“You don’t have enough points,” the receptionist said, waiting a beat before adding, “sir.” She glared at me then glanced past me to the door. I could only guess that the beefy security guard standing sentry at the entrance was now striding silently towards me, readying to place one of his paws on my shoulder.
“How many goddamn points do I need? That guy had less points than me!” I pointed behind her desk to the closed door. It had just sealed shut behind Kwade. He had stepped into the darkness and looked back at me with a sneering sideways grin. She watched me with pursed lips, clearly out of patience as I kept my arm up, trying to make my point. Just then I felt a flash pain at the base of my neck and in an instant I was down, supporting myself like an injured football player on a hand and knee, staring at the black wingtips of the security guard.
“Alright, alright! You don’t need to do that – I’ll leave.” I stayed there on the cracked tile floor until his grip loosened and his other hand curled under my armpit, lifting me up. Still struggling to get my feet underneath me, I was propelled to the front door that slid open with a hiss as I crossed the sensor and onto the sidewalk. Another hiss as the door closed. A speaker over the door crackled at me in an authoritative female voice, “Good day, Mr. Buttons.” I had exactly three seconds to step away from the door before it dumped a torrent of icy water on me. I stepped away towards the gutter. I turned around and looked up at the monster that held my fate and the fate of so many others.
It was tall enough to break through the blanket of dark clouds, ancient stonework architecture covered in green moss, broken only by black windows that started thirty feet up. Retrofitted with modern security doors and military grade glass after the revolution, it had once been a lifeless municipal building; presently it contained the secret to all of our lives. It loomed over a dying city.
“Good day, Mr. Buttons,” the speaker repeated. I was not foolhardy enough to stay any longer. I quickly shuffled away, pulling a thin corduroy jacket tightly around me. Cool air pushed its way through the building unceasingly, pulling along a cloak of cold, soaking mist. I tucked my chin to my chest and wondered what to do next.