Annie and Kumar were gone. Don't ask me how I knew that, I just did. The lobby was empty, and there appeared no be no one else in The Lab when I returned from the interview. The
sky had changed drastically on my walk, going from pleasant blue to frightening grey. The previous zephyr that had ruffled my hair was gone, replaced by a wind with little regard for anything not
tied down. Thunder rumbled quietly in the distance, and I felt a few drops of rain before I walked through the large glass doors in my solitude.
The quiet was nice, unlike the past few times that day where i knew silence signaled grief and danger. I let it wash over me as the elevator doors opened. There was no jazz music, though this didn't bother me in the slightest. Nothing did, not the silence, the storm, nor the absence of everyone else. Afterwards, that strange sense of calm was what scared me the most.
I wasted no time in getting to Paul's office, a small bout of guilt forming in my stomach. Surely he knew I had gone to speak to the police? There was no real reason to feel guilty, I mean, I did need the experience and it wouldn't be long before-
Damn. I felt evil just standing outside the door, wondering if I should knock, or if he was even there. My mouth became dry, though I could still feel the relaxation flowing through my veins like the opposite of adrenaline. Did I really need to see Paul? It was a dumb question; of course I needed to talk to him, about the interview if nothing else. But the longer I stood there, the more logical it seemed to just turn away slowly and go quietly down to my room.
I almost did, but before I could a thought came to me. Suppose something wanted me to turn away? Something like a mysterious force... or a magic that kills?
I gritted my teeth and opened the door. The room was warm, with the golden light of the lamp disguising the blood red color of the walls. Rain tapped lightly on the window, and the thunder still had not grown to threatening booms. It was dark out, darker than it should have been.
Paul's chair faced the window, and I could just see his white hair rising above the back of the seat. The calmness was leaving me, as I instead felt like a humble servant, one who was intruding on his master's business.
"Sir?" I said timidly.
He swiveled the chair to face me. I had to refrain from gasping in shock. He had aged, if that was even possible. Instead of his shoulders being squared and his head held up with pride, he was slumped in his chair with what looked like the bare minimum of strength left in him. Wrinkles framed every inch of his pale face, and his hands were like that of a skeleton's. It was his eyes that convinced me this was the same Paul Moore I had known for the past week-and-a-half or so.
"Todd." He smiled, his voice ancient. "I take it your little talk went well?"
"Y-yes, but... are you okay?" My voice came close to cracking with concern.
"I'm alright." He laughed a little before being interrupted by a cough that came from deep within his chest. "Gah, can't even talk right."
"Maybe you should go home, sir." I was by his desk now. I stood there like a visitor at someone's death bed, wide eyed and unsure of what to do next.
"Na, I told you, I'm fine. Oh and uh... hey Todd." He blinked, his smile fading a little. "You didn't push it did you? You didn't tell too many lies?" Before I could answer, he sighed. "No, of course you didn't. What am I thinking? Oh well, can't help a man my age."
"Mr. Moore, I-"
"Dark out there, isn't it?" Paul seemed to be speaking to himself, rather than me. "Gonna be a hell of a storm. Lots of lightening. Storms can be dangerous though, powerful. It wouldn't be wise to go against it." He looked back at me, just as a loud crash of thunder shook the building. "Right, Mr. Todd Anderson?"
I gave a small nod. Whatever was left of the opposite-adrenaline was gone. What was he talking about? Did people always ramble like this before they... I couldn't even finish the thought.
"Can't control a storm like this one. Better to just roll with it, eh?" He cough-laughed some more.
"Paul, I really think we should call someone. You don't look so-"
"But you can't let it control you. Not entirely." The humor was gone in a flash. "You gotta balance it. You hear me Todd, or am I just talking to myself?"
Then it hit me. I had been so goddamn blinded by the fake sense of calm that I had missed all signs that some of the most recent thoughts I'd had weren't even mine. "I hear you." It was more of a squeak than an answer.
"Good." He leaned back, interlocking his fingers. "I think it's time for you to go home, Todd. Downstairs I mean." He smiled.
Again, I had the feeling that that was the most logical decision, what was I doing up here anyway? I was almost being driven towards the door, but I couldn't leave just yet. "Will you be here when I come back?"
Paul looked at me for a long moment. I was unaware of anything else. Hours could have passed without my knowing, and still we stared into each others blue eyes that were so alike and yet so different. He opened his mouth, but the both of us already knew the answer, and what came out was only a watered down version of the truth.
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