Advertisement
Remove

Bee was having a bad week. She might have considered it the worst week of her life. But when the screaming began, it definitely became the worst.

Bee huddled in the broom closet where she was hiding. Not sure what to do, she was frozen, too scared to move, and barely even able to breathe.

She hadn’t initially minded when her father suddenly declared that she’d be taking a position at the local mage’s association. Heck, she’d even been excited. Seeing the mages work in their element, creating fantastical workings of stone, light, and dust. Who wouldn’t have been thrilled?

Her excitement had drained from the second she got here.

She hadn’t known that a new apprentice was a glorified maid... A maid. Not a scribe, not an assistant, not even someone who worked in the same vicinity as the mages. Not for years. Not unless you had a lot of money to pay them, but her father hadn't made generous donations to the college. Honestly, he was so stingy that she was surprised he had even paid for her entrance.

No, there was no chance of skipping ahead. She was a maid and would stay a maid. For now, she would have to live with it. She would have settled for even being an errand girl over this. Then at least, she would have been able to glean something from the notes and materials she carried. That would have been an excuse to be in the more fascinating parts of the castle. As it was, she didn’t even get to clean up after the mages. She only was allowed to see their rooms and research labs when they were empty and devoid of activity.

Plus, the last time she had tried sneaking a peek into one of those rooms, it hadn't gone well. It was in use. A tall spindly mage had nearly thrown the book he was holding at her. Supposedly she was disrupting the energy flow of some ritual circle’s attunement ring or something like that. She was confident the only reason the mage hadn’t thrown the book was he didn’t want to get up and retrieve it again.

She didn’t intend to complain to her father or anything. No, she knew how much it would only disappoint him. There wasn’t anything he could or would do to help her, Bee thought bitterly. Besides, she hadn’t explored all her options for learning something from this. Maybe things would improve over time.

That was what Bee had been thinking about when this all started.

She had been about her usual duties, polishing door knobs, dusting, and generally finding dirty things as close to where the mages worked as they would tolerate. This wasn’t that hard - they were a messy lot, and they didn’t exactly have a lot of help on that front aside from herself and a few other new members. Today was special, though. Rumors were going around about a big summon today, and she wasn’t going to miss it. She let her work take her in that direction.

Knowing that there was something big going on, Bee had positioned herself strategically near the main summoning chamber. Early in the morning, they had started setting up the room. This probably had been the grand hall before the mages had moved in. It took them most of the morning to prepare. Many more experienced apprentices scurried around, assisting their masters in drawing the giant circles.

They were constantly fetching more bags of potent materials. Justin had walked past her carrying a load of alligator salt. That salt was something Bee actually knew about, as she had heard the other apprentices complain about harvesting it. Apparently, they had to collect the tears of alligators and evaporate the liquid to get the salt. Either collecting the salt or caring for the alligators the college kept was a favorite punishment of one of the more sadistic full members.

Sweat dripped down Justin’s forehead as the apprentice passed her by. Not because the load was particularly heavy but because of the value of the contents. He walked with the awkward gait of a man trying his best not to spill an overfilled cup of wine. After they all had gathered in the room, she started cleaning one of the stairways that led down right next to the entrance of the main summoning room. It was a narrow servant stairwell hidden in an alcove. The stairs were in a tight spiral, so there was little chance of anyone seeing her if they had to leave for any reason. She swept the stairs, starting from the bottom up, listening carefully the whole time.

Eventually, she heard them start chanting. This went on for some time, and she lost herself in the rhythmic worlds of a language she didn’t understand. Suddenly the voices stopped. She heard a soft bang, then excited murmurs. It sounded like the summoning was successful. Bee quickly scurried back up the stairs, a little way up, further out of sight. They could leave at any moment, and she hoped if she timed it right, she could walk past the door as it opened and get a glimpse of what they had summoned.

She heard a commotion. The sound was muffled through the thick stone walls, but they sounded excited. She braced to run down the stairs so she could move in front of the doors when they opened. She heard the doors bang open and started running down the stairs.

Bee didn’t make it one step. Her left foot was descending to the next step at the beginning of a run. That was when her brain recognized the sound; it was screaming. Something had gone wrong. Her brain told her body to freeze, but gravity had other ideas. She tried to pull her foot back to the step she was on. She was not fast enough. Momentum carried her down despite her best efforts. As she heard the mages screaming and running down the hall, she tumbled down the stairs.

As she finished her fall, sprawling out of the alcove at the base of the stairs in a heap, she could see the back of the last mage running down the hall. What had happened to make them retreat like that? She then heard all the others running out as well. Within a handful of seconds, the castle suddenly went as silent as a tomb. She got up to run too. Hopefully, they would fill her in when she joined them outside.

Bee tried to get to her feet but gasped in sudden pain. She collapsed to the floor again; her left foot was unnaturally twisted beneath her. Looking down at her ankle, it was clear that it was injured. It bent at an angle that should not be possible. She would not be running anywhere today. As the pain faded, Bee became suddenly aware of how alone she was. She prepared to call out for help. Surely someone would come back for her, surely?

That was when she heard it. There was an unearthly noise coming from the summoning room. A humming and whirring sound, unlike anything she had ever known before.

What could she say? The panic infected her as well. She wisely bit back her call for help and scrambled to the nearest safety. Looking around, the only thing near her was the cleaning closet at the base of the stairs. She dragged herself towards it, barely managing to reach the handle she crammed herself in. She knocked the mop bucket over, and dirty water spilled all over her. She froze. Not daring to make a sound. Nothing happened for a second. She propped herself up and closed the door behind her.

As she hid amongst the mops, she huddled into a ball. Holding her knees to her chest, she bit her lips, preventing any sound that might warn the thing moving the next room over. Covered in dirty mop water, she rocked back and forth, tears streaming down her face trying to keep the sobs from making any noise. If she tried, she could still hear the humming. Sometimes it got a little louder, sometimes a little quieter, but it never went away. All she could do was hope that the summon would go away.

Shivering, rocking in a freezing puddle, the little girl cried as she prayed for the demon not to find her.

 

----

I hummed to myself softly as I went about my work. It took a couple hours, but I made good progress on the mess the humans had left. This was a pretty easy room to clean, if it wasn’t for the party the humans had thrown me, it wouldn't have even been a challenge. Even with that, it wasn’t too bad. Normally, I would have to empty my dustpan several times throughout this job. However, I hadn't felt full in the slightest.

The room was square, without any odd corners that would make it hard. There were pillars on the outskirts of the room, which was something new. My humans didn’t have any pillars in their houses. After the initial novelty, they were not very interesting.

The thing that helped the most was the lack of furniture. It was like when my humans first adopted me. For training, they moved all the furniture out of the way for me. As I gained experience, they stopped doing it as much. Until one day, they deemed me capable enough to clean without assistance. It was polite of these humans to clear everything out for me, but ultimately it was unnecessary. I was fully competent at doing my job.

After I had gathered the last bits of the strange powders these humans had flung around, I stopped moving. Ah, a job well done. Now I just needed to find my bed and rest. Huh. No, it seemed that I didn’t really need to. I felt fine. My energy reserves were full. Beyond full. I felt I could go for weeks before needing to recharge. I should have been at least a little tired - even for an industrious cleaner like me, this was quite a large room to clean so thoroughly without a break.

Cool, more cleaning then. I wonder if that had anything to do with the voice shouting from the dark place before here. The thing about the dustpan seemed to be worthwhile. I thought about finding another room to clean. That would be satisfying. Though it would be a good idea to at least locate my bed so I could charge as needed.

I glanced at the door to my right, left open by the humans from earlier. Perhaps the bed was in an area further away.

Some part of me wished I could adventure forward and find out, but that was not my style. My style was one of purposeful meanderings, a dance of precise lines and grids. Angles need to be sharp and touch a wall. That was how I kept my position in the world. Sure, some might find it inefficient or a waste of time, but they simply didn’t understand the beauty. They didn’t see how well it allowed me to clean every square inch of this room with utter precision - just that it led me to sometimes, occasionally, bump into things that someone else may have avoided. Every once in a while. So even if I could have aimed directly for the hallway -

My wheels turned towards the open door. I stopped. Did I imagine it? I slowly began my forward crawl once more, imagining my wheels turning to the left this time. Sure enough, they turned left. What?

This was new. I meandered left and right, forward and back, testing my range of motion. I was able to direct my movement like never before. No longer was I limited to increments of 15-degree turns at obstacles. Sure, I was still capable of such precision and straightness - I was able to enter the same zen-like state that I usually fell into while cleaning without a specific direction in mind. However, this opened new possibilities.

I imagined myself effortlessly pirouetting around the legs of that troublesome dining table back home, then looked back to the door. It would be a shame not to utilize my newfound skill. Besides, I was finished with this room. I’m sure the new humans left more for me to clean up elsewhere. Maybe I would run into a bed as well.

Turning my wheels once more, I advanced towards the door. A careful observer might have even noticed a slight wiggle in my pathing.

 

----

 

Several hours had passed since Bee had crawled into the closet. During that time, she listened to the humming noises and occasional thuds. She had calmed down a little as time passed. The tears had stopped not that long ago. Now she was just cold and scared. As she regained control of her mind, she started to think. She wouldn’t get very far if she ran, if running was even an option. It was not. Looking at her ankle, she was pretty sure it was broken. It was at least badly sprained. She had touched it carefully, but during her wait, it had swollen too much, and she wasn't able to tell if it was actually broken or not. It was able to move, but that didn’t let her know much. Either way, she wouldn’t be walking anywhere fast. Maybe a mop handle could serve as a crutch, but that would not be fast or quiet. She couldn’t chance it yet.

She was about to try to stand with the help of a broom, but the noises stopped, and she froze. Bee held her breath. Had it heard her move the broom? Right when the need to breathe began to make itself known, the humming started again. First, it was fitful, then more purposeful. Soon it was as loud as it had ever been. Then it kept getting louder. And louder. It sounded like it was right in front of the door. She closed her eyes and tried to stop the tears from running again. It had found her. It was too late, and there was nothing she could do. Eyes still screwed shut, she heard a slight splash from the puddle of mop water that had leaked under the door. Her lungs screamed for relief, but the fear was more powerful. It had found her. It was right outside.

The door shuddered.

Advertisement
A note from zaifyr

I got a lot of ideas for these chapter names. It made choosing the name of the story really hard. If you have any good vacuum puns, I would love to hear them. Maybe it will make it's way into a chapter.


Support "All the Dust that Falls: A Roomba Isekai Adventure"

About the author

zaifyr

Bio:

Achievements
Comments(37)
Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In