Chapters, Rat in a Maze

Rat in a Maze: Chapter 13

They arrived at their old home a few blocks later. It was empty and dark, standing over them, broken windows never to be repaired. Travis stood before it, next to Rose.

Seen better days.” He said. Rose nodded.

It’s our house, alright.”

Travis walked up the steps to the porch and stepped in. The house creaked under his feet, wooden that had not been stepped on for long coming back to life.

Travis walked through the halls of time, reliving memories long gone. Him coming home to see his beautiful wife from work. The days leading up to Rose’s birth. Waking up next to her. Days long gone that he would never taste again, not the same way.

Dad?” She called out to him. “Is everything alright in there?”

Yeah.” He called out, shaken awake by her voice. “Just reliving old memories.” Travis walked back out. “Let’s go. Nothing in this place for us.”

Are you sure? You look a bit shook up…”

Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s get going.”

Rose nodded and turned around. Travis followed behind her as they walked away from the house, back to the parking lot.

***

Jack stood in the entrance to the parking lot, his pipe in hand. His gun laid discarded to the side. After getting wet, it had become unusable, and he had thrown it away. He waited for Travis and Rose to come back, with some anxiety.

After a while, he saw two figures approach him in the darkness. He squinted his eyes, trying to figure out what they were. Father and daughter came into view, and he exhaled a sigh of relief.

You found anything?” Jack said.

No. What about you?”

Jack hid his cut-ridden arms behind his back. “Nothing important. My house was empty, just like the rest.”

So we’re still in the dark about the asylum.”

We only know Hoffman killed himself, and that’s it.” Rose said. She seemed a bit tired.

Then our next step is…?” Jack asked. He dreaded the answer.

What do you think? We have to go back to the asylum.”

No way around it, huh?” Jack said.

Travis shook his head. “Sorry. Seems to me, there’s no other way.”

Jack sighed. He then took a deep breath, and gripped his lead pipe tight. “Alright. Let’s get going.”

The asylum was on the outskirts of town, to the east. They moved east, passing lonely streets and black clouds.

They got to the asylum in a short time. The building looked burnt, a black husk of its former self. There was a more distressing revelation, however.

The ground past the asylum ended. There simply was no more ground, just a dark, long fall, like they were on a floating island. Jack stood over the edge, peering down. He tossed a rock down the chasm and heard no report.

Jack walked back to the group, facing the asylum. The North Wing stood before them, the doors directly in front of them. Travis walked up to them and pulled them. They wouldn’t budge.

Goddammit.” He said, letting go of the doors. “The windows are barred. There’s no way in.”

From here.” Rose said, looking back at the street.

Huh?” Travis said, following her gaze. He saw nothing.

I think she’s talking about the sewer.” Jack said.

I didn’t see any other paths when we were down there.” Travis said.

There was one, in front of the ladder. We just missed it because we were on the run. I think it may lead back to the asylum.”

That’s a weird sewer.” Jack said, walking back to the street. “Do you remember where it is, Rose?”

Rose nodded, walking beside him. Travis flagged behind for a second before joining them. They all walked back to the street and stood before the manhole.

Jack was the first to go down. He climbed down the stepladder, back into the sewers that stank of death. The rush of water had stilled and lowered. Travis and Rose followed after him.

Wasn’t the water rushing?” Rose said, looking at the path before them. It ran and then turned a corner to the left, running parallel to the path from the asylum. Jack jumped into the water. It reached his ankles.

It was.” Travis said, jumping after Jack. Rose hopped into the water.

You think somebody is making a path for us?” Jack said, moving through the water. It was stale and stank to high heaven, but he kept moving.

Whoever it was, would of been nice to him to simply open the doors to the asylum.” Travis said. “But I think Rose’s right, this should lead back to the asylum.”

They walked in silence, trudging through the stagnant water. The way up to the asylum was nowhere in sight.

What do you think we’ll find?” Jack said, leading the group. He held his flashlight in one hand, and aimed forward.

No idea.” Travis said. “But hopefully, the way out of here.”

I mean, in the asylum.”

I know what I said.” Travis squinted his eyes, looking forward. “I think I see a step ladder.”

Jack looked around the tunnel, aiming his flashlight at different spots. The light hit a rusty step ladder, halfway through the tunnel. They made their way towards it, Jack being the first to reach it.

Jack stood in front of it, waiting for the others. They reached the ladder after a while.

I’ll go first.” Jack said, grabbing a rung. He climbed up, looking up at the hole above him. After the darkness of the sewer, the hanging lights overhead blinded him. Rubbing his eyes, he pulled himself up into the hole, feeling a mosaic and cold floor below him.

Rose and Travis followed behind him. Jack opened his eyes slowly, getting used to the light. There were several man sized holes in the wall and stretchers covered with blankets around the room. He could see feet sticking out of the holes.

A morgue?” He said, standing up. “Does an asylum need a morgue?”

Guess this one does.” Travis said, rubbing his eyes. “There’s a door up ahead.”

Jack shifted his view from the dead bodies to the view ahead. There was a closed door. He walked to it and opened it, revealing a dark corridor. Some light was showing at the end, falling on another step ladder.

I think you were right, Rose.” Jack said, moving down the dark corridor. They followed behind him as they approached the ladder.

Halfway through the corridor, there was a rumbling sound. The corridor shook and a nasty smell reached their noses. They turned around, looking back at the morgue.

Water was rising up from the sewer and filling up the room. It started to pour into the corridor, flooding the room quickly. They started to run as water touched their heels.

Jack could feel the water rising up to his ankles as he ran. Every step was harder as he was slowly being swallowed by the sewer water. He kept running as the area below his knees got soaked.

The ladder was just up ahead. Jack ran and grabbed onto it, the water up to his thighs. He climbed up, Travis and Rose just below him. Trying not to step on their toes, Jack reached the top. It was blocked.

Panic that had started to grow now blossomed in his heart. With one free hand he pushed the blockage above them, moving it slightly. Water was quickly rising, reaching Rose’s waist. Jack pushed again, feeling it topple beneath his fingers. He gave it one last push. Rose was almost completely submerged.

It fell over, making a loud thud. Jack rushed out, got on his feet and pulled Travis and Rose out. He looked at Rose. She was fine, only soaked.

The water kept on rising until it reached the top. Then, it stopped. Jack panted, his pants drenched. He felt his arm sore, probably had pulled something.

Are you guys okay?” He said.

Travis nodded. Rose did the same and got the wet hair out of her eyes. Jack looked around them.

They were in the courtyard. The thing that had been blocking the exit was the courtyard fountain. It was broken in several parts. Pieces of the fountain laid around it. Jack realized that if the fountain had not been broken, he could have not moved it. Let’s see if I can keep a streak of good luck. He thought.

Jack looked around, looking for the North Wing. He pointed to the one farthest from them. The doors were wide open, expecting someone. “There’s the North Wing.” He said.

Travis looked at the tall wing of the hospital looking out at them. In the third floor, right in the center of the wing, there was a single open window. He could a pair of eyes looking at them.

The fastest we get going, the sooner we’ll get this done, right?” He said, looking back at them. Rose was about to reply when a crowd of snarls drowned her out. Patients started to flood out of the other wings, quickly filling up the courtyard. They looked directly at them.

Travis was the first to run. Rose and Jack followed, the latter looking over his shoulder as the patients gave chase. The doors to the North Wing started to close. His eyes widened.

Jack started to run faster, outrunning Rose and Travis. He got past them and started to close in on the door. It was about three quarters from the way to closing, and he was almost there.

Jack jumped forward, slipping between the doors. Turning around, he pulled out his pipe and wedged it between the closing doors, halting their progress.

Hurry up!” Jack shouted at them. He could feel the pipe bending over his fingers. Rose got up to the door and slid in, followed by Travis. There was the noise of metal bending and groaning as the doors finally closed, breaking Jack’s pipe in two.

He looked at his broken pipe, eyes wide. One half had ended up behind the closed doors, and the other was unusable; it was too short to wield it properly. Jack held the short end in front of his face, and then let it drop to the ground. It fell and hit the ground without making much noise, but to Jack it felt like losing a close friend.

Jack?” Rose said, grabbing his shoulder. “Are you alright? It was just a pipe.”

Yeah.” He said. “But it kept me alive this whole time. So letting go of it is a bit hard.”

Here.” She said, pulling the butcher knife out. “You gave me this when you took the lead pipe. I’m giving it back.”

Jack had developed an aversion to butcher knives by now, but he took it nonetheless. “Thanks.”

Travis patted him on the back. “We’ve made it.” He said. “The last stretch. Are you ready?”

Jack looked at the butcher knife in his hand, cold and bloody memories threatening to rise in his mind. He blocked them out. “Ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s go.”

They turned around from the door and faced the North Wing. The walls were clean and sterile, the lights grew brightly as if they were now. It looked like the place had been locked in time.

Despite the harmless look of the place, Jack felt dread grow in his heart, and that the end was near. He could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but he didn’t know if he would able to get to it.

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