman, meanwhile's, heading towards the front, towards lobby and reception. There's a little flicker of green from her polo, a moment before she passes out of sight.
Emilie rubs at her face, jogging her way out to the reception area, choosing to keep her attention -away- from the mirror now. "Hey!" she calls out again as she approaches the room, trying to follow that flicker of green, the only thing that has looked like safety to her all night.
Emilie has accepted the encounter.