Death Death Death Death Death Death Life
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This one hadn't been dead for long, and yet they knew that whoever it was had lost all will to keep going days ago. The bodies in this level were always the same. Emaciated corpses with lifeless eyes that reflected the yellow wallpaper the poor soul had watched for weeks aimlessly searching for an exit. Of all the dangers of this hellhole, it seemed to them that more than half of everyone they cataloged died of starvation.

"Perhaps it was merciful that way," they mused. Gani figured that at some point the people who were trapped here must just get used to the monotony. Perhaps they eventually just stopped thinking and feeling, becoming one with the hunger and fatigue as they blindly continued their search. Gani stared at the bleak yellow walls and wondered how long it took for the instinct to escape was overtaken. They were very glad they didn't have to find that out. Thinking about the way back, they ran their fingers over the piece of paper in their pocket. Kalag's gifts were not without limits, but since they always traveled alone, this would suit their needs.

Shifting their focus back to the task at hand, Gani silently hoped they wouldn't come across anyone. Every once in a while, when they were on their way in or out, they would accidentally find someone who was still alive. These were almost worse than the corpses. Whether these people still hadn't realized what was going on, or they had lost all will to find an exit, seeing another human being always filled the wanderers with a sense of hope. What was Gani expected to tell them? Lie to them and say that everything would be okay? Or just help them accept what was about to happen? Most of the time, Gani just ran away. It was easier than facing them.

A slight phantom aftertaste of fresh olives filled their mouth as they retreated briefly into their own memories.

"Hello? You've got to help me. My mom works in this building." A young boy who looked to be around thirteen years of age took them by surprise, "I took a wrong turn on the way back from the bathroom, and, and, and…" The boy fidgeted nervously. "She, um. I think she works on the twelfth floor. Do you know where the elevator is?"

Gani couldn't say anything. How long had this kid been in here? Minutes? Hours? They just prayed he would find his way into Level One somehow. They looked down at their clipboard and tried not to imagine this kid's name on the list. "I wish I could help you, but I don't know where I am either". That wasn't quite true, but it seemed more merciful than anything else they could say.

"Maybe we can look together? I'm Tommy." As if by reflex he held his hand out to shake.

"Of course". They couldn't afford to get attached, but what else could they do? And so the two of them walked in silence. Though, it wasn't long before the kid started to talk.

"So, um, what did you say your name was?" They had been walking with the boy for hours now. He quickly ran out of things to talk about, and Gani wasn't much for conversation. After all, it had been so very long, and life on the outside had changed a lot.

Gani answered, but their mind was elsewhere. They knew this wasn't sustainable. They couldn't just follow this kid around for weeks as he slowly died. They planned to leave after he fell asleep.

When the time came, however, they simply allowed their heavy eyelids to close.

Broken from their reverie, Gani finished the report.

Name: Davis Anthony Tooker
Cause of Death: Starvation
Location: Level 0
Notes: None

They got desensitized after a while. The faces and names blurring together into unreadable splotches of ink that coated the insides of their eyelids. It was just nature. People live, and people die. They just wished there was a way that they could save them. But they were just an archivist, and so the bodies kept piling up in their mind, day after day after day.

They shook their head solemnly. It was time to go back to their office. They pulled the piece of paper out of their pocket and stuck it to the wall. After they squeezed through the crudely drawn two inch wide doorway, it burst into flames behind them. Not even a scorch mark was left, as if they had never been there at all. Looking at the skyline, they breathed a sigh of relief. Even the air was nicer here, but the mustiness of their previous journey still lingered in their lungs.

"Look! There it is!"

How had they fallen asleep?

"There's a stairway!"

This was new. Gani had never seen anything like it in this level. They had been doing this for a very long time, and not once had the level changed beyond the endless rooms of yellow wallpaper. Yet there it was, clear as day. Breaking the yellow patterns that filled their vision was a grey metal door, propped open by a large tree that had seemingly grown through the floor. Beyond it, a metal stairwell could clearly be seen, leading down to what must have been Level One.

The boy plucked a single olive off one of the branches and plopped it into his mouth. "It's sweet! I've never tasted anything so fresh before!" He handed some to Gani and beckoned for them to enter the stairwell. Gani simply shook their head. They had work to do, and the child seemed to be doing alright.

The child gave a confused look but closed the door anyway. Gani put one of the olives in their mouth. The kid was right. It was refreshing. As they chewed, the feeling in the pit of their stomach began to fade. Perhaps today wouldn't be so bad after all. They ripped off the last blank page on their clipboard and crumpled it into a ball. Tossing it on the moist carpet, they headed back.

Maybe it was time for a break, Gani thought. Their stomach grumbled. They had heard of a diner opening up Level One. Well, they heard about it a few years ago but never had a chance to visit. Today was as good a day as any, and it wasn't like the bodies were going to go anywhere while they were gone. So, they rode the elevator down to the bottom of the office building and began to walk in the direction of the exit.

A few hours later, the smell of cooked food filled their nose, causing their mouth to water. The diner was completely empty as it usually was at this hour, but Tom still had something prepared just in case. He came out from the kitchen at the sound of the door opening. Joy filled Tom's face as he saw who had come in.

"It's you!" Tom ran up and embraced Gani, tears streaming down his face. "I haven't seen you since— Well, since I got here!"

"Y-you've grown!" Was about all Gani could manage.

"And you haven't changed a bit."

Gani's eyes started to well up, but for some reason, they couldn't stop smiling.

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