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Neon counted her money. She had thirty-five mewbles. It was a decent amount of money. Not enough to last until the next shift, but almost. It was forty-five mewbles earlier, but she spent ten on the hotel room she was currently in.
It was fairly standard as far as hotel rooms went. One door in and out, a walk-in closet, a bed, and a bathroom.
She put the money back in her bag and yawned. She had spent all day walking around Dewclaw and hadn't gotten even a single reaction from the compact.
Well, the thing she thought of as a compact. She wasn't quite sure what it was.
She held it up and looked at it. She knew not to try to eat it - her last and only attempt ended with a sprained jaw. She'd been lucky she didn't crack a tooth.
She put it back in the bag.
"I'm going to bed. Wake me up at seven."
After making sure all the doors and windows were locked, she went to bed.
[[Sleep came quickly.|up_1b]]
It was still dark when something woke Neon up.
"Chip, what time is it?"
No response came.
She furrowed her brow. Chip had a bad habit of ignoring her once she said good night. Something about a realistic sleep simulator for inorganic lifeforms.
"Chip. Come on."
She sighed and got out of bed.
She tiptoed over to the door of her room and listened.
She looked at the peephole, not wanting to actually look through it.
[[She did, anyway.|up_1c]]After building up her courage for a few moments, she risked a quick peek through the peephole. There was nothing there. Well, no one there, at least. Everything outside was normal, as far as she could see.
She jumped away from the door and spun around.
It was coming from her walk-in closet. Did Chip get locked in there? It knew how to open doors. Maybe it was stuck?
No, that wasn't possible. Chip was resting on the nightstand near her bed.
A voice, whisper-quiet, came from the other side of the closet door. "Neon? I know you're in there."
Neon said nothing. She didn't recognize the voice. She looked around for her suit, which contained all her self-defense weaponry. Her heart fell when she remembered where it was: hung up in the closet.
[[The voice spoke again.|up_1d]]"Your suit's out here. Do you want it? Would that make you feel better?"
"No. Who are you?" Neon asked.
"Nice one. We've been looking all over for you. Where have you been? We can't finish without you."
"Are you serious? You know what."
"I don't even know how you got in. This is going to be reflected in my review of this establishment."
Neon hesitated. She realized she did know the voice. It was maddeningly familiar, but she couldn't place it.
"The... Dewclaw Lodge."
"Dewclaw? I think that bump on the head did some damage. We're nowhere near Dewclaw."
She looked out the window. It was dark outside, but there was no doubt she was still in Dewclaw.
"Looks like Dewclaw to me."
[[Another voice came from behind the closet door.|up_1e]]"Did you find her? Neon? Is she still ok?"
This second voice was //very// familiar, though she still had no luck with placing it.
"She's in here, but I can't get the door open."
As if to prove it, the doorknob rattled, but despite not having a lock, did not turn.
Two: "How is she?"
One: "She sounds fine, but I'd need to take a look at her to be sure."
A wave of dizziness suddenly overcame Neon. Then, nausea. She stumbled toward the bed and fell on top of it. She rubbed the sides of her head and felt a sticky, slick substance.
Neon: "Wh... what?"
Two: "Get it open. She's probably dying in there."
Another rattle of the doorknob.
One: "It's not opening. The keys aren't working."
One: "What are-"
Something very heavy slammed against the closet door, but it remained shut.
Two: "Son of a bitch!"
One: "We need to go. She's coming."
Two: "We can't leave her here."
One: "We can't get to her! Let's fucking go!"
Two: "We can't do this without her! We literally can't!"
One: "We need to go! We need to go now!"
She heard someone running away from the closet.
Two: "Neon? You there?"
Her head hurt too much to respond.
Two: "If you can hear me, hang in there. We're gonna find something to get the door open and we'll back when we can."
[[Neon heard another door open, very far away.|up_1g]]Two: "Oh, shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit."
Neon heard, no, felt another presence behind the closet door. It was getting closer.
Two: "I'm sorry! We're sorry! We didn't mean for it to go like that! We just wanted to get rid of-"
An explosion from behind the closet door rocked the room, yet the closet door itself remained shut.
There was silence for a few moments.
Then, even through the darkness of the room, Neon saw a shadow appear underneath the closet door.
The doorknob turned.
[[The door opened...|up_1h]]And Neon woke up, coated in a cold sweat.
"Chip? Are you there?"
"I AM ALWAYS HERE."
"IT IS NOT YET SEVEN."
"The dream is getting longer, Chip."