By: Jason Tandro
Rufus generally hated working late. It seemed that one of the perks as President should be freedom from the hassle of staying after 5:00 PM to catch up stuff that his subordinates should be taking care of anyways.
He sat alone in his dimly lit office when he suddenly heard a strange shuffling sound. It sounded like something being dragged across a rug. His eyes turned towards a security display on his computer.
There was nothing anywhere near his office.
Rufus dismissed it and went back to his paper work. He pulled out a rubber stamp and pressed it against the top sheet of a massive file he had finished compiling. He then set the file in his drawer and turned off his computer and printer.
"Finally," Rufus sighed.
He locked his drawers and then headed down the stairs. He took a glance out the window and saw his own reflection staring back at him. And a shadow in the corner seemed to flicker.
"I'm being silly," Rufus chuckled nervously.
The shuffling sound returned and Rufus ran down the stairs into the well-lit 69th Floor. But nobody was at the secretary's desk. There was a placard that read: Back In Five Minutes (Your Results May Vary).
Rufus rubbed his head and looked down the hallway. Every light in the hall was off. The area around the reception desk was lit by lamp light and the one nearest the hallway started to flicker.
"I'm being silly," Rufus repeated. "You've done this every day. Just get to your bedroom already."
Rufus slowly walked towards the hallway. As his foot touched the tile of the hallway, the lamp beside him burnt out with a dull pop. Rufus jumped back onto the carpet, but steeled himself and began his walk down the hallway.
He flipped a light switch and the dull red emergency lights came on. The eerie hue almost made Rufus prefer the dark. He walked down the hallway and made the same left turn he always did towards the elevator.
Standing beside the elevator was a uniformed Turk. He wore dark shades and had long black hair, but it wasn't Tseng. Rufus had never seen this man before.
"Excuse me," Rufus said. "Could you push down for me?"
The Turk said nothing, but continued staring forward. Rufus was too unnerved to reprimand this man for his failure to acknowledge an order. He walked past the Turk and pressed the down button himself.
"Was that so damn-" Rufus turned and realized that he was speaking to nobody. "Hello!"
Nobody answered. The elevator bell dinged behind him and Rufus turned to face the doors. They opened to an empty elevator. Rufus had hoped that one of his staff might be in it, just to give him somebody to talk to.
Rufus stepped in the elevator and pushed the button for 1. He decided that he would stay in a hotel tonight instead of his usual bedroom. He told himself that he wasn't afraid, he just wanted the fun of being pampered at a nice hotel for a change. But he wasn't fooling himself.
The elevator stopped at 64 and two sweaty women in workout shorts and sports bras stepped on. One had long blonde hair, the other short black hair.
"Wow," said the girl with black hair. "That was intense."
"I told you. The equipment on this floor is way better," said the blonde.
Neither of the girls seemed to notice Rufus at all. He decided to make his presence known.
"Hey ladies," Rufus said weakly.
The blonde turned to Rufus. "Oh my gosh! It's President Shinra!"
Rufus grinned. "Guilty."
"Where are you going? I thought you executives had bedrooms on the upper floors?" Asked the black haired girl.
"I'm gonna hit the town. It's only 8:30 after all," Rufus lied.
"Well we need to hit the showers. Too bad. We would have loved to go with you," The blonde smiled.
The elevator stopped on the first floor and the three parted ways. The two girls headed in the direction of Sector 8, and Rufus headed towards Sector 1 to stay the night at a hotel.
"Last night was the creepiest night I've ever had here," Rufus moaned.
His secretary was pouring him coffee and had brought him a newspaper, which he was now perusing.
"Sorry about that. I left my desk early and forgot to let you know," The secretary apologized.
"Oh don't worry, I was just being childish. This tower gets a little creepy after dark," Rufus chuckled.
Reeve walked into the office. "Sorry to drop in unannounced."
"That's fine Reeve. Can I help you?" Rufus asked.
"We have a serious problem we need to discuss. It's regarding the security tapes from last night," Reeve explained.
"I hate to say this," Rufus said. "But you look like you've seen a ghost."
Reeve, Scarlet, Hojo and Rufus sat on one side of the conference room staring at the monitor that Tseng and Heidegger brought in. Palmer was in the corner feasting on donuts.
"Well what is it?" Rufus asked.
The tapes were now at the point where Rufus was stamping the file. Rufus walked over towards the window and looked in it.
"Look here at the X-Axis Camera in the lower right," Reeve said.
The shadow that Rufus had seen move in the window had in fact moved. And as Rufus rushed down the stairs, the mass of shadows crept along the floor and then seemed to sink through the ceiling rather than follow him down the stairs.
Rufus couldn't get the shuffling sound it had made out of his head.
"And then we switch to the camera on the 69th Floor," Scarlet said taking out the tape and putting in another.
She fast-forwarded to catch up with the other tape and Rufus noticed his secretary being wooed by a young man from SOLDIER. He made a mental note to kick that particular soldiers ass.
"There it is!" Tseng said.
Scarlet stopped and the tape now reflected the moment when the lamp had mysteriously gone out. What Rufus had not seen was the shadow reach a spectral finger up to the bulb. When the light popped, Rufus glanced to the side, but could not see it in the dark.
The shadow materialized next to the elevator and was the Turk that Rufus had spoken to. Beyond that point everything else was normal.
"We've got a ghost," Reeve observed.
"You're pretty damn calm about it!" Rufus shouted.
"Ghosts are just spectral representations of past memories. If this was a Poltergeist, a mischievous and angry spirit of the deceased, then we'd have a real problem," Hojo explained.
"It did pop the bulb. Maybe this is a poltergeist," Rufus suggested. "Either way, I want it out of my office building."
"We need somebody who can perform an exorcism," Hojo shrugged.
Reeve chuckled. "I thought you men of science didn't believe in religion."
"I believe in the search for truth and these security tapes leave little room for doubt," Hojo commented. "They also scare the bejeezes out of me."
"I can perform the exorcism," Palmer said.
The group looked over at Palmer skeptically.
"No really!" Palmer insisted. "I am a clergyman at my church. I can give it a go."
Rufus shrugged. "Uh… I suppose it's fine. Better than nothing at any rate."
"I recommend we meet in your office tonight at 8:15. That's when these events began," Tseng offered.
Rufus, Reeve, Hojo, Scarlet, Tseng, Palmer and Heidegger sat in a circle in the middle of the office.
"What time is it now?" Rufus asked.
Tseng checked his watch. "8:14 PM. We should start to see something in a minute. Are you ready Palmer?"
"I believe so," Palmer nodded.
Suddenly the shuffling sound returned.
"It's here," Rufus gasped.
Palmer stood up and the others crawled and huddled behind him. He held up a strange symbol that Rufus had never seen before and began chanting in some foreign language.
"Ahula Ra Matbhura! I command you in the name of the mighty god Bob to identify yourself!" Palmer shouted.
The shadow rose up to Palmer's height but continued advancing.
"You joined a cult?!" Scarlet shouted.
"Heck no! The Church of Bob is well-respected. It has over twelve members worldwide," Palmer declared. "We're small now… but just you wait!"
"We're all gonna die…" Rufus whined. "Especially me."
The shadow stopped moving and it raised a spectral finger. It pointed to Rufus and then used its other hand to gesture towards itself.
"You want me to come with you?" Rufus asked.
The spectral head nodded.
Rufus slowly stood up and walked towards the shadow. He turned back to the others who had mixed reactions. Scarlet and Reeve were shaking their heads no. Palmer and Hojo were shaking yes. Tseng and Heidegger were hugging with their eyes closed as though they expected to die any minute.
Rufus finally stood within a foot of the shadow, but his feet could carry him no further. The shadow handed something to Rufus and then disappeared in a ray of light.
"What is it?" Hojo asked.
"It's a note," Rufus said.
"Well read the damned thing!" Palmer hissed.
Rufus skimmed through the note. "Hojo. Did you mess with an Indian burial ground?"
"Well, I needed some body parts for an experiment of mine," Hojo smiled nervously.
"Yeah, well put them back," Rufus ordered.
Hojo moaned and walked towards the stairs. Before leaving he looked at the shadow on the rug and hissed. "Tattle tale."