When the alarms went off and the lockdown locked down, Valerie had been in Thag’s office, trying to find a suitable instructional video about ancient curses on YouTube.
“I think we were right about this place being cursed,” she said, shouting over the klaxon.
“Yeah, I gathered,” said the perpetually exasperated Thag, turning on his phone-light. “And now the internet has gone down. Great.”
“What do we do now?”
“Me?” Thag said. “I’m HR Manager, so I’d better get to work saving peoples’ lives and trying to stop the curse. You? You’ve been very helpful, but this isn’t really your responsibility. You can just hide out here in my office, if you like.”
“Now hold on, I’m the one who sold –”
But Valerie never finished the sentence. In corner of the office, beneath some ochre drawings of mammoths was a water-cooler. Suddenly it blerped and blorped and the plastic top came off, floated away by water welling up within.
“Oh, for real?” Thag sighed. A couple of small trilobites came out of the chilled water and began feeling around. “Ok, Valerie. I guess you’re coming with me.”
Thag carefully locked his office as they exited into the darkened corridor. “Okay,” he said. “Where might we find the centre of a curse/dimensional rift/whatever the fuck?”
“If this were a movie, it would be glowing,” Valerie said. “And swirling.”
“If this was a movie I’d look like Chris Evans,” Thag said. “Not Live Schreiber’s hipster cousin.”
“I did some reading about pyramids,” Valerie said. “Not from history books. You know, from stupid websites. Really stupid websites. Based on them, I think we should go to the place closest to the centre of where the Pyramid of South Hertling used to stand.”
Thag’s heavy brows knitted. “That doesn’t sound stupid. Actually, that sounds pretty reasonable.”
“Because the centre of the Pyramid is beneath the secret chamber of the alien superPharaoh, and tilted towards the Bag End Nebulua.”
“There we go. Well, centre it is.”
Thag aimed his light at a nearby fire-escape map.
“The footprint of the Pyramid was square, but the Park is a rectangle… Extend this wall a little… Ah, here. The centre is this stairwell in the admin area – not far away.”
“Where does the stairwell go?”
“It goes up to the roof, but that’ll be locked. Or it goes down to… to the pumping room.”
They both fell silent. The only sound was the trickle of water from under Thag’s door.
“That sounds significant,” Valerie said. “Though you’ve probably figured that out already,” she added, peevishly.
“Come on, let’s go.”
“Do you have a plan for when we get there?” Thag said.
“Wing it,” Valerie said. “You have a better plan?”
“Let’s go,” Thag said. He aimed his phone light into the darkness. The darkness mostly went away – except for a stubborn, man-shaped piece of blackness that remained stubbornly unilluminated.
“What the…?” Thag said.
“NINJA!” Valerie squealed, as the darkness drew its sword.