I could feel the sweat beginning to bead up on my forehead as I lay back in the creaky old office chair. Before I had a chance to wipe the sweat away, I was nearly knocked off my ass by a tremendous bang against the door to the concrete box. The foundations of the little box shook and the thunderous noise made my ears ring. I shot to my feet and stood my ground, confused and terrified. I tightened my grip on my .357. I turned to the screens and they were all black save for one. The top left corner displayed a fog covered desert. I couldn’t see the ground, the cars, or anything — only mist. Suddenly, a large white figure formed on the screen, and in a flash, slammed its upper body against the door. As the creature connected its huge, heavy arms to the metal, the camera shook and cut out in a haze of snowy reception.
The building shook again at the pale creature’s terrifying pounding, and I felt like I was about to evacuate my goddamn bowels. My urge for flight overpowered my urge to fight, so I grabbed Ricky’s long board and dashed into the elevator. I wasn’t sure how strong that metal front door was, but I wasn’t going to bet my life on its stability. I felt squeezed between a rock and a hard place, and I suppose I chose the hard place. I pushed the close button and watched the door shut. I felt the tremor of the creature pounding on the doors. I could’ve sworn I heard the door come crashing down into those ugly grey tiles. I pressed my back against the cold back wall of the tiny elevator as it began to rumble downwards.
The ride was as slow as ever, and with the tension and adrenaline running through me, it seemed even longer. I was descending from the frying pan to the fire, and I could feel the proverbial heat rising with each foot downwards. The elevator eventually shuddered to a shaky stop. I wobbled in place and had to catch myself in the corner. I knew this wasn’t good. I mashed the bottom floor button, but nothing happened. Another minute passed, and I was starting to develop a strong sense of claustrophobia.
I was just beginning to gaze upwards and inspect the ceiling panel when the tiny metal coffin lurched upwards, quickly and violently. This time, I did stumble and fall on my ass. I quickly got back up, and just as I did, the elevator lurched upwards another couple feet. It felt like something was yanking me up. Something strong and with a mighty urge to have at me. I had no plans to satisfy whatever was up there. Especially if it was that giant, pale son of a bitch.
I took my shirt off, my undershirt the only thing on my back now and I used the shirt to tie Ricky’s long board to my back. I started to climb the interior of the elevator. I balanced as best I could to stand on the handrails. I tried to lift the ceiling hatch, and it bowed up as I pushed on it, but didn’t open. Dirt, dust, and dead roach pieces rained down on top of my head. I quickly ruffled the mess out of my hair as well as I could manage. The elevator suddenly lurched upwards again, almost sending me face first into the floor. I somehow caught myself and yanked my upper body back up against the wall.
I was done with this bullshit. I pulled the gun from my belt and fired a single shot into the lock of the door. Dust and muzzle fire erupted in front of me, and the deafening crack of the pistol ricocheted off the metal walls and through my skull. I could feel the warm wax already running down my neck from my ringing ears. I didn’t stop to take pity on my hearing, instead slamming my fist up into the hatch. It burst open and even more disgusting debris rained down on and around me. I barely even noticed.
I pulled myself up and out of the tiny elevator and into the cramped elevator shaft. I stood precariously atop the elevator. On either side was at least two feet of empty space that led hundreds of feet down. There was a ladder on one wall made of thin, rusted metal rails. It looked like about 30 pounds was enough to snap it right off the wall. I glanced down the shaft, then up. I couldn’t see the top or the bottom. All of a sudden, the elevator jolted upwards again, by at least five feet or more. It was so quick and violent, I fell forward and right off the elevator. I had a split second to realize what was happening, and I shot my hands out to grab anything. Luckily, my right hand found the ladder and I caught myself. The ladder vibrated with my force, but otherwise didn’t budge. Dirt clouded and rained down as that horrible howling filled the elevator shaft and hurt my already damaged ears. I didn’t even bother catching my breath. I started to scramble down the ladder with whatever caution I would allow myself.
After a few minutes, I made a good amount of distance from the elevator. The shaft was narrow and cold, made of grey concrete that was cracked all over and covered in dust. Every 30 feet or so was a single red light beside the ladder, dimly lighting up the darkness. Every minute or two, I would hear the howling and the elevator would lurch upwards again. The fucker up there was fishing for me, but I wasn’t going to be on that hook, and even with all the fear, I was hoping that would piss it off. After a while, I came across a block of writing on the wall beside the ladder. The letters looked liked what little I’d seen of Russian writing, but I really couldn’t say for sure. All I can say was that it was very old and faded, and it looked official. Some of the writing looked like basic information or instructions, while a few other blocks of writing looked like official warning signs. I didn’t recognize any of the usual flammable or bio-hazard symbols. Just more gibberish that only served to put me even more on edge.
I glanced down again after what felt like hours, though it had probably only been about 25 minutes. I could finally see the bottom, though it was still about 50 feet down. I took an internal sigh of relief, and it seemed like fate took the opportunity to spit in my eye. Right then, the loudest howl yet came flooding down the confined elevator shaft and roared all around me. It was filled with that odd sense of both pain and anger, at once familiar and also terribly foreign. It sent shivers up my spine like lightning and I whipped my eyes up. I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, just the infinite column of red lights stretching out forever into the darkness above.
The howl came again, just as loud and haunting as the last. This time, it was accompanied by the very disconcerting sound of crashing metal. I heard a horrible screeching and scratching, and though I still couldn’t see anything, I knew it was the elevator. The noises grew louder and seemingly closer, then stopped. I stared upwards, frozen in dreaded anticipation. A few small bits of debris came tumbling down behind me, a tiny fleck popping me on the top of the head. It was smaller than a penny, but it hurt like hell when it hit.
“Ow!” I cried and rubbed my head.
The paranoia ramped up to a whole new level when I realized that whatever the fuck was up there, it had realized I wasn’t in the elevator anymore. And now it was dropping the damn thing on me. I didn’t know if the heavy metal coffin had gotten lodged in the shaft or if something else had stopped its fall, but I wasn’t going to wait around to figure it out. I scurried down the ladder, skipping a rail with each step and grip.
It was only a minute or less before the next thunderous rumble began and collided down the walls of the narrow shaft. It shook and rattled the thin metal ladder that I was gripping for dear life. I shuddered and held even tighter on to the ladder. Then the dust and debris rained down on and around me. I looked up, and I could see the cloud of rubble high above, descending downwards at varying speed. The big chunks came flying straight at me while the dust descended in slow motion.
I pressed myself flat against the wall beside the ladder. I stared upwards, unable to look away as the broken metal beams and chunks of jagged concrete shot down towards me. I watched as one of the beams ricocheted off the walls, leaving a trail of debris and sparks raining down. I whirled from one side of the ladder to the other, just missing a foot wide beam of metal as it sliced through the air inches away from my left arm. The ladder was not so fortunate, and took a direct hit from the beam. The rusted beams deformed and collapsed like wet noodles. My whole body was flung down violently before I had a moment to react. I had just enough time to dread my fall as I watched the elevator walls rush past me. There was a flash of red as I struck hard against the ground on my back and side. I remember thinking it didn’t feel like much time between the fall and the impact, but it still knocked the wind out of me.
I immediately curled into a ball as the rest of the debris and metal tumbled down around me. Somehow, I managed to miss any big pieces, but a few more chunks of rock and metal smacked me in a few places. It was not pleasant. I held my head and cringed in anticipation of a pipe stabbing into my side. Thankfully, no new piercings for me.
I finally opened my eyes and looked up. About 30 feet above me dangled the elevator, tapping lightly on a metal beam and hanging by a thread of diminishing cables. It was about the most ominous damn thing I’d ever seen. I shot up and urgently clawed at the slit where the heavy sliding door met the wall. I shoved the tip of my fingers into the crack, and felt my bones bruise on impact. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t gain a bit of leverage. Through my sweating and frustrated growling, I heard that haunting metallic howl and the creaking and cracking of something heavy shifting above. I looked up again to see the thin cable wires trembling more and more, and the elevator anxiously swinging above like an eager guillotine.
I turned back to the door and started pounding on it and smashing my fingernails into the crack. I was becoming hysterically desperate when I felt the floor give way just a breath. I looked down and noticed I was standing in a pile of debris that was on top of a door. A hatch that opened downwards. I didn’t wait to think about what that meant, and started to stomp down on the hatch as hard as I could. Every time I slammed my boot down, the entire shaft shook around me, and I could feel the elevator inching down, just begging to splatter me.
I sent one final massive stomp into the floor, and it all opened up at once. I tumbled down lack a wet sack along with the debris into the darkness below. I hit the ground hard and fast. I figured I fell down one more floor. I could hear the elevator cable snap and the heavy box start to comet down towards me. I immediately tucked and rolled, scraping my palms against the jagged and cold floor. Not even a second after I cleared the drop, came a blast of freezing air and a cloud of brown dust. I was pushed forward even faster and slammed against the round tunnel wall opposite of the crashing elevator. Even more debris and destruction gushed out around me, and this time I was not as lucky. A slim shard of gleaming metal shot out of the crash and stuck directly into my chest near the left shoulder. I let out a deep yelp and immediately pulled it out by instinct. I looked down into my hand, my body slumped low against the rounded corner of the tunnel floor. There was a six-inch piece of metal in my hand, the top two inches shining red from my blood.
“Fuck me,” I whispered in both frustration and disbelief.
At that exact moment, I heard the worst howl yet. The metallic cry was no longer pained or sorrowful, as it had seemed all the times before. Now it was full of spite and rage, and I could hear the echoes of destruction coming from the top of the shaft. The son of a bitch was throwing a tantrum because he’d missed killing me. I’d never been so scared and satisfied at the same time.
I stumbled to my feet, my knees almost giving out when I tried to lock them. I stood there, dumbfounded and covered in dirt and goosebumps. The howling didn’t stop outright, but it did begin fade out, as though the pale bastard was shuffling off in defeat. I almost chuckled to myself, but realized I was in the dark and cold, hundreds of feet below the earth with no way back up.
I looked around and only had the dim red light from the elevator shaft lingering around me. I caught a glimpse of something in the red glow, spinning in the debris and dust. I strained my eyes and grew a big stupid smile when I realized it was the long board. I grabbed the board by it’s spinning wheel and yanked it free of the wreckage. Amazingly, the board seemed fine.
A few feet beyond me in both directions was pitch black. I inched towards the wall where I figured the first panel was. I reached out into the dark and felt the familiar set of buttons and metal corners. I turned the light on, and right at first, there was nothing. Then after a pop and whir, the first light flickered on lazily. Then the next, and the next, and so on. Within a few seconds, hazy lights were dangling every 20 feet down both directions of the tunnel as far as I could see.
The tunnel looked just like The Endless Walk, but older and more worn out. The pipes were spotted heavily with rust like mange on a wild dog. The walls were grey and brown with dust and littered with thin cracks that spiraled along every so often. The floor was carpeted with a thick six inch layer of mist that felt almost like loose mud around my ankles. I took a few steps from the elevator and the hum and buzz of electricity slowly began to ramp up. It must have been years since someone was down there. I was in a new tunnel — rather, more accurately, an older tunnel. Something even deeper than The Endless Walk. An Ancient Walk, I thought to myself. And I knew instantly, things were going to get far worse.
I started making my way down the Ancient Walk, kicking up dust and mist with every step. It looked like I was disrupting the sand in some cloudy, glowing lagoon, but in slow motion. I tucked the long board under my arm, then had a flash of panic as I made a mental inventory. I swooped my hand back to find my pistol missing from it’s spot on my back.
“Shit! Shit, shit, shit!” I mumbled to myself frantically.
I rushed back towards the elevator shaft and the pile of debris, ready to tear through every rock and piece of metal for my gun. All I found was a closed door.
“No!” I shouted in disbelief. I clawed at the door, but it wouldn’t budge. After a few moments, I slumped back against the wall, feeling more paranoid and screwed than ever. The absence of a hand cannon in a shitty situation can really take the wind out of your sails. I finally accepted my shit-poor situation and continued my walk of fear and loathing.
I had no idea where the tunnel was leading me or just how far it went. A few minutes quickly became a dozen and that soon became half an hour. The minutes were both quick and eternal, my mind racing even faster than my eyes darting up and down the tunnel. I realized that I’d been walking for nearly an hour, and as I’d morbidly expected, I still was nowhere in sight of the end. I was long past the last meter I’d come to on my normal walks, but this tunnel wasn’t quite the same. The meters by every other dangling light didn’t look like the ones I checked on my usual walks. They had those same odd letters that I’d seen in the elevator shaft, and the gauges themselves didn’t look right. Even with the weird words and numbers, I should’ve recognized the wattage or power flow dials. But nothing on the meters seemed ordinary. I couldn’t tell what was being kept track of on those meters, but it wasn’t electricity.
When I got to about the hour mark of walking, the monotony was broken in the worst way. A loud banging came echoing down the tunnel to my back, accompanied by that pissed off metallic howling. Every hair on my body stood at attention, and I slowly turned to look back down the tunnel. The mist was quickly approaching in a rolling wave, and I could tell the lights far down the tunnel were snapping off one by one. I could already feel the freezing cold creeping through my skin and down into my bones, chilling my damn soul.
I turned and knew that I had to get down this tunnel faster. I threw the long board down on the rigid tunnel floor and hopped on. There was a slight waiver in my knees, my muscle memory letting me down for just a moment. Then it all came back to me and I kicked off the floor and gained some speed. The sturdy old board rattled with the bumps down the tunnel and I passed the dangling lights once every four or five seconds. I heard that sickening howl again, this time with a low growl beneath it. I dared to look back, and I saw the lights flickering off faster and faster as the mist tumbled towards me. I jerked my head forward and kicked harder and faster.
The sound and mist continued to chase me, but I began to gain some distance. I didn’t slow down. Hell, I think I continued to go faster and faster. Finally, I couldn’t hold a breath longer than half a second, and I had to stop. I was drenched in sweat and my heart was pumping blood like it was trying to beat a world record. I looked back down the tunnel, panting and mentally getting ready to start skating for my life again. But there was nothing. The lights had stopped flickering off, and I could see the mist far in the distance. If the cold, white fog was still moving my way, it was doing it slowly. The only sounds were the hum of electricity and my haggard panting.
I kicked the board up to grab it, and I propped my palms on my knees to try and catch my breath. I turned back to look down the other end of the tunnel. It all looked the same, but I caught a glint of blue, almost at the vanishing point of my sight. I squinted, about to write it off as a mirage when I saw it flicker again. I got a sudden urge of hope. I didn’t know what it was, but it was something new and different. I ignored the war drums pounding in my chest, head, and the battery acid pumping through my veins. I hauled ass down the tunnel again.
I got closer and closer to the glowing blue light, and very quickly realized it was dangling from the ceiling of the tunnel. I could see it wasn’t the end of the tunnel, and my heart sank. Then I noticed something different. It wasn’t the end of the tunnel, but an intersection. I arrived at the four-way split and stopped so quickly I nearly fell off the board. I stumbled forward into the intersection, darting my eyes in all four directions. Every tunnel stretched on endlessly, but each were dotted with a different color of dangling light. The tunnel ahead was now broken by blue lights, the tunnel on the right was yellow, and to the left was an almost black-purple.
I was at a new level of confused and paranoid. The air down there was dead and stale, hanging on everything like a thick film of mucus. The rust covered almost every bit of metal with eroded and broken wires stretching on as far as I could see. Some of the colored lights flickered or simply did not work at all. There was a thick layer of mist on the floor that streamed down each tunnel, but luckily there was no wall of it racing towards me from any direction. But it did make it harder to choose a path.
I scratched my head wondering what the hell to do. I hung my head angrily, feeling more frustrated than paranoid. That’s when I noticed the slow movement of the mist. It was flowing past my feet and taking a smooth right turn into the yellow tunnel. I looked ahead to the blue tunnel, then into the purple, and the mist was all flowing in the same direction: into the yellow tunnel. I debated if following the mist was actually a good idea — I concluded I had to head in one direction or another, and it may as well have been that one.
I rode the skateboard down the yellow-lit tunnel. The dim, yellow lighting made the dingy tunnel look like a giant, rotted intestine. I tried to focus on the thought of getting to the end of the tunnel. I imagined a brightly lit ladder, jutting down pristinely from above like it was leading straight to heaven. I thought if I imagined it hard enough, I could manifest it into being. After skating nonstop for what seemed like eternity, my legs screamed out in fatigue and there was still nothing but tunnel ahead of me.
I was ready to take a rest, and I wasn’t sure I’d have the energy to get back up after. That’s when I saw something far up the tunnel. It was a glimmer of something new and different, and despite my waning energy, I picked up speed. After a few moments, I could tell it was something holding up a bright yellow light. Much brighter than the others I continuously passed before. After a couple more minutes, the sight became a little more clear, and I stopped in my tracks. It was a person standing perfectly still, gripping the light straight above them. I felt every hair on my body rise up when I realized it was Ricky. Behind him rose the wall of mist, illuminated in the yellow and gold light like a sandstorm frozen in time. I couldn’t make out his features from the distance, but I could tell by his uniform polo shirt and his long hair that it was Rick.
“Rick!” I called out to him, my voice bouncing off the dusty tunnel walls in a muffled tone.
Ricky didn’t respond. He continued to stand there, holding that light up. I kicked forward again, gaining more and more momentum. I continued to call out to Ricky, but he didn’t flinch. I started getting close, and saw he had a wide grin on his face. I was only a hundred feet or so from him when he turned around, letting go of the light and causing it to sway back and forth. He stepped into the golden fog and was gone before I could take a breath.
I called out again and again as I neared the wall, but not a word or sight came out of that mist. I came to a stop about 10 or so feet before the wall. The mist stood, looming at me like it was grinning. It was still the same biting cold that always seemed to accompany the mist, but I had worked up a rolling sweat. I realized the hum of electricity had grown exponentially louder, and whatever was being powered down there, I could feel it in my fillings.
I placed the board under my arm and stepped closer to the mist. I could feel the hair on my arms stand straight up. I looked back behind me and the tunnel was significantly shorter than I remembered it being. There was another wall of mist gradually making its way towards me. It was hundreds of yards away, but I could tell it was moving — and fast. I could hear the metallic howl begin to crawl along the rigid, freezing air. I didn’t have many options.
I took a deep breath, readied the longboard like a club, and stepped into the mist. It was like stepping straight into the Arctic Ocean — my whole body assaulted by the cold all at once. I was blinded by the gold and white, the icy air settling on my skin like a blanket of tiny crystals. I only took about five or six steps when the longboard tapped against something metal. I slowly reached my hand out and felt a cold, flat wall spiked with rust. I lightly shifted my hand all over until I found a door handle. My body tensed and my eyes widened, even though I couldn’t see a thing.
Suddenly, the awful metal howl sounded out like a cannon from behind. I spun around in the fog and couldn’t see past a foot in front of me. I didn’t know how close it was, but from the sound of it, it seemed right on my damn heels. I turned back to the door frantically and yanked on the handle as hard as I could. I felt my callused hands scrape against the rusty door handle, but the door didn’t budge. Another howl echoed behind me, even closer than the last. I let go of the handle and scrambled for anything that would get me in. My hand quickly came to a panel beside the door, housing a few switches and other things aligned on it.
I started flipping switches and pushing buttons like a madman. Before long, one of the switches triggered something. There was a couple quick clicks and metallic thuds, and a motor rumbled to life. There was a twirling red light that mixed with the yellow and turned the mist into a storm cloud of fiery colors. Before long, the fog began to vacuum away into two large vents on either side of the door. The door itself was now becoming apparent. It made me think of a hatch on a derelict old submarine, brown with rust and almost a part of the wall by now.
The mist was nearly gone and I could see the entire wall. Then it hit me. I had reached the end of the Endless Walk. Or at least, one end of one Walk. The panel beside the door was littered with more of that language I didn’t recognize, and a few buttons and switches that did who-the-hell-knows. Beside the door on either side were three metal circles that looked like giant screw heads. Suddenly, the circles began to spin and emerge from the wall as foot long cylinders one by one. The rust cracked and fell off the door in chunks at the seams as it began to groan open.
My anxiety peaked with the sound of the door loudly announcing its opening. I turned around, the fog surrounding me now cleared. Not but 50 feet or so behind me was the other wall of dirty, yellow mist, steadily making its way toward me. As though on cue, the howl came again. It sounded as though it were just behind the mist, eager to pierce the wall and come dashing at me. I turned back around, yanking on the handle again as the last cylinder slowly spun out of the wall. I glanced back, and the mist was now 10 feet behind me and rolling over itself to get at me. I growled in frustration and anxiety as I pulled at the door with every ounce of my strength.
The heavy metal hatch finally gave way on it’s own time and slowly swung open. I slipped quickly around the door and once inside, I pushed hard against the door. I could hear the howl become a roar as heavy footsteps thundered down the tunnel towards me. I slammed against the door so hard the muscles and tendons in my arms felt like they were going to explode. Just as the colossal footsteps were right at the door, I managed to shut it. The large cylinders immediately spun themselves back in place, locking the door shut. Before the first cylinder completed its spin, there was a loud bang on the door. It sent me stumbling back, yelling in reaction. The heavy slamming against the hatch continued as the cylinders spun back into place one by one. I stared at the heavy door as it trembled slightly with each strike. Finally, the pounding ceased and there was only the hum of electricity. I noticed the light was a simple, dim white, and I slowly turned around. There was more tunnel and darkness. Soon, the first light triggered the next, and the tunnel lit up in glorious low-wattage white. The tunnel was not endless, but in fact very short; 30 feet or less. It led into an archway, and it was pitch black beyond. I cautiously approached the edge of the darkness and saw a small button on the wall, just within the last of the light. I lingered for just a moment, then flipped the switch.
The lights ignited in the darkness, and ran a curved line from the floor to the middle of the ceiling. Each line of lights were of a different color, and the one leading from right below my feet was yellow. The colored lines of light were joined by heavy lamps dangling low from the tall, arched ceiling. The room was a large dome of concrete, wires, and rusted old vents. Along the walls were over a dozen archways, each with a string of light lining the arch and running up the wall and to the ceiling. Each strand of light met at the very top and formed a circle of rotating colors. Beside each archway was a panel with buttons, lights, meters, and more symbols I didn’t understand. In the very middle of the room was a control panel atop a metal podium that was bolted to the floor. Heavy threads of wire led from the control podium into a web on the floor, each wire splitting off to a plug below each panel by the archways. A few of the wires were either eroded and worn, or missing entirely, and the lights from their archways either flickered or didn’t light at all.
I wandered to the center of the room, gazing around with a dumbfounded look, I’m sure. I took a look at the main control panel, and as I expected, I may as well have been looking at Latin. Hell, I probably would’ve had an easier time if it had been Latin. I could at least tell that certain buttons and meters corresponded with certain archways, thanks to some convenient color coding. I took a long look around the room at each archway, trying to judge which way to go from here. A few of the arches with working power to their panels had a bright blinking message on a small readout. It was red and looked urgent. The yellow lit archway I’d come through had the same red, blinking message displayed on its panel. I decided to avoid those doors.
I stared back down at the podium with little in mind as far as what to do. I shrugged and thought fuck it, deciding to flip one of the switches that seemed to connect to the green archway. Green’s my favorite color, and that’s all I needed to make a somewhat random decision. I flipped the two switches and pressed the lit button that seemed to correspond with the green archway. I must have done something remotely correct, because the line of green lights began to pulse in bright neon waves.
I left the podium and approached the green archway. Wires and metal tubing hummed and vibrated lightly as I approached the arch. I looked at the panel beside the archway, and despite not really knowing what the hell I was looking at, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I stepped through the arch and into the green lit tunnel, and as soon as I did, I could feel the electricity in the air. The hair on my arm and the back of my neck stood up and my skin tingled. I crept towards the door at the end of the short, green tunnel.
This door was a lot like the last; rusted brown with a column of heavy round locks on either side. The panel beside the door was a simple set of lights and switches, with one singular button. The tiny readout screen had the same odd letters, but the screen itself was green, as were most of the other lights on the panel. I avoided the switches and went straight for the big, round button. I pushed it in, my finger slipping a bit on the heavy layer of dust. The small readout changed and it looked like it was counting down. The rust chipped away over the cylindrical locks as they began to spin outwards one after the other. The sound of the old metal and motors coming to life was ominous. It sounded like a sea creature somewhere in the black deep, circling around me alone in the dark.
The last spiraling lock jutted out of the wall and the door clicked and thudded. As the rust broke off like bark from a tree, the door creaked and whined open. Bright, white light shined through the open door and I shielded my gaze. I peeked over my arm with squinted eyes just as the door fully opened. I lowered my arm and jaw, collectively.