Hive, Chapter 17: Clipping, Part A

sHenry Wentworth was finished with Hive for a while. He knew he had to get back on it eventually, but spending another few hours trudging through Elite Mode held no interest to him. And besides, he had a corgi to take care of.

He led Fluffinator on a short jog around the enrichment center, letting the animal urinate where it liked. Then they played fetch with a tennis ball in the hallway.

The dog chased the bouncing yellow ball back and forth, back and forth, leaping and barking and shuffling on stubby legs. She snapped at the ball and missed each time, jumping too high or too far, stumbling and flopping onto the pale floor. It was as though she hadn’t quite gotten used to gravity.

Henry began to worry that the dog would injure herself, so he led her back into his room, put his fur hat on her head, snapped a selfie with her, and settled in to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark while rubbing her belly.

Near the end, as Indy and Marion closed their eyes, Fluffinator began to whimper.

“Aw, it’ll be okay,” Henry said, scratching the dog’s chin.

Fluffinator rolled onto her feet and began to bark.

“Shh,” Henry said. “This is the best part.”

But the dog leapt to the floor and began to growl. Yet she wasn’t angry at the movie. Instead, she barked at a spot on the wall.

“What are you looking at?” Henry asked. “There’s nothing there.”

In response, Fluffinator only barked louder at the blank wall.

“Easy,” Henry told the dog. “It’s okay, girl.”

The sound of flames and screaming Germans suddenly went silent on Henry’s laptop as the movie froze. The lights flickered. Henry heard a faint, high-frequency hum deep in his ears, like the sound an old television makes when it’s turned on with the volume all the way down.

The dog lowered her head and bared her teeth. Something was coming.

Henry searched the closet, only to discover that IG had failed to replicate one object from his room: his SKS. But he still found a perfect imitation of the old aluminum bat he used back when he played Little League. He gripped it tight. Though he didn’t believe the words he said, he tried to calm the dog again.

“There’s nothing there. It’s okay. There’s nothing—”

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