Chapters, Rat in a Maze

Rat in a Maze: Chapter 6

What the hell is this?” Rose said as she looked around. “It looks like the asylum, but…”

 

Jack started moving slowly across the hallway. An oppressive silence hung over them. “It’s like there’s not a soul left in this place.”

I’ll bet.” Rose called out to him as she walked into one of the rooms. The hospital was turned over, laying on its side. It looked like it had been moved, once to block the door, and the second time against the wall. There were wooden boards all over the window, but a small slit let Rose look out the building.

She peered through it. “Hey, Jack. Come over for a second.”

Jack walked over to her and looked through the slit. There was a fountain, mostly smashed to pieces, the base sticking out of the ground. It looked like a small plaza. Slivers of moonlight fell down on it, blocked by dark clouds.

Doesn’t it look like the asylum’s courtyard?”

It’s dark outside, but it is. That fountain’s hard to miss, even if it is smashed to pieces.”

Rose stood upright, moving away from the window. “So, we’re in the asylum. Where the hell is everybody?”

No idea. Everything’s thrown about. Maybe there was a mass breakout.”

Yeah, maybe. But why are the windows boarded up?”

Jack shrugged. “But maybe they’re our way out of here. Step back.” Jack swung his lead pipe at the boards as Rose backed away. The lead pipe bounced off the board, not even causing them to splinter. It flew away from his hands and struck a cabinet.

What the hell?” He put his hands forward, seized the board, and pulled. The board stood, not budging in the least.

Rose moved over to the pipe’s landing spot and picked it up, handing it to Jack. “Drop it, Jack.” He grabbed it, feeling a little defeated. “This place’s eerie, but it looks like it’s empty. We’ll just have to find another way.”

Jack showed agreement and moved back into the hallway. The lightbulb flickered endlessly, as if it had done it since the beginnings of time and would keep on. Rose walked with him under the unreliable light.

It’s weird, being so quiet.” Jack said, trying to stop the silence from crushing them.

Rose nodded. “Yeah, I was getting used to the constant noise of the maze.”

I can’t believe we’re out. I wonder how long we were in there.”

Two weeks, maybe, between you and me. But…” She looked down at the overturned medical equipment, the carts and stretchers laying on the ground. Rose crouched next to one, and ran her hand along one of its tubes.

What is it?”

This looks old, Jack. There’s a cake of dust, and some signs of rust. How long were we in there?”

Not long enough for this to happen. This can’t be normal.”

I find it hard to believe the entire asylum was desolated because of a breakout.”

Maybe it’s just this wing.”

Do you know what wing we’re in?”

Jack recalled from his days in the asylum. “There’s four wings, forming a square, with the courtyard in the middle. The fountain in the courtyard is closer to the South Wing. I think that’s the one we’re in.”

A map would be nice.”

Never saw a map of the place in the months I stayed here. Sorry.”

Rose sighed, and got up. “We’ll have to make do. The building is pretty straightforward, anyway. Which wing were you in?”

North Wing. Why?”

Just curious. Finding an office could be helpful.”

The Director’s Office? I know that’s in the North Wing.”

Rose nodded. They walked down the corridor, a left coming up. Jack was trying to recall how many stories the building had when a door swung open, slamming against the wall, from around the corner.

Taking a step back, they gripped their weapons, waiting for the new party to show itself. A man jumped from behind the corner, holding a gun. He aimed above their heads and pressed the trigger. Light bulbs exploded and the hallway was immersed in darkness.

Jack ducked, a bullet whizzing through the air above him. He fumbled for his flashlight, blind in the darkness. When he found it and turned it on, the man was already on them, wielding a knife. Jack rolled forward, avoiding a slash.

Rose couldn’t see and backed away. The man walked over Jack and lunged for her, taking advantage of her blindness. Jack aimed his flashlight at him and saw him lurching over her. He got up and dashed forward, swinging his lead pipe. It struck one of his ribs and the man cried out in pain. A wild slash winged Jack across the cheek.

A more controlled punch knocked Jack backwards into a wall. He reached out and grabbed the man’s arms. His knee flew out into Jack’s stomach and he stumbled back again into the wall. He ducked to the side and narrowly dodged a slash that slid off the wall. Another swing caught the man in the ribs and he cried out again.

There was the sound of footsteps rushing away, and of the gun going off, presumably at light bulbs. Jack turned towards Rose, the circle of light revealing her. She was shaken, but unhurt. Rose slowly got up and walked to Jack.

Rose, are you alright?” Jack said as he collected himself. He felt his cheek, noticing the small cut. It had only nicked him.

I’m…I’m alright.” Looking closer, he noticed she seemed really shaken.

Are you sure? Why didn’t you attack him?”

When you flashed the flashlight on him, I thought…”

What?”

She shook her head. “I thought I recognized him. Nevermind.”

What? You recognized him?”

I thought I did. I was shocked, so I hesitated. He’s nobody I know.” In a lower voice Jack couldn’t catch, she added. “Atleast, I think so…”

You think he’ll be back?”

Most likely. Did he hurt you?”

I only got a small cut across my face. I got him in the ribs.”

Yeah, I saw.” She looked up. “He killed the lights. What are we going to do?”

I have the flashlight.” Jack turned around, aiming at the way the man had come from. He started moving again, on his toes. Rose walked behind him, slower. The spirit in her had died down a little.

When they crossed the corner they found the door that had been swung open. It showed an otherwise normal hospital room, if it weren’t for the packs of canned food and bottles of water. Jack moved his flashlight upward, dreading the worst.

There was a ventilation duct, and a hole that had been ripped open.

He backed away, shaking his head. “There’s no way…”

I don’t think it’s the same guy from the maze, Jack. Maybe he just uses the ventilation ducts to move across the hospital, like him.”

You mean, he ripped open that duct with his bare hands?”

Rose’s eyes widened. “I guess. It wouldn’t be the craziest thing we’ve seen, yet.”

Jack shook his head. He felt hopeless, having come so far to be stopped again. Dread rose up in his heart. “I don’t think we’ll stop seeing crazy things.”

Rose said nothing, and turned around. Jack followed behind her, silent.

They walked together, in the darkness. Rose grabbed the flashlight from Jack and lead the way. The wing was silent again.

Jack?” She said after a while. “What if we have to kill him? He’s not like the patients, he’s…”

I hadn’t thought about that.” He looked down. They said no more for a while.

Most of the rooms they found were either locked, or empty. They were, for the most part, patient’s rooms. The corridor suddenly ended in a door. Rose shuddered when she saw it.

Something about this feels weird to you?”

The whole place does. What do you mean?”

She pointed at the bottom of the door. “Is that rust?” Traces of rust seeped from under the door. The door itself looked old, older than the hospital, signs of wear visible.

Jack stepped forward. “It does. I think this door leads to the next wing, the East Wing.” He grasped the door knob and turned. It refused to give.

Locked.” He said, backing away from it. “What now?”

We explored this whole first floor, right?”

I think so. There’s two more floors. You think the key is somewhere?”

She nodded. “That, or another way to the next wing.”

They turned to their right. There was a stairwell, going only up. Like before, Jack was the first to start climbing. He got ready for the whole around them to waver, but it never happened. Rose followed him as he got up the stairs.

The second floor was an almost exact replica of the first. The only difference was that the lights hadn’t been shot on this floor.

Jack turned off the flashlight and started moving. An indecipherable noise came from the floor above them. It wasn’t a constant sound; it changed in tune periodically. Something that sounded like words also came out, but he couldn’t make it out.

Is that…a song?” He said, looking up at the ceiling. “Is somebody playing music?”

Sounds like it’s coming from the third floor. Let’s go up?”

I think we should explore this floor first.”

Not with that damn song going on.” She turned around and started climbing the stairs to the third floor. Jack shrugged and followed her. The song started to become clearer. When they reached the third floor, they noticed they were very near to the source.

Rose moved through the hallway, stopping in front of a door. She could hear the music clearly, but the lyrics still sounded muffled. She opened the door and stepped inside.

A phonograph laid on a wooden desk that resembled those from the maze. A vinyl recorded was playing. Jack could hear the lyrics clearly now. A woman was singing over a slow song.

Maybe you’ll think of me when you are all alone,

Maybe the one who is waiting for you will prove untrue,

Then what will you do?

Rose turned it off. Silence filled the room again.

A phonograph? These things are old. Guess the doctor here must have been really old, or eccentric.”

Jack was thinking the lyrics over in his head. “That was a pretty nice song, you know, though.”

She shrugged. “Not my thing.”

Fair enough.” He said, moving around the room. It was spotless, as if there had never been a breakout. The window was still boarded up, however.

Rose was looking through the desk, searching for files, or a key. “Nothing.” She declared after a while. “The desk is completely empty.”

The closet, too.” Jack turned back to Rose. “The place is ransacked, except for that weird phonograph.”

You think it means something?”

Huh?”

I mean, somebody must have left it here, right?”

He shrugged. “I’m trying not to think about it. You ready to go down?”

Yeah. I only wanted to turn that thing off.” Rose turned away and walked out the hallway. Climbing down the stairs they made their way back to the second floor. The door that lead to the East Wing was closed on this floor, as well.

They started walking, looking behind their backs, and up to the ceiling, towards the ventilation duct. The feeling of being watched made Jack’s skin crawl.

Hunted by two very different pursuers, Jack and Rose made their way throughout the second floor.

The lights died. Jack grabbed his flashlight, turned it on, and pointed forward. The hallway was deserted. No sound of rushing footsteps from behind them.

He stepped forward, tentatively. No responses. Jack started walking, looking everywhere. Rose flagged a few steps behind.

There was a loud noise behind Jack. A cloud of dust puffed up. He whirled around.

A section of the ceiling had caved in, blocking the path behind him. He couldn’t see Rose.

Rose!” He screamed at the rubble. “Rose, are you there?

Her voice rang out, muffled. “I’m okay!” It said. “Jack, are you okay?

I’m fine! Hold on in there! I’ll get you out!

Faintly, Jack heard rushing footsteps from Rose’s side. “Rose? Rose, watch out!” He then heard another set of footsteps, moving away from the rubble. Jack smashed his fist against it in frustration.

He whirled around, fearing for Rose’s life. What he saw made him froze.

The hunched man stood under a window, looking straight at Jack. His knife twinkled in the dim light.

***

Rose heard the footsteps coming up behind her and took to her right, into another hallway. The light bulb exploded above her with a huge crack, as the bullet drove itself into it. Her pursuer was catching up to her. She was left in the darkness, blind, but kept running.

She felt the wall with her hand as she ran through the hallway, trying her best not to trip over anything. The wall ended and she turned in that direction. A bullet flew past her, hitting the wall. Rose kept running.

The pursuer was relentless, and apparently used to running in the dark. When she ran back into a lit hallway, the lightbulb was blown up with a bullet. She used this small space of time to know when to turn, and try to dodge whatever was in the floor.

She got ground on him, running the length of one corridor before the light bulb exploded. There was an overturned utility cart before her, lined up against the wall. Rose reached down, slowing down but never completely stopping, and moved it to the middle of the way. She was nearly out of the corridor when the light bulb exploded.

Rose turned the corner and waited. The footsteps suddenly ceased, and there was a loud crash as her pursuer tripped over it and landed on the ground. She needed time to make a plan, however, there was not nearly enough. Her eyes darted from side to side as she looked for another way.

Spotting an ajar door, she dashed into it the room, swung around and shut the door, all in one motion. With a strength she had never experienced, she pulled the hospital bed and put it up against the door. There was a loud slam as her pursuer hit the door.

Rose looked around frantically. Her eyes moved from her right, across the wall towards the now empty opposite side, with the boarded up window below the ripped open ventilation duct to her left. The room was empty except for the bed. Weighing her chances, she ran to the opposite side, jumped up, and pulled herself into the ventilation duct. Splinters flew from the door, but it held strong. When it finally broke, Rose was deep into the vent.

She was a pretty tall woman, and the ventilation duct was very cramped. Rose wondered how the big man outside could crawl inside. It was also very hot, but not enough to burn her as she got on all fours and crawled.

She heard the loud crash of the door being broken down and the screech of the bed being dragged across the floor after a while of crawling, but it was from far away and faint. Rose started crawling faster when it was followed by the loud bangs of someone else crawling into the ventilation duct.

The duct from the hole was completely straight forward, and got hotter as she advanced. Some sticky liquid clung to her arm.

Augh.” She said as she turned her arm to inspect. It was blood, and fresh. The sound of someone approaching her came closer, and forced to continue, she crawled through the bloody tunnel. Blood stuck to her clothes as the heat rose.

There was an opening before her. A hole in the ceiling led straight down into another room. She hurried as the sounds drew nearer. The hole was ever closer and closer. When she was on the edge of it, a bullet whizzed past her and punctured the end of the ventilation duct. Black liquid started pouring from the bullet hole. Rose paid it no mind, and jumped in.

She landed in the hospital room, and ran to the door. Her hand grasped the door knob, and turned. The door held.

W-what?” She stuttered as she stood by the closed door. “The…the lock’s broken.” Rose drew her knife and turned around. The loud bangs were right beside the hole.

The man dropped in, landing neatly. He turned at Rose, and she saw his face. Recognition clicked in her head and she stumbled back, hitting her head against the door. Memories long-lost suddenly unearthed in her mind.

Her mother stood before her, holding the picture of a man. His face was kind, and his eyes were sharp. He was standing beside a woman and their child. The little girl in the picture had a face that beamed happiness.

This is him, Rose.” She said to her, when she was little. “I don’t know where he is, but I know he loved you and me…”

Rose looked at the man before him straight in the eye, and whispered something. The man, approaching her, froze at her words.

Dad? It’s me, Rose. Your daughter.”

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