Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Dying Process

"Hello, kiddies..." began the man's speech.

For each guest, a key; for each key, a door; and for each door, a room. And for each room, another room, and another, and another, a maze of small horrible locales filled with the worst nightmares of men's minds. I dare to say that even God's most abyssal thoughts would not allow for such disgusting works of existence.

The first room I entered was simply darkness, black as deepest night. It was entirely empty and had an area of about ten feet. The door I had entered through clicked shut, and I didn't have to jiggle the handle to know I was now locked in. The only item of note was the glowing white "EXIT" sign on the opposite side of the room. Under it was a second door.

The second room was overgrown with plants and lit by a fluorescent lamp hanging from the ceiling. Ivy covered the walls, and I am sure I saw a snake slither underfoot. My robes very nearly got tangled on the short foliage. All in all it was only a few feet larger than the first room. I tried to leave almost immediately, but the vines lining the floor tangled me up enough that I had to take a step back. Deciding to wait before leaving, I examined the vegetation growing about. There was indeed a snake, and it hissed at me just before I left, though it didn't have time to bite.

The maze went on like that for quite a while. TheAdvocate occasionally came on an intercom system to leave me and, I assume, the other "guests" with inane messages. At other times, he ranted about various topics - to whom, no one was really sure. I didn't bother spending much time in any one room. The warehouse had been transformed, and the quickest way out of any labyrinth is probably the most obvious way.

Straight and fast.

The only area I lingered for any significant length of time in was one that...reminded me of home. Black-and-white pictures of some Southern family lined the walls. A fine mahogany dresser stood against the left wall, relative to the entrance. The backdrop of a curtained window looking out on wide open plains with blue skies and rainbows arcing in between and over the clouds painted on the opposite side. A candle in a sconce on the wall.

And screams. Many, many screams. True, it was only a looped recording playing out of an MP3 player shoved in the top drawer of the dresser, but still it rent the usually calm sea of my thoughts.

The sounds of a heated argument eventually won over the screams. I opened the drawer and removed the batteries from the speaker there so I could listen more closely, pressing my ear against the wood of the door connecting our two rooms.

"...Why do you even try?" asked a man's voice. He sounded cheery, with that hidden undertone of menace that has become so unfortunately common these days. He spoke with a Southern drawl that made me cringe when I looked back at the pictures on the wall.

"Because trying is all we can do." Girl's voice.

"But it doesn't get you anywhere."

"It gets me far enough."


"Shut up."

"You should probably just give up."

"I said, shut up."

"It'd be better for everyone if -"

"I said, shut up!"

A short scuffle seemed to ensue. Someone, another girl, whimpered.

"Hey, if you're gonna shoot, shoot," said the man, easily, coolly.

"You're a piece of shit."

"Shady..." said a second female voice; the same one who had whimpered.

That's when I turned the handle and stepped inside. I do have a sense of the dramatic, after all. The light from the previous room briefly illuminated the fringes of my hair and robes. I stood, smugly smiling, shining, glowing, for a few seconds before the door shut itself behind me. In those moments I took in the room: what looked like a kindergarten classroom, with playground equipment and children's toys strewn about, melted, burned, and mutilated.

"Who are you?" asked a short, brown-haired woman holding a handgun leveled at one of the other occupants. Her voice told me who she was. The first girl.

"Fawkes," I said. "Servant of God."

"God?" asked her target, a man dressed in dark clothes with a skeleton design and black face-paint. The man, who she had been talking with earlier. "God like, thin, tall, faceless God?" I nodded.

"One of them..." said the girl. Shady. She slowly started to lower the gun before lifting it right back up and pointing it again at the skeleton man, Gallows. I surveyed the other two. One, a mousy girl with blue hair and many piercings, couldn't stop fidgeting. Josie, I assumed. The second girl. The other woman, a pseudo-Amazon carrying a shovel, seemed...protective of Gallows. This was Graves. Two long guns crossed on her back. I had not yet heard her speak.

"Now," I said. "You are in conflict..."

"No," said Shady. "We were just finishing up." Her thumb moved, slowly, and the safety clicked.

I shook my head and reached out my hand for the gun. "We don't need to be fighting now. There is one problem tonight, and he isn't in this room."

The four looked at each other uneasily, then back at me. I kicked the head of a teddy bear across the room. "Come," I said. "Let us move on, no? We should go to floor." With that I left the room by the rightmost door - there were three in total, not counting the one I had come in through. As to what doors the others chose, I cannot say, because they did not follow me.

The room I entered, which was the last I would see before reaching the main event, smelled like a sewer. The walls felt like wet cobblestone, and the floor was made completely of metal bars - one giant grate. Terrible things wafted up from below. Some chemical odor began filling the room. I stood and thought for a while, before looking up to the ceiling.

"You're sick," I said, to no one in particular, and yet also to one very specific person. "Why are you doing all this?"

The intercom crackled into life. "For the same reason you decided to attend!" cackled our gracious host.

Something in the fumes affected me indescribably in that room. For the rest of the night, some far recess of my mind was fully occupied with the image of giggling men, who bore more than a passing resemblance to me, riding very colorful ponies into the sunset.

Not very professional, I know, but I have sworn to tell the truth.

Something in the room made me lose track of time. A distant gunshot broke me out of my stupor, and I shook off the smell.

The only door in the sewer room opened onto the dance floor. The lights of the disco and the glare of the multicolored dance floor temporarily blinded me. I quickly got my wits about me and, ignoring all else, I began walking around the perimeter of the place, searching for an exit. The walls were mostly very firm and thick-feeling, but the final door was rather obvious. And locked, yes, but we had been promised it would not stay that way for long.

I knew that not moving, or moving too fast, would prove less than beneficial. I was the last to arrive there, so the timer began when I shut tight the way to the sewer room. Once I had seen for myself that there were no exits besides the one door, I put myself in a meditative trance to while away the ten minutes it would take. I had no desire to be caught in any more conflict, or, indeed, any sort of interaction with the others. I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible without any sort of fire.

Then an explosion rocked the place.

"Propane," I muttered. The man must be insane. He'd bring the whole warehouse down on us. A burning beam crashed in front of me. Someone screamed - or perhaps that was just me and my muddled mind, remembering my earlier experience in the maze of rooms. I prepared myself for the ashes that were to follow. The place caught fire quite quickly. Honestly, what with the labyrinth it held and the contents of such, I am surprised it didn't burn down faster. The others all got out alright - they're still alive, at any rate - but two of the party guests were still caught in the blaze by the time I was ready.

Josie, on the ground and halfway to unconsciousness, and Shady, trying and failing to carry her out.

I went over to them in two long strides. Shady glanced up at me and weakly let go of Josie. I bent down and lifted the injured girl up in a fireman's carry. I motioned for Shady to grab my arm, and together we went out of the burning warehouse.

When everyone was safe outside, I went back in, and let the fire consume me. The whole thing was ashes within the hour.

I haven't yet had a chance to look inside my...ah, goody bag.

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