From blackness, a voice:
“Help me… Please help me… prisoner… dungeon of the castle.… name is…“
The voice drifts away into dream and haze, then returns.
“…wizard has done something…“
The voice (thin, high) fades out and in again.
“…other missing girls. Now only I—”
I startle awake in my chair, looking around. My cubicle. (A cubicle? Since when?) My tea-stained mug (who gave that to me?), my keyboard and its crumbs. My secondhand office chair, lumpy and torn. (Did the office actually give me this?) I struggle to recall what company I work for. A—bookstore, was it? No, that sounds… not quite—
Lightning and simultaneous thunder shake the office floor. A second flash, and then the lights go out. Pure dark.
I start to stand, slam my knee into some hard edge under the desk. Swear words come to mind, but all that tumbles out is a growl of random syllables. I’m clutching my knee and trying to balance on one leg, so I jerk and nearly fall over when a man’s voice addresses me.
“—I’m going downstairs for a bit. No need to worry, I’ll be back before long.”
I limp an about face and wince into a flashlight beam, raise my hand to shield my eyes. The light lowers and I see a mustached, balding man with a doting grin.
“Sorry,” he says. “I’ll be right back, just gonna see if someone’s still down in maintenance. You stay here, if the power comes back on you can keep working on the report without me. Or, y’know, go back to napping.”
He winks, fatherly, and walks away down the carpeted hall, disappears around a corner. I sit back down in the dark, massaging my knee. Who was he? Should I know him? He spoke like he knew me. Jerry, my mind says. Everyone calls him “Uncle Jerry”. It’s because of the mustache. Weird.
Wait. I can’t stay here in the dark. I pull open my desk drawers one by one, use the periodic lightning flashes to see their contents. Second try, I find a flashlight. Perfect. I get up, I stick my head over the top of my cubicle, and look around. The other workspaces are all empty. Great. Well, maybe I can find the vending machine and take all the Snickers.
Stupid! I realize when I get to them. The power’s out. Of course they don’t work!
All right, all right. I clutch my flashlight and head past the elevators toward the stairs. Damned if I’m gonna stay up here waiting for Jerry. I’ll just catch up with him downstairs, tell him I’m done for the night, gonna go home. He’ll understand. Heck, he’ll probably head out, too.
I push open the door to the stairwell, hear the noise echo down the lightless concrete shaft. Something about it makes me shiver. Whatever. It’s just the dark, the lack of electricity and people. I shine the flashlight ahead of me and pick my way down the stairs. I can hear the slow drip of water, and pointing my beam out into the empty space between flights, I glimpse something glinting as it falls. A roof leak, I bet. Continue on.
Seven flights down, I reach bottom. The floor is slick with water and my footsteps slap, splash and echo. The flashlight plays off of wet surfaces. Only one way to go—but wasn’t the corridor shorter last time I came through?
Something moans in the darkness, and I freeze, then inch forward, sweeping ahead with my light. There, in a heap against the wall: someone!
Carefully, I inch up. It’s Jerry, slumped where the floor meets the wall. He’s holding something tight to him—looks like a piece of office shelving. His other hand rests on a crowbar that’s lying on the wet floor.
“Wh-who? That voice…Link?” Jerry coughs out a laugh. “Thought I said to stay upstairs.”
“I got, I dunno, scared. Bored.”
“Ah, well…Guess you can’t…escape who you are.” He coughs again, and I notice the blood coloring his shirt. “Link…take the…the crowbar. And my shield…do what I couldn’t…rescue…her.”
Jerry’s head lolls as he goes unconscious. I check his pulse: faint but there. I don’t know anything about wounds, so I just make sure he’s comfortable and not bleeding too much.
Then I look down at the “shield” and crowbar. What the hell was Jerry talking about? Sigh. I pick up his “gifts” and stand, flashlight seeking the exit to the lobby. It’s not there. Instead, down the hall, a strange, old-looking wooden door, like you might see in a fantasy video game. I ready the crowbar and shelf-shield, and step slowly down the hall.
Comments: I feel like I posted this one already, but I can’t seem to find it in the archives. At any rate, I’ve revised it slightly, correcting a few words here and there. I still can’t find a good title, so what’s up there now is provisional. (If you have any ideas, by all means, suggest them!)
The idea originally came to me as a fun tribute roleplaying campaign, though Lord knows which system I’d have used. (Seems a number of my story ideas show up that way.) I held onto it for a long time, then was inspired by a writing prompt on Reddit to type it up as a story.