Bubbles pour forth from my mouth, and a mind-numbing pain shoots down my body. I’m suffocating, and I can’t do anything other than wait.
How does death feel like?
I refuse to let it end like this… I refuse…
Yet willpower is all I have. No plan, no nothing. Am I really gonna die here? My lungs squeeze and squeeze, as a piercing pain shoots through my chest.
This is it…
Right as I’m about to give it all up, and sink to the bottom of this icy cold pit of water, I feel the surface of the water covering my arms descend lower.
I immediately realize the level of the water is falling, and I frantically swim up for air. By some miracle, I somehow manage to just barely get my head out of the water.
“PWAAAAH! AH… AH…”
I exhale and inhale, soaking in the miracle that is oxygen, with pained and drawn out breaths. As I take my time doing so, the level of the water gets lower and lower, until I don’t even have to float anymore. Soon, the water has been completely drained out of the pit by a hole on the wall, and I’m left standing in a small room with nothing in it.
Still soaking in all the oxygen I can, I scan the room “I’ve been spared…?” I mutter, before the familiar sound of stones moving catches my attention. To my left, the wall has parted again to reveal a narrow torch-lit path.
You have to be kidding me…
I sigh at my luck, and rub my arms in an attempt to warm myself up. Being drenched, and half-naked in a room full of humidity isn’t exactly my definition of a fun time. But… I’m alive. And that will do for now.
For a moment, I look up at the entrance to the pit, that would have almost been the death of me. From a glance I can already tell it’s closed off. My only bet is to keep moving forward from here.
Holding back a shiver, I venture down the scarcely lit path lined with little sources of light across both walls. At a glance, the path seems to go on endlessly into the distance, torches lining the walls as far as the eye can see. Does this even lead anywhere?
I walk deeper and deeper, my soaked body shivering every once in a while.
I can do this.
The ground is cold, but my feet feel even colder than that. I can barely feel my toes. I need a source of heat. With a quick scan, I quickly think of the torches around me. They will do.
I grab the closest one and pull it out. Or at least I attempt to.
The torch is fixed to its base on the wall, and instead of feeling even remotely able to budge, it feels more like an extension of the wall. As a compromise, I extend my arms, and cup my hands closely to the flame. While the heat is sufficient, the rest of my body yearns for the same warmth.
Break time is over. I move forward once more.
Why do you keep struggling in vain?
Again, the same voice in my head calls out to me, crawling its way into my mind. Finally, I decide to address it.
“What the hell do you want from me?”
So you’ve finally acknowledged me, human.
“No, nothing of the sort. I’m just bored out of my mind.”
Keep lying to yourself, yes.
“Who… or what are you?”
You don’t recognize me?
As the voice echoes in the deepest parts of my mind, I search through my memory, trying to connect this strange sense of familiarity. A monotone, chilly voice.
Correct. YOU let me in after all.
I let her in? But how?
Faintly, I recall the events of the morning. The way she spoke to us, and how it felt when a foreign hand gripped my heart. Is that what she meant?
You do remember.
“Stop poking around my head!” I spit, irritated.
Is that any way to address me, human? Do not forget you’re living within my realm.
Deciding to not provoke her any further than that, I briefly shake my head and march onwards. As I walk further and further down the hallway, the sinister voice of my predator playing within my head, I’m suddenly reminded of the others. I wonder how they’re getting on… If I never get out of here, their hopes will die along with me, since I’m in possession of the key.
You still think of others, even while being in such a pitiful state?
“That’s me. Always thinking ahead…”
Foolish. I sure would like to see your reaction when they all wind up dead…
“That won’t happen…”
Especially that red-haired girl…
“Keep Ayase out of this.”
Like a current, a sharp pain shoots through my brain and spreads like an electric shock.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
Maybe acknowledging the existence of that voice was a bad idea. I feel like she’s got complete control over my mind now. As the pain in my head grows stronger, I fail to realize I’ve almost reached the end of the long hallway. Incidentally, it wasn’t just a straight line. There were some curves here and there, yet I don’t remember how many. I was mostly moving on instinct…
Having finally reached the end after a good 30 minutes of walking, or more like shuffling, I’m standing outside a metallic, rusty door.
“Here goes nothing…” I mutter to myself, and slowly push the door open. To reveal a room painted in yellow, beneath the light of a single weathered light bulb.
“What is all… this?”
Yet the room itself isn’t the source of my concern, but the sights within. Before me lies a chair with leather straps on both arms and legs, a metallic, surgical table right next to it, laden with syringes, scalpels, and other objects that I do not want to know the name or use of. To my right, there’s another metallic door, and to the far corner of the room, yet another one. But despite my options, I do not know if I wanna move forward. As I scan the room once more, I notice a peculiar lever beside me by the door.
Could this be…?
There’s a high possibility this may unlock a new path out of here. I might as well take my chances…
Entranced by the strange warmth within this room, and the yellow glow of the bulb surrounding me, I edge my hand closer to the lever. Here’s to hoping…
Before my hand can reach the lever, I feel the sensation of something sturdy hitting the back of my head, and a numbing pain following right after. Without being able to keep myself upright any longer, my knees give in, and I fall flat on my face.
“What have we here?”
Before my eyes close, and my consciousness fades, I hear a sinister, unfamiliar voice.
As Hideki was swimming up, the gap from whence he came, grew smaller and smaller, until it was eventually closed off.
“Hideki-kun!” Noriko yelled, the entrance to the pit completely sealed away.
What just… happened?
Unable to comprehend the meaning of this event, I fell to my knees, hands on the concrete.
“Open up!” With all my might, I pounded away at the floor. “Hideki is still down there!”
“Hideki…” Mayu’s voice was a mix of disbelief and pain.
“Open up…” I muttered. Beneath the concrete, I could feel the vibrations. Hideki was hitting against it too… But what was I to do? How could I help him?
“Everyone, look for a switch or a lever or a button! Anything!” Mayu turned to the others, barking out orders. Still dumbfounded, Hotaru and Kazuya nodded shakily before looking around the dark chamber.
My hands were shaking and my vision blurry with unshed tears, as I sat there, looking straight at the concrete, where Hideki was struggling beneath. I needed to do something!
As I was about to kick off the ground and start searching, I noticed something. The pounding had stopped. Completely.
Did that mean Hideki was...
I can’t let myself think like that!
With a swift leap, I joined the others in their search. We searched through the room fairly quickly, and then came together the classroom.
“Kazuya, Hotaru. Found anything?” Mayu asked, retreating to the center of the room.
Kazuya shook his head, disappointed. “No…”
“Damnit!” Her expression wavered for a moment, letting the panic take over.
Haven’t found nothing either, I turn to the closed-off entrance yet again.
“Hideki-kun…” With a low whimper, Hotaru cast her gaze to the floor.
“We need to find a way to get down there…” Mayu muttered, as she looked over at the still skeptical Noriko.
Kazuya’s reply was quick and unexpected. “Yeah, the key is still down there…”
“The… key?” I found myself repeating his words. Hideki just risked his life for us, for him… and all he could think about was the key? Hideki may… Hideki may have…!
“Are you serious?! Hideki could be drowning and all you’re thinking about is the key!?” I snapped.
“Ayase-senpai there’s no way anyone could hold out that long underwater! I’m just being realistic!”
How could he… How could he say that about Hideki?!
Right before I lashed at him again, a low voice caught everyone’s attention “Hideki…” Mayu’s whimper carried over to us, as a stream of tears washed over her cheeks. Why was she crying… Hideki is not dead!
“Realistic, my ass! You just wanna save your own hide!” The filter in my mind had melted away in the face of my fiery rage. I couldn’t sit idly be any longer!
“We ALL need the key to survive! I can’t die down here damnit!”
“Stop it!!” Hotaru’s voice overpowered all of our own, as it resonated across the whole chamber, bouncing off the walls. “Let’s… calm down…” She lowered her tone once more, returning back to her usual self.
Still, her sudden yell had caught me off guard. I never thought I’d hear her sound like that…
“Hideki-kun…” We all turned to Noriko, who was finally looking our way “I think he’s okay.”
Please log in to leave a comment.