Chapters, Rat in a Maze

Rat in a Maze: Chapter 14

Jack started to move to the stairwell at the end of the corridor. “We’re going to the third floor, right? That’s where the director’s office is.”

Travis nodded, following behind him. “Back in the courtyard, I saw one open window. Someone’s in there.”

Hoffman?” Rose said, moving next to Travis. She held the revolver in one hand.

Can’t think of anybody else.” Travis said. “He has to be the key to all this.”

But how he can still be alive?”

Travis shook his head. “I have no idea. This place is clearly not from this world, so I guess anything goes.”

We’ve taken everything the maze could throw at us, right?” Jack said. “We can do this.” I’m almost there, Maggie. He said, holding the knife.

They reached the stairwell. It was blocked with a locked gate.

Oh, come on.” Jack said, shaking the gate.

Travis pulled him back. “This is no time to get desperate, Jack. We still have no idea what we’re up against. Let’s just find the key, alright? It’s most likely in a doctor’s office. There has to be one in this level.”

Jack let out a sigh. “You’re right. Sorry. We’re just really close.” He followed Travis away from the stairwell and down into the corridor. The only noises were their footsteps.

They found a doctor’s office soon enough. It was empty, except for an arrow pointing up painted on the wall. It was pointing towards a ripped open ventilation duct.

He’s here, too?” Jack said, feeling a shudder. He looked over his shoulder, expecting to see the hunched man behind him.

Did you expect anything else?” Rose said. “He’s followed us all the way, so I guess it makes sense he would be here, too.”

Why didn’t we take the ducts to the other Wings?” Jack said. “We could have saved a lot of time…”

I tried.” Rose said, remembering when she was crawling away from Travis. “They were…full of blood. I think there was something in the vents.” She shook her head. “It’s probably better this way.”

Except we have to crawl in them, now.” Jack said, getting up on the desk and pulling himself into the vent. “Why is he helping us? He’s tried to kill me, before.”

No idea.” Rose said, climbing behind him. Travis followed suit. “He’s just crazy, I guess.”

Jack started to crawl. The metallic walls were wet and sticky with red liquid. He tried to ignore it until he reached a vertical shaft going up.

He looked up and saw there was a ledge he could grab onto. Jack stood up in the shaft and pulled himself up, into the second story of the North Wing.

Jack?” Travis called out below him. “Where are you going?”

I think this is the second story.” He said, looking down the shaft at them. “Besides, I see some light up ahead.”

He kept crawling, hearing Travis and Rose behind him. There was an opening just up ahead, and red light flashed from below. Jack reached it and looked down.

It was a doctor’s office, bathed in a red light. There was a thick book resting on the desk. The walls were a chaotic mess; they flickered between sterile, white walls to rusted messes. It hurt Jack’s eyes and he shook his head before jumping down into the office.

He waited for Travis and Rose before grabbing the book. When they jumped down, he read the title to them:

‘The Life of Doctor Hoffman’.” He read. Jack felt a shiver down his spine. “This should give us some answers. But I get the nagging feeling I don’t really want them…”

If you don’t want to, I’ll read it.” Travis said.

No, no. I’ll be fine.” Jack said as he flipped open the book. They were all undated, but clearly in order.

I’m moving to America to realize my dreams. I hear there’s plenty of sacrifices down there, and better offers, to boot.

Sacrifices…?” Jack said.

Keep reading.” Travis said, shaking his head.

The city of Ashland took me in with open arms, and I enrolled in the State Asylum. It’s the year 1974, but things seem very promising indeed.”

As I expected, there’s an incredible number of sacrifices. Summoning Him should be no problem at all.

Jack flipped the page. There was a date now.

August, 1979.

I’ve risen up the ranks to the director’s chair. It’s time to realize the deal.

When Jack had finished reading that last sentence, the room started to shake, jerking them around. The world started to whirl around them, and darken. His vision blurred and he felt the sensation of falling, falling, falling down the ocean of time.

He opened his eyes. He was standing up, but he couldn’t move, and his gaze was locked as well. Jack, in his limited vision, saw that he was in the asylum, but the rusted walls were gone. They all looked brand new. Suddenly, he started to move, with no control over it. There was a man he was following. This man had short blond hair and sharp blue eyes, resting below a pair of spectacles.

Is that…Hoffman? He thought, whizzing past a calendar. It read “August, 1979”.

Jack followed Hoffman up a flight of stairs and then down a corridor. Hoffman made his way into the director’s office, a large room outfitted with expensive furniture, closing and locking the door behind him. He sat down in front of his desk, Jack forced to sit beside him.

Hoffman pulled out a key and opened a locked drawer. The contents of the drawer were folders. He reached in, moving a few folders out of the way and pulled a piece of red chalk. Jack watched as Hoffman got up from his desk, and moved towards the wall.

The director opened his door and looked out. He called a nurse in, who walked in, unassuming. In the blink of an eye, Hoffman pulled out a knife and slashed her across the throat. She fell to the floor, gargling in blood. Hoffman closed the door, as if nothing had happened. Jack watched horrified, unable to do anything.

The director got on his knees and drew a circle around her with the red chalk. Moving her limbs, he posed the nurse like a star inside the circle. Then, he started to chant, quietly, in a strange tongue Jack couldn’t decipher.

The room whirled around them. Hoffman’s office were gone, they had been transported to a mirror version of it, similar to the maze. He kept chanting, and below him, the nurse started to burn, until she was ash.

Hoffman stopped chanting. He dropped his head and waited. Jack stood next to the desk, looking around as much as he could. A sharp pain dug into his head. Grimacing, Jack felt his eyes water as an image materialized right in front of Hoffman. He couldn’t make out what it was, only a vague humanoid figure, with a strange aura floating around it.

My Lord.” Hoffman said, looking up at it. “My God, I am so glad and honored that you came.”

The creature’s voice made Jack’s ears hurt. It was loud and deep, booming around the room.

What is it, Hoffman, my loyal servant?”

I, I have an idea, my Lord. To free you out of your realm and bring you into this, as the rightful God!”

I am listening, Hoffman.” The creature sounded pleased.

I need facilities…under the asylum, to be exact.”

You could have asked this at any time. Why now?”

Because, my Lord, this asylum has just about enough sacrifices to bring you over!” Hoffman said. He was excited.

Very well. They’ll be a mirror of my own realm, however. And you must remember, when the time comes…you must be ready, Hoffman.” There was a flash of light, blinding Jack. He closed his eyes and when he opened them back up, he was in the maze. Hoffman stood next to him. The creature was nowhere to be seen.

Yes, Master…” Hoffman whispered to himself, walking down the corridors. “I am the Harbinger. I am ready for you.”

Jack followed Hoffman as he walked down the corridors, inspecting the rooms, absolutely delighted in his new surroundings. Hoffman looked like a small child in a giant toy store. A toy store of torture, sacrifice and death.

After a while Hoffman stopped, right in front of someone.

Who are you?” Hoffman asked, looking down at the creature.

A reflection of your mind. Of your psyche. Surely, you can understand these things.” Its voice was like rusty metal scraping the wall. Jack winced as his ears hurt.

Ah, I see!” Hoffman grinned like a fool. “What’s your purpose here?”

My purpose?” Jack tried to look over Hoffman’s shoulder, but his view was blocked off. “My purpose is whatever the maze wants me to be. I am its eternal prisoner.”

Prisoner? I don’t see chains on you.”

I am not a prisoner in a literal sense. I am a prisoner of my own desires. I love this place. You’re not the first one to walk down these halls. Many before you have. And I’ve been there, either to help them or kill them. It’s entirely up to me. A fun little game, that’s all it is.”

You said you were a reflection of my mind, is that correct?” Hoffman said, not off put by the creature’s description. Jack felt a chill down his spine. “Why have you chosen to take that form?”

As I’ve said, I am whatever the maze wants me to be. I simply play my role here.”

Are you going to help me, then?”

You’re not a prisoner here, are you?” There was a pause. “No. You’re off to do bigger things. There’ll always be more prisoners for me.”

Hoffman nodded and walked down the corridor, past the creature. It had disappeared and Jack wasn’t able to get a peek at it. He felt a small regret, but he was doubtful if ignorance was better.

Finally, Hoffman reached the stair well Jack and Rose had reached so long ago. The creature appeared before Hoffman, stopping him before he could climb the stairs.

Ah. I should tell you. These stairs lead nowhere. Use the iron door at the beginning of the maze.”

Iron door?” Hoffman said, looking over his shoulder. “I must have looked over it. Yes, Master, I shall obey.” Like an obedient dog, Hoffman turned around, and started walking his way back to the iron door that Jack would be pushed through years after.

He reached the iron door and walked through it. Jack stopped following him, rooted to the spot in front of the iron door. Hoffman walked away, and Jack watched him blur and fade until his vision was black again, and again, the sensation of falling endlessly through a void…

Jack opened his eyes in a small town. Villagers passed around him, talking in a language alien to Jack. None of them looked at him, and those who looked in his direction saw straight through him. He was completely invisible to them.

His eyes were allowed to look around before they focused on a teenager boy and fixed in place. Jack felt himself tail the boy. The boy walked along the sidewalk, downcast, staring at his feet rather than the way before him. He looked glum, a shadow on his face.

Psst.” A voice said, out of the alleyway. The boy turned around, facing the whisperer. “Boy, come over here. Come over here, boy.” Jack discovered he could understand them.

The boy blinked and walked into the alleyway. A cloaked man stood in the shadows, watching him. “What’s your name?” He said.

Kristian, sir.” The boy said. “Kristian Hoffman.”

Hoffman? Why am I seeing this? Jack thought, forced to bear witness to Hoffman’s life.

That’s a nice name, Kristian. Say, I want to show you something. I need help with something, and you look like just the fit.”

What would that be, sir?” Kristian said, but he looked distrustful. “I need to make my way home soon, lest my father gets mad with me.”

It won’t take long, I assure you.” The man turned around, looking at the alleyway. It led to a door. “Follow me.”

Alright…” Hoffman said, growing distrustful, but still he walked with the man into the door. The man walked in after Hoffman and closed the door between them.

The room was dark, lit by dimming candles. Hoffman felt the cold steel of a knife drive into his back. The man had pulled a blade from his pocket and had driven it through his back. He dropped to the ground, blood pouring from his back and onto the floor.

He had fallen on top of a circle, the same Hoffman would draw later on the floor to sacrifice the nurse. Candles surrounded him. The cloaked man knelt beside him and started to chant, the same incantations Hoffman would later chant himself. Kristian realized none of this at the moment, blinded by the pain and anger at himself.

And then something incredible happened.

A cold air blew through the room, blowing out the candles. The room grew silent and changed around them, giving way to the creature’s hellish landscape. Summoned, the creature appeared before the man.

Master Atael.” The man said, kneeling. “I present you this boy as sacrifice, for your power.”

Atael looked the man up and down, and then the boy. He fixed his gaze on the boy, as if examining him.

I think there’ll be a change of plans, loyal servant.” Atael said. “Your life for his.”

I’m…sorry, Master?” The man said, looking scared. “But I…

Enough.” Atael said, lifting one hand. He pointed at him. The man looked shaken with fear, sweating bullets, fear bulging in his eyes. And then, he fell over, dead.

Atael then pointed at Hoffman’s wound, which closed itself. The dead man below him started to drain in color as Hoffman’s wound closed. When it finally closed, the corpse was nothing but pale skin, barely clinging to bones.

Hoffman looked around the room, surprised to be alive. He lifted his gaze at the odd creature standing over him.

Who are you?” Hoffman said. He felt along his back, finding no wound. “Did you save me?”

That man had stabbed you in my name, but yes, you could say I’ve saved you.” Atael said.

I thank you, but why?” The young director said, sitting up. “I’m not worth anything, and I’ll never amount to anything. Atleast, that’s what I’m told at home.”

Never amount to anything?” Atael said. “In the contrary. I see great potential in you.”

Great potential? What do you mean?”

Allow me to explain.” Atael said. He lifted his hand and the world around him changed. It was a hellish landscape, a land void of life. The ground was cracked and arid, its sky was crowned with a blinding sun. Mountains of terrific peaks dotted the horizon. “This is my home, in short.”

Your home? How can anyone live here?”

I don’t live here by choice. I’m cursed to this place, with nothing to possess.”

Possess?” Hoffman said.

To live, I must possess someone and live in them. As you can see, there is no place for such thing in here.”

Then how do you survive?”

Luckily, in your realm, I have plenty of followers who will do my bidding and summon me here, giving me bodies to live off.”

Like that man?”

Yes, like that man. However, it’s only a temporary solution. I need someone who can cross me over to the real world, where I can thrive, and conquer. A Harbinger.”

Well, why haven’t they?”

They weren’t ready. It’s a difficult task, as the Harbinger must carry me within his or her body, and carry me completely to the world.”

Like birth?”

Hmm, yes, that is quite appropriate, actually.” Atael said.

What does all of this have to do with me, though?”

Atael put his hands on Hoffman’s shoulders. They were cold, and Hoffman felt a shiver break out and dance down his spine. He didn’t shrug them off, however.

I think you may be the one.”

The Harbinger?” Hoffman said. “How?”

Hoffman could feel a smile form under the creature’s lips. “You’ll see when the time comes. That is, if the time comes. I won’t force you to anything, of course.”

Hoffman thought it over in his head. “Well, you did save my life, so I guess I’m in your debt, huh?”

I wouldn’t say so. If you become the Harbinger for me, I would be in your debt.”

In my debt?”

When I came over to your realm, I would be the absolute ruler. And the Harbinger would be my right hand man. Money, women, you name it. Nothing would stop us. Do you see what I mean here?”

Aren’t you in this, um, realm, right now?” Hoffman said, but he felt excitement grow in his heart. The absolute ruler… He thought.

Not physically. This is only a projection of me.” At Hoffman’s obvious confusion, he added. “I’m not really here, I am transmitting an image of myself.”

Oh, I see. Well, what do I need to do?”

The methods my followers use involve the sacrifice of a human being.” Atael said.

Human sacrifice?” Hoffman said. “I’m not sure I could do that.”

It’s not as easy, either. I need a lot of sacrifices to fully come over, hundreds.”

Hoffman thought in silence. Atael watched him, and grew impatient.

Kristian, aren’t you bored with your life right now? Stuck in a house where you’re under appreciated? With people that don’t care about you?” Hoffman listened to Atael. “Don’t you want to become bigger? Show those people what you’re really worth? And perhaps…transcend humanity?

Yes!” Hoffman blurted out.

Then join me. I’ll help you prepare to become the Harbinger, and together we will rule this world.” Atael said, extending his hand towards Hoffman. He took it without hesitation.

A sacrilegious deal was born.

His eyes flew open again. Jack looked left and right, trying to place himself. He was a in a break room filled with doctors, off on a small break, presumably. He felt his vision be forced to a halt as he found Hoffman in the room, now older, back in his days as the director.

Hoffman spoke in hushed whispers to a fellow doctor. The doctor listened intently, taking in everything the director said.

Our Lord Atael appeared to me last night.” Hoffman said into the ear of the doctor. “I summoned him.” The doctor’s eyes widened.

Is he that easy to contact, our Lord?”

Hoffman shook his head. “I had to sacrifice a nurse, but no great loss.” Jack’s stomach churned at Hoffman’s indifference. “He’s given me facilities for his arrival.”

Hoffman’s fellow believer gasped. “You’re taking the role of the Harbinger? Kristian, you know what will happen if you—”

The director shushed him. “Not so loud. The preparations are not quite complete.” Hoffman looked from side to side. “I’ll need help, however.”

Anything for our Lord Atael.” The doctor said, nodding slowly. “What is it you need help with?”

Hoffman again looked left and right, like a child about to cross the street. Nobody in the room paid special attention to them, and it suited him just fine. He turned back to the doctor. “Follow me.” This said, he walked out of the room, followed by the doctor and Jack.

Jack followed them to the iron door and into the maze. The doctor looked around in awe when they stepped into the hallway. He walked next to the wall, feeling it with his hand. Confused, Jack couldn’t understand why the doctor was in such awe over a derelict hallway. Perhaps where he saw despair, they saw beauty.

Kristian, by Atael, this is astounding!” The doctor said, walking next to the director. Hoffman put his finger to his lips and hushed sharply.

Keep your voice down, Jurgen. But it is astounding, is it not? It’s like a reflection of our Lord’s realm.”

That’s exactly what I was thinking.” Jurgen said. “But how come the others haven’t noticed it? That iron door must be hard to miss.”

The wing it’s located in is hardly transited. And it’s largely out of the way. Didn’t you notice the multitude of corners we took?”

Jurgen nodded. “True. Tell me more about your plan, Kristian.”

I believe we could get many sacrifices in this place. When we get enough of them, we’ll able to call forth Atael into our world.”

How will we get the sacrifices?”

We won’t call them sacrifices, of course.” Hoffman explained, walking down the halls with Jurgen. “No, we’ll call them…patients.”

Patients?” Jurgen said, raising his eyebrows. He seemed to start to understand Hoffman’s plan, however.

Yes. We’ll get doctors down here, and patients, in the name of research. Of course, it’ll be dangerous research, with a high mortality rate.”

That is a good plan, but we can’t guarantee some of them won’t talk about this place.”

We’ll find a way. Money, blackmail, bribing. Everybody has a price, isn’t that right? And if there isn’t, we simply silence them.”

Jurgen nodded again, following his plan. Jack thought of Travis, and how he had been silenced. He wondered where he was.

It looks like you’ve got this all figured out, Kristian.”

I’ve followed our Lord Atael since I was a teenager, back in Germany. I’ve had time to plan this out carefully. But I couldn’t have done it without your recommendation into the asylum.”

I knew you would do great things, Kristian.” Jurgen turned towards him and extended his hand. “And it seems greater things are to come.”

Greater things indeed, Jurgen.” Hoffman took his hand and shook it. “In the name of Atael.”

In the name of Atael.”

Jack felt himself going again, but this time he didn’t go into the blackness. Instead, he saw Hoffman talking to several members of the asylum’s staff. The vision before his eyes rapidly changed locations, like fast shots in a movie.

Hoffman sitting in front of his desk, facing a doctor.

This is a great opportunity for research. We would love to have you on board, Dr. Linder.” Hoffman said. He had his hands below his desk, and in one of them there was a gun.

Hoffman showing a folder to a female doctor. She opened it and gasped, looking at pictures of her and a man.

You wouldn’t want your husband to find out, now would you, Dr. Simmons? I recommend you rethink your verdict.”

Hoffman talking to another doctor in the break room. He held a switch knife in his pocket. Guarding the door from outside was Jurgen.

The images starting going faster, playing before Jack’s eyes. They went faster and faster until they blurred, whizzing by, indistinguishable. Jack closed his eyes, hearing a thousand voices in his head, and all of them Hoffman’s. It was a chorus of blackmail and exhortion, of torture and death.

The noise stopped and Jack slowly opened his eyes. He was back in Hoffman’s office, in the past. The director sat on his chair, facing Jurgen.

We’re on our way, aren’t we, Kristian?” Jurgen said. His eyes were full of excitement, a pair of shining jewels. “We’re almost there. I can feel him coming.”

Very true. We’ve made a good deal of progress.” Hoffman said. In his hand above the desk he held a glass of wine. Under it, he held a pistol. “We have to thank the recent surge of patients. I wonder if Atael has been spreading dementia around?”

I think he’s limited himself to a bystander, waiting for his arrival.”

That does sound like him, doesn’t it?” Hoffman said, downing his glass. He put it back on the table. “Too bad you won’t be around to see it happen, Jurgen.”

Huh?” Jurgen said. “What do you mean, Kristian? I’m not going anywhere.”

You were brilliant, Jurgen, but far too trusting.” Hoffman pulled the gun out of the desk and aimed squarely at the man in front of him.

Jurgen didn’t seem surprised. “All I did for you, and this is how you repay me?”

Please, Jurgen. You didn’t do it for me, you did it for yourself. We both know that when the time comes, you’ll rush to Atael and try to steal the credit. There’s only one spot as his right hand man, and that’s for me.”

You ungrateful son of a bitch, you would have never gotten here without me!” Jurgen said, leaning forward in his seat.

That’s true. But I don’t need you anymore. Send my greetings to Atael, will you? Ah, and Jurgen. Thank you.” Hoffman said. Jurgen lunged forward, hands outstretched. Without moving, Hoffman pulled the trigger. The bullet hit Jurgen’s forehead, sending him flying back towards the chair. He slumped on it, a gaping hole on his head.

Hoffman rose from his seat, putting the gun back into a drawer and locking it. He walked to Jurgen’s body. Jack’s vision started to fade as Hoffman got closer, and finally went black.

When his vision returned, Jack was back with Hoffman, walking down the maze. Hoffman was solemn, his lips pressed together into a thin line. Jack could hear footsteps around the maze, but they didn’t sound like the Nightstalkers. They walked into a room.

A doctor was standing in front of a glass wall, taking notes. Nightstalkers moved behind the glass wall, moving around in the darkness. Hoffman walked up to the doctor.

How is it going, doctor?” Hoffman said.

Oh, director Hoffman. It’s going quite amazing, I must say. How they’re able to move so well in this darkness, I can’t tell.”

They’ve adapted quite quickly, haven’t they?”

Definitely! To be honest, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

It is very impressive. Well, I have errands to run, so keep going, Dr. Linder.”

Linder nodded, going back to his notes. Hoffman walked out of the room and turned the corridor, going to the Nightstalker cages. He pulled out a large key and inserted it into the lock. The door swung open.

Hoffman walked away from the places as the Nightstalkers made their way towards their new exit. Linder looked into the glass, mystified. The director started running, unlocking doors, setting the Nighstalkers free. He felt a rush of ecstacy as he did it.

Swarms of Nightstalkers poured into the hallways, attacking doctors and patients alike. Hoffman felt more and more excited, running through the maze. His excitement overpowered the exhaustion as he made his way back through the maze. He kept shouting at the top of his lungs.

I am the Harbinger! Bring forth Atael’s realm!” His delirious screams echoed throughout the walls. Jack followed Hoffman in his mad frenzy.

Hoffman walked past Nightstalkers eating a poor doctor alive, making his way back to the iron door. He flung it open and ran to the North Wing, all the way to his office. On the wings of religious ecstacy, he pulled the red chalk and drew the circles on the walls. No one came to his door. The moon was hanging high on the sky that night.

After he had finished his symbols, he ran to the desk and pulled out his pocket knife and a length of rope. He took off his coat and shirt and started carving into his skin, blood pouring out like crazy. Hoffman didn’t feel the pain and he walked, perfectly normal, as he painted the floor red. Standing up on his chair, he threw the rope and hung it from the fan above.

For Atael.” Hoffman said, a rictus grin plastered on his face. He wrapped the loop around his neck. “For Atael!” He repeated. And jumped.

Following the sickening crack of his neck, there was a flash of red light. Jack’s vision went red, nothing but red in his eyes, like that day when everything changed. There was an undecipherable voice booming around him. The voice suddenly cut off, and was followed by an anguished scream. He felt the sensation of falling again, but now into the scarlet madness.

Jack’s eyes flung open. He was back in Hoffman’s office once more, but it was trashed and dirty, like it hadn’t been used in years. Hoffman was standing in front of the window, looking out into the courtyard.

Simply put, it didn’t work out.” Hoffman talked to himself. He seemed crestfallen, like he had been exposed to the truth. “I was not…the Harbinger.”

Jack was rooted to his spot as usual. He stood by and listened to Hoffman.

I was not ready to be the Harbinger. I was too willing. That is not how the master likes it. He needs someone who will put up a fight to bring himself completely to our world. I did bring him over, but not the way I meant…”

Jack felt himself move up to Hoffman’s shoulder, and looked out the window. They were looking out at the deserted town of Ashland.

I made another world where he and I are trapped. And now, I sit here, trapped, waiting for the true Harbinger.”

Hoffman turned to Jack, looking straight through him. “I wonder who it’ll be, who it’ll be that’s going to take my place.”

Jack felt a spell of dizziness hit him. Hoffman doubled, and trebled before his eyes. He fell over, looking at the ceiling, and then the room around him started to fade, burning out like an old movie.

He was surrounded by darkness, but in the darkness he heard a room.

Jack?” It was a girl’s voice. A voice he hadn’t heard for years.

Jack could move again. He stood up, looking around the sea of darkness.

Jack, is that you?”

He focused his eyes on the source of the noise, spotting a teenage girl. She looked at him and walked over.

Jack…it’s really you, isn’t it?”

…Maggie…?” Jack said, eyes widening.

Yeah, it’s me, Jack. Wow. You look a lot more scrawny than since I last saw you.”

Thanks. Where are you?” Jack asked. Her eyes turned sad.

I’m sorry, Jack. I told you I’d wait for you, didn’t I?” She said, facing him. Maggie tried to smile, and failed. “But…I just couldn’t wait anymore. It’s too late. I’m sorry, Jack.”

Maggie?” Jack said. She turned away, walking into the darkness. “Wait, Maggie, what are you talking about? Maggie?! Maggie!” Maggie ignored his calls, and walked out of sight.

Jack tried to rush forward, but tripped and fell. He hit no ground, and instead, kept falling, and falling. As he fell, he heard Maggie say one last thing.

I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my promise.”

Jack shouted into the darkness, letting out a rage that had been stored and pent-up since that day he had encountered the man in the room, the day he had been thrust into the maze.

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