hiss!Industrial Placement
by The Exile

Whoever invented 24 hour shops should have been made a saint.

I emerged from the store with an armful of shopping bags. The Chinese takeaway was still open so I popped in and bought myself and NiGHTs some king prawns and rice. The dragon on the wall was beautifully painted, a rainbow serpent in the sky. I sat and watched it, mesmerised, as I waited for my food. Afterwards I walked home via Twinkle Park and looked out over the lake for a while. Everything was calmer at night. A particularly large fish swam around in a circle. An even larger male black cat sat at the edge of the lake, attempting to catch the fish and calling out in a loud voice. I laughed and continued on my way.

The wind began to pick up. I reached to fasten my coat up properly when a strong gust of wind blew my credit card out of my pocket. Swearing in Nightopian, I chased after it, ducking through a gap in a hedge. Running across the piles of bricks and work tools, it took me a while to realise I had strayed into a restricted area- Stick Canyon, the building site that was permanently under construction. It hadn't been finished for five years, whatever it was supposed to be. Unless it was supposed to be an industrial dystopia. I mused on this as I chased after my credit card. I almost grabbed it when the wind changed direction and blew it up into the air. I had no choice but to climb the scaffolding. I wasn't scared of heights but it felt wobbly- was it really strong enough to support my weight? The cat was looking up at me, amused. My credit card blew up to the top rung before I grabbed it. Suddenly, my foot slipped and I lost my balance. I tried to grab the next rung down but it fell off and I began my descent. My last thoughts were that I didn't want to die in this shrine to Shinra before I closed my eyes and gave in to the inevitable.

I opened them again. At first I thought I was in heaven and the man who held me in his arms was an angel. He had a broad face and beautiful long silver hair. He was powerfully built and wore a black uniform.

"This place is dangerous! You should not be here!" he said in a strong German accent.

"Thank you for saving me. Are you a night-watchman?"

"My name is Johannes Wachenröder. Is this yours?" he produced my credit card. I took it off him and looked into his deep blue eyes.

"You look lonely. Can I... stay with you a while?"

Just then, the cat yowled and attacked him, leaving a scratch down his leg. He swore and kicked at it. I grabbed it and pulled it away. It hissed and glared at him, the look on its face suggesting that if he made another move it would kill him.

He shrugged. "My shift finishes soon. I will sleep, then I will come here again. We can meet, yes?"

I nodded, "I will dream of you." I promised him.

I ran home, unable to think about anything but the face of the gallant sentinel who had rescued me from certain death. The cat followed me home and slept on the doorstep.

That night, I tried my hardest to dream about Wachenröder. It didn't take much effort. As soon as I shut my eyes I found myself in Stick Canyon. It was the inspiration for Reala's level. I flew through strange mazes of scaffolding and platforms, avoiding the bizarre electrical fields and security robots Reala insisted on posting everywhere. I looked all around the level but I couldn't find Wachenröder, only a small colony of Pians who were recording industrial music for their latest album. Eventually, exhausted and running out of time, I finished the level and went to challenge Reala to a duel. I found him flying around the level as well, looking for something.

"Hi, Reala. Aren't you on level boss duty?"

"Nah, I'm too busy. Have you seen a girl anywhere?"

"Girl? Do you mean Claris?"

"No, older than that. She looks sort of scruffy. And sleep-deprived. But I've fallen in love with her. Don't tell Jackle! I met her in the waking world so Jackle doesn't know she exists!"

"That's a coincidence. I'm looking for a guy I met. He's a bishie night-watchman. Have you seen h... what's so funny?"

He just carried on laughing.

"Oh no! Don't tell NiGHTs!"

From that day on, we always have a chart in Wizeman's office to keep track on who looks like what in the waking world.